Letting Kids “Talk Back”

Libby Anne was raised by Quiverfull parents who believed in using lots of corporal punishment in order to quite literally break all the defiance and willfulness of their children. She relates a fantastic story of how she responded to her three year old daughter tripping over her infant son with reason rather than yelling as her visiting brother watched on. Afterwards she relays the important conversation she had with him:

We talked about how we felt when we were spanked. We talked about the feelings of helplessness and anger. But mostly we talked about back talk. You know, where you try to explain what happened and then, rather than listening to you, the response you get is “that’ll be three more spanks, and for every additional word you say, I’ll add another spank.” That feeling like you’re being smothered. The rage rising inside, threatening to overwhelm you until you begin to feel nauseous. The moment when you realize that what hurts is not so much that they don’t understand as that they don’t want to understand. That you matter that little.

Read and spread the whole post. It’s great. And vital.

Libby Anne’s view of reasoning with children was most memorably summed up for me in a post where she expressed her desire “to remember that even when I’m annoyed, or tired, or when she is simply not doing what I want her to do and I’m at the end of my rope, my daughter still desperately wants my love and wants me to be pleased with her. She’s just a little person trying to figure things out, not a monster out to get me.”

A page on her blog overviews her philosophy of parenting and links to posts on key topics. There she writes:

Positive parenting focuses on raising children to be capable, independent, compassionate adults rather than on instilling obedience and compliance. Positive parenting sees children as individuals with needs of their own and focuses on cooperation and mutual respect between the parent and child. Positive parenting rejects corporal punishment and tends to minimize punishment in general, seeking instead to encourage good behavior and foster the child’s self-determination and understanding of natural consequences.

I adopted positive parenting when my first child, a daughter, was about a year old, and it completely transformed my relationship with her. No longer a contest of wills, parenting has become a cooperative enterprise filled with mutual respect and surprises along the way.

I should note that my experiences with and thoughts on positive parenting fall against the backdrop of having been raised on the strict authoritarian discipline methods of Michael and Debi Pearl, as enshrined in their child rearing manual, To Train Up A Child. To read more about my thoughts on the Pearls and their methods, click here.

Feel free to peruse my Key Posts on positive parenting, and to look at the positive parenting Resources I have gathered. For everything I have written on positive parenting, click here. Or, feel free to also read more of what I’ve written on childrenand family.

My own thoughts on parenting and reasoning with children can be found in the posts below:

A Video Conversation on Atheist Parenting 

Faith as Corruption of Children’s Intellectual Judgment

Christopher Hitchens and Freethinking Parenting at its Best

How to Argue with Teens

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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