Are you raising children who have no personal authority? If you are letting the child have their own way then you are most likely robbing them of authority. There’s a moral principle at stake that many parents are not aware of, so let me explain it to you here.
The Powerless Parent
I recently heard a parent say “Our three year old is probably watching more TV than we like”. Another parent said, “We try to encourage our child to spend more time outdoors”.
While it is good for parents to be concerned about TV watching and outdoor play, the two comments reflect a mindset which reveals the “powerless parent”. In both statements there is something missing from the parents – and that missing ingredient is “authority”.
When a parent wishes their child to behave differently but does not effect that change, then the parent must be powerless! When a parent pleads with their child to coax the child into cooperation or to do the will of the parent, then the parent must be powerless!
Since my childhood days parenting has come under much influence from pop-psychology. Dr Benjamin Spock is remembered as one of the first voices of psychology to tell parents how to do their job. His 1946 book, Baby and Child Care, spoke into the post-war baby-boom parents. His emphasis on treating children with respect was used to oppose the idea of parental authority, and it won him the title of “Father of Permissiveness”.
In more recent years some people have tried to ban parental punishment of their children. All manner of pop-psychology ideas have come and gone, leaving many parents lost in the confusion of what is right and wrong, helpful or harmful to their child.
Whether people like it or not the world runs on authority. Such nice notions as equality and democracy work best where people understand and respect authority. When people lose their capacity to work under authority and to with authority structures we head toward anarchy which leads to tyrannical forms of oppression to tame the seething masses.
So, the nice ideas of autonomous happy people cooperating as respectful, independent entities in an authority free world are nonsense.
Your child will spend his or her life under authority. They will be best fitted for that challenge by having their own authority well established within them.
Aeroplanes fly because people do what they are told. Safety regulations are followed. Standards are upheld. Protocols are enforced. When something is not done correctly there are repercussions and people can lose their right to pilot a plane or function in one of the support roles, on the ground or in the air.
The same is true for industry, shipping, our rail and road systems, legal processes, government, and so on. Approval and certification is required. Standards must be met. Paperwork must be filed. And so on it goes. All of that is “authority” functioning in our society.
Your child’s future will involve them obeying road rules, filing official paperwork, getting qualifications, complying with regulations, following operational procedures, doing as instructed, gaining approval, and so on. Your child’s ability to operate intelligently and effectively “under authority” is central to their future life and happiness, since they will live under ubiquitous authority.
Your child’s ability to hold positions of authority will open up many opportunities for them in the future. If your child cannot bring themself under authority then they will be hampered in their progress in life.
The New Testament gives a striking testimony to the process for gaining authority. That process is the act of being “under authority”. A centurion, having risen to a position of authority within the Imperial Roman Army, explained that his own right to command others directly resulted from his willingness to obey the authorities over him. He called himself “a man under authority”.
“For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it.” Matthew 8:9
Note that this centurion had authority over men who did exactly as he instructed. But he only had that authority by being “under authority”.
Another example from the New Testament is that of a man of “great authority” who had that authority because he was “under” authority.
“And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship …. ” Acts 8:27
The Ethiopian eunuch was a man of “great authority”, having control of the nation’s finances. But he only had that authority by being “under Candace” the queen.
The Authority Principle
The key principle in regard to authority is that we do not have authority unless we are under authority.
The centurion and the eunuch both had significant authority over others and over resources. But they only had that authority because they were under authority and did as they were told.
How Does Authority Impact Your Children?
Your children will spend their life in a world governed by authority. They will not have personal authority unless they are under authority. If you as a parent do not bring your child under your authority, then you are not properly preparing your child for the real world in which they are going to live.
If a person does not respect authority they will not have authority. If a person does not have authority in a world which is governed by authority, then they will be stuck at the bottom of that society. They will be controlled by force and regulation, and not be given the opportunity to rise within society.
That parent who doesn’t want his child to watch as much TV as the child is presently watching should have sufficient personal authority to be able to instruct and direct the child to the parent’s preferred behaviour. The child, in bringing itself into line with the parent’s wishes, is then built up for life in the real world and for taking authority in the future.
That parent who is “encouraging” their child to play outside, could greatly assist the child by giving a clear instruction. They could, for example, instruct the child to play outside for one hour each day. When the parent does so, the child is brought under authority and is being prepared to hold authority in the future.
Powerless Parents Have Lost Authority
Earlier I mentioned “powerless parents”. Those parents probably grew up under the influence of pop-psychology and the permissiveness which was popularised in the past half-century. Because their own parents did not bring them under authority, they now find that they cannot exercise authority over their own children. They are reduced to encouraging their child, and to wishing their child would do differently.
Authority has been lost, because a generation of parents did not bring their own children under authority.
Help your child. Rediscover authority and use it on your child. Give your child clear and simple instructions which they are to follow. As your child comes under your authority they will be trained to be a better parent and a more effective person than you have become.
Now, don’t abuse your child. Authority can be exercised with firm resolve and without anger and abuse. If you are struggling to know how to do that, then read my book, Parenting Horizons, for some key instructions.