There is a difference between respect for authority and fear of authority.
This difference is very important to understand
both as an individual and as a parent.
Fear as a Motivator does not Teach Self-Awareness
Fear of authority has very little independence or critical thought connected to it. It arises from wanting to avoid the pain or punishment
that comes with rebelling against or disobeying authority. It puts us in our animal brain, fight, flight or freeze. It is not connected to values or respect.
Respect is Stable and Resilient
In contrast, respect for authority necessarily has critical thinking attached to it. We respect authority when it makes sense to do so. We respect people in positions of power when they have demonstrated qualities that make us want to trust them.
We are also always free to disobey the same authority when it no longer serves a positive purpose.
This is very important because our individuality is dependent upon
the ability to think, evaluate and make choices based on that evaluation.
If we follow blindly then we are no better than computers.
Don’t get me wrong I love computers!
I just prefer not to be one.
When I press a key on my computer it does not have a choice of whether or not to follow the program.
If I press A it will type A.
This is what fear of authority is like.
I do not want to have that kind of relationship with authority.
Nor do I want that for my child.
When they are faced with someone in a position of power telling them what to do, or a system of authority imposing a rule upon them, I want to empower children to evaluate the:
compassion of the situation.
Then to make a conscious and well considered choice of whether or not to follow. Balancing emotion, logic, values and intuition we can be most effective in discerning what response is appropriate in a given situation.
This is a complex process of thought. It’s not something that can be taught by telling someone what is right and what is wrong. All that really teaches is what you think is right and wrong.
Building a respect for authority means respecting that people in certain positions have a responsibility to perform. Teachers, police, bosses etc. Yet they are also people, equal in every way to them. Equal in rights, equally deserving of respect and kindness. The person in authority is NOT deserving of more respect than my child, or any child, or any human, no matter what the context.
The concept that context and hierarchy have anything to do with worth or how deserving of respect we are is a dangerous one. It leads to all the ‘isms we face in society.
It is Empowering to Inspire Young People To Stand Up For What They Believe In
This makes me think of the situations like young women in high school complaining about the sexism of dress codes. Dress codes that are often in place because the adults in power have determined that when girls wear shorts, boys get distracted.
This is clearly the reason for these dress code and yet much backpedaling has occurred and redefinitions have happened to try and justify the measures these schools have taken.
Every time there is a post about this on FaceBook there are numerous people talking about respect for authority, how are kids going to learn if they don’t have to follow rules in school, it’s not really sexist it’s just about decency – and on and on.
Clearly these people have not studied the difference between respect for and fear of authority.
I Want My Child To Follow Her Heart, Even In The Face Of Adversity
If my child felt an injustice was occurring I would very much want her to follow her heart and speak out against it if that is what she felt called to do.
I want her to respect intelligent authority, sensible rules and be good part of a functioning community.
But this does not mean shutting off her mind and her good sense, her moral sense, ethical sense and her sense of justice.
In fact a functioning and hopefully evolving society
requires people who are evaluating the systems and situations they encounter.
I Encourage Her To Say NO To Me
So part of my parenting strategy has been to inspire my daughter to speak out when she feels something is wrong. This means that since I am the first authority she encounters then I must be willing to receive her criticism and actually encourage, it foster it and celebrate it.
This is so wildly opposite from the traditional mindset.
It took me a while even to convince myself of the benefits.
And yet every time I would think about it with a clear and rational mind,
with an open and loving heart
I realized this was the only way that I could treat my daughter with integrity.
Focus On Long Term Effects Rather Than Immediate Obedience
The reason for this is that the focus of my parenting has always been
to develop productive skills, attitudes and knowledge in her,
to enhance the power and confidence of her personality,
to help her feel self-love and have a positive self image.
For her to know that she has a place in the world
and that her opinion and thoughts matter.
When I focused on these things I soon realized that obedience, manners and generally the traditional idea of a well-behaved child is not terribly desirable.
So when my daughter said NO to me I never pushed back
(well almost never).
I encouraged her to share her thought process and feelings with me when she wanted to do her own thing, to follow her own direction, and then I always honoured it.
Just for those who are inclined to ask – no this does not include when she’s going to touch the stove, run out into traffic or eat poison! The Holy Trinity of the unthinking, reactive argument to positive, conscious parenting.
An Atmosphere Of Freedom Produces Natural Goodness And Authenticity
The wonderful thing is that, even though my daughter does have that sense of her place in the world, even though she knows that I respect it when she says NO and even though she was never forced to be polite and obedient, she is one of the nicest, sweetest and easiest people to get along with.
Part of the reason for this is that she has nothing to prove for she knows who she is.
This is the greatest gift that I could have given her,
given to myself and honestly given to the world.
Conscious Parenting Can Save The Planet
Just one person that knows themselves and loves themselves is a treasure for our planet.
Imagine if we revolutionized how we parent and brought forth a generation of people like this.
Guaranteed our world would soon transform.
Conscious parenting is not just about this one moment,
it’s not just about one child,
but in a way it is truly about the future of humanity.
That may sound grandiose,
but I deeply believe it is the truth.