This post is a brief addition and clarification of “on Father-Figures“, so if you haven’t already read it please consider starting there.
I don’t believe there has ever been any question of my parental authority with my children. Indeed I can recall remarkably few times my authority has been tested, possibly because there are lines which I simply will not allow my children to cross, and when they have reached those lines they’ve realized they really don’t want to be anywhere near them, let along across them.
Some lessons we learn in a single sitting, other lessons we never learn at all.
There are many who assert parents should not be friends with their children. Purportedly because being friends with our children somehow undermines our parental authority, but I ask, “Why?”
Parents do have have an implicit authority over their children. That authority comes tightly bound into the enormous responsibility of raising functional children. Stamping out bad behavior detected in our children must be considered one such responsibility. Something about stamping is that to do it effectively requires authority. If you, the parent, have no authority then stamping will appear to your children as a meaningless little temper tantrum. Which is very likely something for which you probably have the audacity to chide them…
How we choose to discipline our children doesn’t matter as much as that we will enforce the discipline we impose. And in order to be able to enforce said disciple, we have to have parental authority.
So where does parental authority come from?
It certainly doesn’t come from the biological act of fathering or mothering a child. Too often the biological act itself is one of irresponsibility, and it seems to me that responsibility seldom seems to derive from an irresponsible act. Therefore no – conceiving a child, or contributing to a child’s conception does not grant you parental authority. It is such a pity so many parents, of all ages, seem incapable of comprehending that. Screaming, “Because I’m your father!!!” does not serve as an effective response to the single most important question your child will ever ask you. Namely, “Why?”
So where does parental authority come from…?
Parental authority is granted by only one thing, specifically your parental responsibility. If you abdicate your parental responsibility then you have absolutely no right to assume authority over your children. If you don’t care enough about your children to be a responsible parent, then what possible reason do your children have to care about what you say, or about your rules, or about how you happen to feel at the moment you suddenly decide to impose your wishes on them? Why should they feel for you if you don’t feel for them?
Our children are the biggest responsibility we will ever have. Nothing we do will ever matters as much as raising functional, well-adjusted, caring, and contributing children. Nothing.
So before you become a parent, please be willing to accept this daunting responsibility. And at times it is daunting. Trust me on this. I have been a parent four times now, so I should know. However you may also trust me on this – being a responsible, caring parent is hands down the best thing that ever happens to us. Nothing compares to how our child’s love makes us feel. Nothing
All well and good, but what have I used my parental authority to accomplish?
Turns out I haven’t accomplished a whole lot on that score. However since it turns out my hierarchy of needs in regard to my children’s behavior is limited, I’m okay with that. I don’t allow my children to be rude or look down on anyone, period. Why? Because I believe it is far better to be polite and forgotten than it is to be rude and remembered. And that is pretty much it.
Every interaction with our children is potentially a lesson in how to love better, and if those interactions are not? Well then I question whether we should be teaching our children at all. A wonderful thing about lessons on how to love better is that as we are teaching our children, we are learning ourselves.