On Children and Childrearing
Henry H. Lindner
To understand our society's attitude towards children, we must think philosophically. We must be philosophical detectives, routing out the unstated assumptions underlying current beliefs, behavior, and institutions. Otherwise, our minds remain under the sway of the ancient religious and statist ideologies absorbed from our parents and society. What are these ideologies?
Christianity is the underlying moral foundation of Western culture. It holds that man is not an animal, and therefore will not mature as an animal does. Instead he is a spirit somehow "housed" in an animal body. This "spirit" is tainted by original sin. It is naturally evil, i.e. lazy, self-defeating, violent, etc. This "spirit" has "free will" from birth and thus can supposedly choose to act correctly and obediently. Therefore, the parent's task is to force the child to act "right" by any means possible, including withholding love, confining the child, and using physical violence. Such is the origin of most childrearing and schooling practices in the West that continue unchanged today.
The governments of Western countries are based on religious ideas, in spite of their desire to evade this fact. Where else could governments get their ideas of good and evil, right and wrong? Where else could they get their legitimacy? From Science? From non-existent philosophical ideas? Governments therefore follow religion in maintaining our authoritarian society. Governments also assume that humans are born lazy, self-defeating, violent, etc. Government believe, therefore that they have the right to force all children into forced servitude in schools where they are taught to obey authority and to memorize state-approved material for the entire of their developmental lives from age 6 to 18. This 12 year sentence of imprisonment and brainwashing prepares them for a mindless life of conformity and obedience to the government and its chartered professions and corporations.
Now I ask you, aren't we humans animals? Did we not evolve here on this Earth? Is there not fossil evidence of our evolution? If we are animals, then why do we hold fast to crazy ideas about ourselves that we would never dream of applying to other animals? What kind of fool would assert that puppies are born lazy, self-defeating, selfish, and violent? How about giraffes? Hummingbirds? Chimpanzees? Why do we single out humans as being bad at birth? Why do we brand an infant's or child's behavior and thought as evil? Why do we force children into "adult" behaviors when they're mind are immature? Why do we insist that they "share" their property with other children when their brains aren't sufficiently mature to understand the concept, as we as adults would never dream of sharing our BMWs with our neighbor? Why? Because humans long ago formed theories about why they were so different from animals, and those inadequate theories (myth) became religions. We now know much much more about the Cosmos, life, and humanity than they did millenia ago. We must be philosophers. We must toss out old, inadequate, contradictory ideas and replace them with good theories based on the evidence.
Jean Piaget did the simple research years ago that demonstrated that children to not develop full logical and ethical cognition until the age of 14 yrs. Children are born with immature brains. They are not born evil. Treating children, from birth, as "spirits" with "free wills" who should be forced to obedience has the disastrous consequences you see all around you. This delusion becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Treat a child as if he's lazy and stupid and that's just what he'll become. The child's genetically-determined behavior is labelled "selfish" because it inconveniences the parents. The child's cries are considered "manipulation" and ignored. His needs, expressed by his cries, are denied. (Permit me to use one gender pronoun instead of two.) The child therefore is ignored and punished for reasons he cannot possibly understand. The anger and frustration the child feels, much of which is suppressed, makes him morose, stubborn, shy, aggressive, etc. The way the child responds to this neglect and abuse depends on his genetic personality traits and his particular interactions with his parents, but the results are tragic--anger, depression, acting out, self-destructive behaviors, self-mutilation, drug abuse, rebelliousness, hatred of learning, etc.
Societies are consistent wholes. What government's believe and force on parents, parents will believe and force on their children. Government control of citizens produces parental control of children. What role does the government have in our childrearing practices? Obviously, the existence of compulsory schooling forces all parents into a particular authoritarian attitude towards their own children. Parents know that their children will go to school, and it is their fondest hope that their child will be especially obedient and successful in school. Since being a school-child means sitting still and obeying adults all day every day in order to become a "good" person, that is what parents must train him to do from birth. The modern school, a Prussian invention for creation of obedient soldiers and technocrats, is our model of "normal" child development. Since obedience and conformity are the child's primary tasks in life, parents think that they shouldn't "spoil" the child by answering his cries or meeting his natural needs. Mother's needn't bother to breastfeed infants even though millenia of evolution have perfected breastfeeding as a means to the nutrition and mental development of children. If the mother does breastfeed, she thinks its perfectly good to wean the child early before he weans itself--mustn't give into to the child's selfish desires! Parents force the child to use a potty before he's ready, which creates more problems and is just the beginning of all the things that they and the schools will force him to do before he's ready and before he wants to. The child should get "tough", should learn that his job in life is to obey, not to enjoy. Children are abandoned to day care at an early age, often within weeks of birth--inspite of the overwhelming evidence of the damage this does to the child's development. Parental convenience and control, not love and respect for the child, dominates modern childrearing. This is blessed and even supported by the government. The government also interferes with the formation and functioning of the nuclear family in many other ways which I shall not go into here.
So, we produce children who have not had their emotional needs met, who are frustrated at the total control of their lives by parents and school, who are not allowed to know who they are or what they want to do. Their natural love of the world and of life is destroyed by lack of response to their needs and by the disrespect and coercion they experience everyday--and they cannot hope that it will ever end. They become depressed, or they act out in self-destructive ways, or they rebel. In any case, the society and its psychologists do not admit their role in the child's tragedy. They do not question the rightness of their own institutions and behavior. Instead they blame the child. They attempt to coerce him into "right" behavior, or worse, they diagnose him with some disorder or other and drug him into more "normal" behavior. A vicious cycle of blame and self-hate in the child leads either to death, permanent mental disorder, or a mechanical conformity which conceals, superficially, his lack of mental and emotional development.
OK, you ask. What's the solution? I'll tell you what the best science and philosophical understanding based on that science have to tell us:
The newborn is like any other immature creature. He is exquisitely sensitive to its environment and has definite needs. His brain is growing rapidly and forming permanent connections. The first minutes, days, months, and years of life are the most crucial. As parents you should put all your efforts into meeting the child's needs early on, avoiding any act that traumatizes the child or makes him feel that he is inadequate or "bad". The only way the child can communicate their needs is by crying, do not ignore his cries or you will destroy him. What appears to be a minor cruelty done to an infant will have more profound effect than you can imagine. Meet the child's needs. Let him grow through his egotistical stages naturally. Work hard for at least the first three years and you'll have a joyous, bold, happy child forever. Daycare is out, of course. No other adult will love your child and foster their development. If you don't want to raise a child yourself, don't have one. Otherwise you and your child will pay the price for the rest of your lives.
Research has shown that schizophrenia and depression in later life are strongly correlated with separation from the mother (bonded adult or adults) in the first three years of life. This is understandable as the infant is genetically wired to sense separation as a threat to his life. That is why he cries so forcefully. Therefore be extremely careful to avoid such a separation. Do not allow separation in the hospital after birth. Do not allow separation at any time for any reason. It has been shown that even the birth of a second child when the first is less than three years old is traumatic and has lasting deleterious consequences. From the moment an infant is born, until the age of at least three, the Mom or significant adult must always be available. Of course, the father or other familiar adult can (and must) relieve the mother as much as possible.
Children are immature animals who will learn to speak. Treat them at least as well as you treat your pets. What do dolphin trainers do when they want a dolphin to perform at trick? Do they give an order and threaten punishment? NO. They offer a fish in return for the animal's cooperation! Why doesn't your child deserve at least that much respect? What right do you have bully and coerce another human being into conformity to your wishes? Aren't humans as sensitive and intelligent as dolphins? You must not train your child with punishment, you must guide the child by your own words and actions. If you meet his needs with love and respect, you will form a strong love-bond. The child will want to avoid making you unhappy when you have done so much to make him happy. This creates a relationship based on love and cooperation with the child as opposed to one based on coercion and disrespect of the child's person. As a parent, you must choose one way or the other; love and cooperation or disrespect and coercion, there is no middle ground.
You must respect the child as a person, with all the rights of an adult PLUS special dependency needs. You have no right to force the child or any other human to do anything unless there is an immediate threat to health or property. They are not yours, you do not own them. If they don't want to get in the car to go shopping, you must, as a general rule, offer to do something with them or get something for them in order to gain their assent.
Like all animals, but more so, children are born with immature brains. (Read Jean Piaget). You must not expect them to think like adults until at least 14 yrs of age. If they have been shamed and schooled, they will never mature but will remain fixated at immature levels. They will act outwardly in conformity to your rules but will not develop self-regulation or judgement. They will be completely unable to manage their own affairs when they leave home and school. This is the typical outcome of coercive child-rearing today and its tragic consequences are obvious.
If you meet your child's needs and respond to him with respect at all times, he will love himself and by extension other people. He will respect the rights of other people. If you do not respect your child as a person, he will not respect you or others.
Let me offer some specific advice on raising a child from birth. The best book on this issue is The Baby Book, by Sears and Sears. Every parent should buy and read a copy before their child is born.
Attempt to have a natural childbirth. Hold the baby and place it on the breast as soon as possible after birth. Do not let the baby out of your sight or out of your arms. Do not let the nurses take it away to a nursery. Respond immediately to your child's cries. Never allow someone to give the baby a bottle as this will create nipple confusion.
Breastfeed the baby whenever it wants to suck, as long as it wants to suck. Educate yourself about breastfeeding and get help from a breastfeeding expert. The child will cry for other reasons, of course, and you must try, through trial and error, to see what it wants. Do not wean the baby at any age. Let it quit when it's ready. (See the kids with the pacifiers in their mouths? That's caused by breast-deprivation.) Do not force any food or other fluids on a breastfeeding baby. They will start eating or drinking when they're ready--usually by 6 to 8 months.
Sleep with the child or at least in the same room with the child. Do not put the child in another room. Don't let him wake up alone or cry for long periods. That's child abuse a la Dr. Spock. If you do isolate them and ignore their crying, they'll learn not to cry alright, but what will they have learned about human relationships? What have they learned about love? Never leave an infant alone unless he's happy to be by himself for a while. In all things, let the child be your guide, not visa versa.
To the females of our species, let me say that you have a unique biological function. Only you have breasts and the greater biological drive to nurture an infant. Do not return to your (usually stupid) job after childbirth. Forget the corporate rat race. Do not leave your child at all until he's at least 3 yrs. old, and preferably not until he's happy to leave you. Put your child's mental health first, your own prestige and money second. Live in a smaller house and drive an older car. Live within your means for the sake of your child's happiness and development. If you want your career, don't raise a child. You can't do both well, period.
Men, nature has given you the easier role. Breastfeeding and raising a child properly while keeping house is much more difficult than your job, whatever it is. So when you're home, you must work hard to provide relief for the mother. Babies cry for many other reasons than needing to suck. If he doesn't want to suck, he probably just wants to be held, to experience some rhythmic motion, or to see something different. Take him out for walks, dance with him, entertain him.
Do not send your child to daycare or school.. Educate yourself with the vast amount of good literature available on what's wrong with schooling and how normal development will proceed without coercion. Let your child grow up free and develop their own unique personality, knowledge and abilities. See Readings
Bottom Line: Love your child and meet his natural needs. Respect his unique individuality. Don't force him into your mold, the church's mold, or the government's mold. Let him discover the world and himself in his own way, in his own time. He'll learn reading and math soon enough, in his own way when he wants to. If you let him develop his own unique talents, knowledge, and abilities, he'll be a happy, successful, self-regulating person for the rest of his life.