TOC Next Previous

Discussion

The activity presents seven approaches to authority which good parents blend and mix as they relate to and interact with their youngsters.  Referent authority is almost always a part of the exercise of authority when using the authoritative approach to discipline discussed in the last activity.  The authoritative approach also relies heavily on “the voice of experience” and informational authority as explained in this activity.  Continuing to relate the current activity to the last activity, reward/punishment authority and control of resources and opportunities are generally the form in which negative discipline is seen when negative discipline is used as part of a learning experience for a child.

The consultant will want to first work with parents in terms of recognizing and minimizing their use of acceptance/rejection authority.  In fact, most parents would be well advised if they were to avoid the use of this type of authority as much as possible.  Within the relationship with the parent, the child will naturally and spontaneously feel acceptance. When the parent becomes upset, frustrated, annoyed, or displeased with the child, the child will feel rejected and pushed away to some extent, whether this is what the parent intends or not.  Since the negative effect of acceptance/rejection authority is going to be experienced by the child in any event, the parent should avoid its use anytime that is possible.  The consultant will need to work in the educational area with the parent to increase awareness of and consciousness of those things which are experienced by children as rejection.  These behaviors, attitudes, and approaches are, then, those which need minimizing.

At the next level, parents and the consultant should work together to reduce the extent to which parents use title authority.  “You will do that because I am your parent and because I said so.”  If attention will return to the discussion of authoritative discipline raised in the last activity, one can easily see that this approach to authority is inconsistence with the source of the parent’s right to direct the child and of the parent’s power to see to it that directions are followed.  It is, nonetheless, not an adequate reason or sufficient explanation.  In fact, if better reasons and explanations are not available, it may be that discipline or the use of authority are not reasonable or appropriate on that occasion.  Interestingly, the child already knows who the parent is and knows about the parent’s authority.  Simply iterating the obvious to the child does not extend her knowledge or understanding.

The remaining five approaches to authority mix and blend into two main themes.  First, the use of reward/punishment authority and authority based on controlling resources and opportunities combine into what might be thought of as a negative discipline theme.  These are approaches used by good parents primarily for the purpose of controlling their youngsters.  The second theme combines referent authority with “the voice of experience” and informational authority into a pattern of positive discipline or a pattern of influencing youngsters.  The two themes interplay to limit and control the youngster on the one hand and to influence and direct the young person on the other hand.

From a developmental perspective, the first theme is very visible and present in good parenting relationships with younger children, although nearly absent in the parent/child interaction with adolescents.  Alternatively, the second theme – positive discipline – is the major authority theme with older children and adolescents and is seen as an approximately equal theme with negative discipline in relationships with younger children.

As can be seen, the authority mix depends a lot on the individual child but also depends more generally on the developmental age of the youngster.  Parents are beginning to get into trouble if the mix is not gradually shifting in favor of positive discipline over time.  This is especially true if negative discipline is a major theme with other children and adolescents.  In fact, negative discipline begins to become completely inappropriate for older adolescents.  They are simply at a stage in their lives where the exercise of parental power and control are inappropriate and generally ineffective.

TOC Next Previous