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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.

Comments

But then, there are people like me floating around society. People that were psychologically crippled because walking the straight-and-narrow in their family meant a backhand across the face if disobeyed. I've thought about having kids of my own, and I've gone 'round and 'round in my head with what to do and how to do it. But, in the end, we've chosen not to. And mostly, it's my decision. I'm deathly afraid of what kind of monster I may turn out to be...either unwittingly or consciously. Kinda like a deer caught in the headlights. Damned if I do. Damned if I don't.

No one has to be a recreation of their parents.

And I should have clarified my feeling that there is a great divide between authoritian and physically abusive. I don't slap my kids around - in fact I've been chastised for not hitting them.

Lots of people don't get that there's a line between the two, and thanks for clarifying that. I expect children to behave...not run around like wild little heathens in Walmart when their mother's back is turned.

And yes, that's the one thing I fear most...I'll end up a re-creation of my parental role models. Which basically means I'd be a walking Martha-Stewart-housecleaning-Antichrist.

ok. my comment disappeared into the ether somewhere. anywho...thanks for adding that part. so many people don't get that there's a line in the sand, and it shouldn't be crossed. And really, that's the one thing I fear the most -- I'll end up being a re-creation of my parental role models. A crossbreed between Martha Stewart and the Antichrist. Oh wait...isn't SHE the Antichrist?

I don't know though...while I disagree with most of what that parent is saying about how children should be raised, I'm at least happy that they're thinking about it. Since my daughter started school, I've dealt with so many parents who don't even think about their kids, it amazes me.

Great! Anarchist parents raising anarchist children! Children are anarchists and need firm but loving guidance so they won't turn into "F--ktards" like the author of that drivel.

I am suddenly overwhelmed by images from The Simpsons of Ned Flanders' beatnik parents wondering why he won't behave.

i thought the kids in iraq weren't free, and that's why we're going to kill them. or something. now i'm confused.

bah, you can slap me anytime though.

g,
You're not confused, you're stupid... but because you're stupid you don't know the difference... relax and let the big people take care of things... now go in the other room like a good boy while the grownups talk, OK?

I think the irony is, she's so focused on showing her daughter how good anarchism is that her daughter doesn't have the choice to think about being something else.

I think anarchism is good, actually, from what I understand of it, the theory is that the natural leaders will shine through and people will organise themselves into communities. If they want to.

And her daughter is too young to be taken to demonstrations. Children, IMHO, need a foundation of, er, values to build on. My mum wasn't authoritarian, but she certainly let us know what was and wasn't acceptable behaviour, then let us make our own mistakes as we got older. If a parent refuses to impart those values, the kid's going to grow up quite messed up. But like I said, IMHO.

I don't exactly treat my kids like slaves but I do feel that I have ownership over them.

But there's an important distinction here. Things (or people, in the case of slavery) that you own, you can use for your own benefit, even destroy. Having authority over someone isn't the same as ownership at all. I figure that parents have authority over their children, but that authority is to be exercised for the child's benefit, not the parents.

You have authority so that you can keep your children safe, see that they study, teach them self-discipline, and so on... not so you can, say, send them to work and live off their earnings, or use them for your benefit in other ways. (I don't think asking the kid to fetch you the remote control falls into this category. ;-)

It's weird, because I was just over at that site this morning. And I have to say Amen! to what you're posting now. It's not that I can't relate to the tart's post, believe me, I can. I had the same fears when I started out. But the kids are already here, and I have to do something with them, so... having raised them for 18 years now, I can tell you that anarchy just. won't. work.

My parents lambasted me for being too free with my kids, for not spanking them. Hell, they considered me an anarchist! But I followed my gut, and all three of my kids have turned out ok so far. Someone has to be in charge, and dammit, we adults know a lot more than the kids do, just because we've been alive longer.

Some parents, of course, shouldn't be- they are too messed up. But tart, if you have the brains to question your suitability as a parent, IMHO you'd probably do ok.

I'm always looking for alternative parenting methods, because I know from experience that parents don't know everything and aren't always right. But this anarchist stuff didn't sit right with me.

Deal with situations as they arise. Employ compassion, empathy, and love. Admit when you're wrong. Apologize if necessary. And whoop ass (not literally) if you get truly pissed. Don't run your life according to a manifesto.

If you truly believe in something, your kids will catch on without you pounding it into their heads. At age 5. Sheesh!

Thanks for the space to rant-

Funny, I was just over at that same site yesterday. Kris basically said what I wanted to; raising kids according to any system probably won't work, IMO, if said system goes beyond "teach them to take responsibility, question authority and think for themselves". Because that's the system I apply, you see, and of course I'm always right.

Every family is different, every child and their situation is too. I see too many parents who take no interest in their children, but also many who stifle their children by taking too much interest and overwhelming them.

So far my kids are turning out okay, but no way would I ever, ever presume to tell other people how to raise their kids. Except in rant mode, when I'd stress the importance of love, boundaries, responsibility and occasional benign neglect - children need unstructured play, IMO.

PS, I also think the Tart should go have a kid, I'm sure she'd do better than most out there. Michele, please take a poll on this.

The thing that gets me about this anarchist parent person is that she just gushes over her daughter DOING WHAT KIDS DO!!!!! She thinks it's some great sign of the Next Great Anarchist Revolutionary. Kids are VERY observant and and curious, and when their parents contradict themselves, whether they're anarchists or capitalists, they call them on it. How many times do kids say WHY? WHY? WHY? Or, "But you said before..."? She needs to get over herself.

And as for "that damned tart"... she's already so thoughtful about the impact her past might have on her that I'm sure she'd make a great parent, especially since there's so much help out there if you feel you need it. And it would be a shame for her to not have kids if she really wants them. Especially when there are so many people out there who give no consideration to it at all and have one kid after another. And I'm with Miguel, it'd be interesting to do a poll.

me? with a kid? are you on crack?