Parents' Rights/Children's Rights

Tenyamc's picture
Submitted by Tenyamc on Fri, 2006-03-31 07:47

Several weeks ago I posted notice of an upcoming meeting in the SOLO Michigan forum. The meeting topic was to be Parents' and Children's Rights. Along with the meeting notice, I posted the following introduction to the issue (please be aware that this was written by the discussion leader for that meeting--not me):

Parental rights is a more complicated matter than anyone could possibly fathom at first glance. Those we would call conservatives today believe parental rights are absolutist, almost in the same way that most Objectivists hold property rights as absolutist. Rand actually had very little to say about parenting and parental rights. But in our morality, how far do these rights really go? At what point should the government be allowed to step in to protect the child's rights as an individual? Consider the following cases in point:

The other day on television I saw some "inked" up parents, with tattoo's on every extention on their bodies. This is something that, without expensive surgery on the skin, can not be undone. One set of parents had a tattoo on the forearm of their 4 year old girl. At 4 years old, the child has little choice, no good judgement, and barely any free will. Should this be allowed? Is it abuse and a violation of that individuals rights? Should the
government be able to make a law to ban this act by parents? Or should the parents be allowed to make these kinds of decisions for their children?

Compulsory education! This is one of the most complicated issues related to parental rights, and this is the issue that made me really consider this topic. Lets assume for a second that there is no public education, and everyone could afford a private school at that point. Lets also pretend for a second that parents X and Z own family run busineses, and they need all the help they could get. People who believe in absolutist parental rights would say that compulsory education should be taken off the books and that they should be allowed to raise their kids in the family business, never teaching them to read, write, or how to understand math. Would this be a violation of the child's rights as an individual in their own right? When the child reaches the "age of reason", whatever that may be, what if they wanted to do something else, but had no education? Have the parents violated their rights? Is compulsory education an actual protection of an individuals rights by allowing them to get educated, and then be equipped with the proper knowledge to make the decision of what they want to do with the rest of their lives? Could we consider holding kids at home abuse, as
we do in law today?

Spare the rod spoil the child? Since it is damn near impossible to reason with children, should parents be allowed to force children to be reasonable, by physical means if nessesary? If so, where's the fine line?

Circumcision. A lot of new debate about it, I'll be bringing some material to introduce

Religious and philosophical indoctrination.

How would we define children's rights? With rights, come the responsibility to respect the rights of others. With something like freedom of religion, we as free thinking adults are allowed to choose what religion if any at all. If we were to absolutly afford children these decisions, how would we enforce that right? Would we ban parents from taking their kids to church or Mosque until the child is old enough to decide for their own? If so would this conflict with a parent's rights to raise their kids as they see fit? When considering all of this and other questions regarding this subject, remember that children are people of reason, rationality, or valid free-will (by valid I mean that they don't have the cognitive capacity to make wise judgement, and also that they will probably just do what their parents make them do). If we had absolutist parental rights, wouldn't children be treated more like property than like individuals with rights of their own?

These are very complicated matters, so take some time to think
about it. We may not be able to get to everything on here, but it's a big issue, and as much as we hate to say it, it's a gray area when it comes to what Rand said and how far the already laid out principles of Objectivism go. The reason that we are having this debate is that we're looking for one, wide scoping, all encompasing principle or rule that applies to parental rights. "Nobody has an unearned obligation or duty to any other person" is the all encompassing rule for ethics in Objectivism, so what is it for parenting?


Vera S. Doerr replied to this post with the following which I repost here with her permission:

Children's rights
Submitted by VSD on Thu, 2006-01-19 09:07.
... I accept my responability for a child's obligations and needs based on my unilateral decision of giving birth to it without it's consent, thus impinging on it's right not to live - as I cannot determine the childs wish to live before birth I am incurring a debt of 'unearned obligation to another person' - which in reverse would include the child's right to terminate it's own life of it's own free will anytime it so choses
(this precludes the split issue of female reproduction which has to be unsplit first - full autonomy, legal, physical, psychological of females over their reproductive functions - as soon as that issue get's split any child resulting will have to deal with all the consequences of that split)
... I am offering a child an equal share in the opportunities for health, wealth and happiness (add as needed) I can procure on my own or for myself - included is the obligation to share in the child's obligations except where restricted below
... I give a child the full rights and self-responsability of any other person (adult or otherwise) including the same obligations not to harm the rights of others - if the child is not able to meet those obligations and my above obligation to the child makes me responsible for my child's transgressions I am entitled to take measures to ensure that the child's incapacity to meet it's own obligations don't impinge on my own rights in the future
(which precludes only directly related measures for obligations and rights transgressions based on a particular failure of the child)
... I allow the child to chose it's educational form - which precludes that I can actually offer it differing ways of education - even if the child choses not to be (formally) educated - if it lacks education in whatever field later it is it's own responsability to make up for this lack when it requires knowledge it did not acquire when offered
... I allow a child the same religious choice I offer in education - which precludes my own openess to introduce or facilitate introduction of the child to varying religions - even of no religion
... I secure a child's physical intactness within the boundaries of my obligations to that child - it is not my obligation to protect a child from being influenced by other's example (or I'd turn it into a hermit)
(exposure to differing social, moral, intellectual, physical environements as far as my own ressources allow or the child's ressources can procure will take care of any unreflected influences)
... I abhor circumcision - I have yet to see any valid justification for circumcision before I even attempt to answer this question rationally
this is just an initial summary on an abstract level of children's rights and obligations - most others can be referred from these and the examples you cited can easily be evaluated along the lines of these arguments
many of the arguments you used imply that children are to a varying extent incapable of making good decision about their own needs and how to satisfy them - my experience was to the contrary, that children often know far better than I do what they need and even how to get it (dozens of examples on request if needed for the argument) - if you accept this ability of children (even of infants) and nourish their self-reliance you'll soon find out how many so-called 'chilren's rights' become superfluous
let me know which points you think need revision and what other 'gray areas' came up during your meeting

As I indicated, these posts originally appeared several weeks ago. I have been delaying comment until I could contact Vera and get her permission to move her reply to a more topic-appropriate forum. My comments and summation of the meeting discussion on this topic will follow.

( categories: )

No worries ... they get even

VSD's picture

No worries ... they get even better when they grow on you Smiling


Thank you

Wes's picture

"You must be a great parent." Thank you, I'll keep my fingers crossed, because mine still has most of the new still on him.

Thanks for the reply, Wes.

Tenyamc's picture

Thanks for the reply, Wes. I appreciate your thoughts on this. You must be a great parent.

I agree that the key is that you have a reason when you say no--rather than appearing to be arbitrarily using your power over the kids. This is so much easier for me with the older kids who can understand what I am saying, ask clarifying questions, and negotiate for an acceptable compromise. (I love it when they do this. It's such a thrill for me to see how well they've developed these skills.) I have a harder time with my little one because her language isn't developed enough to understand the reason.

Rowlf,I hope you didn't

Tenyamc's picture


I hope you didn't misunderstand me. I'm not looking to intervene (or for anyone else to) in the 14-year-old's religious issues with her parents. The situation started me thinking about my own children and how I handle the situation--my children choose to go to church now and then, I don't stop them. I thought others' viewpoints on this might be interesting.

I think Adam was referring to the "I pay the bills you'll do as I tell you" argument that many parents use to keep control where it may not be necessary or good for the child. An example is my children going to church even though I'm an atheist. I want them to learn to make their own decisions rather than using finances (or other authority) to make those choices for them.

Tenya, The best general

Wes's picture


The best general principle I could come up with is “the parents’ job is to use the best of their abilities to ready their kid(Drunk to deal with objective reality.” The “best of their abilities” caveat is due to discussion in this thread and I’ve got myself convinced I read the rest of it somewhere on this site but can’t find it. Yes, there’s a grey area here and it’s because I’m stuck trying to address the importance of the parent’s judgment.

I think the real value of the “always say yes” rule is just that there is a reason. I’m not sure the value of debating what makes a “good” one. It’s too situational and consequences are too far-reaching and hard to predict. I’d rather default to the individual parent’s judgment and the general principle of readying them for objective reality. I also second Vera’s position on government intervention.

The Right of 'intervention', the moral 'oughts' and...Laws

Rowlf's picture

~~ I'm not really sure what Fred's argument about a 'custom' of linkage 'tween a parent's/guardian's financial support and legal control have to do with any 'oughts' about any given prob situation. I find neither of the former relevent to the latter, other than watching out that you're not caught by the 'law' (whatever it is at the moment wherever) breaking it. Re the 'finance' part, indeed, that's where 'law' then is inherently relevent in ITS decision about who's legally-allowed (other than IT) do whatever to the child. A neighbor has no right to do anything about/to your child other than call the 'law', unless it's a crisis situation where your child may be doing something...illegal. Whatever the global traditions re Jews, Christians, Shintos, there's always been 'laws' that allowed...and even required to some degree...such. The LAW had the final say about 'guardians'...and neighbors probs with the lack shown by them, no?

~~ Re specifically the religious parents requiring that the 14-yr old atheist-convert keep going: until lethal-risk methods are clearly employed, who else (but the 'law') has any right to interfere? I say: no one. It's not a matter of who 'finances' the care-taking of the 14-yr old (the 'guardians' may be merely 'foster' type...getting money for the care-taking)...but who decides the 'rules' of living in a home the 'child' is living within and under the auspices of.

~~ I say that this 14-yr old just has to be expected by all us others of enduring the requirement of exposure to idiocy which they find pointless. We're not exactly talking life-threatening abuse here...if the 14-yr-old has a half-a-mind, regardless their past exposures.



Tenyamc's picture

I agree with you. Thank you for mentioning it. It is hard to watch your "baby" screw up and not step in and try to "help"-- especially when you're still paying the bills.

Selfhood and support

AdamReed's picture


The problem of the 14-year-old comes down to the completely unnecessary linkage between the parents' financial support and legal control over the teen. In other cultures there is no such linkage. Among secular Jews (Alyssa Rosenbaum, myself, etc.) it is customary for parents to support their children financially until the end of the children's education (medical school, law school, graduate school etc) - but the young person becomes socially independent of her or his parents at 12 or 13. [The Bat Mitzvah (at 12) or Bar Mitzvah (at 13) ceremony is about taking full responsibility for the course of one's own life.] The Christian custom of keeping a young person under parental control until 18 or 21 leads, in my observation, to lower achievement, and often to increased adolescent rebellion, dependency, irresponsibility and criminality.

Glad to see all the comments

Tenyamc's picture

I'm glad to see there was so much more discussion while I was away.

Phil, thanks for the suggestions. What you said makes sense. Often it seems that the extreme cases are what people want to talk about though. I'll try to give more attention to everyday-type situations. Maybe you'll consider my next topic to be more of that type. : )

Wes, I think your always-say-yes-unless-there-is-a-good-reason-to-say-no guideline is a good one. And I appreciate being reminded of this. What qualifies as a good reason to say no? There are obvious situations ("No, you can't drink the Drano. Yes, you can have a glass of milk.") What about things that aren't so obvious?

About a month ago, my daughter's friend (aged 14) became an atheist. She had thought about what she was hearing in church, asked a lot of questions and decided it didn't make sense. She says they can't prove that this is true, and until they can, I don't believe it. Despite her desire to discontinue attending church, her mother insists that she keep going. I can only speculate as to her reasons and how the conversation went since I only heard the result. What rights are at issue here?

Everyone, thanks for your thoughtful comments.

'Handling' children

Rowlf's picture

~~ Apart from 'experience', I've learned a bit from the methodology I've picked up from reading Maria Montessori re teaching, and the books by Jean Piaget re mental development.

~~ But, I MUST recommend my relatively recent discovery of the books by...

...They are more-or-less time-capsuled 'memoirs'; but, one can learn a lot re handling children-'behaviour' probs therefrom.



VSD's picture

We could argue about the rarity and probability of extremes - personal experience aside: what parents (and other legal guardians) do to their children these days would put Ayn's 'compracchicos of the mind' to shame

oups - sorry: no laws (legal, moral or otherwise) against it so no shame and blame to be attached Smiling

but the important point for me is that even the minor, unimportant, every-day issues often have the same consequences of stunting our children's growth - so maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to think a bit in extremes even when deciding simple matters - the decision should be the same - based on the same principles, laws, rights

however I agree with your point that this is a very personal approach to parenting - your methodological approach would probably reach more 'outside' parents from the 'inside' - maybe Tenya can offer us a more scientific approach when she get's her notes sorted?

PS: what's your take on the issue - from the 'inside'?

Great Rule :)

VSD's picture

just make sure your child accepts your reason, too - unless of course it impacts you directly - rights work both ways

and sorry for the guilt trip - wasn't meant to be

the old role-reversal: those who should feel the guilt get off free because they don't give a 'diaper' - and those who already try their best believe they should try harder

"why are children allowed to

Wes's picture

"why are children allowed to repeat their parents' mistakes but not allowed to make their own?"

I thank you for the preemptive guilt trip; that line is going to stick with me. I'll try to avoid that error with this rule, "Always say yes, unless there's a reason to say no." And then I just need to make sure I do my homework and don't stagnant as a person.

Important Area of the Philosophy of Law

PhilipC's picture

Tenya, your original post is excellent and raises a whole host of important questions. Like Lindsay, I wish more people were focused on philosophical or challenging threads like this (as opposed to who-is-more-evil-among-oists stuff).

I have a methodological suggestion regarding exploring a huge field such as this: "Work from the inside out". I wouldn't brush aside borderline cases or extreme situations, but I wouldn't start with them either. Don't start one's thinking about this topic with the rare, the improbable, the extreme...such as what to do if the child wants to commit suicide or if the parents want to lock him up to his bed or put tattoos all over his body. While those may come up in a court of law, they are rate in everyday life.

In almost every subject, it is best to start with the common, the everyday, the frequent. Often it is hard enough to make sure one has one's principles straight on these issues. And then, a lot of what one concludes from the normal will apply in some form to "hanging by one's fingernails from the edge of a cliff" matters.


Thanx VSD...

Rowlf's picture

~~ Originally tried to follow Duncan Bayne's directions given in an earlier article-question on this. I must've missed something apparently.

~~ Uh, er, no, didn't check for dimensions or size. Prob more than the 'max' you listed, I'd suspect; I'm sure there's no firewall, Active-X prob.

~~ What I get is the message that it's been ok'd and u-l'd...then...nothing shows.

~~ I'll fool around with it another time. Thanx again, anhoo.


P.S: Hello Krishna. You'd get a relevent response from me, but, re children's/parent's rights, I have no idea what you're talking about re reality being kept down to one's level or how such is relevent to the thread's


krishna2's picture

Your last line is - Thanx...smiling...

And, No I am not whining here!...laughing...

I am just watching here how people try to adjust things to suit their own needs and keep

thinking that they can keep reality down to their level! I am not being unfriendly in my comments

but is reality what we like to think about it rather than what it is actually?...smiling...


VSD's picture

sorry for asking naiv questions - but ...

did you check the dimensions (max. 80x100) and size (max. 50kb)?

do you have a firewall that's blocking cookies, information about your browser and activex?

do you get any error messages or is just nothing happening?

if all that doesn't help you can still send a mail to the site admin(Drunk ...



Rowlf's picture

~~ Tried to 'u-l' a pic, but...I'm doin' sumpin' rawng.


Get a picture of Mr Spock!

VSD's picture

Alas the picture would not change the content of your posts - this thread is not about reincarnation or who chose whom in the life-cycle of reincarnation (whom gives a damn), but how you can deal with your present life as a child/parent and make the best of it - if you wish to comment on that without too much laughing and smiling when actually whining, I think you might actually get a reply ...

As for the new user-picture-fad going around here: your's doesn't look much like an actual person either - unless of course you're the devil - but then why do you hang around an objectivist forum?

Maybe I should upgrade, too, as more people chose to (sadly) become anonymous again - I usually use a Little Seal - feel free to interpret that on your own without spreading it on this post ...

Thanx Smiling


krishna2's picture

Mr.Ross Elliot has the picture of Captain Kirk of The Star trek, or so it seems to me! I see!...smiling

and laughing...

  And people here still don't like to acknowledge me!Guys you must have some problems!

Can I help?...laughing...

But I wanna ...

VSD's picture

Hi Rowlf,

thanx for offering your experience of raising kids - especially with your unique perspective (which you might want to elaborate on somewhere down the line) for special needs in differently abled children.

Though I'm not quite clear on why you make the needs of a child the needs of the parent (a parent could always have her child's needs met through other mothers), I'd still like to comment on your distinction of want vs need which I think is a necessary prerequisite to having needs met.

I'm assuming from your distinction that 'want' is sth that the child would like to have but which is in no way essential to it's growth and flourishing (I think it's not redundant as you can grow physically and mentally without actually flourishing - e.g. a plant can grow withouth ever flowering), which in turn would constitute a need. I'm also assuming that in your experience children cannot distinguish between want and need thus the parent has to make that distinction for the child based on her own value judgement.

My experience was to the contrary: I've allowed children to have their wants and needs met indiscriminately as far as the procured ressources were able to. They themselves were very clear on which of those wants and needs they wanted met first (without rational adult guidance as to the 'necessities of life') and those decisions never left them in dire need for anything essential for their growth. They always ask for that first themselves.

My second point is that sometimes wants are as important as physical and mental needs (even by your categorisation). Just like a flower needs not only minimal requirements of water, earth and light to grow, but also sunshine, fresh air, wind, caring, to be able to flower someday, a child also 'needs' it's 'wants' fulfilled to be able to flourish - not just grow.

(And I'm not talking about the whining 'I wanna have it' I hear so often from children these days. They've never learned about their own wants or needs as they had those dictated by parents, society, school, government. All they learned is that whining may get them sth that want or need might not. So they whine for anything whether important to them or not.)

Real-life example: if a child wants a harp and a computer, both of which are not essential needs, the rational adult would argue that a computer might come in handy for educational purposes and future job prospects as almost every job these days is somehow connected to computers. The harp however would be only of limited educational value in musicology and, as the child has heretofore not displayed any special musical abilities, would not even offer future professional value. So a want for a computer might be granted while a want for a harp might not.

If the child turns out to be a computer whiz the first want will justify the parent's decision and make that want worth supporting, but would make the future world-renowned concert harpist starve artistically (and of course vice-versa). And if both wants are dismissed as mere wishes not as needs to be provided by the parent not only any future value to the child would have been lost, but also some (imho) essential value to the child's life who might have derived some emotional or artistic pleasure from it's want which would have let it flourish instead of mere growing.

In all three cases the decision of the parent is based on the parent's own value judgement and we may never find out the consequences. In the last case the want is even dismissed completely as not essential instead of letting the child decide how many of it's needs it would be willing to give up or curtail in order to have that want fulfilled. So I'd argue that your distinction between need and want is arbitrary as completely and solely determined by the parent's judgement and evaluation.

The same inequality of children is underlying your (rather amusing) comment about your little-lawyer-at-home (my apologies for 'abusing' it to make a point - I understand how it was meant). Why would you lose your temper in a child's cul-de-sac to dump the peas, but respect an adult as a superior intellect on this forum? Why would you require special skills (which ones?) to raise a child or teach? All that is needed in my experience is to offer (not force) what you can offer and try to provide alternatives for education you cannot offer. Even losing your temper would not be such a disaster if you can communicate to the child that you lost your temper with your own inability to reason on and not with the child's cleverness.

If children are not only equals by right (which they currently aren't) but treated as equals by adults, these 'home-made' problems would disappear. If you can 'show' a child by example, then so can the child.

As for original problem-behaviour: I've yet to see any that were not created or worsened by education, raising, social impact - trying to make your child fit the mold so it has a better chance in this life of ours. I'm not suggesting that there are no children born with physical, mental or emotional disorders, but I am suggesting that there might be (and are) ways to offer them as full and healthy (and flourishing) a life as any 'normal' child could have. Their needs and wants (and capabilities) are simply different.

And if I return to my above distinction: it's the child's decision which wants and needs it would like to have fulfilled - not the parent's judgement of their worth to a future productive life in this society. If you are not capable of providing those special wants and needs I agree that you may be in some hot waters, but that is your failure as a parent because you did not make provisions for such an event when conceiving a child.

Children's 'rights', like adults', are...

Rowlf's picture

...their inherent/indigenous/built-in NEEDS; such are their needs to grow, and flourish (if that's not redundant.)

~~ I'll not touch on the particular concretes brought up (circumcision, 'inking', etc), but I'll refer to what *I* call *my* principles re 'raising' kids (got 2: a 15-yr-old Down S, and a 13 yr-old). I've run through some 'experts' books, some pedagogical (Montessori and Piaget), and formed my own conclusions...especially where I went wrong in prior experiences.

~~ ALL kids share some physical needs: constant air, routine food/water, etc. ALL kids have mental needs, whatever the varied sub-types, which all come under the rubric of 'education'/learning: how to care-take themselves, feed themselves, etc. Then there's official 'schooling' for all (I'm still unclear as to that being a 'need', but, I'm against govt-compulsoriness/overseeing of it). Needless to say, most of these needs for them to learn are ALSO a need of the guardian/'parent' that they learn such. It's not rocket science to understand why. My point here is: the 1st set-of-needs of one is the need of the other that the 1st's needs be met.

~~ Some specific kids have different additional needs, physical and/or mental. Methinks I need not have to exemplify these beyond the generic physical malformations/dysfunctions and mental cognitive retardations/dysfunctions.

~~ EACH of these needs are, for them to flourish (to what degree they can) in their rational capacity, a 'right' ->as existentially defined by AR. Interestingly, this is not merely a right to an action, but a right to a commitment/obligation of having those who created them, or who were delegated the obligations to, by the creators (I'll not get into special cases of abandoned orphans here). When such moral obligations of satisfying-a-need-of-an-other are not met, then it's time for police and courts to intervene. Rand did not explicate this reasoning, but, it's how I see it...and suspect how she saw it.

~~ Now, however, THIS is where things get...interesting...for the 'parent': 1st, identifying all these needs (some obvious, of course; others are only discoverable later, especially those unique to the child); 2nd, just as tricky: satisfying these needs.

~~ THEN, there's the problem (for the guardian/'parent'; not for the 'child') of distinguishing, and identifying, WANTS from NEEDS. A child-raiser has no obligation to satisfying 'wants'/mere-desires of the kid. They merely have to clarify (1st to themselves; then, when possible, to the child) what is which re NEEDS (values, to be taught as such) and, on the other hand, mere DESIRES. --- It took me a while to teach Joey that, no, he didn't really 'need' a cookie.

~~ And I haven't even gotten into the difference between 'care-taking' and 'raising'; ok, I'll do it here: simplified, 'raising' is 'teaching'. Teaching not just 'what' and 'how', but 'why' this (way) vs that (way). --- Re values/ethics and/or goals/behaviour, here one get's into the prob of indoctrination vs...'showing'. Until the child empirically 'shows' some level of understanding via reason, all showing can only be via ostensible actions. Later, once they can be shown via rational discourse, all I can say is: better know your territory for what you're wanting to teach, including how to handle disagreements (LOL! I'm saying THIS? In a forum like this?) --- To be sure, teaching is a bona fide 'art'...but it requires some learned skill in, if nothing else, how to avoid making mistakes (such as losing your temper when your little-lawyer hems *you* in to a logical cul-de-sac about why s/he doesn't 'need' to eat their peas. LOL! I'm saying...oh, already said that.)

~~ I'll not get into bona-fide 'problem-behaviour' here, since this post is already long enough for an essay, but...I may chime in on that at some point later. I mean, some of the varied methodologies believed in re handling such are often controversial, ergo, it's a whole subject in itself.



Not just black humor

VSD's picture

... another example how children on the threshold of adulthood evaluate their chances in life: none, nada, finite.

Wouldn't suicidal tendencies be the 'logical' conclusion a child would often have to come to with the upbringing we've given it? with the (illogical) adult world it is facing which is largely of our own creation?

But we protect our innocents, with force of guardianship, hospitalisation, government if necessary, to make sure another screwed up adult makes it into our screwed up world to produce more screwed up children.

(my sarcasm showing through)

Taxpayers footing the bill ...

VSD's picture

Thanx for bringing up one more point I find very important in children's rights: that taxpayers are made to foot the bill when parents fail on purpose, by neglect or indifference.

With self-responsible adults I'm a bit of an extremist and argue that it is their own responsability to support their lives and if no other individual finds that life worth continuing under difficult/life-threatening circumcistances from his own pocket, nobody else can be made to by force.

With dependant children that argument becomes trickier - if you want to protect the child from the failure of the parent you are forcing other individuals to pay and leave irresponsible parents free to reproduce at will. So the logical conclusion would be that if the child's life is not worth the input from another individual it too should be left to it's own devices (e.g. die).

I think this issue is only split because of government rule. If no individual was forced to take up everybody else's 'lack' I think there'd be enough individuals who'd see dependant children in need of outside help as an investment in their own future instead of a burden. My brother did that for me, investing in my education (and sometimes my whims) and it paid off. The 'loan' was paid back with generous interest. And I have started doing the same, investing in other people's children I find worthy of support with money, education, opportunities their parents cannot afford (most often it isn't even a question of money, but time, opportunity or knowledge).

Children can be a treasure trove of opportunity and possibly - think of the interest rate of a future genius or inventor or artist who's raising your investment facilitated - or wouldn't you like an interest on John Galt's engine for a bit of an investment now?

To undo this split issue my suggestion would be to get rid of government control/force and leave dependant children to shrewed and interested 'investors'. Of course with the current disaster this 'social state' has produced (especially in our 'social' European countries) it would mean that many mouths would initially go unfed. But I'd argue that the price would be worth it: future self-responsible adults only.

Thanks for the comments

Tenyamc's picture


I appreciate your comments. I am concerned that this post includes quite a lot of issues that should probably be dealt with individually. Maybe down the line I'll get around to breaking them up a bit.
Obviously Rand's guidelines for government intervention to protect children make perfect sense. But as Ross and Vera have pointed out, governments have taken this valid function and used it to overrun individual rights. The cases I’ve seen (I used to practice family law, specializing in child custody) fell into the “none-of-government’s-goddamn-business” category. These weren’t kids who were being beaten or starved, mostly they were kids whose parents were “a little different.” One point of which objectivists tend to be very aware is that when the government intervenes somebody=taxpayers=we pay. Although I've never heard (or read) an objectivist say he believed parents should be allowed to murder, starve, or otherwise abuse their children, I meet a lot of folks (O'ist and not) who don't trust the government to decide when intervention is appropriate. The further insult of being required to pay for this injustice is rightly repugnant to them.

Vera, I'm glad to see you

Tenyamc's picture


I'm glad to see you made it back and were able to clear up some of the questions I had.

The "teenage angst/population control" comment was actually a bit of my black humor coming out. In that period a lot of teens become suicidal, overdose on various drugs, get into car accidents from inexperience, etc. I meant that if parents/adults allowed this behavior to go unchecked a lot of people would die earlier. I do see your point about the causes of teenage angst, however.

Thanks for your comments,


Government and Parenting

VSD's picture

government is known for it's total lack of flexibility (e.g. fixing 'adulthood' at an arbitrary age-boundary) which is crucial for the raising of children - I understand the point Ayn was trying to make to protect children from 'unfit' parents - but government protection cannot be the answer as it is even more restrictive

one answer could be giving rights to children as e.g. to chose other parents if they feel neglected and abused - a right which incidently no government offers children - or allow different family-life-styles that allow for greater flexibility in raising children (e.g. the wide range in age and family relation large families had in the past) ...

this is only one example of disfunctional government intervention - almost all so-called children's rights and laws for children's protection default to the same mess ...

as for developing a childs mind to fully exercise it's right - I'd argue that most 'adults' have not reached that stage - so who are they to impose their insufficiency on children before allowing them to make their own choices - to put it controversely:

why are children allowed to repeat their parents' mistakes but not allowed to make their own?

Sorry for posting so late ...

VSD's picture

... was out on business - here's the promised copy from RoR (or vice-versa) ...

Thanx for re-posting my reply Tenya,
here's some answers to your initial points - please bear in mind that many of these are only abstractions of my actual experiences, so some of them may not be 'objectivistically correct':

1. the wish to live/not to live is only taken as the point of origin of an obligation for the childs life - the question is not whether the choice exists beforehand but whether you can still offer the choice after the child is born - I see three decision points here before a child becomes 'self-decisional' - let me digress shortly:
a) pre conception - when I conceive a child I make a unilateral decision to produce a child (physically)
b) pre natal - when I give birth to that child I make a unilateral decision to give an independant (outside my body) life to a child that cannot sustain itself
c) pre 'rational' - when I raise a child to the point it leaves infancy and becomes able to express a will of it's own
and here is where the first free will to make a decision on it's own becomes relevant in my destinction - before that any 'preference' is unilaterally decided by the parent - please also note that 'to express a will' can be not only reasoning (yes mom, I thought it over thouroughly, read Ayn Rand including all letters and journals and speeches, and still decided to do this), but also actions (repeated and deliberate walking/crawling towards that higher-than-first-floor window), or even emotions (total apathy, depression, nightmares)
I understand the difficulty most parents find with this last line to cross as it is very much dependant on the child itself and also on the ability of the parent to substract her own decisions, wishes, feelings from this situation
I've chosen live/not live as the decision for choice because to most people it is the most critical factor (not for me), so all other decisions (even as trivial as always grabbing for that chocolate bar at the store you buy health-food in) can be subsumed under this one freedom of decision - some of these decisions are minimal and only end your unilateral decision-process gradually over several phases, some are final and you're out in one fell swoop - but all of them were initiated unilaterally by your preference and have to be ended by the child's ability to become 'self-decisional' and assert it's own preferences
I cannot give you a fixed age or a fixed occurence, but I could tell you for each of the children I was ever responsible for at exactly which time or occurrence this line was crossed, when a preference was expressed, whether it coincided with mine or not
~ takes a person to know a person ~

2. you are right of course when assuming I did not mean 'accidents' - actions with involuntary harmful consequences based on ignorance - I mean purposeful reasoning, acting, being - trying it out (see above)
there's one point I'd like to make in favour of accidents though, which goes for all the other 'risky activities': the parent's own fear of that accident is what sometimes hinders our children's developement
example: the first time some of the children came in from playing in the snow, made a bee-line for the open hearth fire and put their hands in the flames to warm them I had to bite my own tongue not to cry out a warning - yes, some of them got burned and never tried that again - but also yes, three of them are now capable of holding their hands into open flames without burning - simply because I did not force them to relearn my own fear of getting burnt - and for those obvious die-hards: of course yes, if one of them get's her fingers burned I do put some salve on it - and double yes, I did talk to them about some possible consequences - with varying degrees of success Eye
~ don't ever assume 'mommy knows best' ~

3. is only a minor point, though grossly blown out of poportion in our society: 'teenage angst' is only the culmination of repressed raising of children to fit certain models of society, family, knowledge, experience, whatever - most of it is simply based on withholding pertinent information/experience from a child which then tries to find it in other (even less enlightening) forms - I don't think any of the children I care for even knows that word - and yeah: I'm bragging :]
~ unsplit the issue where you split it ~
(PS: is that population control related to the teenage angst at 13 to 17? how?)

4. Rich kid - Poor kid - sth for the Darwinists among us:
a) yes the parent has the right to take fully, equally as much of the procured (insufficient) ressources as the child for two very materialistic reasons: the child needs less material ressources to sustain it's life, so it's half goes a longer way than the parent's half, and the parent needs to survive to continue procuring the less than sufficient ressources or the child will go real hungry
b) mommy's filthy rich - so why should she mind stuffing a few millions down her baby's throat? just kidding, but that clichee is really ingrained - avarice vs poverty!
yes, the child would be entitled to half as long as it is dependant - best food, best shelter, best education, even trivials like best clothes and fancy toys - if you had that kind of cash would you really begrudge your child the best you could buy for it? it's actually my greatest motivator for making money at all - so I can buy better food, better education for them, allow them to grow in the various ways they feel best suited for
what you were thinking of is what if the child goes on a rampage wasting your hard-earned cash: it doesn't happen - if you respect your child's rights it will learn to respect your's - and those fancy toys and fancy dresses get very boring very soon
what you were thinking of is what if the child sues it's parent for the 2 Mio. - if it is 'raised' enough to do that it has become independant and it's claim goes right out the window - I'm not favoring extortion - but of course what would filthy rich mommy do with all the cash in the matress? leave it to the bank or some charity? I think children are worth much more than that
~ if you focus on the negative she will learn the negative ~

4.a) Which brings us to your question of parental choice: definitely yes!
If you can possibly wangle it, find other mothers before you even think of conceiving - make sure they are your best friends - the women you'd trust with your life - and your baby's life - takes a lot of stress off the single mom doing business-deals in the day and diaper-laundry at night - and the children have other moms to go bother when you're just not up to fulfilling your parental duty
if you have that sort of 'motherbrood' around and your children say mommy to five different women it's only a small step to find a sixth's if all those mommies just don't cut it Smiling
~ choice is where it's at ~

5. physical intactness
accidents see above - usually reasonable explanations take care of those (not fear-mongering), if you allow children the freedom to expose themselves to those risks anyway
vaccination I'm prejudiced: my girlfriend is a healer so we never had any need for 'medical treatment'
nutrition is actually the greatest advantage kids have over their parents - if you allow a baby to chose it's own food it will invariably (instinctively?) go for the best nutritional value - and that's not decided by chemistry or doctors - when kids go for excesses in 'un-healthy' food it is usually a counter-reaction to restrictions in diet or simply rebellion against lack of self-decision - even the occasional binge into trash-food ends quite quickly if allowed to go on
if it were my choice of tatoo it wouldn't be a butterfly Eye you're touching another 'bite-my-tongue' topic: I made a deal with my own body: no permanent marks/damage - that includes tatoos - I cannot force that deal on a child - so yes: I'd grit my teeth and allow it - or even more probable: after the gritting I'd try to understand what the child want's to express with that tatoo, even find it some more options to get the best tatoo possible for that expression and have it done by the best tatoo-artist - it's her choice - again you were thinking of the negative influence - I already answered that
~ it's my body ~

Correct. And the question of

Ross Elliot's picture

Correct. And the question of the age at which that happens, if stated in law, is somewhat arbitrary. Just like the age of consent, the purpose of which is the protection of minors from nefarious influence. Other than that the common law can handle any exceptions.

Unfortunately we have a plethora of "interventions" in normal parent-child relationships, the purpose of which, although thinly disguised as protection of the child, is in fact to extend an unwarranted jurisdiction over as many aspects of private life as possible.


krishna2's picture

You chose your own parents before your birth for some reason of your own!Some past connections

with them,you see...laughing...

  Some unfinished task from some previous birth - like take your revenge on them for some wrongs

that they did to you in the past!Or simply because you like them because they were such nice

parents to you in the past.So you seek them as your parents again and again!...smiling...

Our consciousness or our souls never forgets anything and keeps an account of everything

from many, many or all of our past lives!...smiling...

Do you really understand the significance of this?...laughing....

 In any case there is one thing that I will have to say in support of our parents!

Never blame them because they gave birth to you! Because you by your own will and wish chose

your mother's womb to enter it!...laughing...

Maybe parents can say  to their childrens as to why they chose them as their parents!

 And if you don't like your parents, you can always give them the boot and avoid them from the

next lifetimes!...laughing...

 I think the only proper responsibility that parents have towards their childrens is to teach them

how to enjoy their life by first enjoying themselves!

Schools and colleges? Given the way they were until recently [or even now] blessed are those childrens whose parents refused to send them to schools and colleges...laughing...

Any comments?...smiling...

Tenya ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'm sorry your post isn't attracting more comment than it is. If the truth be known I think a lot of us shove this question into the "too hard" basket, or at least the "yeah, need to look at this—some other time" basket. For what it's worth, Rand, in "AR Answers" is an emphatic advocate of government intervention to protect a child from parental neglect, starvation, physical injury or murder (naturally) while acknowledging that "a child must wait until he has developed his mind and acquired enough knowledge to be capable of the full independent exercise of his rights."

Comments on Vera's reply

Tenyamc's picture

I agree that a parent accepts (or should accept) responsibility for a child’s obligations and needs based on her unilateral decision to give birth to it. But can a person have a right not to live or a wish to live before birth? If the person doesn’t exist, can the preference exist? I’m not willing to respect my child’s right to terminate his own life on his own free will anytime he chooses. Children are unintentionally suicidal. Just yesterday my 2-year-old tried to climb out the living room window. OK, that fall might not have killed her (first floor) but it would have hurt pretty bad AND (based on my experience with her older sisters) I don’t think it would have made a difference to her if it was much higher. I’ve prevented my children from jumping into deep water before they learned to swim, multiple attempts to ingest poisons and other risky behaviors. Was I violating their rights to terminate their own lives? I don’t think so, and now, years later, they don’t seem to think so either. To be honest, I assume Vera wasn’t trying to say that when my 2-year-old heads for the Drano I should assume she’s decided to terminate her life, my only moral option being to stay out of her way. Maybe someone can clarify at what age or under what circumstances a child can be presumed to have decided to terminate her own life. Maybe it should be somewhere between 13 and 17 years when teenage angst seems to be at its peak? (Talk about population control)

Offering a child an opportunity to share equally in the health, wealth and happiness that the parent provides seems reasonable. But is this opportunity, in this proportion, the child’s right? I first think of the situation in which a parent isn’t providing enough resources to provide for her own needs. In this situation the child has a right to more than an equal share of what the parent can provide. Maybe in this situation the child has a right to roll again and see if he can get a more productive parent. Then I thought of the situation in which the parent is a very successful provider. If the parent makes $2M this year, is the child entitled to $1M in food, shelter, clothing, medical care (breast enhancements perhaps)?

Vera, I’d like to know more about what you mean by securing “a child’s physical intactness”. Are you talking about preventing them from falling and breaking a leg? Or are you talking about preventive care such as vaccinations and nutrition? Or do you mean you wouldn’t have butterflies tattooed on your minor child?

I hope we’ll get to discuss these and other points you’ve made in more depth, but I need to take a break from this for now.


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