Fallacy of negotiated parenting

July 10, 2017

The fallacy of parenting by negotiation.

There is a popular style of parenting that goes something like this,

‘I always explain to Charlie exactly why he has to do something. We discuss it in a rational, grown up manner. I try to explain the reasoning behind our decisions. We think you shouldn’t impose things on children at least not without giving them a chance to have their say. We like to treat our children as ‘equals’.

There is civility and order about this that is undoubtedly appealing. No more arguments or tantrums, no battles of wills just civilized discussions or at least that’s the theory.

However this parenting style has some serious flaws. It assumes all members of the family have equal status and this is manifestly not true. It is our job to try as best we can to create a secure and loving environment for them and this means we sometimes have to make decisions they don’t like or agree with.

Most children aren’t able to make grown up decisions about what is good for them and what isn’t. What they think should happen is based on what they want to happen not what is in their best interests.

Further it also creates the illusion that the world is place where everything can be negotiated, this is patently not true. The teenager reared on a diet of negotiated settlements is in for a nasty shock when they enter the adult world. There is the lesser, but nevertheless relevant issue, which is that explaining and negotiating every decision, takes too much time.

My view is that the real appeal of this style of parenting is that it avoids conflict and suits parents who don’t want to upset their children, who don’t like conflict and/or can’t bear their children being angry with them. Yet the management of conflict is a very important skill to learn, as is the capacity to put up with things not going your way. These skills are best learned in the safety of the family.

It is not an infringement of their human rights to have to do what they are told without explanation or negotiation.


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