Violence is inherent to human condition. It is born of the frustration of our omnipotence, our vital energy. This violence that we want to restrain and ignore, has a price to be paid. The inevitable circulation of this violence means that if the parents do not take responsibility for it, it comes to the child who does not have the psychic means to contain it, in the form of rage first and then of aggression against himself. Self-injury is a very visible form, but there are also risky behaviors and the ideomotor slowing of depression. In this context, to show authority is to take responsibility for the violence and to discharge the child by offering him a framework that relieves him of his uneasiness, his physical feelings of unease.
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The need for parental authority
It is precisely here that parental authority is necessary. You have to understand that there is a circulation of violence, if you refuse the responsibility that is yours in its sharing and its balance, too much violence will come out somewhere in the tantrums of your children that reflect the malaise where they are. Parental authority demands violence, if only in coercion. It is impossible to escape, and one must understand its necessity to assume it without guilt. Parental authority relieves the child of the responsibility of violence, and therefore of the guilt that is his in the fantasy of his omnipotent and destructive violence. This frees him from his guilt. The second effect is that he survives the frustration of his restrained anger. He gradually internalizes parental control and controls his frustrations and impulses. The framework that is thus defined for him helps him to structure himself.
Parents may have different reasons for refusing their responsibility for parental authority. Some may want to take a stand against the model of their own parents because they have abused their parental authority and have been excessively violent in their corrections. Sometimes these memories of children are also exaggerated, and they forget that this parental authority that they reject a posteriori allowed them to be the adults they are today. Sometimes parents are afraid of losing the love of their children if they are harsh. The bond between a child and his parents is so strong that even abused children (and I’m not talking about authority here, but abuse) love their parents. It is not a question of beating them, but of exercising reasonable violence to contain the child’s violence and to release him from his responsibility and the guilt that accompanies it.
A parent cannot be his child’s friend, he has a responsibility to assume that places him in a de facto unequal position. Finally, the last scenario concerns parents who feel that something is not working but choose to ignore it by ideology. The “positive parenting” that preaches the abandonment of parental authority and coercion is nonsense that does not respect the nature of the child. The young human is born immature with a natural need for guidance and education. Parental authority meets this need. You can see it in other mammals in the wild, and human being is a mammal among others. The ideal of a mature human being is a goal towards which to tend, if you forget the steps to climb or do not want to see them, you stay down.
Again, it is not a question of beating your children, but of correcting them. If you feel angry, or “go off the rails”, do not run wild on your children with the excuse of exercising parental authority. This is not to condone parental abuse either. If, as a parent, you are afraid of your own violence, count to three aloud. It will give you time to calm down and recover before you exercise your authority with reason. With time, the correction will not be necessary, counting will be enough. The goal is to allow the child to internalize this parental control. When the child grows up, an explanation can take over as long as acceptance of frustration is gained.
When the process goes on without too much trouble, around the age of 7, the child completes his individuation. He is no longer rationally the creator of the world and consequently his parents become truly mortal. Nightmares express the terror of their disappearance and with them the important libidinal investment he has placed in them and which would be a loss of vital energy of such importance that the survival of the child’s ego seems compromised. In my practice, I was able to note that if we explain to children that we are all energy and that the energy never disappears but changes, even if we do not know how and we cannot have any more contact with those we love, this simple explanation satisfies them enough for the nightmares to cease. The conviction that energy is not lost, even for the self, but just transformed, no longer threatens libidinal investment and the ego.