Objectivism and Parenting - The Objective Standard

In “How to Raise a Life-Loving Child,” my wife, Sarah, and I show in pattern how one basic principle, in the form of the Master Question, applies to all aspects of parenting: “What can I do (or refrain from doing) to enable my child to learn about reality, to develop his mind and skills, and to make his own choices so that he can live well and love life?”

Although parenting with the Master Question is not Objectivist parenting per se (there’s no such thing), it is an application of certain aspects of Objectivism to the process of raising a child. Basic principles of the philosophy not only set the framework for our approach; they effectively inhere in the Master Question itself; thus, they are implicit in the entire process of parenting with this conceptual tool.

Because this connection is not essential to the theme of our original essay, we did not discuss it there. But, for those who might be interested, I’ll say a few words here to indicate how parenting with the Master Question is essentially parenting with key principles of Objectivism.

To begin, note that the Master Question has essentially three (overlapping) parts: one pertaining to the child’s need to learn about reality, another to his need to develop his mind and skills, and a third to his need to make choices and love life. These three parts correspond to the basic branches of Objectivism—its metaphysics, which is concerned with the basic nature of reality; its epistemology, which is concerned with the nature and means of knowledge; and its ethics, which is concerned with the nature of values and how people should and should not act. We’ll consider these briefly in turn.

The Objectivist metaphysics holds that there is one reality, the one we perceive with our senses; that it is governed by the laws of identity (things are what they are) and causality (things can act only in accordance with their identities); and that, to live successfully in this realm, we must establish and maintain cognitive contact with it. The first part of the MQ—What can I do to enable my child to learn about reality?—goes to this requirement of life.

By asking and answering this question, and by parenting in accordance with our answers, we foster a child’s cognitive contact with reality and its laws. We help him see that everything has a nature, that contradictions and miracles are impossible, that wishing or mere wanting cannot change the way things are. We help him see that, because reality is an orderly and causal environment, to make any desired changes in life, we must take certain actions and not others. We help him see that he can understand the world and can transform it to suit his needs and desires—so long as he recognizes and respects the laws of reality. . . .

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