Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blame Hierarchy, Not the People

Parents and schoolteachers are domineering to their subordinates. When were in school, our teachers will accuse us of being "disrespectful" for not following their vague rules. They will also accuse us of not following their contradictory rules, directions, and expectations. They will tell us to "shut up" when we tell them to clarify their rules by questioning the reasons behind them.

But we don't know that parents and teachers are like that because we only know the parents' and teacher's side of it. That's because we don't let our children have a fair trial: we just silence them. We just gossip about our children: it's common for teachers to gossip about their students privately. But we don't know that gossiping is ridiculously inaccurate.

All authority figures are potentially domineering to their subordinates. They are judgmental, accusative, arrogant, and controlling to their subordinates. They think that they are "better" to the subordinates only because they can tell them to "shut up", so the subordinates can't show that the authority figures are sometimes wrong. This sets up a structure which makes authority figures self-affirm their superiority over their subordinates, so they feel justified to be presumptuous, controlling, and condescending to their subordinates.

In addition, we have presumptions that children are "selfish", "spoiled" and "manipulative" brats who want to waste their parents' time and money. However, we often don't notice how our actions make our children behave way. Parents and schoolteachers criticize, condemn, punish, and control children as all the time. But they will never think of doing anything like this to their friends.

Why is this? It is because parents and children are in a hierarchical relationship, and hierarchical relationships make the controllers self-justify their superiority over their subordinates, and also make the controllers self-justify the inferiority of their subordinates. This sets up another situation which the authority figures can use their confirmation bias to selectively affirm their subordinates as inferior.

In addition, because most parents and schoolteachers think that children are evil creatures coming out to "get us", they will generalize their conception of their own children to all children. Parents and schoolteachers will treat all children as if they are evil, so that's one reason why some schoolteachers are mean to all children. (Have you ever wondered why the older teachers treat their students more harshly compared to the younger teachers? It's possibly because older teachers are more likely to have children, so they are more likely to think that their children are "evil" just because they appear that way to them. Then they will generalize their conception of their children to their students. Anyway, that's just a hypothesis.)

Cops are also controlling to their subordinates. They are accusative. They are trigger-happy. They can do anything to you if they're angry. But one thing that all cops have in common is that they believe that their actions are "justified." Parents and teachers, too, believe that their controlling behavior is "justified." If they don't feel that their actions are legitimate, then their empathy and remorse will prevent their controlling behavior onto their subordinates.

As authority figures justify their controlling and condescending behavior from their own biases, so will children. When the children grow up and become parents: controlling, domineering, and judgmental. Even the most rebellious teenager might possibly become a controlling parent, because they don't realize that authority positions are self-justifying. If they control their children a little bit, they will then feel justified to control their children even more.

The more rules and expectations a parent makes, the more likely that children won't follow them, because the likelihood that the rules and expectations will contradict one another. Think about how complicated it is to follow all the laws in the United States. It's so complicated that's it's impossible to follow without contradicting one another. The same thing happens to children. The more rules a parent make, the harder and harder it is for the children to follow the rules without contradiction. So the children will appear to disobey some rules because it's contradictory to follow all rules at once.  The parents will blame it on their children for "disobedient" rather than blaming on themselves for making the contradictory rules in the first place.

The parents will respond to their perceived "disobedience" by making even more contradictory rules, expectations, and punishments. This makes the children even harder to follow all the rules consistently. So the parents will respond to that again by making more rules and punishments. This vicious circle continues, so the children will become perceived as "rebellious", when they aren't trying to be rebellious at all!

1 comment:

Lorraine said...

All authority figures are potentially domineering to their subordinates.

I would add that all domineering personality types are potential authority figures.