The unaccountable tyranny of parenting.

I have previously said that there are three principles which, combined, create a conspiracy of silence around child abuse:

1. The inviolability of the home (“a man’s home is his castle”/”they have a right to privacy”).
2. The agreed-upon ownership of the rights of children (“we can’t intervene in family decisions”/”it’s their child, they can do whatever they want”). Note that I say agreed-upon to specify that it is a fiction: the concept of a human being owning oneself, or another, is logical nonsense.
3. The perceived necessity of the modern family structure (“there’s no possible way to change the system”/”the family structure is natural”/”the family hierarchy is ordained by God”).

Do these three principles trump the fact that we are still faced with widespread (albeit no longer officially tolerated) child abuse within Western families?

The inviolability principle is only supported by one ethical concept that I know of, and that’s the right to privacy. But the right to privacy cannot possibly trump a child’s bodily integrity, so that’s a non-starter. Since we otherwise have no privacy objections about stopping violent crimes against adults, the only possible reason why anyone would disagree would be because they consider children’s lives less important than adult lives.

The agreed-upon ownership of children is, from an egalitarian standpoint, easily refuted: children are human beings and, like all human beings, they deserve to be free. Of course parents claim they don’t own their children at all, but it’s hard to see any significant difference between owning someone and controlling every single aspect of their lives, including their property and their labor; the dispute is mainly one of semantics (note that I am not arguing that children are agreed-upon slaves: “property” and “ownership” are different things).

The perceived necessity of the family structure is perhaps the most persuasive of all three principles. When people sincerely believe that there’s no possible alternative to the current system, they will be ready to support any abuse or violence done in its name. After all, what other choice do we have?

Religion is perhaps the strongest shield behind which child abusers can hide. The misopedic nature of the three major religions (Chrisitanity, Islam, Judaism) is well known and we usually permit people to maim and abuse children openly if it’s done in the name of a religion, although the sexual scandals in Catholicism have eventually been pushed into the public limelight.

Our idea of a monogamous, self-contained family system is most definitely not a natural necessity: most primate species, including our closest relatives the chimpanzees and the Bonobos, do not live in this fashion. Furthermore, human societies have exhibited a wide variety of child rearing regimes, from the modern kibbutzim, to the concept of extended families, to the social raising of children in modern hunter-gatherer societies.

If none of these principles hold water, then the conspiracy of silence we’ve erected around child abuse is absolutely pointless. We let children suffer for no good reason apart from the monstrous ego of parents, who are unaccountable tyrants.

If Absolute Sovereignty be not necessary in a State, how comes it to be so in a Family? or if in a Family why not in a State; since no Reason can be alledg’d for the one that will not hold more strongly for the other?
Mary Astell

When discussing these issues, one is often asked, because of the perceived necessity of the family structure, “but what’s the alternative?” Denying the truth of profound suffering because you can’t imagine a viable solution immediately is a neat thought-stopping trap, but it’s just a trap. The truth is the truth regardless of your ability to imagine how to act upon that truth. Pointing out a current injustice does not confer a burden of proof to provide alternatives to the current unjust system.

But here we must make a distinction between the family structure and childism. Childism comes in many forms and expresses itself in many institutions, of which the family structure is only one. Although childism cannot be eliminated without also changing the family structure, eliminating the family structure would not end childism.

There is no alternative to childism apart from ending the prejudice, affirming that children are full human beings, and implementing this position in public policy.

As for the family structure, that’s a different story. I’ve already named a few existing alternatives which, although not widespread, are known to be superior to the current monogamous agreed-upon ownership system. As I’ve discussed before, there are three core issues that need to be addressed in connection to families and childism:

1. Some children are randomly born in “good” families and others in “bad” families, resulting in some getting abused and others not.
2. The economic concept of poverty imposed on children.
3. The indoctrination of children on a massive scale.

Issues 1 and 2 exist because one or two parents (by virtue of having sex and giving birth) are given ownership of the child, meaning that the child shares in the parents’ social status and depends on their mental state (whether benevolent or hostile). Issue 3 exists because it is in the interest of parents to ensure that their children are “successful.” This “success” justifies various forms of indoctrination:

* The child must appear “normal.”
* The child must be ready to compete against their peers, either as students or as workers.
* The child must be “intelligent” and competent.

These are not needs of the child, they are parental needs. And in order to fulfill those needs, parents will do whatever they can: pay for expensive private education, threaten or punish the child when they fail to live up to grade expectations, coerce or browbeat their child to enroll in various sports or activities, enforce gender, religious, and cultural norms, and threaten or punish the child for failing to follow those norms.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of this indoctrination is that not only does it not work, but it hurts children far beyond the initial coercion, threat or punishment, and in some cases wounds their ego so much that they become less able to deal with the world, having therefore the opposite effect of what was (foolishly and callously) intended.

Actually, studies have shown that people who have more competitive personalities are less likely to “succeed,” not just in business but across the board. There is also no correlation between stamping one’s individuality out and being “successful.” There is a correlation between “intelligence” as defined by our schooling system (domestication system) and “success,” but only insofar as our society is set up to equate “intelligence” with “ability to be successful” (i.e. get a professional job and make more money).

But more important than “success” is personal happiness: the sole measure of whether any form of parenting is helpful, if we are to talk at parenting at all, should be whether it helps form happy, healthy adults who are relatively mentally undamaged from their upbringing. By that standard, all these forms of indoctrination are complete, abject failures. Why? Because they are based on disrespecting the child’s values and desires, and molding children to adapt to parts of society they have little or no reason to support.

Before we answer the question “what is the alternative to our current system, parenting/pedagogy within a modern family structure?”, we must first establish some fundamental principles giving the parameters of what we should consider justified and unjustified:

* There is no a priori reason for a child to have only one or two parents. Having sex and giving birth do not, and cannot, logically grant an ownership claim on another human being.

* There is no logical justification for the bizarre concept of “poor children,” even in a capitalist system.

* Parents are usually the least qualified people to raise “their” children. If we do not allow unqualified people to provide child care for money, then we should not allow unqualified people to provide child care just because they don’t get paid for it.

* Children have a right to develop independently, to the highest standard of health, and to happiness in the present, not just in the future. No one may sacrifice a child’s present in the name of eir future.

Based on these principles, we can come to some conclusions. First, that we must not make a child’s well-being depend on the economic status of one or two individuals based on the accident of birth. Second, and perhaps most obviously, the people in charge of raising children must have some qualifications to do so. Third, all rules regarding child-raising must have one objective only, and that is the well-being and freedom of the child according to the child’s own values and desires.

Any system which breaks any of these conclusions is unjustified. So, given that, what would a non-childist child-raising system be like? It’s hard to say, because there’s so little incentive right now for people to look at alternatives in child-raising, even in leftist circles. People are too concerned with “compassionate parenting” (an oxymoron in itself) to think about going beyond parenting.

However, I do think that democratic schools like Summerhill School give us a first sketch of an alternative system. We know that it works but we have no idea how far a system like this could go: as long as States keep their stranglehold over “education,” there will be no place for further experimentation.

26 thoughts on “The unaccountable tyranny of parenting.

  1. Heretic July 6, 2015 at 01:27 Reply

    It would also help if people were able to develop empathy towards children they aren’t related to by blood, I think, since they can’t lay the same claim of ownership over them; adoption rates would increase.

    • Francois Tremblay July 6, 2015 at 01:31 Reply

      Yea, I think that’s mainly ideological, although I could be wrong.

  2. L July 11, 2015 at 01:17 Reply

    * There is no logical justification for the bizarre concept of “poor children,” even in a capitalist system.

    I find the idea that we allow any child to be in poverty just inhumane. Their only crime was being born and society seems more than happy to punish children for just existing. We are constantly making cuts to public programs that give children access to the basics of life.

    We are obsessed with the idea that children belong with their bio parents and nobody else. I was looking into fostering and one of the ideas that was stressed was that the usual goal was to return the child to their birth family. I thought that was strange, Why should that be a goal? Shouldn’t the goal be for children to be in the living situation that focuses on their health, happiness and safety, whether it is with their birth parents or not?

  3. unabashedcalabash October 13, 2015 at 16:42 Reply

    I think we support child poverty because the only other option is to give money to the parents to help them (we don’t want to help poor parents) or to take children away from poor parents (who are usually poor through no fault of their own) or disallow them from having children (a kind of eugenics). The idea of taking children away from poor parents (who otherwise are good and loving parents) is abhorrent, as is economic eugenics; yet we don’t want to redistribute the wealth, which we would have to in order to avoid having poor children (or directly give money only to children, which wouldn’t make sense; children are often too young to understand the concept of money or what to do with it/how the financial world works, and why enrich children but not adults? Don’t adults have equal rights to children?).

    I agree that childism is a bad idea. However, children need guidance and care-taking as they mature. It’s hard to know where to draw the line. Spoiling kids can be just as bad as punishing, ostracizing, or controlling them, and lead to a narcissistic, entitled adult. What’s the solution? (I agree that the nuclear family model is isolating, promotes hierarchies and male ownership of women and children, and far from ideal).

    When I was a young child, I was “naughty” (disobedient), though never malicious nor spoiled; I didn’t disobey to hurt anyone. I simply didn’t understand why my parents got to tell me what to do. I didn’t do anything terrible, usually (although I understand if adults were nervous for my safety); usually I just wanted to go do stuff out in nature by myself (I was a tomboy), and would break the rules in order to do it, even when I was five years old. My dad always took this personally and doted on my sweet-tempered, obedient (obedient because she was kind-hearted and eager to please) sister. I was rebellious and that was not okay. But it was nothing personal. And my issues with my father (many more came later, because of other things that happened in my life which were neither of our faults but caused a huge rift between us) have affected me my entire life.

    I know children, who are developing, need guidance; but simply because parents provide for them and spend a lot of money is no reason that they get to decide everything about their lives (children are not allowed to work, after all, or capable of it when they are very young, and furthermore did not choose to be born).

    But to end this of course we would need an entirely different societal model, wouldn’t we? I mean it’s good to have a different educational model even if children remain in nuclear families (although the US has a lot of problems with public education and its constant indoctrination into the world of hierarchies), but it’s not enough. How could we ever end childism without radically restructuring our entire societies (including dismantling the patriarchy)?

    • Francois Tremblay October 13, 2015 at 17:55 Reply

      I think you’re confusing pedagogy with strictness. Not all pedagogies are strict. Actually, some are very neglectful. But they are still pedagogies nevertheless. I am opposed to all pedagogy, not just the strict ones. All hierarchies are fundamentally bad.

      Yes, obviously ending childism would require a restructuration of our society, but no more than ending racism or sexism. They are all prejudices embedded in modern Western societies. That doesn’t mean we can’t speak against them and deconstruct them. Childism analysis is still at its very beginnings, so analysis is particularly important.

      • unabashedcalabash October 13, 2015 at 19:30 Reply

        Oh no, of course not, I realized that as soon as I said it (that just because you’re criticizing it doesn’t mean you have an answer to how to solve it, and of course you should speak out against it just as against all human rights abuses, solution or no)!

        But what do you by I’m confusing pedagogy with strictness?

        • Francois Tremblay October 13, 2015 at 19:46 Reply

          Well, you seemed to be implying that the opposite of pedagogy is neglect (when you talk about spoiling kids, children needing guidance, and whatnot), and therefore associating pedagogy with strictness. My point is that pedagogy can be strict or neglectful, parents who neglect their children are still childist but in a different way.

          • unabashedcalabash October 13, 2015 at 20:43 Reply

            I guess I’m confused about what you mean by “pedagogy” (maybe I should go read what Alice Miller says before commenting). Do you mean any teaching practice? I agree that pedagogy based around punishment and adherence to norms is wrong. But what about a more open form of pedagogy (allowing a child to learn and discover naturally, and being available when they desire more information)? I think guidance is different than strictness/control. And spoiling kids is not always a result of negligence but often of over-interference/ego inflation (for example telling kids everything they do is super and they’re superior in every way and can do no wrong when that’s clearly not true).

            I guess I’m confused about what I’m confused about!

              • unabashedcalabash October 13, 2015 at 21:21 Reply

                I read the introduction (began the post, and will read the second part too), but still don’t understand what mean by “pedagogy” (is that any kind of parenting in which the parents instill values in the kid)?

                Isn’t pedagogy just the practice of teaching? Can’t teaching be guidance more than forcing learning (if children are allowed to be naturally curious, and that curiosity responded to with a variety of possible answers and viewpoints, encouraging more discussion and research)? In any case, I’ll continue to read about childism. It’s something I’ve thought about before (thought about even as a little kid, and was punished for), but I’ve never seen the term “childism” or heard about this movement before. And I should definitely read about it in case I do decide to one day have a child…

                …just kidding. I should read it about just to know about it, as with every worthwhile notion about the humanity of others.

                • Francois Tremblay October 13, 2015 at 21:29

                  Yes, basically it’s any “child-raising” plan that parents use on their children. All pedagogies are predicated on the belief that children are not human beings but potential adults, and that therefore children’s values and desires are irrelevant.

                • unabashedcalabash October 13, 2015 at 21:38

                  Also, some rules are necessary for children’s safety, surely (as they often don’t understand how to do things safely)? And some pedagogy necessary for learning basic functions (like toilet training)? Or…? How can we reconcile rules with not controlling a child (who is a developing human and needs interaction and modeling, to learn, after all), and how can you avoid instilling values when you talk to your child (that your viewpoint will come across is kind of inevitable, and your child will probably try to emulate it)? Maybe these questions are unanswered later…will report back when I’ve read more. This is a head-scratcher. Hmmm.

                • unabashedcalabash October 13, 2015 at 21:34

                  Hmm. It seems there’s no way to have children then (as it’s impossible to take care of children without some guidance). The best thing a person could do is try to respond to a child’s needs and interests, and to their curiosities with myriad possibilities (all sides of the story) or better yet just sources of information and encourage the child to study themselves, when old enough to read (but still, instilling values of critical thinking is still instilling values and therefore…pedagogy). So it seems there’s just no way to have children. And certainly no responsible way within the world in which we currently live, which doesn’t support a non-childist raising of children. Which makes it even more selfish and irresponsible to have them, doesn’t it? I see where you’re going with this… :)

                  Anyway, I’ll read up about childism, even if I don’t entirely agree with it it’ll make interesting reading and I’ll try to be open-minded.

                • Francois Tremblay October 13, 2015 at 21:39

                  I don’t think there is any way to be a parent and not be childist, no. Even if you are doing your very best to be benevolent towards your child, you’re still the child’s master. Its freedom is still dependent on your good will. Its physical integrity can be revoked by you in a moment of anger, and nothing could be done about it.

                • unabashedcalabash October 13, 2015 at 21:41

                  Okay, so childism (opposing it) and anti-natalism go hand-in-hand, then? That kind of clears things up…I guess that best you can hope for is harm reduction in having children in that case. I still haven’t entirely given up on humanity, though. I’m not sure why. Let’s just say I’m agnostic.

                • Francois Tremblay October 13, 2015 at 21:58

                  “Also, some rules are necessary for children’s safety, surely (as they often don’t understand how to do things safely)? And some pedagogy necessary for learning basic functions (like toilet training)?”

                  I don’t think so. There’s nothing particularly childist about keeping children out of harm (as long as it’s demonstrable harm, not bullshit like masturbating or whatever), and in teaching them basic bodily functions. But you don’t need parents or a family structure to do that.

                • unabashedcalabash October 13, 2015 at 22:03

                  But what about talking to your child? It would be abusive to deprive them of language, but you will necessarily instill your values by simply having conversations with them, even if you try not to. Is it better for parents not to raise children (for communities to raise them)? Is that a feasible way to raise children without childism (or it just as tyrannical if it’s coming from multiple adults and not just parents)?

                • Francois Tremblay October 13, 2015 at 22:00

                  “Okay, so childism (opposing it) and anti-natalism go hand-in-hand, then? ”

                  No, I don’t think so. An antinatalist can be a childist, or be anti-childism, and I think both are defendable positions (well childism isn’t a defendable position, but you get what I mean). There are antinatalists who hate children. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s not logically unsound. But logically a natalist must be a childist, by simple virtue of what they believe in and the arguments they use.

                • unabashedcalabash October 13, 2015 at 22:05

                  Yes of course, I didn’t take that into account (people who don’t have kids because they hate them, and think children need more, not less, parenting, to be less rage-inducing).

                  But there’s no way a natalist can ever be anti-childist?

                • Francois Tremblay October 13, 2015 at 22:10

                  “But there’s no way a natalist can ever be anti-childist?”

                  I suppose any idiot can claim to be anything they want, but not without contradicting themselves, no. The very premise of natalism is that children are basically tools for social betterment (make children to increase the GDP/drive innovation/drive social security/for the power of the nation/whatever). Objects, not human beings.

                • unabashedcalabash October 13, 2015 at 22:21

                  But not having children to avoid childism would mean the end of human beings…

                • Francois Tremblay October 13, 2015 at 22:14

                  “But what about talking to your child? It would be abusive to deprive them of language, but you will necessarily instill your values by simply having conversations with them, even if you try not to. Is it better for parents not to raise children (for communities to raise them)? Is that a feasible way to raise children without childism (or it just as tyrannical if it’s coming from multiple adults and not just parents)?”

                  Ultimately I don’t think it’s possible to raise children without childism, because of the family structure, as I’ve pointed out earlier. Even for people with the very best of intentions. Besides, even parents with the very best of intentions are not qualified to raise children, for the most part.

                • Francois Tremblay October 13, 2015 at 22:25

                  “But not having children to avoid childism would mean the end of human beings…”

                  Oh, I don’t think so. I think most people will still have children no matter what we say. But even if you were right, I don’t really have any problem with that. You know, being an antinatalist and all that. :)

                  Although I don’t think you need to not have children to avoid childism. Granted, it would necessitate a deep reform of how we educate and lodge children, but it is possible. Summerhill School is my personal favourite institution in that regard.

                  By the way, there is a limited number of levels to this comment system, so once it gets this deep, you should start a new thread. Otherwise we can’t keep replying to each other, we have to go back a level and so on and so forth.

                  Or you could just come in the chat room and talk to me, given how much talking we’re doing right now. lol (see link on the top right of this site)

                • unabashedcalabash October 13, 2015 at 22:38

                  Oh, okay. I’ll have to look up the Summerhill School right now. However, I did ask if it would be better (and could possibly anti-childist) if whole communities raised children rather than birth parents (I meant separating the children from the birth parents and raising them all communally), and you said no, as you’d said before, because of the family structure…(?) Anyway I won’t comment anymore, but I’ll come say hello for a moment in case you respond before these threads spiral out of control. :)

                • Francois Tremblay October 13, 2015 at 22:47

                  “Oh, okay. I’ll have to look up the Summerhill School right now. However, I did ask if it would be better (and could possibly anti-childist) if whole communities raised children rather than birth parents (I meant separating the children from the birth parents and raising them all communally), and you said no, as you’d said before, because of the family structure…(?)”

                  Communally? I suppose it depends on what structure this takes. Do you mean as in traditional tribal societies? Or something else?

                  “Anyway I won’t comment anymore, but I’ll come say hello for a moment in case you respond before these threads spiral out of control. :)”

                  Cool. I’ll be there in the evening today, tomorrow and the next day. So drop by whenever.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: