Unnatural consequences revisited

How viewing other people as wilful perpetrators embodies the mistaken theory that problems are not soluble, and thus can interfere with problem-solving and result in our beloved children being distressed.

Why do parents coerce their children despite having been through it themselves?

If parents knew that they could reject the conventional approach and it would not ruin their precious child’s life, many more would do so. If you cannot see that rejecting the status quo is not only right, but also will not have any disastrous unintended consequences, it feels safer to stick with the tradition of paternalistic coercion.

Surely criticism is always good?

he idea that criticism of others is always good is a mistake, just like it is a mistake to think that education is always good. It may be good if it is wanted, but not if it is unwanted. Coercive education is not and never has been Taking Children Seriously.

Why does parenting feel so hard?

What most parents think they need to do as parents—moulding and shaping their children—is an impossible task. No wonder parenting is a nightmare for so many parents! But there is an alternative!

Reflections on self-sacrifice and fundamental assumptions

When you have decided that it is fundamentally unkind to coerce people, but an authority figure is pressuring you to coerce your child, calmly say ‘sorry but I don’t agree with your fundamental assumptions’.’ All you need to concentrate on is that this is a difference in fundamental assumptions. Both the authority figure and you want what is best, and are trying to be kind. You just see things differently, because you view children differently.

Identifying coercion is itself a creative task

Overt coercion is less likely to corrupt children’s interpretation of what is happening to them. But given that part of our self respect as parents taking our children seriously comes from being non-coercive, it might well be that the coercion we inadvertently engage in is interpretation-corrupting double binds. So we need to be particularly aware of the subtle mind-messing forms of coercion.

What Taking Children Seriously taught me about resolving conflicts

Encouraging children fully express their big emotions does not solve the problem and may well be intrusive. Children’s inner lives are private. The idea that merely getting the emotion out solves the problem is a mistake. Problems are soluble, and it is fun to do so. Part of why children have these big emotions is that they are not being taken seriously and problems are not actually getting solved.

Trying to turn philosophy into science is a mistake

We are always dealing with our theories of what is happening, never something more ‘pure’. ‘Observed behaviour’ is shorthand for ‘our theories of observed behaviour’. All observation is theory-laden. Sometimes theories’ apparent failures in empirical tests are no such thing—we just made a mistake. Science does not have any special status.

Philosophical theories are refuted by argument, not empirical tests

There is no point demanding testability of an educational theory. What one can do with philosophical theories, is refute them by argument. Empirical testing is just one of a number of types of intersubjective criticism, and the vast majority of all criticism is by argument, even in science. Most scientific theories are refuted before they even get to the stage of empirical testing.

Branded lazy parents for not coercing

The lazy person’s approach is coercing children into reluctant compliance, as opposed to taking the time to see to it that all parties are satisfied with the outcome of every interaction.

Common emotional blackmail

Using love as leverage to double-bind children to obey—threatening to withdraw the relationship—is wrong. Children have a right to our love.

Coercion, manipulation, reason, persuasion

Many have suggested that my use of the word ‘coercion’ is non-standard and that I should find another word, but I think that is the quest for a euphemism. People don’t like using a harsh word for something they think is morally right. But if you prefer, use the word ‘manipulation’ instead—as long as it is clear that manipulating children is not taking them seriously either.

‘Influence’ versus ‘coercion’

If I disagree with the substantive theory assumed by your word choice, you can’t expect me to build that substantive theory into my language, because if I were to, I would be being forced to lie or contradict myself every time I use your term.