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Old TCS Posts 3

The age of the child makes no difference? Sometimes newborn babies don't initially want to nurse. Such situations can be difficult.

I have no doubt that such situations can be difficult. What I doubt is that the problem is caused by the _age_ of the baby. In this case, I'd attribute the problem to the baby's unwillingness to nurse, rather than its age.

It isn't that the problem is caused by age. It's that the age limits the possible solutions. It's not always possible to negotiate with a very young child.
That's odd. Prima facie, if a baby does not want to nurse, that isn't a problem. It's an indication the baby isn't hungry at this time. What are we to imagine: a starving child that refuses nourishment until dead?

And supposing we did imagine that. Is that a problem caused by age? Of course not. Countless other people of the same age do not have that problem.

Is the problem causing by not wanting to nurse? No, that doesn't make sense. That isn't a problem by itself. The issue is when and why the baby does not wish to nurse. Apparently this is a wicked, sinful baby, and not wanting to nurse when it should is one of the manifestations.

Or not. Perhaps it's just an honest mistake. And there is a solution to be found. No one must be hurt. However, we are told, the baby's age limits the possible solutions. Well, that's true. You cannot solve the problem with a quick trip to the pub to drink it away. The baby won't be admitted due to its age.

But we are told something more specific: the especially young people do not negotiate. The implication is that they form unreasonable preferences, which will cause serious problems, and that they become so attached to these preferences that there is nothing to be done. Except to force the baby. It will cry now, and protest, but it's for its own good. This is a very disturbing notion. But necessary, so we are told.

As has been the case previously, examples are somewhat lacking. The particular example of nursing is ridiculous. Babies don't starve themselves to death by refusing to eat. If the baby does not want to nurse, it is in no danger.

So what are the critical situations where babies don't negotiate and thus sabotage reaching an amicable solution? It must be something like this:

Babies need diapers. This is their own fault for not being potty trained. This is due to their age. This results in unpleasant hot-to-cold transitions when the diaper is changed. Some babies don't like that sensation; it is a problem. But the baby won't negotiate! It won't compromise and agree to a certain number of unpleasant sensations per month. It won't agree to speed up its potty training by a few years, and to look forward to the end of the problem as a way grit its teeth and happily bear it. It won't even propose that maybe it could accept the diaper changes if only parents would get a heater, because its ignorant of heaters. I mean, too young to comprehend what a heater is. We are told the issue is age itself, not ignorance.

I'll leave the lunacy of this analysis as an exercise for the reader, and try again.

Parents have hired a baby sitter and are preparing to go to a romantic restaurant. Baby starts crying. It doesn't want to stay with the sitter. If only child were older, they could negotiate. They could bribe their child with some money or TV. Or makes threats if it doesn't stop raising a fuss. There are many ways the older child would be caused to obey no matter how unpleasant the sitter was. That's the sort of negotiation parents like, and the sort babies are too young for. You see, babies cannot be bribed with TV or other distractions. Except that, umm, they can: younger, more ignorant children are actually easier to distract and amuse. Well, what about threats? The father should take care of that. If you can't scare a baby, you're not much of a man. Hmm, so what kind of negotiation won't work? Oh, it must be the kind where you tell your eight-year-old how important the dinner is, and how bad you would feel if you missed it, and how he wouldn't want to hurt his parents, would he? That kind of slightly subtle and indirect pressure helps parents feel good. They didn't threaten, they used reason. Not wanting to upset his parents is a great reason for a child to do something. He was very helpful and rightly so. But babies, they don't negotiate like this. They just don't listen. You have to communicate more explicitly, or they won't pick up the implied threats.

So there you have it. Babies really are impossible to negotiate with in the usual way because they are not well versed in euphemism, and not yet trained to respond to emotional blackmail. Older children are really much nicer. All you have to do is have a personality such that you would be upset if they do not obey, and then obedience is a matter of reason: it's only reasonable that children do not upset their parents.

Despite it all, I must insist this is not really a matter of age itself, but of knowledge. An especially precocious baby could perfectly well negotiate in this manner.
Understanding the _limitations on non-coercion_ would seem to me to be the most essential single issue for those who subscribe to non-coercive parenting exclusively.
That's strange. That seems to me more of an essential issue for those who would advocate coercion. If they can prove non-coercion has limits, it will help them feel better. They are not hurting their children because they are cruel and callous. It simply isn't possible to avoid.

But a person who subscribes to non-coercive parenting. What does he care for these limits? If it would be of any use to him -- perhaps the situation is avoidable if you see it coming -- then it is in fact not a limit on non-coercion, because there is a solution. A problem truly with no solution but pain -- there is no value in seeing that coming. No foresight will save you from it. It is useless except to depress you.

Those who subscribe to non-coercive parenting would be much better advised to approach life in a spirit of optimism. To solve what problems they can, and if they should fail, to expect that to be their own mistake and not a necessity, and then to look for a way to do better next time. This attitude will lead to the best possible results whether non-coercion is entirely possible, or not. Any time coercion cannot be avoided, it will happen, no matter what our method is. But any time it can be avoided, that is when our approach matters most, and we must not be lured into temptation of imagining that we have done the best possible, when we have not.

Seeking limits on non-coercion is a strategy to comfort coercive parents, not to help non-coercive parents to do better.
You're beginning to piss me off, Steve, with these constant personal attacks. I don't want to have to get personal with you, so why don't you spare us all the abusive ad hominems? As a matter of fact, you were the one begging the question and you damn well know it.

At least Steve has remained a gentleman in demeanor. Why don't you just take Steve seriously? I think his questions are sincere.
This is very funny, don't you think? First, apparently, Steve makes personal attacks. Then someone replies to say that personal attacks are bad, and thus Steve is an abusive jerk. He doesn't want to get personal, but he has to. It's Steve's fault for provoking him. Steve is guilty of so many crimes.

The poster himself must have imagined that he was not writing a personal attack of exactly the sort he criticized. How that can be is a tough question. Perhaps he figured that Steve had caused him to be angry, so it was only natural for him to act in anger, and the consequences all belong to Steve. Or he imagined that what he said was true, and that that somehow changed its character.

As amusing as that is, next we have a third person writing in with yet another personal attack, again attacking someone for writing personal attacks to the list. This third person saw that the second person was a hypocrite. He recognized that the personal attack guised as righteous fury was, in fact, just the sort of ad hominem it rightly decried. And then he proceeded to do exactly the same thing himself. Truly amazing.

Elliot Temple on December 29, 2007


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