Why we shouldn’t teach our children to respect all authority figures.
Recently, social media has been a storm of discussions due to the political climate. With the attempt to overturn the election and the riots at the capital, the comment sections have been filled with thousands of opinions and arguments. One particular comment was reoccurring though and it needs to be addressed.
“We are being a horrific example for our children. We should be teaching them to respect authority no matter who it is.” I can understand that this was a comment based upon our presidential figures in the US, but this is not a post about politics. This is a post from a child sexual abuse survivor who respected authority and almost slipped through the cracks.
I know most people are reading this and thinking “well that’s not what I mean about authority” but that exact thought process is problematic.
1. Children don’t know the difference.
Of course you don’t want children to respect their abuser. No one wants their child to get hurt. The problem is that you still want them to respect people who have power over them (including yourself).
The thing is that children can’t and don’t have the ability to determine the difference between good and bad authority. They just know what you taught them to do. Respect authority and follow directions.
In my experience, I learned that we should behave and respect adults, especially those who take care of us and love us. In general, it wasn’t a bad concept. It is important to teach our children how to follow directions and be kind to adults, but when I was a child I didn’t understand that I had the option to say no to someone who had more power over me and still be a well behaved child.
2. It does matter who it is and how they make you feel.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am an adult who has a job and goes to college, where I respect those who are above me.As as a recovering survivor though, I can say that it definitely does matter who it is and how they treat you.
If someone is consistently harming you, belittling you or completely disrespecting you, you should not respect that authority figure. Something needs to be said, changed and/or done to change that experience. Respect shouldn’t be given just because they hold power of us.
3. We should teach our children how to develop healthy relationships with others and to speak up against unhealthy ones.
One of the problems I’ve found with the experience of abuse is that we eventually know it’s unhealthy, but we don’t know how to get out of it. Right before I decided to tell my family about what my great grandfather was doing to me, all I could think about was how if maybe I was a better kid I wouldn’t be in this mess.
In reality though, what kept me silent for so long was the desire to follow and respect authority figures.If I was to speak out against an authority figure, especially one who was related to me, wouldn’t that make me a bad kid? No. Of course not.
Instead of teaching our children that they should respect all forms of authority, we should educate them about how we treat others and how we respond to the way others treat us. Teach children about how to trust their own instinct and how to communicate if someone isn’t treating them with respect.
Acknowledge that it is okay to say no if an authority figure asks them to do something they are uncomfortable with. This is true even as an adult. If we are in an uncomfortable work place, where authority figures are treating us badly, we do not need to stay in that unhealthy environment. We can communicate and make changes to that environment, or we need to know when to leave.
This can play a significant role throughout the rest of their lives. The lessons we can teach them when they are young, can help them live happier, healthier lives when they become adults