I have been busy moving recently; thus, the lack of posts. But this question was posed to me today, and I felt it was blog-worthy. =)
In a discussion about parenting practices, I was explaining that my husband and I have given up our authoritarian way of parenting for a more peaceful approach. We talk to and treat our children as if they are fellow humans, not our property, pets, or otherwise less than human somehow. This begged the question: What/whom do you teach your children that authority is? I thought about this a minute, then posed the question to my oldest, Elizabeth, who is 10. She thought for several minutes, then meekly answered “me”. I smiled and told her, “you’re absolutely right!” Then I responded to the person’s question online in this way:
Ultimately, the only authority lies in oneself. Even with the threat of punishment, physical or otherwise, the decision to act resides completely within. No one can force you to do anything once you reach the age of physical autonomy. And I believe mental autonomy begins before birth.
I don’t think children should be taught to blindly obey anyone. I believe everything and everyone should be questioned. We teach our children to respect those that have earned their respect. We teach our children to listen to those who are wiser and more experienced than they are, regardless of their age or position.
If one of my children was acting in a way that might bring them physical or mental harm, I would absolutely intervene and prevent the harm as best as I could. I would do the same for any fellow human or animal. If I see the potential for future harm, I will speak up and gently offer guidance. I’d like to think that’s only human.
What is authority? It’s you. And me. And my 3 month old son. And every other being capable of making decisions. But the only authority each of us has is over our own actions.