Friday, April 30, 2010

Should you love your child unconditionally?

From my blogs you will be struck by the need to fight an intellectual war against many facets of society. There is a great deal wrong with society. Those flaws are a product of our education system. Education however starts with parenting. Misguided psychologists are misleading parents into teaching parents that they ought to give their children unconditional love. The whole concept is a rationalisation for the following reasons.

  1. They establish an unhealthy dichotomy between mind and body. They say that the child is not bad, that they did bad things. This notion of course comes from reality, where man is a sinner and has to renounce material possessions. Philosophers have developed many such dichotomies to explain or justify their flawed conceptions. The reality is that bad actions are the consequence of bad values or flawed thinking. The consequence of such thinking is that a child is able to rationalise that 'I am not morally responsible' because I am a good person, who happens to do bad things. It also allows a parent to live in self-denial, which is sure to get worse as the parent's unconditional love is demonstrably flawed as a parenting strategy.
  2. The other issue is the idea that values are intrinsic. Things are not good or bad for a reason, they are just good or bad....because someone said so, or because you feel it. This is of course the first step in sabotaging your mind because it causes you to discard any justification for values. It results in people not developing a theory of values. In relationships I have had tremendous difficulty dealing with partners with whom you cannot negotiate values because they have no underlying reasons for theirs, and see no need for reasons. My precondition for negotiation is thus a basis for their condemnation of me, as I am making them feel vulnerable. This is the same damage you are doing to the self esteem of your child.

The question then becomes how does a parent morally 'condemn' their children without destroying their self-esteem. I suggest there are several steps:
  1. Stop making your values the standard of value. Treat them as if they are independent moral agents, and are expected to be so.
  2. Stop conveying the fact that you are always right, even if you are, as it creates a self-righteousness which implies (in the context of society) the sense that you give primacy to your consciousness at the expense of the facts of reality.
  3. Negotiate values rather than impose them; i.e. Convey that you are both searching for truth. Morally condemning a child does not convey any respect for facts, and creates an unhealthy focus upon their flaws.
  4. Validate the child when they get things wrong. It is a matter of justice to convey when and why people are good and bad. There is a load of nonsense which says you should praise 100x more than you criticise. Arbitrary nonsense. Just have reasons, and empathy and you will be ok.
  5. Do you disparage a child, and convey arguments like 'When I was young I made the same mistake...but I learned that....".
  6. Teach a child to anticipate - that is to think. My neighbour said of his child when he crashed the car for the second time "He'll eventually learn". My guess that so long as the parent and society don't teach kids to think, to anticipate problems, to prepare, to plan, he probably won't learn, or he'll be so diminished in self-esteem, he will fear learning and acting, and will pursuit concrete self-indulgences which make him feel good in the moment.
  7. Don't be a hypocrite. Live the values you teach. It ought to be apparent to most parents that kids have a keen sense for picking up any discrepancies in their parents thinking. If you model hypocrisy, you will be modelling self-indulgence.
  8. Don't disparage your kids. My parents modelled argument for me. When I used it against them because of their inconsistencies, they did not disparage me; they simply denied me validation (i.e. justice). You are not in competition with your children. Preserve some respect for reality, and yourself by not disparaging them. Intellectually lazy. Your kids can be your best teacher. Don't kill the messenger.
From this last point I hope you can appreciate the difference between good and bad conditional love. Healthy or objective 'conditional love' is about conveying logical values. Just as you should be giving objective conditional love, so should the child. They ought to love you for reasons, as you should love them for reasons. Logically asserted values conveys knowledge to the child, and gives the child a basis to love and respect the parent. You would be surprised how agreeable or reasonable a child can be when they respect a parent. Some of you have no in 10 years, when they leave the home, you are glad to see the back of them....for decades complaining about it. Oh my wife turned them against me. Incidentally, your romantic relationships ought to be founded on the same principles.

One needs to acknowledge that just as the field of philosophy is perverted, so is the field of psychology. There are good and bad psychologists. It all comes down to underlying values of the person. My favourites are Nathaniel Branden (self esteem) and Mark Levine (child psychology). It is rare that I can read a science book and not find flaws. These are two scientists who affirm in one's mind that there are intelligible rational people in the world. I'm sure they are others, but only 10% of books leave me thinking I have nothing to say to improve them. These people tend to be more empiricially or evidence based, i.e. They have recognised patterns in children, etc, but they have also retained healthy values. In more abstract topics, the 'pickings are slimmer'.
Andrew Sheldon