For most parents, one of the most important goals they have is giving their children the necessary tools to survive the uncertain and, often, cruel world. They try to protect their children from danger, teach them a semblance of right and wrong, and attempt to guide them on their journey to adulthood.

What if, however, they unwittingly taught their children to accept contradictions that are presented by a perceived authority? What if these same, well-meaning individuals were inadvertently setting their children up for a lifetime of subservience? As farfetched as this may seem – it happens all too often – mainly due to the prior generations falling victim to the same trap.

Keep your hands to yourself

One of the first lessons many a youngster gets taught is some variation of the “don’t hit people, don’t take their stuff” adage. Seems simple enough, right? So simple that the average kindergarten age child can grasp it. Unfortunately, many of these same parents will then turn around and “spank” their children, and/or take away their toys in an attempt to “discipline” them.

This sets the subliminal precedent that hitting and taking things from others is wrong unless authority (in this case, grownups) does it. The acceptance of such behaviors can be observed by watching encounters individuals have, or even in the language they use, with those deemed to be law enforcement. Far too many people turn not only a blind eye but, in many instances, also show an unwavering support for these enforcers who routinely hit people and take their “stuff” (including their time) because some other perceived authority scribbled some words on paper.

“If he had only complied!” is a refrain heard often from these folks, without a clue as to what that says about their own nature. They have been inadvertently conditioned to accept their role as an inferior to this special status of authority simply because they are told that they are inferior to an alleged authority. “Because I said so” simply becomes “Because I’m the law”, with no regard for logic or reason, but, instead, via this special rights mentality. “You will do as I say because I (or another alleged authority to whom I am a proxy) said so!” becomes ingrained in the memory.

Due to this conditioning, the job of the authority is made easier by the horizontal enforcement of those who now view an objection to said authority as a “wrong” simply because the authority has said it is wrong.  These are the types of people who will cheer the thuggery of the boys in blue and utter nonsense such as “He/she should have just followed the law!”, as if this was some axiomatic truth that warranted a mic drop. Without these people, the authority would not wield anywhere near as much power, since the authority is always vastly outnumbered.

Sharing isn’t necessarily caring

An additional component to the above contradictory lesson is the aspect of sharing. While there is nothing inherently wrong with encouraging your child to share what they have with others, many a parent will force their child to engage in this behavior. Telling a child that they MUST share a beloved toy with Johnny or Jane, especially a younger child going through the “Mine!” stage, can, and often does, send a very confusing message to a curious mind. How can a thing be “theirs” yet they still HAVE to let other have access to it?

This can be a more difficult terrain to navigate within a family unit of multiple children, but it is by no means out of the realm of possibility. While time, space, and money may necessitate that certain items are shared amongst the children, each individual child usually has (and, it can be argued, should have) possessions that are solely theirs. Teaching children about boundaries regarding what is theirs and what belongs to others is integral in the development of their autonomy. It can show them not only to guard what’s theirs but also to respect the same right for others to do so. This is the basis of understanding property rights.

So while encouraging your child to share is admirable, forcing them to do so sends a powerful message: what’s yours is not truly yours. This also sets the stage for these children, once grown, to readily accept the idea of the forced redistribution of wealth. As much as sharing your wealth with those less fortunate is a noble aim, being forced to do so destroys any notion of charity. It also greatly diminishes the incentive for people to create wealth in the first place, if it will only be forcibly removed from them to benefit others. The overwhelming number of failed socialist/communist nation states throughout history highlights this fact all too well.

Forced affection is bad affection

The above lessons are connected to a child gaining their autonomy. They are learning about boundaries not just for themselves, but for others as well. Included in those lessons of boundaries should be teaching the child the ability to say “No.” if they are uncomfortable with someone overreaching their boundaries. Unfortunately, many parents miss the mark on this and make their children give “hugs and kisses” to family members and friends.

This, of course, is not to say that such signs of affection are a bad thing in general. When a child is put in a position where they feel that they have to give that affection, though, it sends a message that their body is not their own. Whether the child is tired, cranky, not feeling well, or just uncomfortable with being touched in that moment or by a particular individual, forcing them to give or receive affection at that point is also letting the child know that their feelings don’t matter. This is made even worse if the child is shamed by telling them that they are going to make the relative or friend feel bad if they don’t give them that hug or kiss.

Some children are overly affectionate and, for them, this will rarely if ever be an issue. For those that are not, it can be quite traumatizing. From sensory issues to simply thinking that Uncle So-and-So smells funny, there are a number of reasons as to why a child would rather not engage in affectionate behavior at any given time. Their boundaries in this regard should be respected, especially if you expect them to respect the same boundaries for others.

Thou shall not lie

Another early lesson for most children is that lying is wrong. This usually makes sense on its face, since a parent would use this lesson in conjunction with others to help their child understand the overall concept of trust. As the first figure of authority that has been thrust into the child’s life, their trust in you should be paramount.

What if, however, most parents were inadvertently sending mixed messages about lying? Would that not set yet another precedent where the “rules” allow for a special exception for people in authority, like parents, and later, like cops, to be able to do what you should not, lie?

Unfortunately, most parents fall into this trap, usually out of a sense of tradition or obligation, by lying to their children at a very young age. Stories of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and {pick your fairy tale} are stuffed into the heads of little ones, only for them to find out a few years later that they were just that: stories. It may seem harmless to most, as evidenced by the continuation of such rituals, but it is sending a contradictory message. And it just helps set the stage for more of the same to come later.

This is not to say that one cannot let their child enjoy certain experiences like other children around them. You can simply choose to be more honest with your child, by sharing the stories of fairy tales while still reminding them that they are, indeed, fairy tales. It’s not like most kids need that much assistance in the imagination department. Just watch a group of young children, or even an individual child, create a game out of absolutely anything. They’ve got it covered.

I know you are but what am I?

Most children are also taught some variation of the “sticks and stones” nursery rhyme.  It is usually couched in a way to ward off potential bullies. The idea being, of course, that acts of aggression can (and will likely) hurt, but mere words will only do so if you allow them to. Again, this is simple enough for most children to grasp.

Ironically, many of these same children are later shuttled off to government schools which, despite the rhetoric to the contrary, are places where bullying is institutionalized (more on this later). The lesson of words being powerless unless you give them power is a valuable one, but it is also one that is lost on many as time goes on. From being harped on regarding what not to say in polite company, to the U.S. version of political correctness, to hate speech “laws”, the maturing mind has its initial “programming” reversed, and it now becomes inundated with the message that the mere utterance of certain words is an act of violence.

If this were just a case of hurt feelings, then that would be one thing. It is made even worse, though, by the fact that the ones who accept this notion as gospel are empowered by the people who call themselves government to use force to get others to accept their terms. How this power can be used against others, or even against themselves if/when the political climate changes, is not even given a consideration.

As long as they can force others to say/not say certain things via the guns of government, they can FEEL like justice has been served. Logic and reason be damned! For these types of people, the early lesson of individual empowerment, of not letting the words of others control you, has now been replaced by the idea that authoritarian collectivism is perfectly acceptable as long as you feel good and you get your way.

Memorization leads to indoctrination, not education

The above lessons become even more ingrained through the euphemistically named public schooling process (see: government indoctrination), as alluded to in the prior paragraph. Here, the authority a child has been blindly led to accept from the parents is transferred over to a group of strangers.

The child is told, often in these very words, that they now “must obey the teacher just like they obey mom and dad.” The question of why is usually never broached by the child because it came from what they’ve already been led to believe is the authority, and not even by the parents who simply parrot these words. It is simply “a way of life.”

So the child, not knowing enough to question this predicament, simply accepts this new fate of other people telling them what to do. And not just what to do, but when to do it. From the bells signifying that it’s time to change subjects (not to mention switching gears on a dime whether or not you could comprehend what was just dumped on you) to asking permission just to relieve oneself, these young minds are shaped to accept a scheduling of their life that they have no control over and that you can’t even pee without asking an authority figure first.

This, of course, is all by design as it is the Prussian model, designed to churn out good soldiers and obedient citizens, which has been largely followed since Horace Mann first brought it to the U.S., sight unseen (by the way), in the middle of the 19th century. This system is predicated on conformity and obedience, not individuality and critical thought (despite rhetoric to the contrary).

Thus young minds, at their most impressionable points, are subjected to forced authority figures telling them what/when to do things and are largely conditioned how to think. This is most evident in what is missing from the so-called education; things like philosophy, logic (outside the field of mathematics), basic economics, and a non-whitewashed version of history. And 15,000 hours of this treatment is enough to break most spirits.

Those who question the model from within, be it student or teacher, are often ridiculed and/or discredited by those wanting to maintain their grasp on the status quo. This is filtered down to the students in a myriad of ways, which in turn creates a culture where “ratting out” and even taunting/bullying of the non-conformists is allowed (if not quietly encouraged).

The aforementioned institutionalization of a bully culture is thus created and maintained. Just going along to get along is one of the main lessons learned through this collectivizing experience, which is why, more often than not, the ones who “succeed” in such a system are those who don’t rock the boat and obey all the rules. In other words, they become the perfect, obedient cog.

The aftermath

After being given contradictory messages throughout their formative years, and being subjected to 15,000 hours of what can rightfully be called indoctrination, is it any wonder that many a child enters the “real world” in a state of what can accurately be described as apathy?

They have been hard coded to blindly accept authority in their lives, accept lies and blatant contradictions as long as they come from those same authorities, and accept certain aspects of life (like, say, government) as “just the way things are” without a second thought. And, due to the bully culture they were forcibly immersed in, most of these same young adults will quickly mock, ridicule, or dismiss anyone who questions what they have blindly accepted as unquestionable. This only serves to perpetuate the flawed system, which fits perfectly into the plans of anyone who would seek power over his fellow man. Is it really surprising that the overwhelming number of political types only ever talk about throwing more money at this failed system, rather than attempting to replace it?

But we meant well!

Now despite the lying, the contradictions, and the perpetuation of these practices and systems, this is not to say that these parents are acting out of malevolence. Most are simply repeating the patterns passed down by the previous generations. While most are just doing what they believe to be best for their children, this does not, however, absolve them from the consequences of those actions.

They may have had honest intentions, but the results speak for themselves. There are those who might say something along the lines of “But my parents were just doing the best they could with the knowledge they had!”, but this is a cop out. Broken down logically, it’s not much different from the failed Nuremberg defense of “But we were just following orders!” It is removing moral agency from the actor, as if they were given no choice.

The reality is that there is always a choice. You may not like the options presented to you, but there will still be a choice to make. And many of the issues discussed here, like spanking, lying to your kids, and the problems with blind adherence to authority, have been discussed and documented at length for decades (and some even longer). The information was there; most parents just opted to “stick with what works” rather than questioning what they had been fed. I mean, they turned out okay, right? So why wouldn’t their kids?

Well if contradicting yourself, hitting and lying to your kids, and subjecting them to 15,000 hours of indoctrination so that they can perpetuate what is a demonstrably failed system fits your definition of “okay”, then we have very different definitions of that word.

Breaking the cycle

Parents who might be under the impression that they are preparing their children for this uncertain and cruel world are, instead, actually preparing them to be both victims and perpetuators of that very world. In such a world, the average individual is expected not to lie, not to hit, nor take the things of others. The “authority” in that world, however, has been the special right, not through logic or reason but by being magically granted, to do all of the above.

This cycle of abuse can be broken by ending the perpetuation of this purported “fact of life” that some special people, in some special way, have been given the right to do what others cannot. By doing so you can fully prepare your children for the uncertainty of the world ahead. If enough children are presented with this opportunity, then perhaps they will not only be prepared but they will also be facing a less cruel world.

~ Abolitionist Jay