Challenging Authority

A signature piece of my own childhood was my incessant need to challenge the legitimacy of authority figures. To me it felt like I owned the right to either accept or decline them; the more an authority figure intended to control me by force, the less I respected them. In this society this trait is a burden that made it impossible for me to soar through my childhood untroubled and without incident. Some adults saw it as a quirk, others certainly did not.

Reflecting upon my experiences now brings me some understanding for what was driving me, but back then I truly felt disruptive and wrong; this however by no means motivated me to conform. When I learned what ‘protest’ was, I organized demonstrations, the first I remember being in 3rd grade. I had my classmates marching around the playground demanding longer playtime outside. I always questioned the topics we were supposed to learn in school and wouldn’t accept the teacher’s opinion, conclusions or agendas without challenging them. When we had homework assigned, I myself decided how much sense was to be found in doing it and felt no shame in conveying my convictions to my teachers in front of the other pupils. I needed to hear what the point and sense was before I did something; needed to feel inspired. I needed to respect a person in order to do something they asked. And that was the trouble: tradition dictates children follow suit, obey their elders and adopt the belief that they are less worthy of dignity, choice and freewill than adults. I would not allow myself to be controlled and bucked my way through any attempt to break my will in order to force me into obedience.

Strong-willed, they said. Such is a person who fights for their right to an intact will. Bowing to unchallenged authority and complying in obedience rather than by choice means to replace one’s will with that of another. I was as a matter of fact capable of doing as I was told and complying; but it had to be my choice.


As a young teenager I sought meaning: the meaning of authority and the root of respect. I was convinced most (if not all) authority was inappropriate and respect wasn’t automatic and that anything other than legitimate respect and authority equaled oppression. Soon I found a term for my musings: Anarchy. It stems from the Greek, ‘An’ meaning without and ‘Archon’ meaning rulers/masters/authority. It means authority is challenged and examined for legitimacy (and a lot more than that).


So when I became a mother to my eldest son I experienced inner conflict as to my role as a parent. Parents have a natural authority, but how far does this reach until it becomes tyranny? With our cultural imprint it is easy to see a child as your possession or even as yours to influence as you please: My son will be such a good child. I want him to learn to play the piano. He will wear fashionable clothes. His hair must be tidy. Let’s enroll him in a football club (because he enjoys reading so much and should be more active). No, I won’t spread your sandwich for you, it’s time you learned to do it yourself…


When a child does not submit to our will or when he even challenges it, ‘putting him in his place’ and forcing compliance will never earn the respect that is a vital part of social development. That is respect that isn’t motivated by fear. Raising children to say and do what we think is best or act in a way that we deem correct and taking the choice away from them; taking autonomous learning – namely feeling inspired and being led by intrinsic motivation and natural development – is not respectful and leaves no space to acknowledge the individual for the autonomous person he or she is.


By self-proclaiming ourselves authority figures of younger people, not allowing these youngsters to challenge and examine the power we hold and choose to respect our authority and count on it in a positive way, we bring about this standard hierarchical thinking.


Most (if not all) of us have been raised in this manner. We have been looked down upon, ridiculed, coerced, manipulated, physically and emotionally abused to get us to be a certain way without allowing us to freely choose to be so.


They played with our self-value, threatened us with love-withdrawal, set boundaries and limitations without a care for our wishes. Our needs were cast aside – “You’re old enough…” “It’s not that bad!” “Get over it!” “You have to!” “Everyone has to do that!” “Because I said so!!” Children are rarely taken seriously. And the frustration we endured was what marked our childhood. Adults were alien, the enemy, the dictators and tyrants.


We have not been socialized; we have been treated in an antisocial manner that stunted our intuition, the love for our neighbor and placed our focus on honing power over others. We were put in competition, taught to want to win and beat our peers, judged and graded in an inhumane, utterly disrespectful and degrading manner. We were kept under control, punished when we stepped out of line and then soothed with treats to keep us obeying.


Ultimately children are made to believe they don’t belong to adults, but are lesser creatures that must do as they are told, and at the same time are played (by authority figures) against their peers. Placed in a state of competition, leading to emotional isolation and loneliness, some children learn quickly to discredit and oppose these authority figures and stick together in true affiliation – fulfilling a basic human need.


I think back to myself as a child; I remember how I felt and I let go of this unjust custom to mold and shape my sons into being what society deems right or making use of traditional child-raising methods. I will bow to no authority or preexisting set of rules without examining them for legitimacy and choosing to follow them by free will; why on earth should I expect any different from my children?


I welcome my children to examine the natural authority I have and respect it by choice and the burden of proof they acquire by doing so. My words may be seen as advice. People either have authority or they don’t…if you legitimately have it, as parents do, there is no need to enforce it.


And all of this doesn’t mean I do not act in dangerous situations; I would stop any human being from stepping into traffic or eating a poisonous mushroom. Such seldom situations have little to do with the misuse of authority and power.


Stable, unconditional relationships, based on respect and trust are what count in life and what lead to the development of actual social behavior. There can be no peace without freedom; no peace without anarchy. The will and dignity of a human being cannot be limited by age. How could children observe respect by being disrespected? How could they learn to acknowledge and empathize with needs when traditional child-raising focuses on behavior manipulation and control? Why does it surprise us when children imitate traditional adult behavior: that is to overpower and control others?


It is time to value children as equal human beings; by doing this we break the detrimental cycle.



I invite you to take your liberty and join the revolution!



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