Parental power virus: a challenge in parenting
Have you ever heard about the parental power virus (PPV)? No, you haven’t because I created the term. I thought to share about this virus once more because it is now a national epidemic. It took me decades, after working with countless parents, to come up with this term. The term is new, but the “virus” has been around for thousands of years. PPV is dangerous and deadly; it is not a medical problem but a sociological one. PPV is the need for parents to maintain control by making very strict, unreasonable rules for obedience.
You may have read my previous column, “23 Stupid Things Parents Do to Mess up their Children’s Lives”, and learned about stupid things parents do. Today I am focusing on a challenge in parenting I did not mention in that column. It is perhaps the essence of who parents are and why parents do what they do. It is about parental power and authority. Parents who misinterpret and misuse this God-given power and authority over children have what I call the PPV. The PPV, when spread to children, causes the parental power syndrome (PPS) – serious emotional, psychological and developmental problems.
Parental power syndrome: The dictionary defines “syndrome” as the association of several clinically recognizable features, symptoms, phenomena or characteristics that often occur together. In the context of this article, PPS occurs when parental misuse of power and authority causes maladaptive behavior, rebellion, emotional distress, suicide, anxiety, eating disorders, behavioral disorders, compulsive disorders, learning disorders and many other psychological disorders in children.
Parental power virus: How do we know when parents have PPV? Some indicators that parents have PPV are parents holding onto traditions that do not make sense or are no longer relevant; parents refusing to reason and evaluate their methods of parenting, especially when it is not effective; parents getting an initial state of euphoria from punishing their children, then switching to feelings of anger and rage when children do not respond favorably; parents saying statements like “I am the boss around here”, or “Shut up, I am older than you”, or “Just do as I say”, or “Bring your ugly self here” and parents threatening to kill or cause bodily harm when children embarrass them publicly.
Parents are powerful: Most, if not all children, naturally love and trust their parents, even if they do not live with them. Very young children depend on their parents to teach and guide them. It is during the early years that blind child obedience (obedience without question) takes place. Parents are happy because they perceive that their parenting skills are successful. In most cases they are not successful because small children do not reason and are not yet aware that they have the power of choice. As children get older and start to reason, they challenge their parents who cannot respond appropriately because they are infected by PPV; hence children develop PPS. Full-blown PPS causes mayhem, violence, murder, rape and many other criminal acts.
Today there are thousands of children who have full-blown PPS and thousand more parents who have PPV. We need a cure, and a cure fast. Just as people infected with HIV must seek medical help to begin the healing process, parents must also seek help to change their parenting practices. This is the only way we can stop the violence in our society. The only antidote for the PPV is love. True love softens the heart, quiets the spirit and tempers the thoughts. The love that comes from Jesus is supreme love that’s needed today. How can parents get this love cure? They get this love cure by humbly admitting that they need to be educated to be parents. Proper parental education does not reduce parental authority, it enhances it and helps parents to channel it in a positive direction. Get rid of the parental power virus today. Admit that you need help and seek it diligently.
• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board-certified clinical psychotherapist. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org; write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas; visit www.soencouragement.org or telephone 242-327-1980.