Many voluntaryists feel conflicted when it comes to raising children. The biggest issue is feeling authoritarian when setting rules for your children and issuing punishments when these rules are violated. As voluntaryists, we believe that mature adults are perfectly capable of interacting peacefully absent any authority. So, it’s understandable that we can feel a little hypocritical when we act as an authority to our own children.
From my perspective, the basis of voluntaryism is natural rights. In fact, I would argue the very basis of humanity is our natural rights and our ability to comprehend equality. If you’ve read my other posts, you’ve probably figured out by now that I love talking about natural rights. The concept and its simplicity make complete sense to me. I found myself even more enthused about the subject after reading John Locke’s The Second Treatise on Government. Locke’s explanation of property rights is outstanding. It’s easy to see how his writings influenced Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and other U.S. founding fathers.
I bring up this book because in Chapter 6: Of Paternal Power, Locke’s explanation of the role parent’s play in the development of a free child made a lot of sense to me. We, including our children, are all created equal with equal rights. Parenting is as natural as our rights. Children instinctively latch to a parental figure and adults instinctively want to provide care and protection for children (even children they do not know). However, to function as any sort of society, we must recognize our own equality and know how to use our rights responsibly. This is where parenting plays a huge role.
As parents, we are responsible for ensuring our children grow up to peacefully interact with others. This will require setting some boundaries for children and executing reasonable consequences when they are crossed. I have found that explaining violations to my children and suggesting alternative actions for future situations is rather effective. These conversations usually involve explaining how their actions affect others in an unfair way. This doesn’t produce immediate results, but consistency will eventually influence them to consider peaceful, responsible actions during their day to day activities.
All of this is not to justify a totalitarian regime in your home. Kids will be kids, and allowing them to be free outside of reasonable boundaries allows them to learn on their own. Keep the rules and consequences understandable, justifiable, and consistent and children will easily oblige.
Originally posted on Here