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“I’ve Lost Control of my Family” by Arnie Sherr
asherr60 | January 10, 2009 at 11:01 amby
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How and why parental authority diminishes.
January 10, 2009: Wasn’t it great while our kids were young and we as parents were able to impose our will on just about everything they wanted to do or say; effectively direct their every move? “Don’t touch that; it’s dirty – Careful; HOT, you’ll burn your hand – Stop crying right now or I’ll give you something to cry about – take out the trash – do your homework – clean your room – you will be home right after school – you’re not going out with anyone until I meet him.” Remember how good having that power felt? How about this as they got older: “Son or daughter, if you do it that way it will not work; this is the way to do that – yadayadayada, or I want you to do it this way – listen to me, I’ve been there done that!” Wow, and what amazes me is back then most times they listened and of not we told them in a stern manner, “as long as you live under my roof you’ll do as I say, like it or not.” Who said the President of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />United States was the most powerful person in the world? In the “family world” for a few growing years’ parents too, are that powerful!
You see, in all families and while the kids are young and impressionable parents have currency with which to wield power. The “as long as you live in my house” is currency; “no TV for a week’ is currency; “your grounded” is currency; however it isn’t long before your kids are too young to be on their own but too old for parents to have anything they can use as currency. Perhaps the only thing left when kids are licensed to drive but don’t have their own cars is “if you want to use my car this weekend you’ll do as I ASK? Observe the ambiguity of the use of the word “ASK?” When they were younger we said “do as I SAY”; it was an order, but now because they are older we replace SAY with ASK. Sounds softer, but it really means the same. Do it or no use of the family car.
Wait though, the landscape soon takes on a new venue; they have jobs, their own apartments, and want to make their own decisions – right or wrong. Whether their kids are married or single, parents have difficulty butting out. It’s not because they want to interfere, it’s because they “know better.” Do they? Perhaps yes and perhaps no; moreover, knowing better is really a cop-out. The truth is it’s hard to relinquish control. They even tell their kids “I want to protect you from making the same mistakes I made.” Why can’t they learn from us, parents ask themselves? Why are they so stubborn and belligerent? After all, we’re only trying to help!
Let me ask parents this; who are you trying to help? I really think parents who continually try to “help” their kids are really trying to help themselves; their need to hold on to the controls, the power they think or wish they still have. Here is a basic fact of life; power is only relevant when it has a relationship with currency. When North Korea refused to stop refining plutonium for their nuclear ambitions the global community enforced “sanctions” against then. Sanctions used in this manner are “currency.” If you don’t listen, I’ll “remove your PC” from your room for one month; also a “sanction.”
The only reason employees fear being fired for wrong doings is because they will have forfeited currency; their paychecks. Bosses can and do tell employees what and how to do thing because their pay is the “currency” at risk. Spouses have, on occasion used certain personal wants and needs as currency. It is wise not to embarrass or try too hard to prevail in an argument with one’s spouse; many times the battle is won but later when certain personal wants and needs are desired it is realized the war has been lost. Ah, the power of “currency.”
Blackmail is always based on “currency.’ It doesn’t have to be money, though. Does “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” ring the proverbial bell? Or, if you rat me out I’ll tell your spouse how you flirted with “you know who.” Strong, very strong “currency”!
Many times even salespersons use currency to close the sale. “I’ll tell you what Mr. Jones; if you purchase this new computer today, right now - I’ll throw in a two year warrantee at no additional charge.” Here’s another scenario; “What must I do to get you to take this car home today?”
I guess the point I am trying to make is, without some form of currency getting others to comply is challenging. Some parents after other forms of currency have been rendered ineffective resort to “guilt.” I am Jewish and nobody knows better how to use guilt that does Jewish Moms. Many times our spouses and kids attempt using guilt. I know of few Dad’s who can play tough love when tears flow from the eyes of their daughters and many times from their wives.
So, when must parents let go; realize that like many animal species, it’s time to cut the ties and give up the power? I trust my kids to do right because I believe I gave them great foundations. My new role is one of support and to make special efforts to ignore their failures (unless asked) but, more importantly to reward (not with currency) their accomplishments with accolades and recognition. To build their self-esteems and encourage independent thinking; after all, what they do and how the live today is directly attributable to their parent’s influence, and the proper use of the “power” their parents held onto for what as an after-look seems like a mere moment in time.
Rather than hold onto anger and dissatisfaction because our once “power” is no more, it is far better all around to reinforce what we’ve taught our kids and to take on a new role; to be supportive and be the valuable allies we will learn how to be. We shall now praise them for the good they do and accomplish. No more fighting; no more power struggles. Let the love which is complicated with power struggles now flourish without it.
It’s time to stop being the coach and help grow the team; grandchildren, if not already here may soon be in training. Hey Mom-moms and Pop-pops, another chance to practice “power” – all is not lost. Amen