Sep 1, 2009

Does a Parent Run Out of Power?

Parents Inevitably Run Out of Power

Using power to control children works only under special conditions. The parent must be sure to possess the power--the rewards have to be attractive enough to be wanted by the child and the punishments have to be potent enough to warrant avoidance. The child must be dependent upon the parent; the more the child depends on what the parent possesses (rewards), the more power the parent has.

This is true in all human relationships. If I need something very badly--say money to buy food for my children--and I must depend solely on another person for money--probably my employer, then obviously he will have a great deal of power over me. If I am dependent on this one employer, I will be inclined to do almost anything he wants in order to insure getting what I need so desperately. But a person has power over another only as long as the second is in a position of weakness, want, need, deprivation, helplessness, dependency.

As a child becomes less helpless, less dependent upon the parent for what she needs, the parent gradually loses power. This is why parents discover to their dismay that rewards and punishment that worked when their child was younger, become less effective as she grows older.

Parents express feelings that most parents experience as their children begin to grow out of their dependency. This inevitably occurs as children approach adolescence. Now they can acquire many rewards from their own activities (school, sports, friends, achievements). They also begin to figure out ways to avoid their parents' punishments. In those families where the parents have relied principally on power to control and direct their children throughout their early years, the parents inevitably come in for a rude shock when their power runs out and they are left with little or no influence.

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