Lincoln on the Parental Tyrant
My family and I enjoyed a wonderful trip to visit family in Illinois. While there, we visited the Lincoln Museum and Lincoln’s home in Springfield. As we toured a home in Lincoln’s community, I read a quote by Mary Todd Lincoln: “He [Lincoln] always said, ‘It is my pleasure that my children are free, happy and unrestrained by parental tyranny. Love is the chain whereby to bind a child to its parents.'”
Lincoln was apparently rather permissive with his children; but, he shows wisdom in this statement. We do want our children to grow up “unrestrained by parental tyranny.” Instead, we want them to grow up under the “loving parental authority” that will “bind a child to its parents.” Compare the two with me and see if you don’t agree.
- Parental tyranny would place unreasonable demands on children. Loving parental authority places reasonable and age appropriate expectations on children. Children still have chores and behavioral expectations, but they are age appropriate.
- Parental tyranny makes harsh demands. If those demands are not met, children receive cruel punishments that might include demeaning and belittling comments. Unfortunately, under parental tyranny, the parent is never satisfied with any job children complete. It never meets the unreasonable standard of a parental tyrant. Loving parental authority, on the other hand, encourages children, praises effort invested in a task, and acknowledges a job well-done. As noted above, reasonable and age appropriate expectations remain in place. If these expectations are not met, children receive age appropriate consequences designed to teach desired behavior.
- Parental tyranny uses coercive control methods such as guilt, threats, and belittling. Loving parental authority uses consequences designed to teach rather than punish. Consequences “fit the crime” and either flow naturally or logically from the misbehavior. For instance, if children do not clean up after themselves, parental tyranny may yell at them, labels them as “lazy” and “disrespectful,” “a pig” with “no sense.” Loving parental authority tells them they must clean their room before watching their favorite TV show or going out with friends…and does not “give in” because they feel bad.
- Parental tyrants dish out arbitrary consequences. Sometimes misbehavior receives no consequence, sometimes a harsh consequence, and sometimes a simple consequence. Loving parental authority offers clear and consistent expectations with clear and consistent consequences.
- Parental tyranny results in in an oppressive environment filled with harsh competition, fear, and resentment. Loving parental authority creates an environment filled with honor, encouragement, kindness, and grace. The environment created by loving parental authority is filled with joyful celebration!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a house that practices parental tyranny. I think Old Honest Abe was right. We need a home “unrestrained by parental tyranny,” a home in which loving parental authority rules the roost. And when it does, love will “bind a child to his or her parent.”