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+7 votes
there are sure a lot of different trends in how to raise children, and most of them seem not that awesome, although it's hard to judge maybe, since parents are certainly not the only--or necessarily most--major influences on a child's understanding.

what do people here think? especially based on experience! :)

edit: related to comments here--
by (53.1k points)
edited by
great question. i plan to give an answer later...

i usually give more attention to how i relate to younger people , since (as i see it) they have even more authoritative pressure on them than those of us over certain "legal" ages.

i like to think of the question in terms of how i relate (and/or want to relate), rather than how i would "raise" someone (that word in itself conjures up the notions of control and authority for me).
ba@ that's fine, re: relating vs raising, but to me "raising" implies taking primary, sustained responsibility for. and it's those characteristics that makes it more challenging (at least according to most parents) than other kinds of relationships with kids.
agree, excellent question.

never having had children of my own, but having been around others with kids quite a bit, i would have to agree with the common phrase: being a parent is the most difficult "job" there is. being an anarchist would only make that more difficult, i would think.

ba@: i hear you on the relating vs raising. i get the same kind of visceral reaction when i hear folks talk about their animal friends in terms of "ownership" and the like.

in both cases, there is a certain type and amount of responsibility (primary and sustained, as dot referred to it) that the parent/guardian/human companion takes on - hopefully by choice - and that responsibility can sometimes require (or strongly suggest) behavior that might be difficult for an anarchist to reconcile, at least at a certain level. i'm also sure that sometimes that behavior is not hard to reconcile at all, depending on the situation.

i look forward to hearing what some actual anarchist parents have to say.

I am also not a parent, so I am limiting my response to a comment (and, as others have said, looking forward to hearing from some actual parents, or those who have a closer role with the children in their lives). That said, I think that questions around how anarchists relate to both younger and older folks is a really important subject to address.

A couple of books that might be of interest that I've read are:

Wild Children - Domesticated Dreams: Civilization and the Birth of Education by Layla AbdelRahim. Layla is an anthropologist by education, and an anarcho-primitivist, as well as being a mother. This book combines an analysis of the educational system as a means of domesticating children (who are essentially born uncivilized), and personal narratives of her experiences navigating raising a child within the belly of western civilization in accordance with her principles.

The Future Generation: Zine-Book for Sub-culture Parents, Kids, Friends and Others by China Martens. This is a book adapted from a long running (pre-internet) zine. China Martens was a young anarcha-punk parent who found little support for her and her child within the scenes and communities she was involved with, so she started a zine as a way of communicating with others in similar boats (and those who care about them). As I recall, the zine follows her experience from pregnancy through her daughters teenage years, and also includes some contributions from others.

There are some issues of the zine Kerbloom by artnoose which explore her experiences of parenting in more of a narrative form. Enjoyable whether you are or are not a parent.

My Mother Wears Combat Boots: A Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us by Jessica Mills has (as I recall) some interesting stuff about navigating trying to be a parent, in a band, and staying politically engaged. A lot of it is (as the title implies) more along the lines of a parenting guide, but one written from her experiences, so it does give a window into the tensions she had to navigate in trying to maintain her beliefs as a parent. I would say this is a get from the library type of suggestion.

Tomas Moniz has put out a zine for years called Rad Dad which collects his and other parents experiences. There is also a book (I haven't read it). I have found my personal interest with this project to be hit and miss (possibly because I'm not actually a parent, possibly because his anarchism looks rather different than mine).

I actually saw a panel several years ago on this subject with Tomas, China and Jessica (and someone else...) which was pretty interesting. Granted, at that time I thought I was possibly going to be a parent in the next couple of years, but I still think the subject is worth exploring. I don't believe the goal of an anarchist who is a parent should be to create little anarchist babies (which sounds like indoctrination), but rather to parent as in accordance with their principles as possible. But then again, I'm not going to say what someone else's priorities oughta be.

this is something i have no experience with but have thought about a lot, for even though i was brought in a loving household, i would not impose the extremely alienated, "safe", humiliating childhood i experienced on anyone. I personally believe children are the most important when it comes to thinking about what kinds of lives we'd want to live. I'll break down my ideas into 3 parts:

1. I think of relations with children as consisting of guidance rather than control and authority as is the constant theme for most parents in our society (that or neglect and total lack of love...).

2. No political indoctrination whatsoever, no need for any identity lessons "we are anarchists blah blah blah". However, i do believe a parent has a duty to be honest with their children and not hide important information from them. Children's questions should probably be answered in the most simple, straightforward manner, with the parents being ultra-concious of what they think they need to know.

3. there also would have to be some safety lessons and socialization involved, and i have no idea how an anarchist would do this...but certainly not to the degree that most upper middle class children receive it!

good discussion. thanks for the reading suggestions, ingrate.

i'd add the idle parent, by tom hodgkinson as another possible book of interest.

"No political indoctrination"

I've been pondering on whether or not it's possible for a parent to not indoctrinate their child with certain political ideals, whether it's intentional or not. Well, at least to an extent. They're going to instill certain ideals in the child regardless of their intention. Hmm... Maybe I'm being too broad with the term indoctrination.

well that's a good point, i just feel a parent should just be honest about everything, but not tell them things they don't really need to know...i would certainly tell my hypothetical child a better description of history and sex than the school system does....but i feel it would also be wrong to try to make them feel bad about the state of things. However, this would be a more difficult task for an anarchist who's trying to aggressively change things in the world

it all comes down to how your explanations of things effect them, if the things you tell them will cause them to make good decisions with their well being

2 Answers

+2 votes
I do not have kids yet, but I am pregnant and due in September. I also have a good number of parent friends, anarchist and not, and spend some significant time with my "godkids".

I think this question is about the problem of how do we live as anarchists in a not anarchist world, or what does that practice of an impossible idea look like.

Often the response to this line of inquiry is that people want to choose how they interact with themselves, others, and the society around them. Freedom, in this sense, is defined by understanding oneself, ones friends, and ones enemies well enough to make informed decisions about how to live and who to be. In my opinion that requires insight, strength, long-term thinking, ethics, patience, critical reasoning, manipulation/strategy, resilience, and versatility.

My goal is to best provide my child(ren) with the above skills so they can be agents in the world, not targets, to whatever extent possible. I do not believe that pretending the authority/power/heirarchy that is inherent in a parent child relationship does not exist will do that for them, I think it is dishonest, confusing, and a disservice to us both.

Freedom isn't something I will give my children by a lack of structure, authority, or discipline. I often find that the less structure and discipline I have the more trapped and overwhelmed I become, the more I am a victim of an emotional state produced in part by a terrible world. My kids feelings are only so important - I want to give them the tools to identify their feelings, experience them, and then decide how to act on them or not. That process takes time, and it takes years of me modeling that behavior as well as helping them acquire it by not letting them do what they want and feel all the time. Freedom isn't something I will give my children by thinking that I can protect them or remove them from this world (public school, media, bedtimes, loneliness), it is something I will give them by teaching them how to interact with those things so that they get the most out of them and so they can be critical of them instead of criticized by them.

My kids need me to survive and they need me to treat them developmentally appropriately, and that will be changing as fast as they do, and I am excited to talk about life in a million different ways as time goes by.

Well see!
by (1.5k points)
thanks for the answer S.H, i hope it all goes well. also that you come back and check in after a while and let us know if anything in your thinking has changed... like that ever happens!

"I think this question is about the problem of how do we live as anarchists in a not anarchist world..."

well said, shark.

+1 vote
Children are chalenging, both when small or as teens (I have two teens), but also and above all wonderful. Main chalenges are that we really have to balance freedom with discipline, which is not easy, and help prepare them for a world that doesn't work as we would like. School was the most difficult thing to me because I really hate the way they make them repeat stuff instead of analysing critically and being creative. In addition, they have to spend there so much time that very little is left to other things.

In relation to answering questions, I strongly believe in honesty, even if you have to say "I don't know" or "I don't feel like talking about that now". Of course, answers have to be appropriate for the age / interests of the child.

Overal, I embrace my imperfections and try that we all do what we like as we like. I'm usually considered much more liberal than most parents around us but, until now, I'm quite happy with the results.

Human, I agree that trying to not indoctrinate them is not easy but we can try. For example, I have no religion but both my children at a certain point (6 to 10 years, I think) wanted to assist Religion classes because many of their friends did. We let them, of course. Now they have a wider view of things (and totally gave up on that). Of course, I wouldn't have done the same if they wanted to join a Nazi group or something :)
by (530 points)
edited by
well, maybe if you let them join the nazi group, they learn some beautiful lessons about terror, locking up your emotions, and best of all, brainwashing and manipulation! You should try it sometime!

" I really hate the way they make them repeat stuff instead of analysing critically and being creative. In addition, they have to spend there so much time that very little is left to other things."

I think this is done to make sure just how well they can follow order and has little to to with teaching the children information.

Some schools that I know over that don't exactly do this, with the teacher barking orders at them,and those are the Quaker schools (I think they're rivate).They're fairly a bit more liberal in their teaching style, from what I understand. Like they don't force 6 year olds to sit in an enclosed cell and being demanded and told what exactly they're going to on any given day by the SS gestapo teacher. :P

Human, yes, I think the formating children are subjected to at school is a lot to ensure they will willingly follow orders and fit in hierarchies. They have to learn facts and learn how to learn more facts, without questioning too much. They are being prepared to be the new slaves of the knowledge society.

I don't know the one you mention, but I'm all for alternative systems when there is a choice. Specially for small children, schools that mix children of different ages, promote the contact with nature and are not too rigid are positive in my view. Things become more difficult as they grow up, because there are fewer and fewer alternatives.
Ricksantorum666, it's possible but as I said I'm not a perfect parent...
i was just joking about that i certainly wouldn't be happy with my hypothetical kids doing that either even though i probably wouldn't be able to stop them

edit: ahh a double joke?? lol
I suspected that :)