“I and others believe that coercing children is harmful to them. We also believe that not coercing children is a desirable and possible lifestyle which also is nice for the parents. Please tell me how these views might be altered by correctly taking into account who my house belongs to.”
– Sarah Fitz-Claridge
From the archives: Posted on 25th March, 1996
Professor Jan Narveson writes:
“I think many people on this post have failed to note one extremely important and basic thing about the child-parent situation: namely, that the parents hold all the cards. Consider that the child is on a complete, total, absolute welfare state for the first several years of his life. The parents supply, free of charge, of their own good will, 100% of the child’s food, clothing, toys, and whatever. Many of you on this list are of libertarian persuasion, I’m sure, and you will understand when I point out that the person who owns the property gets to make all the offers. If the parent withholds food, the infant starves. If the infant is viewed as simply another free agent, this is a feature of the situation that pretty much ensures that the child will do whatever the parent sets as a condition for obtaining the child’s needs, parent being the sole provider of them.”
Jan, I and others believe that coercing children is harmful to them. We also believe that not coercing children is a desirable and possible lifestyle which also is nice for the parents. Please tell me how these views might be altered by correctly taking into account who my house belongs to.
“All the talk about ‘coercion’ has to be set against this fundamental and pervasive fact. You, the parent, have to decide everything here. You GIVE the children a number of rights, but you do so in your own wisdom, out of your concern for the child’s future growth, in part, but surely out of concern for your own interests as well. But remember, the first part is a concern OF YOURS just as much as the second part. Set against this the talk of ‘coercion’ by ‘threatening’ the child not to allow him to watch TV or whatever is basically just wrong. The parent PROVIDES the child with a TV—or not, as she decides best. The child has no antecedent right to any of this stuff, insofar as he is just another human being like the 5.8 billion others out there—to none of whom, notice, do you owe a TV or education or anything of the sort.
Children grow up, and no fact about them can be more important to parents, in the long run. In the short run, children are immensely cute, charming, inventive, creative, and fun. That’s a big payoff for the parent who plays her cards right. Wise parents reap the latter rewards consistently with the down-the-road rewards of a child who does well in the world when he becomes an adult.
To repeat: these, folks, are ALL YOUR decisions. I’m for giving children the complete right to non-harm, just like when they grow up; in that regard, I side absolutely with Sarah. But all the other stuff, all the welfare rights—dole those out with care, friends. Do not be double-talked into thinking that you OWE the kids anything at all. You don’t. It’s what you WANT that matters; and it’s what YOU want that counts. So don’t let your children power-trip their way into anything you don’t think is good for them. But do ask why you think something or other IS good for them, by all means!
Who has the last word in arguments? YOU do. If your decide to give it to the kids, that is very likely not to be wise. I recommend not doing it. It’s your house, your income, your everything; and if the kids don’t like it now, they can, when they grow up, try doing it differently. But that’s it. The idea that they have a ‘natural right’ to YOU is groundless and absurd.”
- Explanations and experience
- Against replacing the ‘blind spot’ metaphor
- Surely suffering and frustration make us stronger?
Sarah Fitz-Claridge, 1996, ‘It’s your house, your income, your everything; and if the kids don’t like it…’, https://takingchildrenseriously.com/its-your-house-your-income-your-everything-and-if-the-kids-dont-like-it/