Dennis Hackethal’s Blog

My blog about philosophy, coding, and anything else that interests me.

Published · 1-minute read

But You’re Not a Parent!

Some parents claim to have authority on the topic of how to raise children. Once they learn that someone doesn’t have children, they feel at liberty to dismiss that person’s opinions on child rearing.

They claim, in short: But you’re not a parent! You can’t know how to raise a child.

I’ll admit there’s a grain of truth in their claim. Non-parents don’t know how to change a diaper, say. They lack the experience to deal with such practical problems.

But we were all children once, so we do have some experience in this matter.

And the claim goes further. It effectively states that, if someone were a parent, they would know not to treat children as people – that children need to be controlled, and their wishes sometimes overridden, for their own good.

It’s certainly possible that, when someone becomes a parent, a so-far dormant program in their mind jumps into action that turns them into yet another brute of a parent. But then they would be just as mistaken.

Translated, the claim effectively amounts to that of a slaveholder saying: you cannot oppose slavery unless you’re a slaveholder.

My point is not to compare parents to slaveholders.1 The parallel lies in the fact that the enlightenment doesn’t extend to children yet, just as it didn’t to slaves, as Sarah Fitz-Claridge from Taking Children Seriously (TCS) has pointed out. Therefore, pre-enlightenment misconceptions about children still abound today, and popular ideas about child rearing are just as outdated and inhumane as those about slavery were 200 years ago, in quality if not in content.

‘Liberals’ sometimes pull a trick similar to the slaveholder argument by claiming that men (at least those who disagree with them) shouldn’t speak on the issue of abortion. (All while claiming that biological men can be women – so then they should be open to men’s opinions on abortion? I digress…)

At its core, it’s an argument from authority, and it’s invalid for all the same reasons. But this one is even worse: it claims that, to criticize it, you first need to accept it as true. But once you’ve accepted it as true, you won’t want to criticize it!

Wouldn’t authoritarian parents be surprised to know that there are parents who disagree with them? Several such parents have written articles on the TCS website. Might authoritarian parents not be relieved to learn that children can be raised with respect and without control and ‘turn out’ completely fine?

Thanks to Charles Bédard, Sarah Fitz-Claridge, Sam Kuypers, Damon Sasi, Lulie Tanett, and Karl Wilzén for discussing this topic with me.

  1. Parents who force their children to work are a bit like slaveholders, but I think that’s a minority. Teachers are a bit like slaveholders, too, especially PE teachers, but that’s not what I mean, either. 


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