On reasoning with children about discipline

As a rule, reasoning with children is one of most destructive things that one can do with them. It trains them to see reason as a tool that they use to get what they satisfy irrational desires, and by which they can overcome authority. No child with such habits, as such, is capable of philosophy or speculative knowledge of any kind.


  1. Peter said,

    August 27, 2007 at 4:46 am

    Do you mean all reasoning or rationalizing (‘bargaining’ with a 6-year-old who pouts)?

    I am not around children, so I can’t really speak from the experience of dealing with them, but I can remember when I was a child. I resented it when I wasn’t given a reason for something. Even if I didn’t mind the thing itself, it was frustrating not understanding the ‘why’ for it. Later, when reflecting upon this, I had come to the conclusion that I would have been more dutiful in my doings if I had been given a real “end-in-view,” the bigger picture (at least, big enough to be meaningful, small enough to comprehend). Huh.

    Of course, no one can deny that some (most?) children try to use false reasoning as a tool to get their way; and such ‘reasoning’ should (and must) be discouraged to form in them good habits.

    Perhaps you are speaking of younger children (i.e., below the “age of reason”)?

  2. a thomist said,

    August 27, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    The experience you describe is very common and perhaps even universal. Every child resents not knowing the reason why they are being disciplined. But this agrees with the point I’m trying to make, I think, because the reason the child does not understand is that he is immature and inexperienced, and no amount of talking or explaining reasons will make him understand. The child can certainly understand the words, but not the meaning. You can give the child the most rational reason in the word, but it won’t make any difference. The child will keep asking “but why?” to anything, or give some alternate reason that seems plausible, or deny that he did something, or justify what he did- he can give you as much talk as you want to sit there and listen to. This is exactly the process that destroys and harms one’s ability to reason.

  3. Peter said,

    August 27, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Oh, I missed your title. I thought you were talking about reasoning with children in general, not in relation to discipline. In that case, I agree with you.

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