Parents beware: power corrupts

The relationship between parent and child is unique for many reasons and one of those reasons is that the relationship fundamentally involves a power imbalance.  The power dynamic between parent and child is, of course, natural and necessary.  Yet, it is still incredible to ponder the sheer degree of power that parents have over their children and the degree to which children are powerless; powerless to decide the most basic aspects of their day to day lives.  Again, this is natural and necessary.  Parents must act as custodians for their children, carefully acting in the child’s own long-term best interests, until the child has sufficient knowledge and understanding of the world to make their own life decisions.  Further, nature has built into the parent-child relationship a vital protective mechanism for the child; parental love so strong that most parents value their child’s life above their own.

Yet, power corrupts.  Parents wisely and lovingly wield power in the name of their child’s long-term best interests so often that it is easy to begin also wielding power when doing so isn’t necessary at all.  It is easy to become intrusive, denying our children choices that, really, there’s no reason they can’t have.  It is easy to forget to listen to our child’s own perspective, to forget to take their present-moment needs into account and to mistakenly sacrifice their current priorities to the lofty goal of our own beliefs about their long-term best interests.  So beware of your own corruption.  Take your child’s perspective into account.  Remember that ultimately, your child’s life decisions aren’t yours to make.  You are only a temporary custodian of your child’s life.

Apply it to your life:

Are you a good custodian of your child’s life?  Are you conscious of the corrupting influence of power and do you ensure that you instead have taken into account your child’s perspective?

About Koa Whittingham

Dr Koa Whittingham is a clinical and developmental psychologist, a research fellow at the University of Queensland and the author of a new book for mothers called Becoming Mum.
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