It’s common to hear parents lamenting that their teens don’t recognize or respect their authority anymore. But just what is parental authority and why is it important?
In simple terms, parental authority refers to the rights and obligations that parents have that lets them make decisions for their children from the time they are born until they turn 18. Your authority as a parent is recognized by law and as such,you can make decisions that affect your child’s well-being. You assume parental authority over your child from their birth (or adoption) until they legally become adults. So you could say this authority is a parent’s inherent right recognized by society and the law.
As a parent, you have a responsibility to care for your children, provide for their health, safety and education and also provide physical and psychological protection. Furthermore, this authority gives parents the instructional power to teach their children what they believe they should learn as well as leadership power to direct their children to do what the parents want. This last part is the source of many problems for teens and their parents.
Why is Parental Authority Important?
Parental authority is vital in a child’s life as it gives them structure and direction. Your child relies on you to tell them what is right or wrong as well as what they should or shouldn’t do. This instruction gives children a stable, safe and healthy foundation from which they can grow and explore the world. It also gives them a reference to make their own decisions in future.
Once they enter adolescence, teens start pushing back and questioning your authority. Where they were once obedient and cooperative, they are now difficult and defiant. Your requests are now met with statements of opposition such as, “You can’t make me!” “You’re always bossing me around!” “Why should I?”
Though frustrating, you need to understand that this is normal teen behavior as they seek more freedom and independence. While your authority over your teen might seem tenuous at best, it is still an important part of their lives. Although teens still need the protection and instruction of parental authority, they also require space to explore their own individualism and independence. Giving them increased and supervised responsibility for their own lives allows them to develop the skills and confidence required to make wise choices and become responsible, independent adults.
If you think about it, your teen’s rebellion towards your authority is actually a good thing. It means they are learning to think and make decisions for themselves.
However, an ongoing pattern of defiant, argumentative behavior coupled with vindictiveness towards authority could point to a bigger problem. In such cases, it is better to seek professional help for your teen before their behavior worsens. With the right treatment and assistance, they can get their lives straightened out.