Children should be subjected to authority from an early stage so that later, as adults, they can respect authority. Parents are the most important figures of authority in a child’s life. Unfortunately children who have always been obedient may unexpectedly begin to question parental authority and the parents begin to lose their authority, so to speak. Hettie Brittz, in her book Kweek gesonde gesag, mentions relationship failure as one of the most important causes of loss of authority. She mentions the following factors that could lead to relationship failure:
Rash words: This comes in many forms, such as unfair reproaches, insensitive criticism, aggressive insults, empty promises, falseness, continual baiting, humiliating words, raking up things from the past, many unnecessary orders, criticism in public, as well as shouting and threats.
Unwillingness to admit that we are wrong: Sometimes parents are too proud to admit that they were unreasonable, rude or unfair, or lost self-control. One must be able to say: “I’m sorry”.
A lack of integrity: You expect your children to keep their rooms tidy while you leave your own room in a mess for the domestic to clear up. Or you admonish the children for fighting like cat and dog, but you as parents are continually in each other’s hair. Your children will rather follow your example than listening to words that contradict your actions.
Neglect: Parents should see to their children’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Children must have enough food, clothes and a safe home. They must be loved and protected and be encouraged when they feel dejected. Neglect, be it physical or emotional, makes children feel rejected, which could make them unwilling to accept their parents’ authority. They are not sure that they can really trust their parents.
Abuse: This is the abuse of power or physical strength, which indicates that parents have lost control and do not know how to get it back. Parents abuse their children through excessive hidings, slaps in the face or against the head, bumping them around or even hitting them with the fist. It also includes other forms of cruel actions such as yelling or swearing at your child, locking him or her up in a room or locking him or her out of the house, starving him or her, or even sexually abusing him or her. Initially abuse causes fear in the child, which could later lead to contempt, anger or revenge, and to rejection of authority.
Inaccessibilty: Children experience their parents as aloof, unreachable and inaccessible when the parents are always right, never apologise, and never allow the children to give their side of a matter. Complaints, questions or requests are cold-shouldered, with the result that the child stops communicating. The children do not have the courage to approach their parents, and this leads to the rejection of authority.
Humiliation: Some parents don’t hesitate to humiliate their children in public, in the presence of their (the parents’) friends, or in front of the childrens’ friends. The result is a sheepish, silent child that retreats into his or her shell and never makes a sound. On the surface the parent succeeds in enforcing authority, but at the same time in humiliating the child. The child feels that other peoples’ opinion is more important to the parent than the child and this deprives the parent of some of the wholesome authority that he has over his or her child.
Failure of trust: One of the most effective ways of losing your child’s trust, is not honouring promises. It also happens when you invade your child’s privacy by scrounging around in his or her stuff, reading his or her WhatsApps and eavesdropping on conversations. Or if you don’t trust him or her enough to go out with his or her friends.
If you recognise yourself in one of the above-mentioned actions, think about it. It is possible, but not necessarily easy, to regain sound authority.