The parenting landscape is rapidly changing. Peaceful parenting principles are taking root and spreading and that’s a great thing. But there’s still a lot of work to do.
As my daughter gets older, her experiences expand. That means coming into contact with more people and more personalities. My wife and I meet new teachers, coaches, and fellow parents. We’re exposed to what’s considered, “The Mainstream.”
From where I stand, The Mainstream is still quite lost when it comes to leading children. There’s a lot of open-mindedness, which is great, but there’s also a lot of ignorance.
I’ve decided that I’ve had enough of responding to the same tired objections to my parenting approach. I’m not interested in wasting my breath. What I really need is an article that I can send people right before I drop them from my Facebook list and the contacts list on my iPhone.
So, here it is — 12 absurd arguments that I’m tired of hearing. Undoubtedly, I’ve left a few out. Feel free to add them to the comments section. I’ll add the good ones to the article, post hoc.
“Kids are out of control these days because we’re too soft on them. My parents beat respect into me.”
This is two absurd theories in one. The first is that kids are out of control these days compared to some arbitrary time in the past. The second is that being harsh and aggressive towards kids works to create peaceful citizens.
Every generation seems to believe that they’re uniquely out of control. The media does a great job perpetuating this myth. But where’s the evidence? There isn’t any. There’s also no evidence that hitting people builds respect. 90% of parents admit to hitting their children, so shouldn’t we have a society full of amazingly respectful people? The black community uses corporal punishment to a larger degree than any other culture while their violent crime rate far exceeds all others.
If you truly want to advance society, stop assaulting, coercing, and manipulating children. Growing up in a peaceful environment teaches you the language of peace. Growing up in a violent, aggressive, or coercive household teaches you the language of those tactics.
Editors Note: The growing trend to call me racist for the above statement is getting tiresome. It’s childish, unintellectual, and minimizes what black children experience. The attempts to say that I’m claiming “black people are violent” is also childish and insulting. The argument that “violence in black culture is because of the conditions they live in” is not a counter-argument. I’m not saying that the black community has a higher violent crime rate solely because they spank their kids more…I’m saying that spanking their kids has done nothing to lower their disproportionately high violent crime rate and has likely made it worse. It’s an argument AGAINST SPANKING. It’s an argument against hitting black children, just as the author of “Beating Black Kids” has made (is she racist too?). Lastly, people who authentically care about black children don’t pretend these issues don’t exist. So if you want me to remove these statements, you need to both grow up and find a way to actually care.
“Negotiating with kids is a sign of weakness.”
Using the word “negotiation” and “parenting” in the same sentence is a no-no in the authoritarian world. The fear is that permitting negotiation gives kids power and “if you give kids an inch, they’ll take a mile.” The reality is that the world operates on the principle of negotiation and negotiating with kids will give them the tools they need to be successful, peaceful adults.
When parents use power and dominance in replace of negotiation, they forfeit the opportunity to teach their kids powerful negotiation skills while sending the message that aggressiveness and coercion are the best tools for getting what you want.
All of the evil in the world comes from power-based, coercive, authoritarian institutions that demand obedience (think religions and government). On the contrary, the marketplace–the driving force of peace and prosperity–is built on a foundation of negotiation and voluntary interaction. But one must be raised with the tools necessary to interact in the marketplace, lest they be drawn to power.
“Kids need to be punished so they associate negative consequences with their behavior. That’s how life works.”
This is an either-or fallacy. Either kids are punished and learn about consequences or they aren’t punished and never learn about them. It begs the question, what is our goal as parents? Is our goal to raise empathetic kids who want to do the right thing or is our goal to raise kids who are obedient to rules to avoid negative consequences?
Well over 95% of households use punishments to teach consequences and we still have the largest prison population in the world, people still get speeding tickets, and lots of people get fired from jobs. Where is the evidence for the efficacy of teaching about consequences?
Besides, you can learn about things without experiencing them. I don’t need to run my child over with a car to teach them about the dangers of moving automobiles. If you raise an empathetic and virtuous child, they’ll naturally avoid situations that have negative consequences.
“My parents hit me and I turned out just fine. In fact, I’m glad they spanked me.”
This is probably the most popular default response. It comes from a place of defense. Defense for one’s parents, defense for one’s own past behavior, and emotional defense against the trauma itself.
The statement, “I turned out fine” is empty rhetoric. Most people who say it aren’t qualified or self-aware enough to make a quality determination of their psychological health. In many cases, they’re clearly not fine: they drink excessively, they have relationship problems, they struggle with self-esteem issues, and so on.
“FINE,” on the other hand, fits them perfectly. They’re Fucked Up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional. The fact that they advocate for repeatedly hitting a small defenseless child whose brain is undeveloped is proof that they’re FINE and not fine.
“Spanking is not the same as hitting.”
When undesirable behaviors have a PR problem, they’re immediately labeled as something less toxic and reframed in a positive light. Hitting is wrong, but spanking is discipline. Killing a baby is a tragedy, but aborting a fetus is not such a big deal. Politicians don’t spend money we don’t have, they invest in infrastructure. It’s classic marketing. And our kids—the one’s suffering the abuse—deserve better.
If I can’t legally spank my spouse, my employees, or my demented mother for wetting the bed for the third night in a row, then I shouldn’t be able to legally spank my defenseless children. You can use whatever PR term you want. If it’s not a universal principle, it’s a steaming pile of bullshit.
Editor’s Note: I refuse to use minimizing language because I refuse to minimize the truth that many experience. No, I will not use politically correct terms. I’ve never met a mother whose unborn baby died due to an auto accident or other injury say, “well, my fetus was simply aborted that day.” They say, “my baby died.” Abortion is the killing of a baby and using minimizing language to avoid that truth is a gross injustice. It’s marketing. It’s marketing to make people feel better so they don’t have to THINK about what’s going on. I will not participate in that.
“Sometimes, spanking is just flat out necessary.”
People who lack tools always declare the default route as necessary. If you’re stuck in traffic on a freeway in a city you’ve never been to, there are no other options but to sit in the traffic. You might even tell your anxiety-ridden spouse, “this is the only way.”
If you’ve lived in the city your entire life, you might know of five alternative routes you can take to escape the traffic. You choose an alternate path and enjoy the time saved.
People who were spanked as children have learned a certain dialect of discipline. Just like a language, or the city they grew up in, it’s familiar. It becomes the default. It crowds out insight into other tools. They insist it’s necessary ONLY because they’re not privy to alternatives.
“Spanking is necessary” is a declaration of naivety and unpreparedness. Parents who fall into this trap are also the first to use the excuse, “I’m doing the best I can!” If empty excuses advanced one’s parenting skills, we’d all be experts by now. It’s time for parents to start owning their behavior and choosing action over distraction.
“You don’t know my kids. How can you possibly know what they need?”
I don’t know your demented mother who urinates the bed every night, but I know that she doesn’t deserve to be hit for it. I don’t know your spouse, but I know that locking her in her room for burning your dinner is emotional abuse. I don’t know your employees, but I know that raging at them in a company meeting is unacceptable. I know that teaching your children that hitting is wrong when you hit them multiple times per week is hypocritical.
I can know a lot of things without knowing anything about you or your children. This is nothing more than a straw man argument that allows you to avoid objectively looking at your own behavior.
“You might have time to baby your kids, but I don’t. I just need them to be obedient.”
If you have time to scream at your children for 15 minutes, you have time to warmly set limits and validate. If you have time to spank your children and levy punishments, you have time to hug them and connect with them and teach them why their behavior is undesirable. If you have time to monitor a time-out station and repeatedly put them back in a naughty chair or a corner, you have plenty of time to work out the problem peacefully.
The real deficiency isn’t with time, it’s with tools. Lastly, obedience isn’t a virtue, it’s morally reprehensible. The Stanford Prison Experiment or the Milgram Experiment clearly demonstrate the evil of obedience. Requiring obedience from your children is requiring them to forfeit their humanity.
“Kids need to hear the word ‘no’ so they don’t turn into spoiled brats.”
You are right that kids need to learn boundaries, limits, and self-regulation. But they learn that through teaching and modeling, not by hearing an arbitrary word. If you abuse the word “no,” you can easily teach a child that they have no autonomy, that their needs and wants aren’t relevant, and that their opinions aren’t important (by refusing to negotiate). That encourages defiance, which you perceive as the behavior of a spoiled brat. Then, you double down on your tactics. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There are many peaceful parents who don’t set limits and boundaries, to the detriment of their children. There are also abusive parents who fail to do the same, choosing instead to completely blow their lid when the final straw breaks the back of their patience. The issue doesn’t have anything to do with authentic peaceful parenting, it has to do with limits and boundaries.
“You want to be friends with your kids. My kids don’t need me to be a friend, they need me to be a parent.”
Being “friends with your kids” is what all parents should aim to be. The phrase, however, has been hijacked to mean, “you don’t set limits or have boundaries.” Kids should be respected the way you respect your friends—and you should have limits and boundaries with your friends the same way you have limits and boundaries with your kids.
If you wouldn’t rage at your friends, don’t rage at your kids. If you would show patience and grace with your friends, then show patience and grace with your kids. If you wouldn’t hit your friends, then don’t hit your kids. If you can teach your friend something without resorting to those tactics, then you can teach your kids without them as well.
A child’s future behavior is determined by how they’re treated. Their status as a “child” isn’t an argument for the efficacy of aggressive behavior toward them, it’s an excuse. You can get away with assaulting them because they’re defenseless. To you, that’s an opportunity. Assault your friend and see what happens. What you really are, is a coward.
“Kids are not adults. They don’t deserve respect.”
You’re half right. The first statement is true. The second is patently false. Adults are notorious for treating children as second class citizens because it’s convenient to do so. It’s easier to own an obedient robot who you’re free to abuse and manipulate than it is to peacefully raise a virtuous, free-thinking, autonomous child.
Here’s a wake up call: your child is not your property. We used to say that women and blacks were our property and we’ve managed to evolve beyond that. Behaving as if children are your property is a declaration that you’re still stuck in the dark ages of humanity. Your child’s relationship with you should be seen as voluntary, just as your spouse’s relationship with you is voluntary. If you can’t earn an authentic relationship with them, you don’t deserve to have one.
Your child didn’t choose you and they can’t escape. Sick people see that as a green light for hypocritical behavior. Virtuous people see it as a mandate to treat them with the utmost respect.
“I’m a good parent. You need to stop judging me!”
One of the biggest movements right now is the mom-as-victim movement. Posting research that shows spanking damages a child’s brain elicits a victimhood response from moms all over the internet. “Yep, more judgements about how I’m the worst mom in the world! We already have enough anxiety, all you want to do is make us feel bad and shame us!”
Playing the victim card is not helpful. In fact, since the safety and psychological wellbeing of voiceless children is at stake, I’d say it’s quite selfish and destructive.
Children deserve to have a voice, regardless of how you claim it makes you feel. If you volunteer to be a mother or father, then you volunteer for scrutiny if you choose to behave in a hypocritical and destructive manner.
I wouldn’t stand for your husband hitting you, so I won’t stand for you hitting your daughter or your son. It’s not about judgement, it’s about reason.
As far as guilt is concerned, just because you feel guilt doesn’t mean I’m shaming you. The guilt you feel is a sign that you have a conscience—listen to that conscience, leverage it, and do the right thing.
I do take issue with the term Peaceful Parenting. Permissiveness is peaceful, but it’s not effective or authentic. Peaceful parents do need to be held accountable. If you’re parenting permissively, you’ve still got a lot of work to do.
The bigger issue, though, is people confusing permissive parenting with authentic, peaceful parenting and using that as an excuse to continue their authoritarian ways. Sometimes it’s legitimate confusion and sometimes it’s a defense mechanism. Either way, it’s important that we continue to distinguish authentic parenting principles from inauthentic ones.
While this article might sound like a harsh attack on authoritarian parents, it’s not. It’s a harsh attack on people who are unwilling to consider their behavior as destructive and who appear unwilling to afford children a voice.
If you come to this community with an open mind, I don’t care what you’ve done in the past. You’re welcome here. None of us are perfect. The only people who aren’t welcome are those who want nothing more than to protect the status quo.