Now I would never try to pass myself off as some kind of parenting expert (even if I have managed to teach The Girl to do a Fonzie impression). But I don’t think you have to be an expert to recognize the “consensual living” approach as a dubious prospect at best and downright irresponsible at worst. It’s a parenting style which rejects the reward/punishment method for a non-hierarchical approach in which the children’s opinions are just as valid as those of the parents.
According to the article linked above, the core principles of consensual living are as follows:
- Everyone’s wants and needs are equally valid, regardless of age.
- Children can be trusted to know their own minds and bodies.
- Punishments and rewards are tools of manipulation, unneeded when family members work as a team.
- There is a creative solution that works for everyone.
- Each family member has a positive intent and desires harmony.
- When all are secure that their needs will be met, they will branch out and help others meet their needs.
While they all seem a bit naive to me, the first one strikes me as borderline insane. Does anyone honestly believe that the wants of a 5 year old are just as valid as the wants of an adult? If the many extra years of experience gained while becoming an adult don’t equip you to develop better wants than a child, then I must inform you that you have probably wasted quite a bit of your life. The kid’s brain hasn’t even finished developing for Pete’s sake.
Children aren’t just adults who happen to be really short. They’re still developing and haven’t had the benefit of experience from which most adults can draw. So regardless of how well a kid knows his own mind, he doesn’t have a better idea about when an appropriate bedtime should be. A parent has to set boundaries. That’s part of the job. And if the child doesn’t like a particular boundary, you aren’t doing him any favors by letting him decide if it will work for him. All you are doing is spoiling him.