Children don’t respond fully to reason?

Once in a while i have a discussion with somebody who offers up the following excuse for hitting children:

Kids don’t fully respond to reason, else they wouldn’t so frequently & deliberately disobey their parents’ reasonable requests.


If children don’t respond fully to reason, then there must be some limit beyond which they don’t respond to reason, such as particular topics or whatever. But this raises a problem. Let’s say that children don’t respond to reason about jam. There are various things that related to jam in some way like glass jars. So do children respond to reason about glass jars? What about phenomena associated with glass jars, like refraction? What about the physics of the constituents of glass like silicon and oxygen? What about the constituents of those atoms, like protons and neutrons? Unless you can answer questions like that this stuff about the child being unreasonable is just an excuse. And if you can explain in what respect the child is acting unreasonably, then why not use that explanation to convince the child to act differently?

There is another problem. If the child is supposed to enact the parents ideas he has to figure out how to do this. But the claim is that children are not capable of using reason on that topic. So how could the child obey the parent?

One more problem: the author states that children “deliberately” refuse to enact a parent’s reasonable requests. If a child is doing something deliberately then he has a purpose in doing it and he is using reason to figure out how to do what he wants. So that description of what the child is doing contradicts the claim that the child is not capable of using reason on the very topic where the parent and child have the disagreement.

What is actually happening is that the child disagrees with the parent. This happens because the child has to figure out what he wants to do next by himself. He can’t act on an idea in another person’s head. The parent may provide the child with assistance in figuring out what to do next by providing explanations of flaws in the child’s plans or alternatives the child might prefer. The parent might be wrong about what’s best for the child for many reasons. The parent might not understand the child’s preferences well enough to offer good suggestions for meeting them. The parent may dislike the child’s preferences and try to thwart them without knowing how to criticise those preferences. Since the parent doesn’t understand those preferences he can’t explain what’s wrong with them and so convince the child to change his preferences.

The West has a tradition of reason that involves figuring out better ideas through critical argument without violence. Using violence to get a child to do what you want contradicts that rational tradition. Parents should want to figure out ways of improving existing parenting traditions to make them more rational. For good explanations of these topics see Fallible Ideas materials on Taking Children Seriously and Parenting and Tradition.

About conjecturesandrefutations
My name is Alan Forrester. I am interested in science and philosophy: especially David Deutsch, Ayn Rand, Karl Popper and William Godwin.

One Response to Children don’t respond fully to reason?

  1. Why would you rather engage with that guy than with me? Because he’s wrong and easier to argue with? Not that engaging with that guy is actually the issue. There are many other things you do instead too.

    Also your arguments don’t address the thinking of InfoDon and others with similar views. You aren’t engaging with their actual lines of reasoning. You’re doing something more like (implicitly) suggesting the methods of analysis that they should use and showing how those good methods lead to the conclusion that they are wrong and idiotic. This will not convince them to change to your suggested analysis methods (plus you don’t provide nearly enough info for them to learn the new methods, nor links to where and how to learn it).

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