Excerpt from Chapter 26. Power Distribution and Concentration

Posted: February 20, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Subchapter: Power in the Family

Children learn all about power in their earliest stages of life in their families and carers. They are born with the power of noisemaking, so right from birth they exert that power to let their parents know very loudly what they need and want, and when. Parents have the power to create a protective and nurturing space for their child, in which the child feels safe to develop and grow – ideally (114). There are occasions where parents cannot provide this safety and it has to be provided by someone else or the child dies.

As children grow they establish their own power hierarchies among siblings, carers and friends. These power structures change as children develop through their age-group stages. Many parents miss vital power transfer stages with their children, which causes strife or rebellion. As children grow and mature they have an implied expectation to be empowered by their parents.

At about age ten, a child is usually no longer content just to be told what to do, but wants to know and understand the reasons as well. That empowers the child to learn to make informed decisions and to formulate compelling reasons to do the right thing. So when someone tries to entice them to do something wrong, they can respond with an emphatic ‘No!’ out of conviction, rather than with a weak, ‘… my mother told me not to.’ Authoritarian parental commands lose effectiveness after age ten and are better replaced with reasoning.

By their mid teens children should be given increasingly more opportunity to make their own decisions and mistakes; first non-critical decisions of course, and then more and more important decisions, including those that will affect their own future. It is no longer appropriate for a parent to give authoritarian orders at that age, but rather to take time and mentor their child, discussing the possible outcomes of making one decision or another.

By their late teens their robust decision-making ability should be in place, which most likely includes having made some wrong decisions and learning from them. If a child has had an excessively authoritarian upbringing then they could have trouble making good decisions. Their parental relationships will probably be strained, because much of their later childhood will have been a power struggle. Parents tend to use the methods that their own parents used on them, so if they had a happy, empowering childhood then that is what they would most likely give their own children. If not then they must learn to break out of the negative cycle and start a positive one.

Authoritarian power struggles during childhood tend to stay attached to people long after they have grown up and left home. Subsequently, relationships and group interactions easily become power contests as well. At that stage it becomes increasingly more difficult to perceive authoritarian outbursts for what they are, instead blaming others for causing you to react harshly.


114. Sorin, Reesa. CHANGING IMAGES OF CHILDHOOD – RECONCEPTUALISING EARLY CHILDHOOD PRACTICE. School of Education, James Cook University – Published in: International Journal of Transitions in Childhood, Vol.1, 2005. [Online] 2005. [Cited: 02 APR 2010.] http://extranet.edfac.unimelb.edu.au/LED/tec/pdf/journal_sorin.pdf.


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