When a parent decides to use his power, he either builds a truly special relationship with the child, or just forces the child to react to the way he uses his power. Parents who are fans of the “discipline by all means” approach forget or ignore this scenario.

All the while, they seem to be supported by the fact that, for the time being, their problem has been solved: the child is no longer unruly and his behavior is no longer inappropriate. Like sending a child to his room to “think about what he’s done”.

If I think about my own childhood, I don’t think I’ve ever really “reflected” about what I’d done whenever I was sent to my room. On the contrary, it only made me more determined not to get caught the next time I’d do something.

And if I reacted that way – and I was in no way a problem child – why would my child or yours react differently?

Harsh discipline and enforcing rules for every insignificant thing don’t solve any problems – they only deepen them. They might be your most obvious choice – for here and now – as they don’t require any effort, patience, involvement or the wish to actually solve things.

But when you put things into perspective, you’ll notice that the parent actually generates a problem that will be extremely difficult to control / solve years later. When you don’t make the child part of the conversation, there will be no communication between the two of you. And what the parent will get back in return will be the same thing that he offered: he will be ignored, snapped at, treated with disregard.

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Stay firm, don’t give in!”, “The child is manipulating you!”, “Don’t be afraid to impose yourself!”, “What does he know? He’s only a child!”, “I used to get a spanking every once in a while when I was a kid, and I turned our alright!” – here are only a few of the arguments that parents who choose this type of relationship with their children use to justify themselves on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, these parents ignore a few very important things: that problems aren’t really solved, but hidden, like dust shoved under a rug. They forget about the cause and effect relationship and about the fact that any action generates a reaction.

And this omission makes quite a difference, because, to these parents, a child must obey and submission must come naturally from him; the child must always be controlled and he always needs to be told what to do or not to do; punishment is for the good of the child, as well as the occasional slapping, in case he forgets “who the boss really is”. These parents don’t understand the humiliation that they subject their child to when they treat him that way.

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But the end doesn’t justify the means, and children eventually come up with their own adaptive mechanisms: in time, most of them will rebel and completely ignore their parents. They may end up using their own power over others, first chance they’ll get: over younger brothers, schoolmates, and, in time, over their partners and children.

Others will isolate themselves, will become insecure and have low self esteem, they will become obedient people who will perceive other people’s views as their own, who will forget that they, too, have a voice and will live their lives just the way they think the first ones would like them to – the ones who enjoyed using their power over them.

Here are other forms of adapting to parental control:

  • Violence, aggressiveness
  • The rejection of any type of rule, including laws
  • Lying
  • Running away from home
  • Joining gangs or other types of groups – building an organized defense against the adults
  • Depression, insecurity
  • Selfishness
  • Shyness
  • Cheating in school
  • Lacking the courage to try new things
  • The need to constantly receive validation from others
  • Becoming a flunkey
  • Insecurity
  • Psychosomatic diseases
  • Eating disorders: bulimia or obesity
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

These scenarios should be played over and over in the heads of all parents who are convinced that they need to have complete authority over their children, to discipline them by any means, to turn their relationship into a power play.