Mar 23, 2011

Understanding "Authority"

In P.E.T., the use of flexing your parental power to "control" your children is something we strongly oppose. Many parents have a hard time accepting this concept and ask things like:
"But don't I need to show them who's boss? Or else my kids will walk all over me and not learn to respect me."
Proponents of parent "authority" fail to recognize that there are four very different kinds of authority as explained here.

I. Authority P (Power)
This authority is based on power, which is derived from possessing rewards and punishments and using them to try to control others. We refer to Authority O as the "authoritarian" approach. This kind of authority has serious deficiencies and destructive effects on both the controllers and controllees.

II. Authority E (Expertise)
This authority is derived from expertise - knowledge, experience, training. Possession of Authority E can strongly influence (not control) others to accept direction, advice, council, and change their behavior. People who have and use thiis kind of authority are often called "authoritative". Children usually accept their parents' Authority E. The Gordon Model of effective relationships certainly approves of Authority E.

III. Authority J (Job Definition)
This is authority derived from one's job definition and people's acceptance of the legitimacy of that job definition. For example, police officers and citizens, coaches and players and doctors and patients. This is often called "legitimated authority" because people usually feel the influencer has a legitimate right to influence. The Gordon Model certainly approves of Authority J.

IV. Authority C (Contract)
This authority derives from a contract between two or more people - a mutually acceptable agreement or decision. It can be formal and legal written document) or a "gentlemen's agreement" (handshake). This kind of authority is often called "contractual." The key to this source of influence is that both parties have reached a mutually acceptable agreement (or contract). Do you smell Method III here?

Authority E,J, and C are influence methods, while Authority P is a control method. Influence methods rarely provoke defensive and reactive coping behaviors, simply because one can either accept or reject another's influence. However, they cannot always reject another's power-based control.

What do you think?

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