Are you advocating that the children should rule the parents?!

“Are you advocating that the children should rule the parents?! That’s what it sounds like to me!”

If you’re an authoritarian who believes that the correct way to relate with your children is that you are in charge and your children must ask your permission to do things, and you decide whether or not to ‘let’ them, it may look as though I am suggesting jumping from you ruling to the children being in charge, and you yourself having to ask their permission, but this question is making what Karl Popper called the ‘who should rule’ error.

Karl Popper pointed out that given that we are all fallible human beings who make mistakes, instead of asking ‘who should rule?’, we should instead be aware of the danger of power and authority no matter who has it, and we should instead create systems that promote error correction, such as political systems in which bad rulers can be replaced.

So instead of asking who should rule, what I advocate is that the whole family get what they want, not just you, and not just the children either. Problems are soluble. Whilst there can be no guarantee that we as fallible human beings with blind spots and baggage will find it at the time, it’s vital to take seriously the idea that there a solution is possible in which neither party has to sacrifice and which both parties prefer to any other solution.

The fact that the obligations are asymmetrical is just a fact of the situation and is really uncontroversial. People only think it is odd in the context of taking children seriously, but actually, just about everybody agrees that parents have obligations to their children that their children do not have towards them.

Calling that “children ruling” is like saying that the old lady you are helping across the street is ruling you, but that’s not the case, it’s just a feature of politeness in a given situation.

Life does not have to involve either ruling or being ruled. Instead, we can stand side by side with no one ruling, all of us free to be in control of our own life, solving problems individually and jointly, and having fun doing so.

See also:

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘Are you advocating that the children should rule the parents?!’,

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