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TCS Basics 8

A theme of TCS is to have discussions where you try to learn something (about what is true, rather than just sticking to the ideas you already have), and find a way of proceeding that everyone is happy with (or content with, the point is no one is distressed or suffering or hates it). But what if your child doesn't speak English yet? Or doesn't want to sit still and talk for an hour?

I only use the word 'discussion' because I don't know a better one. The important thing is there be communication with certain qualities. It can be spread into lots of little pieces with no long sessions, that's fine. If it's not in English, that's fine too, just try to express things (like options the child has) and try to understand things the child communicates (like whether he likes or dislikes something) and keep an open mind (if you expect your child to like something, but he hates it, then your prediction was mistaken and you need to change your mind about what your child's preferences are). So young children who don't have long, English discussions are no problem.

The 'discussion' (communication) does need to have certain properties. It needs to be rational. That means if either side has a mistaken idea it could be corrected. It means ideas are treated as having a degree of uncertainty. It means never relying on authority in place of using your own judgment and understanding, and especially not expecting your child to submit to authority against his better judgment. The communication needs to facilitate voluntary interaction. That means if a child should do something, you don't force him to do it, you help him understand why it's right. If something is morally right, and you don't help a child see that for himself, then you are doing him a great disservice. And if you force him to do it while he thinks its wrong, you are making him act in a way he considers wrong so he loses respect for right and wrong, and also for you. Principles like these work just as well with young children as older children, and also work with adults. Forcing adults to do things is bad too, and with adults too if something is right to do (like being kind to one's children) then it's very important he understand that for himself, and not do it just because someone commanded him to.

Elliot Temple on January 31, 2009

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