Good Children Can’t Negotiate

Many people hold that a child needs two parents, but not necessarily for the right reasons. One benefit of having two parents is most certainly nothing to do with offering the child one man and one woman as role models; having two parents of the same gender would do the trick equally well. This benefit consists of enabling the child to learn how to manipulate other people. Some, or even most, would shy away from such a programme; indeed, one of the principles of Dr. Spock’s system was preventing the child playing off his parents against one another.

But just consider: if we face the child with a single adult authority figure, or refuse to let the child play one parent off against the other, we are preparing him for an adult world which at no point will require an ability to manipulate relationships. Or, to use a politer term, negotiate. There is no such world. For it is most unlikely that everybody the child meets as an adult will, in consequence of reading Dr. Spock, have entered into a conspiracy to present him with an unbreakable united front. A child whose parents have followed his directive, however, has no choice but to perceive the world in terms of One Little against Two Big; and this is a profoundly demoralising perspective. The child of a single parent is One Little versus One Big, which is a step up, but still not very representative of adult life. With a flock of siblings, you get Several Littles against One Big (or Two Bigs presenting a united front), which teaches the children valuable lessons about alliance and partnership, but not yet the vital techniques of negotiation and manipulation. If you are prevented from learning the basic primate behavioural suite of politicking and manoeuvring within a hierarchy, what then is open to you? Dealing in purely up-and-down terms with monolithic power, your options are limited to pleading and defiance; that is, to wheedling, whining and acting up.

Posted on September 10, 2010 at 09:50 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink

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