The Civilized Father

Should we use power over our children?

We must understand how the powers attributed to being a man and how that power is contained in our home.  

Most people quickly get outraged when cops abuse their power over citizens or when a big corporation mistreats an employee. We often fail to confront this imbalance in our own home, especially when it’s against our family’s smallest person. Why is there such a disconnect between the power disparity from a parent to a child?

I think it’s fair to say no one would ever argue against the fact that an adult man is stronger and more capable of surviving in the world than a child. If you get abused at work, you can quit and have the option of finding another job. When I think about my role as the father in my home, I really had to understand how powerful that was. I needed to be honest about how I treated my children, not just because it is wrong to harm others, but because they really had nowhere else to go. When things get tough, or they need help, it was me they were coming to for support. How could I ever look in the mirror when I knew deep down that I would be abusing this power, but I would be failing as a protector. 

We have probably all witnessed a father yelling, screaming, degrading, or criticizing their children while out in public. This is a clear indication of the abuse of a father’s power. It is a horrible occurrence, and something no child should go through. Once we can change our mindset of what a real male role model should look like in the home and become responsible for the effect of our own words, we will start to take notice of how damaging these words are.

We should never use power to control those weaker than us, which is especially true with our children. I know this might bring up a lot of uncomfortable thoughts for some fathers because we often hold onto the illusion that we must always be in control. We resort to repeating phrases like “Because I said so,” “I said right now,” “This is my house,” and so many more verbal threats that were unfortunately also used in our childhoods to weaken us. 

The problem with these demands is that they eventually become less effective and have to be backed up by physical threats. We tend to think we may be perceived as weak, and we can’t have our children thinking that. We have to show them who’s the boss is and often do anything to hide the fact that we have lost control. 

This is not Civilized, nor is it effective. 

If you never take the time to explain things or offer a helping hand in stressful situations, you can easily create a relationship between you and your child based on fear, and this should never be the goal of any father. 

The difference between power and leadership becomes more evident when we start to focus more on what our child needs than what we need. We get stuck in patterns of obedience and use punishment freely because we think it is more important for the child to obey than think for themselves. This is not leadership and will only make things more difficult in your growth as a parent for the future. 

I believe deep down we don’t want to be in a position of power, because if we are honest with ourselves, we can remember that we didn’t like it when our parents abused this power over us. If anything, we probably still struggle with these ideas as an adult and have difficulty expressing ourselves or speaking freely around our parents.

That is not the example we want to show our children reflective of a healthy relationship.

Power does not equate to growth.

We need to have the courage to look within ourselves, reflect on the things we have done, and ask if those things are really in our children’s best interest?

We have normalized primitive ways of parenting, such as threats, punishment, and abuse, to get compliance. Because the power we hold over our them is never earned, it is often easily abused. Our failure of accountability has us continually apply more pressure from this stance of ultimate power, which leads us to repeat the same destructive patterns. Besides the constant power struggles, we get apathetic results that will damage creating a better future for our family.

If our primary parenting tool is to order our children to do what we want, we not only create distance between us but also destroy their creativity. This can be a significant obstacle in helping our children reach their full potential. 

I had seen the best results with my children when I started parenting from a respectful and responsive approach rather than being focused on control. I became aware that I did not want my children always to agree and do what I said. If forced control was the only tool, I knew I would get compliance. After all, they just wanted to be accepted or challenging because they didn’t like to be controlled. These are not the adults I wanted to prepare for the world. 

I wanted to make sure that when my kids were ready, they would not sacrifice their personal freedoms for conformity. I wanted them to be comfortable with being who they chose to be, and as things get challenging, they would make corrections for better results—all of this getting done without the fear of my control. My most significant influence was from giving them power rather than feeling powerless. 

Our children will learn how to harness their power from us. We should continually be aware that a well-balanced society is contingent based upon having our children not direct their power against another person. 

So how do we get our children to do what we want? 

We continually build up our relationship with them with trust, reasoning, and the understanding that any defiance is not about us. Still, we can help our children become their own unique individual. 

The bottom line is we need to raise our standards with being a father. We need to start asking ourselves important questions. 

Ask yourself who you are as a father? 

Do your kids know what you believe? 

Do they know what your values are? 

Do you know who your kids are? 

Are you putting in the time and asking them important questions? 

Civilization will continue to improve only when we remove aggression and coercion as the way we solve problems. 

These questions will hold you liable as a man and hold yourself to higher standards. Our integrity as a father doesn’t matter unless our children believe it and experience it.