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Parent Trap: Masks & Power Struggles

People who refuse to wear masks during the COVID pandemic are unwitting, ignorant victims. That may be a tough pill to swallow, but hear me out.

Sofi, 16, was in a major power struggle with her strict parents about her schoolwork. She told me it was in large part due to them being overly invested in straight A’s and a future Ivy League education. Sofi felt micromanaged and overpowered, which was particularly hard for this strong-minded teen. Her response was to try to gain control, which in her case, meant procrastinating on her homework and ‘forgetting’ to turn it in. Her grades were hovering in the C to D range, which infuriated her parents.

Here is the kicker: Despite a very brief feeling of power and control, Sofi was in fact giving her power away in the long run. She had proved that her parents couldn’t control her and that she was in charge of her life. She even proudly said to me, “I showed them!” But doing poorly in school to oppose her parents still made it about them. It was not in her best interest to get C’s and D’s; she was interested in a few colleges that required a high GPA for admittance. I helped her realize that by making her academic effort (or lack thereof) about her parents, she was in essence giving her power to them. I encouraged her to determine what kind of grades she wanted and to get there for her own reasons. And if she got A’s and her parents were pleased, that’s OK. Sofi was not doing it for them anymore.

The same logic applies to adults who refuse to wear masks to demonstrate that the government and other citizens can’t make them. They are not making this decision based on careful research and science or what might be in their best interest. As resistors shake their fists at the powers that be, they will get an initial feeling of power as they shout, “You can’t make me!” But just like Sofi, they are giving their power away and becoming victims of their ignorance.

Having said all of this, I do believe it is important that we all consider other people’s needs when it comes to the virus. Masks protect others as much or more than us. Wearing a mask for this reason is based on empathy, compassion and love of your neighbor. I encourage everyone to drop the power struggle over masks to protect their own health and the health of us all.

Tim Jordan, M.D., is a behavioral pediatrician who works with girls in grade school through college. Check out his new online course, Parenting girls: The challenges girls face today with their feelings and friends and what they need, at drtimjordan.com.


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