Parenting and Power

When I was a child parenting was about power. Parents had all the power. They decided when you went to bed, what you ate, where you could go, what you could watch on TV, etc. Their power seemed almost limitless.
Now as a relatively new parent what has struck me is the powerlessness of the parent. I have all these hopes and dreams for my son and almost no way of making them come about. Since he was born I have been wishing him to have more of his mother's personality than mine, but he is very much like me and there is nothing I can do about it. When he gets sick all I can do is take him to the doctor and hope it nothing serious. Most cold medicines don't work on babies so when he gets a cough or runny nose there is nothing I can do. I can't pick his friends for him or his interests. To have so much of your happiness wrapped up in something you have so little control of over is a scary feeling.

Share this

When We were Growing Up

You say that parents have no power anymore. You are absolutely correct in that statement. When we were growing up, our parents were allowed to "switch" or paddle us if we misbehaved. If a parents were to paddle their child or tell their child to go pick their own switch from a tree outside, Social Services would be knocking on their door.
Look at the "progress" our culture has taken.
When my dad was growing up, he could get smacked with a ruler at school and whipped with a belt, switch, paddle, etc... at home.
When I was growing up, getting hit at school was off limits, but home was fair game.
Now, you can't leave a mark on your child without them getting taken from you or you being investigated.

While I am NOT an advocate of beating your kids, a healthy fear of your parents is a good thing and kids today don't have that.

This tells me that we are creating a world of pansy, undisciplined kids, kinda scarey since they will be dealing with all the terrorism in the future don't you think?

Although I don't have kid, I

Although I don't have kid, I don't think I would ever beat them, it is morally wrong. If I were to resort to punitive measures I would only use legitimate ones. Food & Shelter are not a right. Not that I think I would even resort to that, but it's definitely a leverage.
Also for every toy you give, you reserve some property rights, such as the possibility to whithold them at any time etc.

Parenting probably make many libertarian hypocrites though :)

Parenting reveals the

Parenting reveals the limitation in crude/vulgar rights absolutism. Paternalism isn't a sin when you're the actual Pater. Children are simply not on the equivalent moral plane as adult-to-adult relations, and any system of thought that can't distinguish between the adult and child states is deficient.

Note also that non-equivalency does not mean inferiority, it simply means different.

I never said I opposed

I never said I opposed paternalism. I oppose coercive paternalism. I believe that parents have sufficient affective / economic leverage to afford not being coercive. I do distinguish the adult and the child state, but it merely affect the child capacity to consent, it does not give the parents any particular right.

Not going back far enough

Kevin, you're not going back very far. What you have noticed is a real progression in the loss of parental rights to raise their children as they see fit. But you have only seen the tail end of it. History records times when parents had much greater rights to do with their own children as they saw fit.

The societal response to

The societal response to parent's efforts to discipline is often overstated. There are still many places where kids get paddled in school, and spanking at home is still probably more common than many think. Moreover, to the extent these practices are less common than they used to be probably reflects changes in the zeitgeist more than fear of the authorities.
However, if you have a bad kid you can't spank him into being a good kid. A proper and loving system of discipline can make children much more manageable and significantly change behavior but there are limits to what it can do. Some children are more prone to rebelling, acting out, and dangerous behavior and there is nothing a parent can do to change that.
I am lucky in that my child is a very well behaved child, but that is luck and not good parenting. I wish there was more a parent can do to shape their child but there isn't.
This lack of power is what makes so many people social conservatives. They see the power that the culture has on their children and want to effect it politically. It is easy to say if you don't want your kid influenced by TV keep them from watching but practically it is near impossible to protect your children from culture. My family did not have a TV in our house till I was almost in junior high, but I still played CHIPS and G-Force with the other kids and watched spiderman and the incredible hulk at friends houses. My WAG about what effects children is 65% genetics, 25% environment, and 10% parenting. I wish parenting made more of a difference, but the truth is the things parents control seem relatively trivial to me now even though as a child they seemed so important.