What if they want beer for breakfast?

Jorge's picture

“The beer happens to be my property”, I replied to the rather incredulous looking woman who had asked the question, “but if my daughters had purchased the beer, they wouldn't even ask. After all, it would be their beer.”

We get questions like this fairly often when we meet new people and they find out our children do not go to school, are not required to study anything, don't have assigned bedtimes, do not “have to” clean their rooms, etc, etc. The eyes tend to really widen when we tell them that there are very few rules in the house, that they apply equally to all of the people who live here and explain our philosophy of non-coercion.

As with all human relationships, it comes down to “Freedom is the answer, what is the question?” Unfortunately, when we interact with others, especially those who work for the State, or who work for large bureaucratic organizations, Freedom is usually not the answer. However, in our personal relationships, those with our friends, with our spouses, and especially those with our children, we have a choice. When we are the ones supplying the answers we can insure that they are consistent with Freedom.

While it does require some conscious thought, especially initially , it is not as difficult as it may first appear. For example, many young children tend to be picky eaters. Often they do not want to eat the meal you have prepared. Our approach was, and still is, simple. Everyone can eat whatever they want, whenever they want. Of course this assumes they can get it or prepare it for themselves. The person preparing the food decides what we are eating. If you don't like it, feed yourself. For years, especially when they were younger, we never had sweets in the house, so when they went to find something else, they found nutritious food. Now that they earn their own money, they can buy all the junk food they want, but almost never do. Because they wanted control over their diet, they learned how to cook early on. They used their freedom to learn a skill, so that they could have even more freedom. This has been a recurring pattern.

So what about the serious stuff every parent worries about, does Freedom work there? What about “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll”?

Like most teenagers (my oldest turned 13 today) and their parents, there is little intersection with our musical tastes. That is fine. The music of the 70s and 80s does not speak to the issues of today. The music of today speaks to the issues in ways I, at least, do not care for. As long as I don't have to listen to their music and they don't have to listen to mine, all is good. Property rights “solve” the “problem”. Actually, since we all understand Property Rights, there never has been a problem. In fact, I have been “turned on” to quite a bit of music by my children, and like to think that they have come to appreciate some things I enjoy as well.

Drugs, well, that is easy. Wine is usually on the table at dinner, they have always been able to help themselves. I think they each got too high once. After that, they control their own intake. They know all about other drugs, including the fact that some can be addicting and many are illegal. That there can be unpleasant consequences associated with the use or abuse of any drug. One thing our policy does, which I had not considered until a friend pointed it out, is ensure that when teenage boys try to get them drunk, our daughters will watch the boys make fools of themselves, and will not be taken advantage of.

Sex, this is the big one with parents of girls, but it need not be. I know from my own experience, that short of locking teenagers up, it is impossible to stop them if they want to. I saw it constantly growing up in the 70s. The bolder ones would sneak off during breaks at school. A prohibitionist approach does not work. The best that we can do is explain the potential consequences of sex at an early age, be available to discuss it with them if they want, and in general provide an environment where they have the self confidence to say “No”. If they will not let their parents, or other adults for that matter, order them around, it is highly unlikely that they will give in to the juvenile demands of teenage boys.

We do not worry about our daughters dieing tragically as did Natalee Holloway. When children have been suppressed all their lives, and have never had real responsibility (“having” to get good grades is not responsibility), it should come as little surprise that they “cut loose”. The concept that somehow, because you turn 18, you all of a sudden become a “responsible adult” when for the previous 17 years, 364 days of your life you were a “child”, is ridiculous and a recipe for disaster. It is a wonder that this type of tragedy does not occur more often.

Freedom works. With Freedom comes Responsibility. With Responsibility comes Reason. It just flows. It does not have to be forced. I do not think that it can be forced.

Rights apply equally to all. That my children may not know their rights, or be in a position to exercise them, simply means that it is my job, my responsibility, and in fact, my pleasure, to teach them. The only way to teach Freedom, is to live it.

Raising free children is not sufficient to achieve general freedom, but it is necessary, and it is a start.

John Newnham says:

"The only way to teach Freedom, is to live it."

That was the essential quote from this, for me Jorge.

Enjoyed the piece emensely. I can relate to much of it. I read something in the same vein some time ago from Lobo, and this compliments that perfectly.