After reading an article about what libertarian parenting is from Steve Horowitz and being asked by many others what it means to me, I am going to lay it out best I can.
To me, libertarian parenting is not a hands-off approach to parenting. It is not letting the child decide what is best or what the child wants. To me, it is about living my principles in every aspect of my life. The non-aggression principle being a key tenant to most libertarian thought, I try to apply that in my parenting as well. I try not so physically discipline my child, I even try not to yell at my children. I am not saying that yelling is a violation of the NAP but yelling has not proved effective as a parenting tool. In Steve’s article, he mentions 4 styles of parenting Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Neglectful. On this spectrum, my wife and I try to fall under the Authoritative style of parenting. We set limits, encourage independence and risk taking, set rules, discipline, and allow our children to make their own decisions within the limits that have been set.
Spanking is a big topic in the libertarian world when libertarianism is applied to parenting. Should you spank, should you not? I will not tell another how to raise their children but as for us, we try not to. As a philosophical anarchist, I cannot square my principles with the idea of spanking. Does that mean that libertarians cannot spank their children? Most would say yes, I would say no. Minarchism, which is clearly in the realm of libertarianism, allows for force to be used as a coercive measure on a limited basis. I can see minarchist being in-line with their principles and spanking. Same with libertarian Christians and others. This is not to say that I am a perfect parent and have not spanked my child, I have and I regret it. I finally understand why my parents said it was more painful for them than me. It is not something many people like doing. The important aspect, I believe, is living your principles throughout your entire life and not to compartmentalize them to one aspect.
One aspect of my parenting that some find odd, especially the nieces and nephews, is that I do not make my children share their toys. This is not to say that I do not encourage them or lead by example. When my nieces or nephews come to me and ask me to make my son share a particular toy, I politely tell them that it is Isaiah’s and that they will have to work it out with him. This does two things I believe. It helps solidify the idea of property rights to the kids, mainly mine, but it also helps all of them with interpersonal conflict resolution. This is something millennials seem to be missing is the ability to handle conflict without resorting to the use of governmental force to ban something they do not like. My son usually shares, as I often talk with him about the importance of sharing what we have with others. This rubs some parents the wrong way, but most of the ones who have an issue with it are the same ones who helicopter over their children.
This seems to be a big thing as well. Many that I have talked to seem to believe that children should be compensated for everything they do. I don’t agree with this at all. My son does things around the house without being paid. Does he get money? Yes. He wanted to have a job so he could get paid like me. I gave him the job of feeding the dog. When he does it he gets paid and when he doesn’t and I have to do it, he gets nothing. This leads to the question about what kids are allowed to do with their own money. I have set up a system that my son follows and enjoys. He has three tin cans for his money. One for saving, one for giving, and one for spending. I have him put the majority of what he earns into his savings and split the rest between his giving and spending cans. He enjoys it. I then take him and his saving and purchase silver coins as his savings. He spends his money on what he wants when he remembers to take it. As far as his giving can, we donate year round but we give money at two specific times of year as well. When these dates come around I donate money and usually other items as well to various organizations and I let my son choose what organization he would like to donate to. This is important to my wife and I to instill a sense of giving and charity into our children. Is it wrong of me to force him to give his money? Well, I would say no because he looks forward to it and I don’t make him do it. He follows the example of my wife and I.
Where I think libertarian parenting really stands out is in schooling our own children. Good parenting is the best thing we could do for our children followed closely by schooling them. I am not comfortable and it is not in-line with my principles to allow the government to have my children for a majority of their life. The way my wife and I view it is that while we are being taxed for schools and have a right to whatever the money is being spent on, it would not be beneficial to our family or our children if we sent them to public schools. We also do not trust others to teach our children what they need and should know so that takes private schools out as well. We couldn’t see giving up our parental prerogative to others for 8 hours a day. My personal view is that homeschooling is probably the most libertarian and important thing you could do.
One area that I think most libertarian parents can agree on is that we should allow our kids to play without constant supervision. Allow them to take risks, have fun, interact, and be children. Let them have a childhood and enjoy it. The interaction between various ages of children is good for all involved and child-led play is great for their development as well.
The parenting style of my wife and I is not perfect but it works for us. Libertarian parenting is not a one lane highway, it is a beautiful network of different parenting styles that intermingle to form whatever works for your family and your children. There will always be those parents out there that will tell you not to spank, yell, or you’re giving too much freedom or you’re to structured. Do what is best for your child’s development. If after looking at your situation and you find the criticism is right, adjust and keep going. Parenting is not static and it will evolve