Note: I'm leaving both this essay and the TCS Essays on the site up since I don't believe in trying to wipe the past. However, I now think TCS has serious problems, and encourage people to read Taking Children Seriously Is Bad, which has many criticisms I agree with.

Taking Children Seriously (TCS) is a philosophy whose most distinctive claim is that it is possible and desirable to raise and educate children without either doing anything to them against their will, or making them do anything against their will.

The TCS philosophy is an application of the epistemology of Karl Popper, and the underpinnings of TCS in Popperian epistemology were developed by David Deutsch. Popper's epistemology is the universal theory of how knowledge grows, and TCS applies the profound implications of Popperian epistemology to parent-child relationships. The idea that humans are fallible, and that there is no such thing as a legitimate "authority" with a monopoly on truth, if taken seriously, means rejecting the traditional authoritarian relationship that defines parent-child interaction.

TCS notes that most traditional interactions between adults and youth involve coercion. The TCS philosophy rejects this coercion as immoral, hurtful, and anti-educational. TCS advocates that parents and children pursue their mutual self-interest by finding a common preference, a solution all parties genuinely prefer to all other candidate solutions they can think of.

TCS is distinct from all other so-called parenting methods in that it is not about producing a particular outcome or based on outcomes. It is based on the idea that children are autonomous individuals capable of rationality who must be taken seriously, that their preferences matter, and that parental preconceptions -- whether about the importance of going to school, tooth-brushing, wearing seat-belts, eating particular foods, being polite, or many millions of other potential examples -- may be wrong, and that in any case, the way to resolve conflicts is not through coercion or force, but through truth-seeking, and respecting autonomy.

TCS represents a serious departure from all other parenting theories. If you are interested in learning more about TCS ideas, check out the TCS essay archive, and join the TCS List.