We are temporary caretakers of our children, not owners.

I was just reminded of the social phenomenon of parents who think it’s appropriate to give their children rules without bothering to explain their reasons, presumably to put an iron fist down and teach their children that all they have to do is listen and obey, thinking that giving their children the luxury of an explanation is too lenient, if not simply inconvenient.

Don’t do this. This kind of thinking is poisonous and authoritarian. It’s frustrating and makes your child resent you and creates and adversarial relationship between you and your child, which is neither healthy nor beneficial.

Children are not born to be ruled over. Freedom is the most basic desire and purpose for all humans, including children. Parents are meant to be their children’s caretakers, not their bosses. (In truth, children were meant to be raised by the entire community, where presumably they’d be able to choose whom they like to spend time with and accept as role models, but today’s society makes that impossible.)

Children should also be treated as largely autonomous beings who have their own paths in life and should be able to decide for themselves who and what they want to be and to make their own mistakes. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the parents’ job to mold them into the people that the parents think they should be.

It may be true that some guidelines should be set down just for the sake of protection in a dangerous world for children who do not yet sufficiently understand it, but it’s much more psychologically healthy for the child (and more generally productive for reasons related to the very purpose of the rule itself) if the child is made to understand the reasons for a given rule.

Speaking of role models, the natural way for a child to learn how to live life and what to do and not to do is by example, not by instruction and threat. Of course, while command via threat should be used as seldom as possible, setting an example is not the only healthy avenue for guidance. From National Institute of Mental Health, ‘a research sampler on families and children,’ regarding Native American culture, ‘scolding has been done by a stern look and correction often achieved by “teasing” rather than physical punishment.’

You may think that Native American culture is often idealized, while no human culture is or was actually perfect, but just the fact that they handled correction in this manner shows that it’s possible, and doesn’t it sound like a much more positive and less anti-social way of doing things?

While I’m on the subject of child-rearing, I should also mention that study after study has shown that corporal punishment (i.e., spanking) has many negative short- and long-term psychological ramifications (including a lowering of IQ, and longer-term behavioral problems which ultimately defeat the purpose), and hardly any positive ones. It’s simply violent, heavy-handed, anti-social and unnecessary.

The idea that corporal punishment is normal and healthy is just one of the many blights of our culture; particularly it’s one of those blights in the form of sins we commit against children, which are especially damaging. We think it’s normal and healthy just because it’s what our parents did to us, and “hey, we turned out fine.”

In many countries, spanking children is not only considered unacceptable behavior but is also illegal. Other countries aren’t automatically better by virtue of being foreign countries, of course, but again, this shows that corporal punishment simply isn’t as necessary an evil as we tend to think it is.

More of the article quoted above can be seen here: http://inhahe.livejournal.com/107967.html

Another webpage that’s tangentially related to this topic is this one: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-signs-of-a-micromanaged-child

Here is an excellent Quora answer on the subject of corporal punishment and parental discipline in general, by someone who was raised without rules. https://www.quora.com/What-happens-when-your-parents-raised-you-without-rules/answer/Nathaniel-White-20

For more information on studies showing the negative ramifications of corporal punishment of children, I’d suggest you do your own research; that way you know that what you find isn’t a result of my cherry-picking.

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