The grown children of a woman I know remember how, when they were small, their mother sometimes responded to rowdy misbehavior by simply saying “One...” If the misbehavior continued, she might even say “Two...” It almost never had to go further than that. Her children recall this with considerable admiration: it had never been laid down how far the sequence would go before there were serious consequences, nor what the consequences would be. “One...” was a simple reminder that they were dealing with someone in authority, whose displeasure they did not want to incur. Their mother was not mean, or vindictive; they respected her authority more than they feared it. But it was there. It was there all the time, even though she was pleasant and they got along very well most of the time.
Authority comes in different forms: moral authority, like that mother’s; the authority of expertise, like that of a teacher to a pupil; the authority of duress, like that of government. And often they overlap. Children do know, to varying extents, that their elders have had more experience and therefore may possibly be worth listening to, as well as having the power to deny them things; but they also know the limits of their parents’ skill in social media. Wise elders know this, too, and don’t try to assert authority in areas where they are at a disadvantage. And most of us (though clearly not all) would rather have willing assent from our charges than be constantly in need of the threat of force.
Pontius Pilate, as prefect of Judæa for the Roman Empire, already had his hands full dealing with a fractious, resentful occupied province, prone to take offense at anything (such as military insignia brought into Jerusalem) that even hinted at idolatry. That, and the constant rumors of a Messiah who would restore an independent Jewish kingdom, made for an unsettled climate. And Pilate seems to have been prone to give offense just to show he could. It had gotten him into trouble with his boss before.