Jul 6, 2009

Effects of Parental Power: Resistance, Defiance, Rebellion, Negativism

A parent recalled this typical incident with her father:

PARENT: If you don't stop talking, you're going to get my hand across your face.
CHILD: Go ahead, hit me!
PARENT: (Hits child.)
CHILD: Hit me again, harder. I won't stop!

Some children rebel against parents' use of authority by doing exactly the opposite of what their parents desire them to do. One mother told us:

"There were three main things we used our authority to try to get our daughter to do--be neat and orderly, go to church, and refrain from drinking. We were always strict about these things. Now we know that her house is a mess, she doesn't set foot in church, and she has cocktails almost every night."

An adolescent revealed in one of his therapy sessions with me:

"I won't even try to get good grades in school, 'cause my parents have pushed me so hard to be a good student. If I got good grades it would make them feel pleased--like they were right or like they won. I'm not going to let them feel that way. So I don't study."

Another adolescent talked about his reaction to his parents' "hassling" him about his long hair:

"I guess I might cut it if they didn't hassle me so much. But as long as they try to make me cut it, I'm going to keep it long."

Such reactions to adult authority are almost universal. Children have been defying and rebelling against adult authority for generations. History suggests little differences between today's youth and those at other times. Children, like adults, fight furiously when their freedom is threatened, and there have been threats to the freedom of children at all stages in history. One way for children to cope with threats to their freedom and independence is to fight against those who would take it away.

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