Why the image we have of authority is so important part 2
As promised, in this article I will make available an example of Haim Omer’s lecture, which embodies these theories and practically shows how this kind of authority could look like.
Before I start with this week’s thoughts, I would like to briefly recall the last article:
For many of us it is clear what we as parents and teachers, but also our western society as a whole – no longer want:
This oppressive authority, which was still considered “normal” in the 1950s.
An authority in which no contradiction was accepted and in which any offense, big or small, was immediately “corrected” – often accompanied by “being disciplined”
I summarized how Haim Omer explained in his lecture “Neue Autorität, Teil 1” (New Authority, part 1) what basic values this kind of authority consisted of and how most of us clearly reject them.
In the lecture, Omer also described how educators have had this dream since the 1970s, the dream of an education in which our children can develop their “self”. That they should grow up free from this oppressive authority in which obedience was achieved through control and cold.
We saw what basic values this kind of education was based on and how disappointing and sobering the results were, which were confirmed from over 300 studies which all said the same thing.
I shared with you how Haim Omer spoke of a “new authority,” an authority that has nothing to do with this oppressive, distant, and controlling way of dealing that embodies the word authority.
- can mean presence instead of distance,
- Self-control instead of control,
- Vigilant care instead of oppressive hierarchy and
- Time, self-control and a sense of duty instead of immediate punishment in the form of a beating.
Now let’s go to the example:
A 14-year-old boy is often away from home. Many times he comes back after midnight, sometimes not until the early hours of the morning.
The parents have tried everything, but nothing has brought any relief. They are very worried about their child and at the same time feel totally powerless, because all the threatening, scolding and even pleading did not bring about any change.
How could one apply the principles of Presence, Self-Control, watchful Care, Time, and Duty in a practical way in this case?
Well, imagine the parents missing their son again. It is already late in the evening and they are worried.
Instead of just waiting powerlessly for the child to come home, they start a “phone search”: they call all the numbers they know where they suspect their child might be. On this first evening there are between 10-15 telephone calls. Whenever they have someone on the phone, they leave a message for their son, telling him that they miss him and want to know where he is.
This is a message of presence:
“I’m here and I’m staying here. You can’t let me go and you can’t divorce me. I am here when you need help and I am here when you need boundaries. I am here when my presence is pleasant for you, but also when it is unpleasant for you”.
The next day the child is furious:
“What have you done? You have destroyed my whole social network!
The parents explain to the child that they will remain present.
“Well, if that’s the case, I’m going to disappear again, and I’m going to disappear properly! And you won’t be able to stop me,”
the child answers angrily.
The parents answer:
You are right. We can’t control you. We have no control over your hands, your feet, nor over your thoughts and your will.
And that is why we will do our duty, we will not give up on you. We can’t and we won’t give you up.”
The message of self-control:
“I don’t control you – but I do myself”
and the message of consciousness of parental duty
“We will do everything to not lose you”.
The child gets annoyed and disappears… and stays the whole night away.
The parents repeat the many phone calls.
This time the child actually stays away for a whole week and the parents feel terrible. They stay on the phone and leave messages to the child.
In this story mentioned by Omer, the father had previously bought tickets for an important football match that would take place at the end of the second week. So, towards the end of this second week, the child actually comes home. The parents show warmth and joy… and father and son go to the football game.
Both come back from the game relaxed and satisfied.
Life goes on and the parents repeat their phone calls whenever the child stays away too long. They maintain this presence.
They show the child that they can’t control it, but they can control themselves. That they do what they say and will not give up their son.
The boy’s cooperation grows and the whole situation relaxes and changes for the better.
Under this link I found a few scenes based on this “presence and watchful care”.
- In the first example, the teenager, Vanessa, does not want to get up to go to school. The father (or caregiver) goes into the room and confronted with the child’s refusal, he takes a chair and sits down at her bed.
“I am here and I am staying here. You cannot dismiss me and divorce me. I am here when you need help and I am here when you need boundaries. I am here when my presence is pleasant for you, but also when it is unpleasant for you”.
He decides how long he stays there. This presence is filled with watchful care that contains no blame, accusation or threat. Just a presence and this sense of duty: it is important that you go to school. This is your duty and I want you to follow it.
- In the second example, the teenager sits at the computer.
The father (or caregiver) sits down with her and draws her attention to the fact that her time at the computer has expired.
He does this without devaluing her, without exposing her. He tries to pay attention to the relationship.
He makes it clear to her,
“You are important to me, but it is also important to me to follow the rules, so I demand that you adhere to this rule.
As we saw in the first example mentioned by Omer in his lecture, being present can also mean living this presence outside one’s own four walls.
- In the third example Vanessa (the same teenager as in the other examples) is sitting in a bar. But it is already later than the appointed time, and the father (or caregiver) comes in at the door. In the film this is called “following presence”, and here it didn’t take many words. The presence alone was enough for the teenager to know that it’s really time to go home.
I was very impressed by this lecture and the examples mentioned.
This basic attitude of appreciation, kindness and acceptance, coupled with authority, clarity, a demand for adherence to values and agreed rules are something that makes sense to me.
Not only in the context of my family – but in dealing with people, especially in a position of responsibility at work, leisure or school.
Haim Omer has written several books on the subject – the title of the book I bought, which is waiting in my library to be read is ” Treating Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety: A Guide for Caregivers“. He also wrote a number of other books, including Parental Vigilant Care” and ” The New Authority: Family, School, and Community“
.You can also find a few lectures on the topic on Youtube.