The peer pressure, the constant screen viewing, the endless phone chatting, the lewd songs, the adult films – these are some of the things that pose serious challenge to parental authority. Amid struggling not to lose faith in a secure future, parents are faced with situations that make traditional rules and child upbringing practices seem like a joke. They work so hard in the fast-paced world of today to make ends meet and this makes it difficult to spend time with their children. This is one of the reasons why a number of families do not have an atmosphere of love.
The word “authority” comes from the Latin verb augere which means “to develop”, “to make grow.” It is therefore not an exercise of authority when a parent imposes his will on his child or makes the child obey him at any cost. All authority comes from God. Authority, then, when properly exercised, is a reference point for knowing what is good and true.
Some parents may be struggling with how they are to attain the authority their role requires. What they however need to understand is that their authority as parents over their children has a foundation which arises naturally in their relationship with their children. Instead of worrying about how to attain the authority their role requires, they should work to exercise it so that it can be maintained because the authority naturally exists. To establish their authority therefore, parents need to show their love for their children in words and most especially in deeds. In other words, they do not need to do more than to be who they are – parents. This however requires spending time with the children; as a result, a work-family balance should be in place.
The proper exercise of parental authority presents children from their young age with what they need to develop as human beings. This requires that parents be exemplary in their conduct. More than listen to them, children observe what they do and that is what they tend to imitate. It is with parental authority that children are brought up to be responsible and in the process learn about responsibility. They could be responsible for services that will give them a feeling of being important in the family. Depending on their age they could check who is at the door, put their room in order, set the table, do the dishes.
A parent who has properly exercised his authority will enjoy his children’s trust. In this situation, the children will feel the unconditional love of the parent. It is unfortunate that this is not so in many families. Some parents have sacrificed their relationship with their children for their careers. Some see their role as parents as being able to impose their will on their children. Obviously, this will result in conflict and such parents may be resented by their children. Some parents whose conduct is far from being exemplary to their children will not be able to transmit values since they themselves lack values. When their children become adolescents, they will look for people who have clear standards and who live in accord with principles. Adolescents seek stability in their life, so they look out for such people. It is rather an unfortunate situation when they do not find this kind of people in their parents.
The upbringing of children which depends on both father and mother is a herculean task. Before God, parents should see themselves as custodians of those persons under them whom they call their children. It is their responsibility to lead them to a relationship with God. This responsibility along with others makes parenting a vocation. The task of raising children is a supernatural task. Nevertheless, parents should remember that their sacrament of matrimony entitles them to a special grace that would aid the fulfilment of their duties. Every child belongs to God, the parent then should entrust their efforts to God and pray for their children. What they should never do is to pretend not to see the mistake of their children or worse still, support them when they err.