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April 03, 2009

Consensual Living: A New Fad Harmful to Children

Lord of the Flies There's a new fad being promoted for parents who want to shirk the responsibility of inculcating their children with character. 

The fad is called "Consensual Living," and it's being touted as a "progressive" philosophy. The website says that the program will bring "harmony" to the whole family and even to the community.  

According to this group, "Everyone's wants and needs are valid," and "punishment and rewards are really just tools of manipulation."  

But before you subscribes to this philosophy, I'd recommend reading a classic novel by William Golding, Lord of the Fliesor simply watch the news. Obviously, whoever came up with this hair-brained scheme has never actually taken the time or effort to raise kids. 

Conversation between mother and son at a "Consensual Living" home:

"Bobby, quit hitting your little brother!"
"No, Mommy, I want to hit him, and my wants are as valid as yours!"
(After she gets back from the hospital with bludgeoned little brother...)
"Bobby, clean your room."
"No Mommy, I don't want to...but Mommy, I want a larger allowance to entice Sally to...well you know.  She's 8 years old and has this silly notion about waiting until she's 11..." 

(Image © Perigree Books)

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Jason Taylor

Punishments and rewards are tools of manipulation? You mean they are actually a means for getting children to do what their parents want? Horror of horrors, I never knew that! I'm so disillusioned!

Next you'll tell me that the IRS is a way to take control of the money of Americans for the government's purposes. Or that the Marines are a tool of mass violence for the government. Or that sports are a means of flattering the male ego. Or that fishermen are exploiters of the death of aquatic animals. Or Eric Liddel was an agent of religious proselytism, William Wilburforce was forcing his values on other people, and Lord Baden-Powell desired to inculcate young boys in patriarchal Victorian values.

What WILL they discover next?


These people ever raise kids???


We know it is much easier to be a child rearing expert if you aren't saddled with the actual responsibility of raising actual children. I'm guessing that the parents who try this approach have a high drop out rate.


When the children raised via such a philosophy become adults, one of two fates are relatively predictable: either they'll go 180 degrees from their parents and become successful by being extremely disciplined (and disciplining), or else they'll become PFM's latest problem to try to solve. But do we really need more sociopaths?

This philosophy trades chaos in the future for the "harmony" of the present.

And as usual with such experiments, it reconfirms G.K. Chesterton's observation in "Orthodoxy" that original sin is "the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved". Just let your child be himself, and you'll sadly find out just what that self really is.

Kim, can we create an island like the one in "Lord of the Flies" where these psychologists can go to live with the results of their theories, away from the rest of us? (Jason Taylor will no doubt remind me that the British tried effectively that by colonizing Australia, and today we sing worship choruses from Hillsong. And crime in Britain was not alleviated. Well, OK, sure - but it would still feel rather good to wave goodbye to the ship.)

Jason Taylor

Whether or not crime in Britain declined Aussies are jolly good fighters so perhaps Britain didn't come off too badly out of the deal.


the above "conversation" would never take place-consensual living does not involve imposing one's own wishes on the child. Ideally, little brother would be removed from the situation, and then mom (or dad) would discuss with big brother what was going on in his head to make him want to hurt little brother. If he doesn't want to clean his room...so what? Mom can close the door and keep the parts of the house she lives in clean...eventually, when he realizes he can't find anything, he'll clean it. Consensual living is about nurturing autonomy and a child's sense of self and encouraging cooperation without outside incentives.

Steve (SBK)

"Mom can close the door..."

A soft tactic that sounds like a tool of manipulation for Momma's covert will to power. :P

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