From Unschooling to “Unscolding”

Against Domination Parenting


An appreciation of the evils of the state leads many libertarians to homeschool. Yet the very notion of “schooling” a child at all (plotting out all the weekdays of their childhood with low-grade clerical work and forced study) is fundamentally flawed. Libertarians who realize this turn to unschooling. What I call “Spencerian Parenting,” which I set forth in this essay, necessarily implies unschooling; yet it also necessarily implies even more. It entails removing the domineering aspect of your relationship with your child as much as possible. It means neither being her schoolmaster nor her taskmaster. It entails, not only unschooling, but what might be called “unscolding.”

Unscolding is not “unparenting.” Always be a parent to your child. Be her protector, provider, benefactor, counselor, friend, and devotee; just not her master.

Also, unscolding does not remove forethought and planning from parenting/education. You can exercise great influence over your child non-coercively. Most importantly, you can inform your child of causal connections regarding her actions. This will greatly help her to identify natural consequences of her actions when they occur, and thus to learn from them.

Also, selectively and non-coercively inform her of the many fun opportunities open to her in life. This will germinate interests. Provide nourishment for those interests (tools and methods, and they will blossom into passions. For more on this, see my essay “The Spark & Fuel Approach to Education.”

Furthermore, while the “carrot and stick” method is out, it is perfectly fine to judiciously use a “carrot and no carrot” approach. Especially useful in this regard is an allowance.

Unscolding is not only better for the child developmentally. It’s immensely better for the whole family psychologically. Think of the stress and tension that so often pervades the air in the average family household. The precise parental expectations looming over the children. The exasperating frustration in the parents when those precise expectations are not met. The nagging. The whining. The squabbling. This lifestyle is just one more of the many things we have falsely convinced ourselves are “just part of life.”

The old saw, “I’ll start treating you like an adult when you start acting like one” has it backward. Your child will started acting like a capable, responsible, goal-seeking human being when you start treating her like one.

In this coercion-haunted world, the state treats adults like children, and adults leash and corral children like pets. It’s time to move human dignity up a notch, for both adults and children.