anarchy: it's for the children(tm)
Anarchy: It's For the Childrentm
I stumbled onto Anarchistparenting.com this morning and from there, found this article: What methods of child rearing do anarchists advocate?
If one accepts the thesis that the authoritarian family is the breeding ground for both individual psychological problems and political reaction, it follows that anarchists should try to develop ways of raising children that will not psychologically cripple them but instead enable them to accept freedom and responsibility while developing natural self-regulation. We will refer to children raised in such a way as "free children."
the authoritarian family is the breeding ground for both individual psychological problems...
Interesting, because every therapist my children have been to have told me that I don't assert my authority enough. Even more interesting is once I changed that habit, most of the problems I had with my children disappeared. I now firmly believe that being an authoritarian parent is something kids need. I don't understand how one "psychollogically cripples" a child by being an assertive authority figure to them.
Free children? All children are "free." Free will is a right of any human being. And even though I am an authoritarian figure with them, my kids still have the right to think for themselves, to discover their own way in life, to make choices about their everyday lives.
If we accept that children are the property of their parents then we are implicitly stating that a child's formative years are spent in slavery, hardly a relationship which will promote the individuality and freedom of the child or the wider society. Little wonder that most anarchists reject such assertions. Instead they argue that the "rights of the parents shall be confined to loving their children and exercising over them . . . authority [that] does not run counter to their morality, their mental development, or their future freedom."(please see article for citations)
Well about the slavery thing - sure I was my parents' slave, so to speak. I was their personal remote control, light dimmer and waitress. And that's ok because they were my personal chauferrs and tutors and cooks. Being their "slave" certainly did not stop me from developing my own personality, individuality or freedom. In fact, for most of my adult years, my morality and politics ran counter to that of my parents.
I don't exactly treat my kids like slaves but I do feel that I have ownership over them. They must answer to me. They must obey me. They must do as they are told. Because I am the adult in the house, and I know better than them what needs to be done and how it needs to be done and why.
The article then goes on to explain how parents who stifle their children by not raising them "free" cause their children to reduce their "life-energy" when they have to submerge their natural expression, thus causing them untold physical and emotional pain.
Ignoring that notion for now, let's move on to Anarchist Child Rearing in a Capitalist Society :
After hearing me talk so often about the evils of government, my five year old daughter asks me "are you my government or something?" when I tell her to do things she doesn't really want to do. I'm constantly having to explain why I've asked her to do things. It's annoying and it takes a hell of a lot of time, but she won't accept authority blindly, not even from her parents.
She's talking about her five year old daughter there. Yes, she talks to her five year old about the evils of government. This, to me, flies in the face of the anarchist parent's asserstion that children should be raised "free" and able to make their own choices. Indoctrinating a child to your world view from that young and impressionable age is hardly encouraging free thought.
Maybe I am old fashioned, but I think kids, at least until a certain age, should accept a parent's authority blindly. If I tell my daughter to clean her room and she asks me why, she is not going to happy with my reaction to that question. If I tell my son to do his homework and he questions why he needs to do his homework, I won't even answer him. On the other hand, the author of the article is clearly telling her daughter that government is evil and the daughter is not questioning it. The mother, by raising her child to believe that captalism is the tool of satan, has expected her daughter to place blind trust in the mother's certainty of that statement.
Living in Los Angeles, going to demos and marches has also taught her lessons about the police. She has already abandoned the naive childhood trust in police that so many of her young friends exhibit.
In essence, she has undremined any authority figure her daughter may encounter. She does not trust the goverment nor the police, and while most adults don't, I think it is critical at five years old to think of the police as your friend, not as someone that mommy shouts "pig!" to when attending protest marches. Respect for authority - not necessarily blind trust - is something all kids should have. Later in life, when they are labeled "trouble makers" and have a hard time holding down a steady job, they can look back and blame the parents, justifiably.
Being a parent has taught me a lot about being an anarchist. My daughter is constantly reminding me how important it is to play. She questions my authority when I tell her to do things - "stop screaming," "come here," "get dressed," "pick up your toys" - the list is endless. "Why?" she constantly asks. Sometimes I find I don't have a good answer. And not having an answer keeps me in check. Maybe my request was unreasonable.
I always have a good answer. It's the same answer my parents gave me - "Because I asked you to." Not because I told you to - but because I asked. Stop screaming because it is really obnoxious and it does nothing to get your point across. Get dressed because we need to be out of the house in five minutes. Pick up your toys because it is your responsibility to take care of the mess you made. None of those things are unreasonable requests. I can imagine this child, in the fourth or fifth grade, questioning everything the teachers ask -whether it is something as simple as taking out their math textbook or as complicated as dividing fractions. And I can see this child as a young adult, trying to make it in the working world and wondering why she keeps getting fired for insubordination.
I'm not saying that kids should not question anything. But questioning authority is not an issue in my house. It's just not done. I also think five is a little young to be teaching kids about sweatshops and migrant workers. Nothing like giving a kid a needless sense of guilt at so early an age.
Despite my authoritarian beliefs, my kids have turned out to be quite the free thinkers. My daughter, much to my chagrin, is a liberal waiting to happen. But that is her choice and one I cannot and will not make for her. They read the papers and watch the news and ask questions about world events and I give them facts - not opinions - and let them develop their own individual opinions from there.
One of the last lines in the article is this: My kids are young yet. Perhaps the hardest part about being an anarchist parent will be letting go of them, allowing them to develop into whatever they want to be, even if it isn't an anarchist.
But by telling her child that captalism is bad and government is evil and cops are pigs and mommy should be questioned, she has stunted that development. Their minds are already fixed in one spot and their beliefs have already taken root, and that root is firmly attached to their mother's ideology. Instead of raising free children, is raising chidren who will be tied to her world views. That is not free.
Is there something wrong with my belief that kids should obey their parents, as well as their grandparents and other adult figures in their home? Is there something wrong with expecting them to have respect for authority and to not question the rules and regulations that, being children, are set up for their safety and concern?
There are plenty more articles there I would like to tackle. Another day, another rant.