- To base the family on equality, it is important to understand what authority is. The word ‘authority’ has several meanings, and is often confused with the word ‘power’ because we use both when talking about trying to control someone or something. Power and authority are also associated with having the right to impose conditions or make rules; and the right to dish out punishments for disobedience or non-cooperation. (Travelling the Road of Peace and Happiness, Ch 2)
- Anyone who has responsibilities needs enough authority to carry out those responsibilities. Parents have many responsibilities and few privileges.
- There are two kinds of authority. I call one ‘dominant authority’ and the other ‘legitimate authority.’ Dominant authority maintains order through the use of punishment. Legitimate authority maintains order through the power of persuasion and negotiation; this is the authority of peace-keepers seeking cooperation and collaboration.
- Dominant authority is imposed and ultimately relies on fear to gain obedience. Legitimate authority is freely given out of trust and respect for the person and/or respect for the need for rules.
- Dominant authority is attempting to have power over others. Legitimate authority is having power with others to get a job done.
- Every member of a family has responsibilities and often needs the cooperation of others to meet those responsibilities.
- Although people have different levels of responsibilities, meeting their responsibilities may be equally important to each person’s sense of well-being, as well as to the overall harmony within the family.
- Every member of the family is entitled to equal respect and consideration, regardless of what level of responsibilities they have.
Most parent/child relationship problems stem from some form of resistance to authority. In many families, power struggles commonly develop from this resistance. The following are some thoughts expressed in cold, point form but are much warmer when put into practice.
There are few subjects more controversial than how we should respond to wrongdoing, and the family is the ideal setting to use as the base for a discussion on the complexities of discipline. Some of the thoughts and ideas expressed in chapter six of Travelling the Road of Peace and Happiness may appear strange and ‘way out’ to some people and yet they have been around for thousands of years. They only seem strange because our main cultural response to wrongdoing is what Walter Wink referred to as ‘redemptive violence.’ But the nonviolence compass can lead us to many more effective methods to use.
In regard to parenting, the word ‘discipline’ means: To teach, assist and guide a child’s development towards self-control.
Everyone has an opinion on how children should be disciplined, and can generally be divided into two main camps; those who believe parents should have the right to smack their children and those who are opposed to the use of physical punishment. I want to make my position on this very clear. I believe that parents who neglect to firmly discipline a child put the emotional and moral development of the child at risk, and make it more difficult for that child to form healthy relationships as an adult. Firm discipline is a necessary part of responsible parenting and the failure to meet that responsibility should be classed as a form of child abuse. However, I also want to make it very clear that although punishment remains an option, the negative effects of using it has led me to not only be against physical punishment, but against the use of punishment as a means of discipline.
To many people that may seem an extraordinary contradiction. How can strict discipline be maintained without punishment? Does that mean children should be allowed to do anything and not be corrected at all? Obviously my strong belief in the need for strict discipline rules out such permissiveness and is backed up by the research indicating that each child should go through a stage in life when rules are obeyed simply because they are the rules, and authority figures be respected simply because they are in positions of authority. That doesn’t happen by letting kids do whatever they want to do.
Some of the many tools available to help parents discipline children are:
The most effective way for people, including children, to become responsible, interdependent individuals is by the example of others and being held accountable for their actions. Anyone can use these tools to establish peace and harmony in the home and workplace. An additional tool for large groups of people is called Open Space Technology.
Composite of ideas from Travelling the Road of Peace and Happiness by Bob Myers.
Bob Myers owned and operated an electronics sales and service business before gaining a degree in sociology and further training in relationship counselling, conflict resolution and mediation. He worked in that field for more than thirty years, mainly with teenagers and their families. For 16 years he was the director of a non-government residential facility for teenagers. He is the author of three books on parenting as well as :