How is the word ‘parenting’ not taking children seriously?

Sarah Fitz-Claridge

“How is the word ‘parenting’ not taking children seriously?”

Notice that there is no word “childing”. Why is it that there is a word “parenting” but no word “childing”? Because in our culture (indeed in all cultures so far) children are not taken seriously. Words and phrases including “parenting”, “child rearing”, “raising children”, embody the idea of hierarchical, top-down paternalistic/authoritarian parent-child relationships in which the parent is actively doing to the child and the child is passively done to. The parent is actively moulding and shaping the child from above.

From a Taking Children Seriously perspective, parenthood is not about parents acting on (shaping) their passive (lumps of clay) children, any more than childhood is about children acting on (shaping) their passive (lumps of clay) parents. Parents and children are all full free individual persons whose lives are their own. They are all active moral agents in their own right. No one is foisting an agenda on anyone else.

The Taking Children Seriously parent-child relationship is horizontal, side-by-side, mutual, equal, each individual having the final say with respect to their own life. Taking Children Seriously implies everyone being taken seriously including children.

See also Alison Gopnik’s criticism of the word “parent” used as a verb:

“‘Parent’ is not actually a verb, not a form of work, and it isn’t and shouldn’t be directed toward the goal of sculpting a child into a particular kind of adult. Instead, to be a parent – to care for a child – is to be part of a profound and unique human relationship, to engage in a particular kind of love. […] To be a wife is not to engage in ‘wifing,’ to be a friend is not to ‘friend,’ even on Facebook, and we don’t ‘child’ our mothers and fathers. Yet these relationships are central to who we are. […] We might say that we try hard to be a good wife or husband, or that it’s important to us to be a good friend or a better child. But I would not evaluate the success of my marriage by measuring whether my husband’s character had improved in the years since we wed. I would not evaluate the quality of an old friendship by whether my friend was happier or more successful than when we first met – indeed, we all know that friendships show their quality most in the darkest days. Nevertheless, this is the implicit picture of parenting – that your qualities as a parent can be, and even should be, judged by the child you create.”
– Alison Gopnik, 2016, The Gardener and the Carpenter: what the new science of child development tells us about the relationship between parents and children, Introduction: The Parent Paradoxes: From parenting to being a parent

See also: Which parenting style is Taking Children Seriously? Authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, or uninvolved?

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘How is the word “parenting” not taking children seriously?’, https://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/how-is-the-word-parenting-not-taking-children-seriously/