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Old TCS Posts 5

Here are some quotes I like:
There may well be times when being non-coercive is inconvenient -- but not necessarily more inconvenient than being coercive. A child who hasn't been coerced has no reason to see adults as adversaries.
some parents go to enormous lengths to do what they think will benefit their children. If they did believe that non-coercion was best for their children, many parents would be willing to accept some inconvenience to that end (in addition to the effort required to break away from what they learned from *their* parents).
Do you mean that knowing someone's age makes it possible to completely exclude from consideration any evidence or argument to the effect that they could make rational decisions?
Explaining to the child that (s)he will need to pay for future dental work because (s)he did not practice adequate hygene means nothing to a four year old who can have but a limited grasp of finances.

Then that is not a very good explanation to give a four-year-old.
when coercion is used, it really doesn't *matter* whether your reasons make sense, or whether the task is the right thing to do. *They have to do it regardless*. It's as easy to make a habit of wrong things as right things. Coercion doesn't call for children to reason; indeed it calls for them *not* to reason, or risk punishment for reasoning to a different conclusion than the adult.
Those were all by the same person. Unfortunately, that's the end of his posts in this monthly archive, so I guess it's back to quoting bad ideas.
Yes, we coerce our children and, in reality, we're proud of it. But it's not arbitrary. We take special care to explain to them the reasons behind our actions.
The implication is that explaining the reasons makes the coercion non-arbitrary. But if the child agrees with the reasons then coercion is pointless. The only case where coercion would be used is if the parents explain their reasons, and the child considers those to be bad reasons. So, coercion takes place in exactly the cases when child considers parent to have a misconception. This policy of, from the child's point of view, using force when mistaken, certainly is not a very effective way of demonstrating to children that you care about reasoned discussion and wouldn't act arbitrarily.
This does not mean that we allow them no choices. Choices of taste [...] are left to them (within certain limits of practicality [...] and safety (no, that uninsulated demin jacket is not going to be adequate as a winter coat in Iowa)
Children have to be forced to wear warm clothing? If they don't, they won't notice anything is amiss and will die? Or what?

And consider a parent so bad at explaining things to their children that they can't even convince child that wearing enough clothing not to be dangerously cold is wise. He takes his own lack of ability to explain even very simple things as proof that children are irrational creatures who must be coerced. That's ridiculous. No wonder he can't persuade child to brush his teeth or anything else. Even the negative consequences of being painfully freezing cold are beyond his ability to communicate.
In the case of watching television and videos, again, it is not simply that he should have the right to choose to watch televsion whenever he wants. When the television is on I have to be willing to have that sound in the house in which I exist also. (We live in a small house, in which I spend a fair amount of time in the living room where the TV is.)

In short, if the decision affects only him, then he has the right to make whatever decision he wants. Fine. But, if that decision affects other people, then the rights of the other people come into the situation as well. There is an expression that says: "Your right to swing your arms ends at my face." Yes, children should have equal rights with adults, but not rights which take away from my rights
Children want to watch TV as a way to metaphorically punch their parents in the face. If a child wants to do something that doesn't effect anyone else, that's fine, but if it requires the parent's involvement in any way, or uses the parent's resources, then he needs permission. So, for example, watching the TV also causes wear and tear and uses electricity. Children have no right to damage their parent's property, so he needs permission. And what about head phones so the parent doesn't have to listen to the TV while child is watching? (Why didn't they think of that? Are they even trying to find solutions?) Headphones would cost the parent money, which does not belong to the child, so, as with pretty much everything, child needs parental approval. But, the rights of the child are being respected. He has the same rights as anyone else. The difference is only his lack of resources. If he'd just get a job, he could buy his own headphones and then watch TV.

Sigh. Instead of admitting he treats children differently, this poster insists children have equal rights and the fault is their own for not having resources. It's the child's fault he doesn't have his own sound proof room (or headphones) to watch TV in. He doesn't have a right to that if he won't earn it in the free market. Children create their own lack of options by not acting like adults. But it's fair! Really, it is!
A better question for her is clothing... She loves to take off her clothes, regardless of the weather and especially if I just put them on her! She'll try to put them back on, but if she can't she doesn't spend too much time worrying about it... she just goes on about her business. So, is she just warmer-blooded than I or should I make her wear clothes around the house? She doesn't seem to do this when we're away from home.
The child takes the clothes off and doesn't complain or show any kind of upset. And does wear clothes when outdoors where it is colder. And parent is worried she'll freeze? Seriously? Don't children cry when it starts to hurt? You'll have plenty of warning. If you're really that worried, go touch her skin. You'll see it doesn't feel like an ice cube. If you're still worried, take her temperature. You'll notice it's normal. There's plenty of simple ways to find out if she's actually too cold. There's no need to be considering "making her wear clothes" yet! There is no evidence of any sort that child is making a mistake; in fact there is evidence child is discriminating and makes appropriate choices about clothing. And parent's intuition is maybe it's already time to resort to violence.
How do you know when a child is able to handle making different decisions for herself?
Children make decisions from day one. For example, they make choices about what to grab, or what to focus their attention on. The only issue is whether parent forcibly stops child, or not. How do you know when child is ready to not be controlled? That is the wrong attitude. Even if you take the attitude that coercion is sometimes necessary, surely there is no case that it should be the default approach! A better issue is: in what relatively few cases should a parent intervene to try to prevent a harmful mistaken decision? But even that is a mistaken way to look at the situation. Because it sees the primary issue as whether the parent should use force, or not. But that should be a last result, if it's a consideration at all. Considering it from the start is clearly bad. The first issue should be to consider what advice would help child to make a better decision, and what sort of information child would appreciate. Children don't want to ruin their lives with bad decisions. A better attitude is to cooperate with your child and find good decisions with him.
If Mary won't put her laundry away, then I just might not have the time or inclination to read her a story or help her set up an art project. [...]

I don't look at these things as being coercive. I have needs, too. If Mary won't shoulder her responsibility, then I either have to shoulder it or let the work pile up.
So let's see. First, Mary is under threat that if she won't obey about laundry, she will be deprived of stories and art. Then her parent says this isn't coercive. How can that be? Mary apparently wants to do art and hear stories, but not do the laundry. But is unable to get what she wants. Clearly this is coercive behavior by the parent.

The poster goes on to justify this coercion based on his own needs. You see, children have responsibilities, and if they won't pull their weight, they are coercing the parent, and coercion them is purely a defensive measure. But wait, what did the parent's needs have to do with the child's responsibilities? Could it be that the child's responsibility is to do whatever the parent feels he needs the child to do?

PS Aside from Sarah Lawrence (now Fitz-Claridge), names are often changed, especially identifiable names.

Elliot Temple on December 29, 2007


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