Don’t tell me what to do. Aren’t you violating my right to choose?
We aren’t telling people what to do. The NAP isn’t a mandate backed by force (like a law). It’s an ethical framework that determines which actions are immoral, but we leave the choice to you. If you accept the argument, which we do our best to outline, we want to support you in doing what is right. If you don’t accept the argument, we’d love to hear your counter-argument, but we have no interest in forcing you to do anything.
We do, however, argue for what people should not do. We would tell an abusive husband he should not hit his wife. We would argue that hitting his wife is not a right, or choice that he has. And we have the same stance with parents and children.
You’re a purist! Life isn’t black and white, right and wrong. We’re all just doing our best to get our own needs met. We should move beyond this naive, oversimplified paradigm.
There is wrong in the world. Let’s call it what it is. Rape is wrong, slavery is wrong. Who disagrees? The rapist is trying to get his need met, the slave owner too. We sympathize, to some degree. They probably had terrible upbringings, and that’s tragic.
Humans make choices. We are moral agents. We have some responsibility for our actions, right and wrong and in-between. To strip people of that responsibility is disempowering. We empower each other by saying, “You can do it, you can take control, you can change your life and the world. You can choose your principles, and you can live by them.” And of course, with that choice and power comes responsibility.
Many people fear that responsibility. So they try their hardest to convince themselves and others that they have no power and choice. But if you can speak, if you can act, if you can think, that powerlessness is largely self-imposed. To commit to the principle of non-aggression is a choice. No one will compel you to hit or yell at your children. Let’s not complicate it or make excuses. You have the power to stop, right now, forever.
I’m doing the best I can with the knowledge I have, just like my parents. Isn’t that enough?
That’s all we’re asking, for people to do their best. We should all do the absolute best we can with the absolute best knowledge available. With access to the internet, libraries, and parenting groups, can we say we’ve gathered all the knowledge needed for effective, positive parenting?
Take an inventory of how you spend your time. Think about the time spent researching a new car or a new kitchen appliance to buy. Think about the hours spent reading about politics, nutrition, stocks, or gardening. And think about the time spent studying best practices for raising your child, understanding their unique development and environments. The decades of scientific studies on spanking, circumcision, medication, education, daycare, communication, rewards and punishments… We need to put our energy where our hearts are, and in what returns the most value to us, and that’s in raising happy children and enjoying a peaceful household. Your car will be junk in a decade or so, but your child could be your best friend for life.
When it comes to ethics, doing your best simply means making a firm commitment. We don’t “do our best” not to steal or murder. Those options just aren’t on the table! Even smaller obligations, like being at work on time or doing the dishes, we don’t say “I’ll try!”
Make the vow to yourself and your children: I will not initiate force or aggression with you ever, and stick to it. No hitting, no screaming, no time-outs, no confiscation of property. See what beautiful solutions arise when we abandon the tool of domination.
I’m a product of my broken environment and parenting. Don’t you have any empathy for my pain?
This challenge, to end the cycle of violence towards children, which has been largely unquestioned for millennia, is likely the most difficult and important work any of us will ever do. Everyone here, working on this mission, knows that struggle.
We don’t want to spend time finger-wagging and preaching. We want to make the case clearly and simply: that to aggress against children is wrong. This is the cornerstone of our mission, and if you think we are wrong about it, PLEASE challenge us! None of us here were raised peacefully. We arrived at this position through challenges and corrections when we were misguided, when we were tempted to repeat the cycle, and we always welcome criticism.
But if you accept the argument, that children deserve the same protections that adults enjoy, we are in the same boat. We say the ethic is simple, but would never pretend that putting it to practice is easy. Our goal is not to condemn, but to support. We’re committed to helping each other heal the wounds of our childhoods, and to put an end to the behaviors and ideologies that caused them.
What experience do you have that gives you the right to dictate what I do not do with my children?
All of the writers here have a least a decade experience working/living with children, but no experience is required to make a moral argument. Again, using the example of the abusive husband, the argument wouldn’t require that we are all happily married. A non-married person can be anti-spousal-abuse. Using the simple definition of personhood and self-ownership, we can call human-rights violations what they are without necessarily engaging in similar relationships.
That means anyone can join this fight, and feel confident in dismissing the attack: “but you don’t have kids / kids like mine / a PhD in kid-ology”, etc.
Ethics is just another religion. They don’t exist in reality, and I don’t believe in them.
Our argument for ethics does not appeal to any gods or higher authority. We don’t worship or have blind-faith in the NAP.
It’s true that ethics are merely a concept, not a physical law. Science, math, time; these are just conceptual understandings of our physical reality. They are rational, objective, consistent, predictive, falsifiable, testable, logical, empirical, but do not exist outside of our minds. Ethics are no different.
Math that is not consistent is not valid. Ethics which are not consistent are not valid. There are ways in which we can treat each other which are rational and consistent. “All people everywhere should not murder, all the time.” We can at least say that is a consistent (applies to everyone) moral theory. “It is right for this person to forcibly take money from those people, but not vice versa”, is an inconsistent moral theory, and therefor invalid.
The non-aggression principle, which holds that, “It is wrong to initiate force against another person or their property”, is consistent and rational. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility, meaning we could all adhere to it. To make exceptions for a certain group of people (parents vs. children) is inconsistent, and therefor an invalid moral theory.
I’m feeling attacked by you calling me wrong and immoral. How is it helpful to call people wrong or shame them and blame them?
We talk about behaviors being right and wrong, not people. We try to avoid shame or blame, and simply ask that people take responsibility for their actions, and live by their principles. If you share the principle that to aggress against children is wrong then you can decide if you are living in accordance with your own principles. If you’re feeling ashamed for being aggressive to children, especially if you claim to live by the opposite principle, then that is an entirely appropriate emotion for that scenario. It’s also something with which we’re familiar, and offer support around. Finally, if you would like help finding solutions to live by those principles, we want to collaborate with you.
I know some ‘peaceful parents’… their kids are terrors, and they walk all over the parents who can’t say no. Aren’t these kids missing the firm discipline they need?
This is one of the most important issues for us to understand. NAP parenting is NOT passive/permissive parenting, or un-parenting, which can be as damaging as aggressive parenting. We advocate that people stop using aggression with children, but also want to help them discover tools to replace that type of behavior.
We believe in non-aggressive and ‘natural’ consequences, both positive and negative. Again, this is paralleled with the accepted treatment of other adults. If your friend loses his temper and snaps at you, a natural, non-aggressive consequence may be to not invite him to that party you were going to. Similarly, if your child is being aggressive and rude, perhaps he’s hitting you or throws his food on the floor, you can be assertive in insisting he correct the problem, and if he refuses, you can simply say no to the next treat he asks for. Perhaps you decide not to play a board game with him, or decide to read him one bedtime story instead of the usual two or three. This would all be accompanied with age-appropriate explanations, and a desire to help him do better in the future.
If you create a generally positive, fun, peaceful environment with your child, they will want your attention. Simply saying in a calm voice, “I’m too angry right now, I’m choosing not to engage with you for a while” is a powerful message. Or, “This is my television, and I’m not going to share it with you today. You can play with your toys instead.”
These are simplified solutions, that rely on some other factors which we’ll discuss. This is just to make the point that negative consequences are always available, and remain within the ethical framework.
I was spanked and I turned out fine!
Listen to your argument. You’re saying that you have a complete anecdote (a study with the sample size of one), and you’re relying entirely on self-reporting to determine if you, in fact, turned out “fine”. Do you have a twin brother who wasn’t spanked, by chance? No? Then your point is hardly worth addressing.
“I don’t wear seatbelts and I’ve never been injured in a car accident!”
“I smoked cigarettes and I don’t have lung cancer!”
That’s not how statistics and science work. And even victims of spanking turned out better than fine, we’re arguing that it is immoral, not that it is harmful.