Forcing Others To Do Things

Posted on March 4, 2014


I fundamentally believe in letting children do what they want. I’ve never experienced a situation where it felt effective to force a child to do something against their will. Sometimes it is necessary much like it is necessary for the government to force citizens to pay taxes (with my daughter this usually revolves around messes, bedtime, changing clothes, etc), but it always feel less than ideal.

I hear a lot of people justify these actions with “it’s for their own good”, but personally I struggle with that defense with my daughter. Sure, some things probably are for her own good, but I think she deserves to make those decisions herself. If anyone tried to force me to do something for my own good I’d feel pretty angry. What if I want to do something that isn’t that good for me. If it doesn’t affect you then what right do you have to ensure that I do the right thing?

A lot of situations are more complicated than that, but there are many times and many conversations I have had with parents that revolve around making sure that children do what is best. As adults we can choose to play video games for hours on end or sleep in or drink too much, but we don’t want our kids to do the same thing.

One of the more compelling arguments I’ve heard for this is that as adults we actually appreciate the fact that we were forced to do things as a kid. We appreciate that we were forced to learn piano as a kid because now we still have some ability to play the piano.

This really extends beyond childhood. Many of us probably wish we had been forced to do something different ten years ago so that we’d be in a better position today. This might revolve around a career, weight loss, general health, spending time with family, etc.

This breaks down for me here: would you want to be forced to do something today in order to be “better” in ten years?

We might say “yes” to this in that we might sign up for a personal trainer who will force us to do things that we don’t really want to do in order to get in better shape, but that’s not exactly what I’m referring to. With a personal trainer you are just asking for help, you are not being forced, against your will, to do something.

I think it’s actually hard for adults to imagine being forced, against your will, to do something. The closest experiences may involve in-laws or a bad boss, but still, in those situations, we know there is a direct correlation between the life we’ve chosen and the situations we must sometimes endure. If we didn’t see the direct correlation we would stop. We would quit our job.

Often children don’t have that option. They simply are not allowed to choose.

Were they given the opportunity to choose they may make the “wrong” decision, but then again we, as adults, might as well. Personally as an adult I appreciate being able to make the wrong decision sometimes. Of course most of the time I try to make the right decision and seek out advice if I’m not sure what that decision is, but sometimes I just want to sleep in or watch tv all day without anyone judging me for that decision.

I think kids deserve the same respect.





One of the biggest arguments I hear against