Thursday, January 19, 2006

Parenting POWER struggle

Something I've been musing over the last few days...

Ok, the other night I did a quick search of blogs about homeschooling (we homeschool), and came across one where the blogger was arguing that you'd have to be insane to homeschool because as much as she loves her toddler, she can't wait for him to go to daycare/creche/preschool (sorry, I can't remember which she said). Anyway, this same blogger referred to her child as Toddler in Chief (or TIC)... And it struck me that very often these days, when I see parents talking about how their kids are overwhelming them, they also have a tendency to refer to their kid in a manner that suggests a power struggle between the parent and the child, usually putting the child in the position of lording it over the parent.

Now, as a Child Development Specialist (yeah, yeah, giving myself a lofty title here, but hey, I think I kind of earned it with all my studies in Child development, both officially (through my Masters degree) and unofficially)... I know that children do not actively seek to dominate their parents, but rather to gain control over their environment (just as all humans want control over their environment, children are no less entitled to seeking out this source of autonomy, they are, afterall "adults-in-apprentice" (hereafter referred to as the AIA))...

Now, from a philosophical stand point, you can argue that the need to dominate comes from a sense of powerlessness. Therefore, parents who feel constantly dominated by their children, must be experiencing a sense of powerlessness that leads to resentment.

And then, from the perspective of the child, aka the AIA, it must be pretty unnerving to find that the person who is supposed to be teaching you how to become an autonomous adult, is unable to set the agenda or is constantly resentful of your presence.

Power struggles are commonplace in Western society these days, and I believe they stem from a sense of powerlessness. People are constantly told they are not in control, of themselves or their environment. This message is used to sell all sorts of products from diet products to clothing and cars and furniture. Ikea (the furniture chain) has a whole marketing strategy based on the message that "You are not in control of your possessions, but if you buy our products, we can help you control your possessions", hehehe... And every day thousands of people buy into that message...

You know, if you buy Lynx (deodorants), you can control the opposite sex?!

If you buy the right suit, you can control whether or not you get that next job?!

If you employ the strategies of the Supernanny, the Babywhisperer, and Furber you can control you baby?!

But what does that lead to?

Well, more people who feel externally controlled, and so have no sense of internal control, and feel overwhelmed as parents because, now, it's no longer their parents, or the opposite gender, or the boss controlling them, it's their 15 month old (or in my case, my 6 and 4 year olds)...

So, instead of having to be "in control", why can we try to co-exist with our children, set boundaries for their safety, but not call them names or threaten them with holy hell if they don't listen, just be understanding that their job is to test the boundaries, ours is to gently, but firmly, with complete respect for their job, to maintain the boundaries, and at the same time understand that for them to NOT feel the power struggle we feel, they must experience some autonomy so they can become comfortable with making their own decisions, and being responsible for their own lives without someone else always having to step in to tell them what, when, how, why, and who...

1 comment:

katef said...

Oh you write so well... I just have to say that I soooooooooooo agree!

Teenagers and the failing parent...