Parental Omnipotence


Over twenty years of parenting I have, little by little, been disabused of the belief in parental omnipotence; I have learned that behaviour, and how children turn out, is the result of a wonderful kind of alchemy of parental influence, genetic inheritance, experience, and cultural and peer group influence. There is no simple cause and effect result we can point to with absolute certainty for anything.

With my first child, I started off with the belief: ‘If I don’t hit him, he won’t hit anyone’ and I was wrong. And then it just carried on in that vein through four children.

‘If I let them play with guns and swords they’ll become aggressive.’ Wrong.

‘If I’m really nice to her she’ll be really nice back.’ Wrong again.

‘My kids will love swimming because I instilled in them a love of swimming.’ Hmmm. Two out of four.  And about the same result for walking, camping and reading books.

Sense of humour though? And love of music? Bullseye! All four!

Pure chance would have probably produced the same results.

When my kids were little, if I ever began to credit any positive behaviour to my superior parenting skills, I was invariably disabused of that happy assumption when the next child came along. ‘At least my kids don’t throw tantrums,’ I used to think smugly until my fourth child did.

So my parenting journey has been a process of giving up those cherished beliefs in my own power, and replacing them with the humbling realisation that very little was down to me.

It’s very liberating to let go of that idea of parental omnipotence, it makes you much kinder to yourself and much more relaxed as a parent. After all, if you are not solely responsible for the positive outcomes, you don’t have to blame yourself so much for the bad stuff either!

Stephanie Davies-Arai devised Communicating with Kids, a communication skills course for parents. She has four children of her own aged 14 – 22.———————————————————————————————————————————————————————
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  1. so true! after a while you start to understand that these are little people that are making their own decisions.

  2. How true! I have twin daughters and they couldn’t be more different in personality, it has to be nature and not nurture.

  3. Agreed, i feel like my kids were born with their very distinct personalities!

  4. The only things that I got right in this parenting journey is that nothing is everyday is a surprise. Just when you thouught that its going to be a routine, BAM! Something good and or bad will happen. YOu are spot on with this topic and I couldnt agree more #mbpw

  5. think we all thought we could be superparent…until reality hit that children havent read the books and each one is unique and breaks the mold!!

  6. Thanks for all your comments! Thank goodness we can’t mold our children into exactly what we want I say! My fourth child certainly shook me out of any smug satisfaction about my parenting skills and I look back now and see it as an absolute gift. Bless her! :)

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