Permit Your Child to Have a Mind

Children cannot always be reasoned with, it’s true.

But this is no excuse for a parent to take a shortcut and refuse to apply reason with a child. With a fellow adult, you would give your reasons in an attempt to persuade. “Will you buy this from me? Here’s why I think you should.” And then you give the reasons. The fellow adult decides for himself if the reasoning is persuasive. It doesn’t work that way with your young child, most of the time. “This is what you have to do, and this is why.” You don’t wait for the child’s consent like you would with an adult. Yet you still owe your child explanations and reasoning. Why? Because having a child means taking on more than responsibility for his physical well-being. A parent also takes on responsibility for the intellectual and psychological well-being of the child. If you want your child to grow up to be a thinking, rational and independent adult, you have to show him–while still a child–how to think. You do this by showing him your reasoning. It’s not about permissiveness. Few things are more idiotic to watch than a parent asking his child every last preference. “Do you want a diet coke or a sprite?” And the whole line waits while the child decides, so a parent doesn’t have to feel “authoritarian.” This is ridiculous and is not the proper understanding of reason applied to childhood. When you go home, however, you select appropriate times to reason with your child and help him understand why things operate as they do. You teach your child the laws of logic, in terms he can understand. You don’t seek to control your child. You seek to help him gain mastery over his mind and the world in which he operates.