Battle Hymn of the Libertarian-Montessori Father

The recent book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Yale law professor Amy Chua, has provoked a firestorm of controversy and discussion, much to the publisher’s glee, no doubt. (See Ayelet Waldman, In Defense of the Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom; Ann Hulbert, Hear the Tiger Mother Roar; Dana Stevens’s Battle Hymn of the Sloth Mother; Wendy Sachs’s Chinese Moms vs. Jewish Moms: Who Is Mother Superior?; WSJ, ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’: Review Revue.) In an excerpt published in the Wall Street Journal, Chua writes:

Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a playdate
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin.

I find myself fairly ambivalent about Chua’s ideas and those of her critics. From my superficial look at it, Chua has some good criticisms, but neither she, nor her critics, are approaching the issue of child rearing and education from any systematic, well thought out perspective. I say this as a Montessori parent who admires that systematic and logical approach, and related disciplinary techniques such as those in Redirecting Children’s Behavior, Positive Discipline, and Parenting With Love And Logic. But I think diversity in parenting styles is fine. To each his own.

But Chua’s list above led me to ponder what a similar list might be for a state-hating libertarian parent. Here’s what I came up with:

Here are some things I will never allow to happen to my son: he will not:

  • be forced to say the pledge of allegiance or attend a school that requires this;
  • be punished for not getting an A;
  • be conscripted by the state to fight in its wars;
  • be subjected to pro-state, pro-environmentalist propaganda without his dad giving him regular anti-propaganda inoculations at home;
  • be forced to recycle at home;
  • be lied to by his parents;
  • be spanked or otherwise punished;
  • be required to vote (in fact he will be told that it’s a waste of time);
  • be taught that it’s his duty to pay taxes;
  • be taught that aggression in any form, private or public, is okay;
  • be made to feel he has an obligation to “give something back” to “society”;
  • be forced to attend a government school if at all possible;
  • be talked down to just because he’s a child;
  • ever have to pay for his own books;
  • be unaware of the Austrian and libertarian intellectual traditions;
  • be made to feel his parents can’t wait for him to grow up and get out of the house;
  • be made to feel like he is unwanted or a burden;
  • be allowed to object to at least 10 kisses a day from Mommy and Daddy;
  • be treated like less than a full human with rights and dignity just because he is “under age.”

To clarify on a few of the above: the kissing item is not serious; it’s based on something Walter Block told me. He attended my son’s baptism reception 7 years ago and told me to kiss him as much as I can now, since as kids get older they make you stop. So I try to get in as many kisses a day as possible.

Re the spanking/punishment line: this is explained in more detail in the 3 books linked above. According to this view the best way to discipline children is with positive discipline, not viewing their behavior that is natural to their age and stage of development as “bad” and in need of punishment, but as in need of development and direction. So in this approach, even non-corporal punishment is avoided; “time out”, which is usually a punishment, is not okay (in this approach) just because it is not corporal; instead, something like “the calm down spot” is used instead, and it is specifically done non-punitively.


2:00 pm on January 20, 2011

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