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Old TCS Posts 1

Quotes are from the Taking Children Seriously email list from 1994 or 1995.
Non-coercion requires the interplay of reason. I think that fairly young children (under six) do not find *reason* very persuasive.

As I've watched my children develop, I think I've observed them grow from a basically pre-rational stage
Children under six learn English. English is extremely complex. It is much harder than learning any programming language, which many people, adult or child, have great difficulty with. So we can see that children under six routinely engage in high quality rational learning.

But I want to look at this claim another way. How does a person come to this conclusion? What sort of things did he actually observe? The specific detail given is that children do not seem to be persuaded by reason. So we have this scenario: Parent says something which he considers reasonable. Child disagrees. And parent concludes young children don't use reason. But all the evidence seems to show is that he had a disagreement or misunderstanding with his child. Those are common among adults, so why shouldn't they happen even more between adults and children (who have less shared knowledge in common, so communicating is harder).

Essentially, the attitude is that if his child doesn't agree with him, his child isn't using reason. His criterion of reasonableness is obedience.
My 18 month old has *never* liked getting his diaper changed (after all, it's a transition from warm to cold), but it *is* a matter of his health and well-being that the diaper get changed.
This is supposed to be an argument for why things have to be done to children that they don't like. But it is silly because it's so easy to think of a solution. Why does diaper changing have to have an unpleasant hot-to-cold transition? If parent had looked for a solution, couldn't he have come up with using a heater? This is, by the way, from the same post as above. So how confident can we be that this adult is usually right? He apparently does not use reason to solve simple problems to help his children.
Most absurd was the part about striking a bargain for the child to pay for his own dental work. This strikes me as a threat, rather than the non-coercive relationship you are trying to acheive.

That only begs the question of why the child has any right to have her dental work paid for by her parent(s).
Seriously? He's defending threatened children with the prospect of not having dental care, by saying parents do not owe dental care in the first place?

From contextual details I know the reason for this position: libertarianism. Some libertarians have a disgusting habit of considering children property. Children use their parents' resources, so they are in debt to their parents. They can either abide by their parents' rules, or move out. This moving out option does not actually help children or make the harsh treatment acceptable.

If you don't want to help a child, and provide for them, until they are reasonably and happily independent, then you should not have a child. Why bring someone into the world who can't take care of himself, and then abandon him (or only help him conditionally if he will obey you -- that's giving him a choice of slavery or abandonment).

Elliot Temple on December 28, 2007


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