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Parenting should be tyrannical Mollycoddling a child is far more abusive than asserting authority

Time Out


December 17, 2020   7 mins

Parents are tyrants. Picture the scene: my four-year-old, ready for the bath, decides a bath is not on her agenda for the evening after all.

Me: “Time to get in the bath.”
Her: “But I don’t want a bath.”
Me: “You’re still having a bath.”
Her: “You can’t make me.”
Me: “Actually, I can.” [picks up protesting child, places child in bath]

Is this an act of oppression? The journalist Noah Berlatsky might say so. “’Parent’ is an oppressive class,” he wrote recently, “like rich people or white people”. For if you believe all coercion is unjust, the fact that parents often make their kids do things against their will surely qualifies as oppressive. So dedicated egalitarians must either not have kids, or else do everything possible to avoid making this inevitable oppression worse than it has to be. As Berlatsky puts it: “There are things you can do to try to minimize the abuse that’s endemic to the parent/child relationship, but it’s always there”.

How, then, does someone who is opposed to oppression in all forms deal with the occasional need to tell your kids what to do? Look no further than the kids’ TV programme which provokes more Mumsnet rage than any other: Bing.

For readers fortunate enough never to have encountered Bing, it depicts humanoid CGI-animated animal children, of what looks like pre-school age. The characters live in a manicured suburb, where they are cared for by tiny toy-like creatures that appear to represent their parents or — more usually — other carer types such as nannies or grandparents. The eponymous bunny, Bing, is cared for by a small entity called “Flop”. Their relationship is never explained, though Bing addresses Flop by his first name, suggesting he is perhaps some kind of childcare professional.

Effing Bing

Episodes always follow the same format. Bing and Flop go about their usual day, when a moment of conflict or heightened emotion occurs: a balloon bursts, Bing’s friend won’t let him have a turn on the swing, Bing kills a butterfly, Bing breaks a window in the garden playing football. The children express (muted) emotions, and the tiny carers explain in soft, gentle voices what went wrong, then suggest something to “make it better”.

The hyper-emphasis on persuasion and gentleness evidenced by Flop (and Berlatsky) may seem peculiarly of our time. But this softly-softly take on parenthood is a well-trodden path. Consider, for example, the 1849 poem Speak Gently, by David Bates:

Speak gently to the little child!
Its love be sure to gain;
Teach it in accents soft and mild:
It may not long remain.

Bates’s poem was popular enough at its time to reappear in (ultimately far more famous) parodied form in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where the grotesque Duchess sings to her howling infant:

Speak roughly to your little boy.
and beat him when he sneezes:
he only does it to annoy,
because he knows it teases.

But it wasn’t until the twentieth century that the balance of parenting advice began to shift decisively against Carroll’s “Duchess”, toward the feather-soft Flop school of child management. The 1922 manual Common Sense in the Nursery, for example, is a typical example of post-war “behaviourism”:

“By training the baby to lie alone [
] by feeding him four-hourly by day and not at all by night, a woman is able to lead a human life instead of having it completely disorganised.”

This is hardly beating a baby when he sneezes; but it assumes a child should be as far as possible trained to fit in with parents’ wishes. By the mid-20th century, though, a growing body of advice reversed the polarity. In Baby and Child (1977) Penelope Leach asserted that a baby cannot be “spoiled”, because “they are not grown up or clever enough to be spoiled”. Instead, a mother should fit her own activities to the baby’s point of view. Despite being “very hard work”, Leach thought, this was in fact the best path to happiness not just for the child but for mummy as well: “taking the baby’s point of view does not mean neglecting yours, the parents’ viewpoint. Your interests and his are identical 
 If you make happiness for him he will make happiness for you.”

This progressive inversion of the balance of power in a parent/child relationship is perfectly captured by the relative size of the adult and child characters in Bing. My daughter was mistaken to think I couldn’t make her have a bath, because I’m physically much bigger than her, and happy to use that advantage to enforce personal hygiene. But Flop is around a third of Bing’s size, so if Bing sat down on the bathmat and refused to get in the bath, Flop would not be able to make him comply.

Luckily, unlike in the real world, in Bing world this sort of adult/child conflict of wills never happens. Instead, Bing is the ideal child, as depicted by 20th-century progressive parenting guru Benjamin Spock, who opined in Baby and Child Care (1955) that “If a child is handled in a friendly way, he wants to do the right thing, the grown-up thing, most of the time”. From this perspective, there’s no need for discipline because, all you need is love.

A decade later, Californian therapist Carl Rogers was making a similar argument in the realm of psychotherapy. Rogers argued against Christianity’s pessimistic take on humans’ baked-in propensity for evil, the doctrine of original sin, as well as the psychoanalytic reworking of original sin in the form of “id”, “libido” and “death instinct”. Contra these downbeat visions of human nature, Rogers argued that “the innermost core of man’s nature, the deepest layers of his personality, the base of his ‘animal nature’ is positive in nature — is basically socialised, forward-moving, rational and realistic”.

In this view, bad deeds are not a consequence of human nature, but only ever a result of trauma, ignorance or error. There’s no need for containment or discipline, only forgiveness and education — or, as Rogers would put it, “unconditional positive regard”.

When Bing breaks the window of the garden shed after Flop already suggested (in the usual gentle voice) that he refrain from kicking the ball hard, Bing is guilty and apologetic. But of course this is a mistake, not disobedience, so when he whines to Flop “I forgetted about the big kicks”, Flop just soothes: “It’s easy to forget”. There are no further consequences. Indeed, the only reason to impose rules at all is personal safety, as evidenced by the uncharacteristic firmness with which Flop orders the children away from the broken glass.

If we take Bing as an idealised template for what both parents and children are meant to look like, it’s a rosy vision of humans as fundamentally innocent and good, and of optimum development as ordered mainly around the child’s needs.

Bing is never aggressive, capricious or lacking in empathy. He never throws a tantrum. He’s a very 21st-century mixture of ignorant, self-centred and susceptible to guilt trips: the perfect child-centred child. Responsible adults organise their lives around the children’s needs and desires, never themselves express any emotion (especially not anger) and don’t leave children to resolve conflict between them, and only impose clear rules when physical safety is at risk. There’s no punishment, no one ever loses their rag, there’s no need to make the kids do anything, ever.

If there’s a reason Bing prompts so much swearing on Mumsnet, it’s because this is an insanely rosy view of what wrangling small children is actually like. Already in 1969, Benjamin Spock was warning that touchy-feeliness can go too far, observing in an updated edition of Baby that in fact love is not all you need. Parents have “welcomed new theories’, Spock observed, but “They have often read meanings into them that went beyond what the scientists intended—for instance, that all that children need is love; that they shouldn’t be made to conform 
 that whenever anything goes wrong it’s the parents’ fault; that when children misbehave the parents shouldn’t become angry or punish them but try to show more love”.

Berlatsky is half-right, but not in the way he thinks: oppression is indeed baked into the parent/child relationship, if by “oppression” you mean hierarchy and occasionally coercion. But he, and proponents of radically egalitarian parenting in general, are wrong to imagine this dynamic should be minimised. On the contrary, the fact that parents have authority over their children should be cheerfully embraced, for the child’s psychological health.

Whether you call it original sin or the death instinct, all humans come with a capacity for darkness as well as light. My experience as a parent is that this isn’t the product of culture: it’s baked in. We don’t have to beat our children for sneezing to know it’s not enough to claim our dark side can be loved away. Sometimes it needs to be contained, by clear boundaries lovingly maintained.

If we fail to do this, the result isn’t kinder or more moral individuals; it’s more stunted ones. If parents convey the message that the only permissible emotions are sanitised ‘positive’ ones, never hatred, greed, envy, vengefulness or rage, it becomes the child’s responsibility to keep a lid on his or her own strong feelings. I know poor Bing is not a real person, but I’m still horrified by how limited the range of his emotional responses is. Even when Pando smashes Bing’s best sandcastle, all Bing manages is a plaintive, vaguely passive-aggressive ‘awww, that was our biggest sandcastle ever’.

At the end of each episode, Bing breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly, offering a summary of what happened and how it made him feel. Usually what Bing felt was ‘sad’, and even if it’s ‘angry’ this is relayed in a sad voice. I can only conclude that this poor anthropomorphic bunny-child has already learned to prune his own emotions into an acceptably progressive range.

For this is what it looks like when parents refuse to step up to the position of authority our children need us to take. The result will either be out-of-control kids desperate for someone to provide some containment, or else the stunted feelings of someone who has learned it’s not safe to throw a wobbler. So Berlatsky is right that parents are tyrants, but his mistake is to imagine that this is a bad thing. The loving imposition of authority by parents, in a child’s interests, is not oppression. It’s a vital condition for the inverse of oppression: safety, freedom, and the space to be a child.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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David George
David George
3 years ago

Thank you once again Mary.
We raised three children to be well liked, honest, productive and positive young adults and now parents themselves, you’re on the right track. If you want to produce obnoxious, brittle, lying, irresponsible children then by all means follow some of the mad ideas by the likes of Berlatsky.
Or you could listen to someone that knows what they’re talking about:
“It is an act of responsibility to discipline a child. It is not anger at misbehavior. It is not revenge for a misdeed. It is instead a careful combination of mercy and long-term judgment. Proper discipline requires effort”indeed, is virtually synonymous with effort. It is difficult to pay careful attention to children. It is difficult to figure out what is wrong and what is right and why. It is difficult to formulate just and compassionate strategies of discipline, and to negotiate their application with others deeply involved in a child’s care. Because of this combination of responsibility and difficulty, any suggestion that all constraints placed on children are damaging can be perversely welcome. Such a notion, once accepted, allows adults who should know better to abandon their duty to serve as agents of enculturation and pretend that doing so is good for children. It’s a deep and pernicious act of self-deception. It’s lazy, cruel and inexcusable.”
Jordan Peterson from 12 Rules for life.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

Given the content of human history — ‘the sorry register of Man’s crimes and follies’ as Mr. Gibbon put it — given the horrifying social institutions of domination, oppression, exploitation, of rape and murder and destruction, that most people submit to, if not support enthusiastically — I’d say there is and has been something seriously wrong with the way people conduct themselves, and the way they raise and teach their children might have something to do with it. Part of that culture is the mindless collection and dissemination of prejudiced anecdotes such as this article. I wonder if more than a small minority will ever start thinking for themselves.

David George
David George
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

History contains all of what you say but the lives of all but a small minority of us are characterised by peace and plenty. Your negative view of your culture, of all it’s achieved and all it offers is seriously unbalanced.
It’s culture and civilisation that allows cooperation and mutually beneficial competition and teaches us what to do with our inherent proclivities towards envy, violence, oppression and so on. The passing on of that culture is what keeps the whole outfit sustainable.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

The culture and civilization seem fairly defective at the moment. I have a list for the ‘Everything’s not so bad’ people, but today I’ll spare you.

David George
David George
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Thanks Starry, I don’t doubt what you say and no need for a list but where does the fault lie. Parental and societal failure, human nature, where?
The Rousseauian position (tabula rasa) would be that we are a blank state and that envy, greed, aggression etc. (only the bad stuff?) are a result of social conditioning including parenting. That is proven nonsense and Rousseau, leaving his five children to die in an orphanage, is someone hardly worth listening to.
Anyone that has raised children knows they come with a nature, for better or worse. Part of parenting is not to defeat but to channel; set the kid on the course that will enable them to get on with others and make a success of their lives in other areas.
Some kids are aggressive and selfish, they need to learn humility and respect for others. Other children are timid and excessively agreeable , they need to learn courage and assertiveness or they will end up a doormat. That is the job of a responsible parent and wider society; leaving kids to just sort themselves out will result in a God awful mess.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

I’d suggest you ‘study’ something else and let parents get on with something actually useful..i.e. rearing their children.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

So lets hear your alternative childcare programme.
Think its past your medication time..Ă°ĆžĆœÂ¶

Susie E
Susie E
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

I’ve recently listened to this chapter and it’s brilliant. Every parent should give it a listen… I know a few who can’t say no to their child because it’s upsetting for the adult. Perhaps if they listened to this chapter then they would begin to understand why they must not project their own emotions when saying no. I don’t always like saying no to my children, but I do it anyway because I understand why it is important.
I’ve also been reading ‘Saying No’ by Asha Phillips.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
3 years ago

The two things that have always amused me about these new age, anti-discipline parents are 1. The are so self righteous about it. 2. They seem completely oblivious to the fact that even though they will always love their children regardless of their behaviour, no one else in the world will. Poorly socialised children are horrible to be around.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Well…many will be living with their loving parental units late into life, eh?

Renee Johansson
Renee Johansson
3 years ago

When I consider the worst of the worst men I dated, they all had one thing in common and it wasn’t terrible childhoods.

In fact, they all had the kind of parents who believed they could do no wrong, who told them they were smart when they were failing school, who did their homework for them if they struggled, who gave them kind words and positive reinforcement.

In contrast, my own mother was a tyrant. In my family there were no excuses, strong personal responsibility and an expectation of doing well. I always grew up so jealous of those kids whose parents barged into schools to tell off the teachers when their child suffered. I thought they had something I didn’t, so I was seriously confused when I equated these horrible people with their wonderful, kind, loving parents. It didn’t make sense.

But at some point I realised that society isn’t governed by positive reinforcement and forgiveness. Adult society doesn’t care whether that drunken rampage that killed someone was a mistake. You will be punished accordingly. Adult society won’t give you hugs when your feelings get out of control, your boss won’t tell you your smart if your performance is poor and no one wants to validate your endless whining about your feelings of jealousy and outrage.

Those wonderful, kind parents I envied weren’t preparing their children for life. By cleaning their kids rooms those kids never learned to do it themselves. By giving only praise those children never learned to accept criticism. By sheltering their children from discomfort their children never learned resilience. By pretending their children could do anything they wanted, those children had unrealistic goals and bitter disappointment when they failed to achieve them.

And I have to cringe when I read modern parenting advice, based on social research which ultimately measures whether people liked something, rather than whether it leads to independent, functioning adults.

Life is tough, and kids need armour, not cotton wool.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

‘Adult society doesn’t care whether that drunken rampage that killed someone was a mistake. You will be punished accordingly.’

Er…not really, not in modern Britain.

Renee Johansson
Renee Johansson
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Not so much in Sweden either – and all those kids who had every feeling validated and were never told ‘no’ now appear to think that their every whim should dictate the behaviour of everyone else in society, resulting in extreme division, cancel culture and sky high suicide rates…

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago

There is a wonderful episode of The Brittas Empire that fully supports your view. I think its episode 5 series 2 – Mums and Dads. I’ll go and rewatch it to check.

David George
David George
3 years ago

Yes Renee. Here’s a quote that pretty much sums that up:
“When my now-adult daughter was a child, another child once hit her on the head with a metal toy truck. I watched that same child, one year later, viciously push his younger sister backwards over a fragile glass-surfaced coffee table. His mother picked him up, immediately afterward (but not her frightened daughter), and told him in hushed tones not to do such things, while she patted him comfortingly in a manner clearly indicative of approval. She was out to produce a little God-Emperor of the Universe. That’s the unstated goal of many a mother, including many who consider themselves advocates for full gender equality. Such women will object vociferously to any command uttered by an adult male, but will trot off in seconds to make their progeny a peanut-butter sandwich if he demands it while immersed self-importantly in a video game. The future mates of such boys have every reason to hate their mothers-in-law. Respect for women? That’s for other boys, other men”not for their dear sons.”
“‱ Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Renee Johansson
Renee Johansson
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

Absolutely, though I don’t think it’s confined only to men. I recall watching in bafflement as my own generation entered the workforce, and the examples of the wealthy coddled private school graduates who fell apart at the most minor issues – I’m talking stress leave and crying fits for days because a phone fell in the toilet or because their boss asked them to do something they didn’t like. (Possibly like those publishing employees who made the news for crying over the release of Jordan Petersons book?)

Susie E
Susie E
3 years ago

I whole heartedly agree. My parents were more like the parents who believed we could do no wrong, especially my younger brother – much to the frustration of my sister and I.

Luckily I married someone who had a hard childhood and actually came to see the benefits it had in the end. So I won’t be molly coddling my boys at all – boundaries and consequences are importantand they are happy and generally well liked children. Even my own life has improved immensely since I’ve learnt to take responsibility for what I do and say and it’s my job to teach my children that now instead of them finding out the more painful and difficult way as young adults.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago

Though untold damage is done by what you describe,it’s also very refreshing to read your comment..
1000upticks!

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

Yes, keep up the good work, Mary. After giving birth at home to 2 of my four children and being a long term, breast feeding vegan and organic gardener and several other surprisingly modern, woke things considering I’m over 50, I also taught my children at home. I used to have open house once a week for other home educators and only two of the parents I knew believed in disciplining their children or acting with any kind of authority. It was like Lord of the Flies, once a week. One Christmas party I had saw the spoiled brats running round the ballroom having set their plastic cups on fire on the end of my fire irons and other assorted sticks, while their mothers sat laughing and drinking mulled wine as molten plastic dripped all over my big antique Turkey carpet.

This generation are in their late twenties now and make up the worst of the woke, cry bully snowflakes.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

That Christmas party sounds like a good subject for one of your excellent poems, which everyone should watch on YouTube.

James N
James N
3 years ago

Great article! It’s a balancing act. Tyranny when critical, collaboration when useful, freedom when developmentally appropriate. A parents job is to walk the tightrope strung between helpless grub and mature, competent, autonomous adult. Skipping the “tyranny” selfishly puts the burden of discipline on the child, just to spare the “adult”.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

One day when my kids were about six and four, a light bulb went on inside my head, and I sat the little horrors down and said to them, “from now on, the more you do what you’re told, the less you’re told what to do”. From that day on, bringing them up was a doddle.

A Woodward
A Woodward
3 years ago

One of the biggest lies told to parents is that children are naturally peacable. They are NOT. They are naturally quite violent, especially boys, and need to be taught to control their violent urges, ie to be civilised. At first we decided not to allow any toys which were weapons. Result? They picked up sticks and hit each other. Honestly a nerf gun is safer and doesn’t leave splinters.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago
Reply to  A Woodward

Lord of the Flies was recommended reading at one time.

Jaunty Alooetta
Jaunty Alooetta
3 years ago

Berlatsky is a prattling fool, but this episode is slightly interesting because it demonstrates where the unhinged left’s logic leads. In their rush to deconstruct everything to reveal “oppression”, they slip free of the moorings of objective reality and march haughtily into the realm of the absurd.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Yes, but they are taking us all down with them. We really should be allowed to set up separate countries.

voodoopolitics
voodoopolitics
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

If you are in the UK, like most commenters, the US is already a separate country.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  voodoopolitics

The same thing is happening here, too. “Snowflakes” is a term for a reason. With a specific application. To the participation trophy generation, a phenomenon created by the poor parenting described herein.

Jaunty Alooetta
Jaunty Alooetta
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It’s important to keep some perspective in all this. In the UK, Critical Social Justice exuberance happens mainly on Twitter and on some campuses, and when it seeps into the real world there is usually a vocal backlash.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago

I took the approach of being ‘authoritarian’ but not ‘tyrannical’. While I’d tell my son ‘you have to do this’, I made a decision that I always needed to be able to justify/explain the reasons for what I was making him do. IMO this is the best approach, by seeing the reasons it becomes easy for the child to internalise them, and not see the exercise of parental authority as arbitrary and tyrannical.

“You’re having a bath now.”
“Why?”
“You’re dirty, you need to get clean” beats “Because I say so”.

Nicholas Rynn
Nicholas Rynn
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

And what happens when the excrement smeared child says” I still don’t want a bath”?

Further indulgence in debate or put them in the bath and clean them up?

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rynn

They do what they’re told. It’s not a debate.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

Actually, I found reasoning with children to work well much of the time. It worked out well with mine, anyway. I also served as a counselor at a special summer camp whose main clientÚle were children who had been damaged by poverty and the business end of the culture and institutions so many of you admire. They were harder to get through to, but if you could, the rewards were great. (But temporary — the campers went back to the hells from which they had, by chance, been momentarily rescued by the vagaries of the State of New York’s welfare department.)

Reasoning, according to their capacities, of course. I’m sorry so many of you have missed out on it.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Counselling of course is not parenting. Reasoning is great and I discuss & debate with my son all the time, but there needs to be a backstop of parental authority. If the parent has good reason (“you’re dirty, so you’re going in the bath”) the child doesn’t get to opt out. We can discuss the reasons why it’s bad to go to bed covered in dirt at an appropriate time.

L Paw
L Paw
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Awwww, any more of your ‘sad, poor kids damaged by institutions’ tales you can share.
Good that you could share your superior parenting and ‘counselling’ with them, coming from the ‘wrong side of town’ like they did.
Perhaps if the kids had learnt discipline of getting up early, getting out to work, putting food on the table and behaving responsibly it would have helped them.
Hopefully they rejected the kind of victimhood indoctrination you no doubt tried to brainwash them with.

Caitlin McDonald
Caitlin McDonald
3 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rynn

The reason has given, so the duty to explain and justify has been discharged. There was no debate; just a question and a sensible answer. The authoritarian action now begins. I would have thought that was obvious from the context.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

One of the advantages of this order-but-justify approach is that it does help the parent ensure that what they are doing is for a good reason, and not done eg out of anger.

Blue Tev
Blue Tev
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

Important point.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

I drew the line at having to justify everything until I was blue in the face. “Because I say so” cuts out the exhaustion. Better still is “the more you do what you’re told, the less you’re told what to do”.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

OK – I didn’t find it exhausting. If anything it increased compliance & so took *less* effort. Maybe I was lucky – kids do vary, of course. But I found it benefitted me as well as my son.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

But if “you’re having a bath because you’re dirty” is met with “”Dont care,I still dont want a bath” then “because I say so” simply HAVE to be the last words on it.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Dunn

My last words are ‘get in the bath’.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Surely the appropriate word is ‘firm’, not ‘tyrannical’.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yes indeed, although I think the author’s usage of ‘tyrannical’ probably aligns with its original meaning i.e. ‘not democratic’.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Thankyou. I’m sick of these “let’s offend someone” article titles. Just use the correct word without hyperbole.

Blue Tev
Blue Tev
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I thought what the author alludes to is that firm is now viewed as tyrannical

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago

What’s written here could be said about teaching too, even at Higher Education level, hell, especially at Higher Education level. Where young adults’ world view used to be challenged and expanded upon, their biases and sickly imaginings are too easily confirmed, the pronoun label stuff being a prime example of that. Many institutions, fearful of becoming irrelevant to the youngest generations are adapting to this ‘parenting’ model, which is giving rise to the a corporate wokeism.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

I don’t know where you went to school; I went to a prestigious Eastern university in the US long before all the things you hate (‘wokeism’) were ever heard of. As far as I can remember, almost every course and every class outside of the sciences taught somewhat outdated conventional ideas in a conventional setting. There were few ‘Negroes’ or ‘Coloreds’ or ‘Orentals’ about, and they took care to lie pretty low, so one was not challenged with alternate cultures or worldviews. It’s frightening (or perhaps hilarious) to think that things have gone even further to the dogs.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

I attended an international school in Europe and had the pleasure of mixing with students of all colors, nations and creeds. No-one had to ‘lie low’.

As far as ‘wokeism’ is concerned, I have a genuine concern that it harms my students more than helps them. Recent research suggests that many US colleges are promoting a mindset that may be a contributing factor to college campus suicide rates. Having taught in colleges in both Europe and the United States, I can honestly say that while diversity is preached incessantly at American colleges, there is far more conformism of thought than in European colleges, where I felt I could openly speak my mind without losing any friendships.

What’s conventional to you may not be conventional to others. The schools I attended were extremely ‘progressive’ for their time. I learnt very little in the way of Shakespeare, Dickens or Chaucer as these were considered conventional even way back then. Most of these were replaced by what was then called ‘postcolonial’ writers. It wasn’t until my Masters of English Literature degree program that I fully encountered the rich literary worlds of Pope, Dryden, Mallory etc. and realized that a lot of cultural wealth had been ‘denied’ me. What made me realize something was wrong with Western school curricula was when I met foreign students who knew more about my literary heritage than I did. As an English professor it pains me to hear that we must further ‘decolonize’ the curriculum.

Daniel Björkman
Daniel Björkman
3 years ago

So dedicated egalitarians must either not have kids, or else do everything possible to avoid making this inevitable oppression worse than it has to be.

Well, the first half is a great idea, for the record. But if you do have children – and you shouldn’t, but let’s face it, you will anyway – then you can’t be egalitarian about it, no. Children are tiny bundles of pure id and need to be controlled to keep them from running around smashing stuff. Sure, sometimes what the id wants is to be nice, but it’s insane to trust that to always be the case. I mean, do you always want to be nice? Of course not. The reason why you try anyway (or at least I hope you do) is that your parents taught you that it’s the done thing to do.

It’s a messy and depressing process with lots of pain and hard feelings on both sides, and wise people should stay clear of it so that they can remain dedicated egalitarians. Again, I know perfectly well that they won’t, but they should.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

My kids are in their mid-late twenties, and we have got on very well together ever since they were about six and four and I said to them “the more you do what you’re told, the less you’re told what to do”.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

“‘Parent’ is an oppressive class,” he wrote recently, “like rich people or white people”.
what does the deep thinker behind lines like that say of black parents? Writing stupid things like that is never helpful. Yes, a parent is an authority figure; hierarchies are nothing new. But a parent is not also, by definition, a tyrant. A generation of kids who’ve grown up cursing at parents is testament to that. Perhaps some of you have seen such kids. I have. Those children will experience problems later in life.

John Vaughan
John Vaughan
3 years ago

Thought I’d better have a quick browse but wary it might be one of those unuseful right/left tribal things – so it proves to be. One thing, however, which stood out was the extolling of Dr Spock. It stood out for me because I’d just seen a lecture by Carl Heneghan showing how evidence in medicine had proved Spock wrong when he said mothers should put babies to bed on their stomachs. Spock’s advice had accounted for a four-fold increase in cot-death syndrome. Having had 3 kids & 6 grandkids I can say’ they are all different and every situation demands a different response. The first variable is age. My grandkids (3M, 3F) are 24, 18 today, 16, 11, 6 & 3 and I turn a switch in my head whichever one I’m going to be with depending on, not only age, but gender, personality & mood today also. That’s my experience – hope it’s of use to you.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  John Vaughan

You’re talking to people who are excited by authority. I doubt if you’ll be heard much.

Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Sorry Starry I think you mean “excited by responsibility” not authority.

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago

Berlatsky is an imbecile.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

The children of Berlatsky and his fellow travelers are busy now in the streets-someone should perhaps softly whisper “make it better”, when the buildings burn…

Hosias Kermode
Hosias Kermode
3 years ago

In my day what the parents did was seen in the context of the overall value system of our community which was of course Christianity. Ever Sunday from the age of six, I was sent to Sunday School. By the time my siblings were that age, the tradition had ceased. To this day, and even though I no longer believe in the Biblical “God”, I am thankful for that context. Discipline and order but in the context of love. Duties before rights. Asking what you could give rather than demanding what you had a right to take. That sort of thing.

Susie E
Susie E
3 years ago
Reply to  Hosias Kermode

I think this would have done me good as a child, so I take my boys to sunday school. Very unfashionable, but that doesn’t bother me.

Hector Mildew
Hector Mildew
3 years ago

It is 2070. All children are like Bing. Their brains have been programmed with the latest AI applications not to react violently or aggressively, or even with negative thoughts, to anything they find unpleasant, challenging or anxiety-inducing. Not that the algorithms of the new technology need to be invoked very often – if at all – because virtually every other human being has also undergone compulsory brain conditioning to ensure that they never do anything even mildly violent and aggressive, nor anything which any other human being might possibly find unpleasant, challenging or anxiety-inducing.

There is a fixed moral universe. It is no longer permissible to have thoughts which might conflict with its principles, the overriding one of which is equality of outcome for all human beings. Anyone suspected of being a victim of bad AI (there will still be a few bugs in some of the brain-processing computer programs) will be sent away to a luxurious correction complex where they will spend a relaxing few days undergoing completely painless brain re-programming. The word “victim” is important. There will be absolutely no inference that anybody is personally responsible for having any bad thoughts – they will just be regarded as victims of the system.

Utopia has been achieved. Medical science has eradicated.disease There is no aggression, no violence, no tears, no anger, no jealousy, no poverty, no hunger, no jealousy, no depression, no sadness, no anxiety, not even any fear. There is nothing to be afraid of any more.

And there are no tears of joy (how can there be when there are no tears?) no glow of happiness at an unexpected event, no spontaneous displays of affection, no sense of relief that something turned out better than feared (how can there be when there is no fear?), no joy in heaven at a sinner who repents (for those who used to believe in the quaint idea of a god) or no pleasure from someone seeing the error of their ways (for those who didn’t). How can there be when there is no error any more? There is no striving for excellence, no humour, no contact sport.

OK, I’m probably as mad as a box of frogs. I hope so. While I can still hope.

Susie E
Susie E
3 years ago
Reply to  Hector Mildew

How does this nightmare story end? I can’t see this world being sustainable because there is nothing to live for? Does anyone bother to procreate? I think I’d just end up walking into the sea to never return for lack of something better to do.

Katy Randle
Katy Randle
3 years ago
Reply to  Hector Mildew

I thought I’d gone through all the dystopian scenarios possible, being addicted to SciFi in my youth. None of them scares me as much as this. I can but hope that you are mad as a box of frogs. (I like frogs, mind.)

Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago

We do live in an age of idiocy. Good to see sanity.

The lunatics these days would be saying:

By all means run with that sharp knife. Here have a fork as well.

Yes, you can play with matches. Why not do it on the bed?

Of course you can bite off the finger of the neighbour’s child if she sticks it through our fence.

Absolutely you can build a castle with glasses.

You never want to wash? Absolutely fine.

You only want to eat lollies? Of course. Go ahead.

There was a time when it was recognised that children, like puppies, needed to be trained to function in the world and to survive dangers.

Frank Leigh-Sceptical
Frank Leigh-Sceptical
3 years ago

“The journalist Noah Berlatsky might say so. “‘Parent’ is an oppressive class,” he wrote recently, “like rich people or white people”. “

Another tedious, deluded cretin. One to watch out for by the looks of it. Here’s hoping his influence is minimal.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago

I think the author is really arguing for the parental exercise of legitimate authority, not for tyranny. Be a kindly monarch. 😀

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
3 years ago

Definition of tyrannical: “exercising power in a cruel or arbitrary way.”

Parents should exercise their authority but not in a tyrannical way. Parents should not be cruel; they should not impose unnecessary suffering on children. The behaviour of parents should not be arbitrary; it should constant over time and consistent from one child to another.

greg waggett
greg waggett
3 years ago

Beat them.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
3 years ago

Finally some sane rational balance!

Krisztina Samu
Krisztina Samu
2 years ago

Great article Mary. Well thought out. I’m so “over” the term “oppression”. What is being called “oppression” is often someone at a higher level giving those under his/her authority, healthy boundaries within which they can safely operate.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

Well that was a long way of saying something very simple. I consider it the height of bad manners and glass house arrogance to criticise other people’s parenting techniques. It’s never an attractive trait.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Shame is a great teacher.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Don’t think it will discourage Mary from preaching.

David George
David George
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

And Berlatsky?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

Difficult to tell from the two tweets quoted. My guess is he’s using ‘oppression’ in the same way Mary is using Tyranny – for effect.

David George
David George
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

This Berlasky is a far left, oikophobic mess so everything is an affectation. Mary’s a wise and thoughtful mother and writer; I’m happy to forgive a little journalistic flourish to her headline. If she even wrote it.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

So dosing up your screaming infant with laudanum shouldn’t be criticized?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

That’s child abuse, not parenting.

Caitlin McDonald
Caitlin McDonald
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

” That’s child abuse, not parenting.”
No true Scotsman fallacy. If you define parenting in a way that it is all behaviours you approve of, I can imagine why you think others’ parenting shouldn’t be criticised.

By that token, let’s be clear that Molly-coddling children is not parenting; it is child abuse.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Clearly “It takes a Village” to raise an idiot…

Ray Hall
Ray Hall
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

I am going to use that quote .