Why did my mother’s coercive words fly out of my mouth?!

Anti-rational memes are not only passed from parents to children, they exist more widely in our culture. This is why other people seem to feel so free to judge and criticise you if you are taking your child seriously, and it is why complete strangers in supermarkets tell you to keep your child under control. And it is why the corresponding anti-rational meme in your own mind has you feeling rebuked, ashamed, upset, and defensive.

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.

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!

Risking coercion due to conflict-aversion

Sometimes it takes courage to risk confrontation with a coercionist adult to avoid risking coercing our beloved child. But seeing the wider perspective can help.

Respecting other people’s wishes

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.

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.

Doctor, please do not hurt my child

The difference between taking children seriously and merely loving them or caring about them, resides in whose concerns about the children’s well-being take precedence: the children’s or the adults’. Conventional wisdom tries to blur this distinction by portraying children’s concerns as somehow less valid or less significant than those of adults.

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.