Hylton I Lightman, MD, DCH (SA), FAAP
I’m concerned about the disregard and disrespect for authority in today’s world.
Authority is something that many people nowadays poo-poo and deem politically incorrect.
Authority is good: in fact, it’s wonderful. Authority is the foundation of society, community and family. To become healthy, functioning adults, children must have authority. They flourish when parents are in charge, establishing rules and expectations, doling out consequences as needed. This is not about authoritarianism—parents must be loving but firm. I touched on this in a prior article, Timeless Parenting and “Vitamin N”.
Many parents treat children as their peers and equals with minimal boundaries. The result: A protracted childhood and adolescence because they expect to be taken care of ad infinitum. The current generation has been called the “snowflake generation.” Why? Because each person is unique. Each person is special. Each person is an individual. And when you touch one – or have some kind of expectation of them – they melt immediately.
My take on this – Snowflakes are not happy people.
Undoubtedly, parents benefit when children are obedient. But ultimately, it’s the child who respects authority who gains. He is happy, feeling safe and protected, knowing that he can spread his wings and fly (metaphorically speaking).
Further, respecting parents and authority is fundamental to loving and respecting G-d and having awe of heaven. How does the parent, who is the child’s authority figure, prime a child for a relationship with G-d? G-d is an abstract concept to children. In His infinite wisdom, G-d created parents here on Earth. Each child enters into a dependent relationship with authority figures who simultaneously shower on him unconditional love and authority. Through this relationship with parents, we children compassion and respect for rules.
Part of the responsible parent’s unwritten job description is to transition children from an initially juvenile view of parents as saviors and heroes to forming a lifelong dynamic relationship with the One Up Above. Respecting parents is so essential that it is written in Kiddushin 30b that when a child honors parents, it’s as though he has honored G-d Himself.
Judaism is emphatic that we are all created “B’Tzelem Elokim” – In the image of G-d. We treat every person with kindness and respect as they, too, are created in G-d’s image.
Back to authority and rules for a moment – It’s not only children who benefit from order and structure. We all do. Government promulgates laws which are intended for our good. If we don’t agree, there are forums for expressing our opinions in safe ways.
And when we have a hard time with people with whom we just don’t click, still treat them with respect. You don’t have to love (or even like) them. But they, too, are created in G-d’s image.
With more respect for others and less impatience, we can make this world a happier, safer place.
As always, daven