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Opening Arguments


Silly question of the day: Sjould "libertarian parents" be strict or permissive?

 This problematic tendency is most pronounced in the ways some libertarians discuss parenting.

They often begin by asking what “libertarian parenting” would look like. Naturally, they then imagine parents being analogous to government and children being analogous to citizens. Unsurprisingly, they conclude that, on libertarian grounds, parents should interfere as little as possible in the lives of their children. Some even propose organizing the household on market principles.

[. . .]

As it turns out, permissive parenting doesn’t work very well. The psychological research indicates that children of permissive parents suffer from a variety of problems as they mature.

By contrast, authoritative parenting provides the best results.

The question is silly for all the reasons the author lists. Parents are not analagous to government and kids are not analagous to citizens. A household unit cannot be compared with the government-citizen relationship. (And a school can't be equated with government and its students equated with citizens, but many of us assume they can be when we start writing about "constitutional rights students don't check at the door on the way in.")

The article describes four styles of parenting on a spectrum from most involved to least involved: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, neglectful. Most of us dismiss the authoritarian's iron fist, and damn few would opt for neglectful. That leaves us with authoritative and permissive, and many libertarian's would opt for permissive, just because live-and-let-live is the way they see things. But they would be wrong.

Authoritative parents encourage children to be independent but still place limits on their actions. Extensive verbal give-and-take is not refused, and parents try to be warm and nurturing toward the child. Authoritative parents are not usually as controlling as authoritarian parents, allowing the child to explore more freely, thus having them make their own decisions based upon their own reasoning. Often, authoritative parents produce children who are more independent and self-reliant. An authoritative parenting style mainly results when there is high parental responsiveness and high parental demands. Authoritative parents will set clear standards for their children, monitor the limits that they set, and also allow children to develop autonomy.

Children will always test limits -- that's sort of their job. Setting those limits is the parents' job.

In other words, it’s perfectly appropriate to place limits on your children’s actions and to insist on only such freedom as is age appropriate. Authoritative parents have high expectations and are not hesitant to say no to their kids. The evidence is clear that this style produces the best psychological outcomes for children.