Taking Children Seriously

Breaking the Cycle of Coercion

Posted on parent-l by Sarah Fitz-Claridge
on Wed, 20 May, 1998, at 10:51:28 -0400

A poster wrote:

Sarah wrote:
No, the TCS parent wouldn't be in that situation in the first place, because the child would listen to the parents' advice about the sun. That's my experience anyway. The problem is that most children are often expecting to be thwarted, and that makes it likely that the child simply won't listen to any good advice from the parent, for example, about the dangers of exposure to the sun and so on. Conversely, the TCS child (even very imperfectly non-coerced children like mine) are not expecting to be thwarted and so do listen to the parent's advice.

Sarah, want to come and live at my house? Unfortunately, both of my children seem to have inherited this trait that I have that makes us think and strongly believe that our way is the only way.

This could be good or bad depending upon how you mean it. It is part of TCS thinking that the right thing to do is what you yourself think the right thing to do, not what someone else thinks you should do. We TCS folks ensure that that happens by seeking common preferences – creating solutions to problems or disagreements that we all prefer to our initial ideas and any other candidate solutions anyone has thought of. A TCS outcome = doing what one wants (and everyone else doing what they want too). That could be what you mean. Or it could be that you mean “What I say goes and that's final.”

Parents who have been coerced as children (we all have, of course) sometimes develop what is a useful life strategy for them – i.e., one which works very well for them in their lives, in terms of preventing other people treating them badly, etc. – but which is an absolute disaster for their children. Why? Because in applying their “my way is the only way” strategy to their interactions with their children, they thereby do to their children precisely what their own parents did to them – the very thing that caused them to develop that life strategy in the first place. So in dealing with the coercion they themselves were subjected to as children, they inadvertently pass on the very same handicap to their children. This is a very powerful meme which we TCS people are trying not to pass on to our own children.

A necessary step to breaking this destructive cycle is to understand the meme and to realise that life does not have to be a zero-sum game – that life does not have to be “my gain means your loss” and vise versa. Unlocking the power of the creativity of the TCS problem-solving institution really does help in this. Not coercing is not enough. The most important aspect of TCS parenting is the decision-making institution and its potential to create a virtuous circle of common preferences.

Hope this helps.

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