With pre-verbal children we have to be creative and come up with concrete ways of conveying information about dangers, rather than just giving explicit explanations. (I suggest both.)
A conversation between prospective parents, about taking children seriously.
How do you distinguish between restrictions on our behaviour that are good for us and those that aren’t? The restrictions on our behaviour that are good for us are ones we agree with. And when we agree with them, they are not restrictions on our behaviour anyway.
A rule imposed on someone for the purpose of helping them to feel secure, is ludicrous. If I expressly don’t want something, yet it is imposed upon me anyway, how does that help me to feel secure? The opposite is the case.
Coercion tends to cause a coerced state of mind, and can impair the child’s ability to reason about the thing in question.
When I go to other people’s houses, I try to abide by their wishes in respect of their property and so on. I try to make my visit add to their lives rather than detract from them. I try to be sensitive and (to the extent that I think they will want this) helpful in a non-intrusive way. We all want to do the right thing, including our children.
How to handle other parents expecting you to coerce their children when their children are visiting your home.
Parents value consistency in themselves but when their children are consistent, the parents call them ‘stubborn’ or ‘strong-willed’.
Life is not black and white, but rules are. Punishments try to make the world fit into the categories of black and white but kids judge that there are greys anyway.So we help our children learn about those greys instead of just ignoring them they way many parents do. Iit leads to safer children.
Why schools like Summerhill and Sudbury Valley can’t actually be non-coercive.
Saying “Sand is not for throwing” is a euphemism for “I have made the rule that you may not throw sand, and I am going to enforce it.” This euphemistic construction is ubiquitous: “Food is not for throwing” (“I have made the rule that you may not throw food, and I am going to enforce it.”); “Hitting is not appropriate,” (“I have made the rule that you may not hit, and I am going to enforce it.”).
Children are not born knowing the truth, so we should tell children our best theories, explain why we advocate certain forms of behaviour and not others, and try to persuade them through reason of the truth of our own ideas, but not coerce, manipulate or in any way pressurise them into enacting our theories. For our theories may be false: even becoming a parent does not confer infallibility upon us!
The ‘Don’t children prefer strict rules so they know where they stand’ argument is based on an equivocation between two meanings of the word ‘strict’, namely (1) harsh, coercive, and (2) well-defined, precise. People do like to know the rules under which they are living, i.e. they want strict(2) rules. But they do not like getting hurt, so they do not want strict(1) rules.
Using love as leverage to double-bind children to obey—threatening to withdraw the relationship—is wrong. Children have a right to our love.
Showing the meaning of the word ‘coercion’ rather than explaining it. Show don’t tell, as it were.