Taking Children Seriously

Present, Not Past

Posted by Sarah Fitz-Claridge
on the TCS List on Thu, 15 Jun 2000 at 10:46:44 -0400

While I can understand wanting to believe that any problems you have with your children are a result of coercion in the past, this is more often than not false. By far the most important factor is what is happening now. So before you jump to the conclusion that your current problems are a result of the past, which of course you can't change, think a bit more critically about the present, because it is highly unlikely that it is the past which is the primary cause of the problems. While it may be a factor, what if it were not, but you were just assuming that it was that past stuff not the present coercion that was the problem. What then?

Obviously, you would never do anything to solve the problem, because you would feel justified in wallowing in guilt about the past which you can't change, instead of doing the critical and psychologically difficult thinking necessary to discover what coercion is causing or exacerbating the problem right now, in the present.

For example, if you commonly self-sacrifice, it is positively laughable to suggest that any problems you are having are a result of the past. Self-sacrifice is directly coercive of the person for whom you sacrifice yourself.

TCS comrades, learn from the past, but look at the present if you want to improve your relationships with your children.

A later post on this

A poster wrote:

I absolutely agree that it is not always morally wrong to refuse to seek a common preference. But conversely, if a child repeatedly, in all sorts of situations, refuses to seek a common preference, and that child's TCS parent then honors the child's preference (since no common preference can be found), doesn't that run the risk of becoming self-sacrifice? How can the TCS parent avoid self-sacrifice, coercion and still share the information that repeatedly not seeking common preferences is not usually a sucessful way to go through life. (Although I suppose it works for those bound to become military dictators!)

Military dictators are not my idea of good examples of successful people.

As a fictious scenario: Its 11pm. Ralph prefers to listen to the stereo in his parents' bedroom, with the lights on, singing loudly and dancing all the while. Parents are pooped out, want to sleep. (And for the sake of argument, lets say that the only place they can sleep is in their bedroom - lack of space, bad backs, whatever.) Ralph refuses to seek a common preference, cranks the stereo and procedes with the dance party. TCS parents would honor Ralph's dance party preference because no common preference can be found, right? But they really want to sleep. So doesn't that become self sacrifice? And how would they express to Ralph, without coercing him, that his choice to not seek common preferences isn't doing much to further his larger agendas (like happy family relations, etc, assuming he holds those agendas).

What do you think?

I think that the chances are, if such a thing is happening, there is some on-going unrecognised coercion happening that is causing this Intransigence. In other words, this is just the visible part of a larger pattern. Once the parents have worked out what that is and corrected it, the problem will go away. It just does not make sense to think that someone would be so uncaring about the wishes of other people, especially people with whom they have an intimate relationship, and with whom they live close together, for no reason. It sounds as though there are bad dynamics happening here, which need to be changed. Somehow, the parents are engaging in a battle of wills with the child, and this should stop. Self-sacrifice is likely to be a huge problem, because, as I have said repeatedly over the years, self-sacrifice is not only self-coercion but also directly coercive of the person for whom one is sacrificing, and it is coercion that is causing the problems here.

That may not sound very helpful (sorry!) but it can be useful to have this understanding. Self-sacrifice is not the answer, but neither is the sort of coercion more commonly recognised as being coercion. I'd suggest that parents in this situation try to make changes to their interactions with the child, and that they should try to change their view both of themselves and their child, such that they take both themselves and their child seriously. Self sacrifice is not taking themselves seriously, nor is it taking their child seriously. They need to do something better, and to do that, they need to find out what is going wrong, or, failing that, to make changes which might allow them all to get out of this hideous loop of coercion.

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