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Random thoughts on parenting: control and influence over others.

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Avatar for JonathanSilverblood
Written by   236
1 year ago

When you are a baby, you don't know where the extent of your power begin and ends:

  • When you are hungry, you flex your I-am-hungry-muscle, and food is delivered into your mouth.

  • When you drop your toy, you flex your I-want-my-toy-back muscle and the toy is brought back to you.

Eventually, as people misunderstand, misjudge or reject your expressed desires, you will come to realize what is within your control, and what is not.

However, this process is never complete and you will strive to exert influence over other entities for the rest of your life.


Being able to extend your control over another entity can be useful:

  • a magician can misdirect your attention to induce wonder and curiousity.

  • a teacher can bring awareness by controlling attention and narrative.

  • a civil rights activist can rally support and change society for the better.

But it can also be dangerous:

  • adults trying to exert control over children can lead to child abuse.

  • lovers trying to exert control over their partners can lead to domestic abuse.

  • spiritual leaders trying to exert control over their followers can lead to cult-like abuse.

The tools available to exert influence are many.

Which tool you use in order to influence others is important and often shapes the outcome for the people involved:

  • some are often positive, such as inspiration, education and promises.

  • some are mostly negative, for example guilt, shame, fear and threats.

  • some heavily depend on context, like force and trust.

There's a saying that when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.


The children in the shopping mall who prevent the robot from functioning may be exerting their influence and gaining experience in using tools that are likely to be negative for those they influence in the future.

Providing training and experience in using tools that help you exert influence over others allow for using the right tool for the job, which increases the odds of success - but success is not always a positive outcome.

For example, dictators have successfully destroyed millions of lives.


As parents and members of society, we can choose how we react to children experimenting with such tools, and can help set expectations and build experience with outcomes that impact when and how often the children will use those tools in the future.

It is important that we are consistent though, as if we reject the usage of a tool in one context, but then use it ourselves in another we risk creating outcomes like domestic abuse, where the negative tools are only used in situations where one can avoid punishment due to privacy.

Ultimately though, children in modern society learn from a wide range of experiences and interactions. Even if it's not your own children, and even if it only for an isolated occurence, you can still help shape a future less dependent on tools that have strong negative associations by encouraging use of positive tools to influence others, and setting clear boundaries and expectations on usage of the tools that can have a negative outcome.


Disclaimer: This is my current understanding of the subject above, and may change as I learn more about the world around me. I am neither a professional psychologist nor do I have any formal education on the subject matter.

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Comments

Each child learns from experiences. It's not something specifically to this age. Children should learn too not to touch what isn't theirs. You watch and observe with your eyes not your hands. Respecting others property seems to be a hard issue and lack if it comes to raising.

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