How to read this site

Sarah Fitz-Claridge

“What if I remain unpersuaded?”

“Given that no one is omniscient or infallible, what are the implications for how to read the Taking Children Seriously website?”

Read critically. Read sceptically. Assume that anything you read on this site is probably mistaken. There are no authoritative sources of knowledge, including this site. Much as I would love to have the final truth, I know that I do not. No one does.

Human beings are all fallible: we make mistakes. And because we are fallible, there is no way of reliably telling that we are mistaken.

If you read something on this site and it seems right to you – if it sparks joy, if you feel excited about it rather than uneasy or unpersuaded, if you feel like doing cartwheels – if you feel wholeheartedly persuaded, if you have genuinely changed your mind – yay! Go for it!

If you read something on this site, and it does not feel true to you, or you notice that you feel unease, do not suppress, ignore or override your inner voice. It is quite possible that you are right, and that what you have read here is mistaken. By all means think about it, but if thinking about it (including over time in the back of your mind) does not result in you feeling persuaded, do what seems right to you. Whether or not you have an explicit argument against the unpersuasive idea you have read here is irrelevant. If you are not persuaded, there may well be a good reason for that, even if you have not (yet) identified it explicitly.

You might be mistaken, or this site might be mistaken, or both might be mistaken. Our gut feelings can be mistaken. Our thinking can be mistaken. There is no authoritative source of truth. There is no reliable way to tell which ideas are right and which mistaken. Ultimately, we all (including our children!) have to do what we ourselves think best, what feels right to us ourselves, not what someone else says is right. We are all moral agents in our own right. When we self-coercively override our own wisdom and do what someone else thinks we should be doing, we are acting wrongly by our own lights. No good can come of that. Treat this site as a source of speculative guesses and interesting arguments, not as an authority you should obey.

I am not just saying this to make you feel good. If you talk to a number of different people who favour taking children seriously, you are likely to notice that we each have our own ideas about it. In the details especially, you will find differences. My own ideas about taking children seriously and about what that means in practice have changed significantly since I first started speaking publicly about children in 1989. I find myself noticing glaring mistakes in things I have said or written even very recently, let alone in what I wrote or said 30+ years ago. The thought of people listening to some of the (I now think) horribly mistaken things I said in the past, and thus making mistakes they might not otherwise have made, is quite dismaying! (And by “in the past”, I mean up to this moment!)

It is one thing to be persuaded by a mistaken idea and to make a mistaken change accordingly. It is quite another to make a change when you remain unpersuaded. In that case, the idea in your mind is not there because it has solved a problem in your mind – it is not there because it makes sense in your own thinking for it to be there – it did not get there through reason: you have coercively entrenched a conflict in your mind, throwing a spanner in the works of your creative rational problem-solving.

So as you read this site, read critically. Question everything. Check how it feels to you yourself. If something you read does not feel persuasive to you, assume that your mind may well have a good reason for that, and proceed from here according to what seems best to you.

“What if I remain unpersuaded about Taking Children Seriously but now I am having doubts about my previous way of thinking about my children as well?”

What if, after reading something here, you do not feel persuaded, but now you are also having doubts about your antecedent idea – i.e., you now find yourself in an unresolved conflict? (That is quite common!) If consciously thinking the matter through has not resolved your unease either way, and especially if you are in a low or upset mood about it, give the low/upset parts of you a metaphorical cuddle and reassure them that it will be ok, and turn your attention to other matters. Give your powerful unconscious mind a chance to work on the problem in the back of your mind. Sometimes when you are not consciously thinking about the issue, a solution pops into your conscious mind as if by magic, whereas if you continue to negatively ruminate in failed attempts to resolve a conflict through conscious, explicit thinking, that can be interfering with your ability to resolve the conflict.

Have fun! Enjoy life with your family.

See also: The paradigm shift

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘How to read this site’,