Does Taking Children Seriously mean children always getting their own way?

Sarah Fitz-Claridge

“Does Taking Children Seriously mean children always getting their own way?”

Incidentally, is it me or is the phrase “getting their own way” rather horrible? At any rate, I have an aversion to it. It seems to assume and take for granted as manifestly true the idea that there is something very unwholesome about children being happy and free, and that we parents must keep a watchful eye out for any sign of our children “getting their own way” and trounce their wishes at every turn. It seems to embody the pessimistic theory that life is a zero-sum game and that we need to instil in our children the idea that they must endure their ‘fair share’ (another phrase that makes me shudder!) of the allegedly inevitable suffering. It is as if freedom, fun, joy, delight and happiness is a severely limited ‘resource’ in the world, and we have to stop children getting more than their ‘fair ration’ of this pitifully meagre ‘resource’.

But to answer the question asked: Yes. We are fallible and lack knowledge and make mistakes and do not always manage to solve a problem in the moment we are trying to solve it, but with that fallibilistic caveat, yes, Taking Children Seriously does mean children always getting their own way. But it is not just children: it also means parents always getting their own way too.

If that sounds impossible to you, perhaps you are seeing life as a zero-sum game in which for the child to win, the parent has to lose, and vice versa. But life is not a zero-sum game and together we can create a solution that both parent and child prefer, including over their antecedent preference. And the more we manage to resolve conflicting preferences that way (as opposed to either imposing our preferences on our child or self-sacrificing instead of actually solving the problem together), the easier it is to solve such problems together.

This “getting their own way” question always reminds me of my pinched-face Infant School teacher (whose lips quivered when she was angry!). I can’t help noticing that when she frowned disapprovingly about the wickedness of people “getting their own way”, her disapproval was all one way: clearly she had no qualms about getting her own way. Evidently it was only wicked when it was children “getting their own way.” (What must life be like for such people, with all that rage and disapproval poisoning all their interactions?!)

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘Does Taking Children Seriously mean children always getting their own way?’, https://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/does-taking-children-seriously-mean-children-always-getting-their-own-way/