Freedom Is A Family Affair

There is common false picture of free independent individuals as some kind of loners with little social life and certainly not a family. A free individual, in fact, is more likely than not to have a family, a spouse and children, because they are part of his means of achieving and being fully human and fully enjoying his life [as discussed in the 2005 article, Sex, Love, and Marriage].

Most discussions of families are in terms of their supposed necessity to a, "civilized society," as though the purpose of a family was society, not the individuals that make up the family.

For the free individual, family has nothing to do with social issues or civilization. Just as the purpose of an individual's life is not society or culture or civilization, but one's own success and happiness, so the purpose of a family is the success and happinness of the individuals that are that family. Except for the family members themselves, no individuals, or group of individuals, other relatives, society, or civilization itself, have any bearing at all on the purpose of any family, or any stake in what that family is or does.

There is only one requirement in social terms relating to families, which is identical to the requirement in social terms related to individuals, to be successful they must be free to be and achieve all they can by their own choices and effort.

A Free Family

The only purpose of a family is that family's enjoyment of itself and its own success and prosperity. I believe that most human beings will want to marry and raise a family, because it is our nature, both physical and psychological, to be fulfilled as human beings in that way, and that raising a family within the context of life-long loving relationship is one of the most important and fulfilling aspects of the human life adventure.

There may seem to be an irony in the fact the independent individualist who rejects all forms of collective "joining" would be fulfilled by what seems to be a kind collective, but a family is not a collective, a family is a miniature free society—or ought to be.

This assumes a family whose adult members, the mother and father, are independent individualists, and that they are "members of that society," because they love each other, and each could not be happy without the one they love. Because their children are the product of their love and the pleasure they derive and give each other, they are regarded as a prize, very precious treasures to be tended to, cared for, preserved, nourished, and developed. They are the creation of their live and values.

Of course the children have no choice about being members of that society, but under normal circumstances, children whose individuality and independence is intentionally developed and respected would choose that very family if they had to choose.

There is no place children will be more free than within such a family and nowhere children will be as free to develop their own character and individuality, because it is in such a family they are surrounded by reality, where objective reason and reasonableness reign. This freedom does not translate into permissiveness because freedom is not "permissive." Freedom does not allow anyone to act without responsibility for the consequences of their actions. To allow a child to be convinced he can do wrong and get away with it is a cruel lie, a lie about reality which never allows or forgives a wrong.

The whole purpose of discipline is instruction about the nature of reality, and of truth and values. It not only teaches that there are consequences of wrong choices and actions, but more importantly, all pleasure and joy are the rewards for achievement, of effort, and sometimes of bearing temporary pain and discomfort. Loving discipline is never cruel, but to withhold it from some false sense of "mercy" or "kindness" can be a great cruelty.

[Note: I know there are people who hurt children, cruelly and viciously. I do not understand how anyone can possibly do that, even in anger or frustration, but I know it happens. It is a kind of mental or psychological defect that will certainly extend beyond such people's dealing with children. That kind of behavior is not discipline, though some attempt to excuse it as such. The rational independent individualist has no problem understanding the difference.]

Order, Not Regimentation

How should a family be properly organized? What are the rules? How should one raise their children?

The answer to such questions are identical to the answer to the question of how any individual ought to organize and live his life. Beyond the principles of ethics which are based on the reality of the world, there are no rules because every individual is different and only the individual can know how to live his own life. So, every family is different, and the members of every family will be as different from one another as families are from each other. How any family ought to be organized, ought to arrange its affairs, or raise its children will be different for every family determined by its members and their own best reason and effort.

But what if we make mistakes, especially in raising our children?

Well, you are going to make mistakes, just as every individual makes mistakes in their own life. There never needs be any lasting harm from honest mistakes, so long as one learns from them, and corrects them. It is not a failure to make mistakes, it is a failure if one denies them, or attempts to evade the consequences of them or does not do everything they can to prevent them.

One common mistake is having doubts about the propriety of setting up rules of order within a family. The individualist's love of freedom will make him question his "right" to tell even his children what they must do, but this is a mistaken viewpoint. The issue is, no one has a "right" to dictate to you what you must do, tolerate, or put up with, in your own home. You are preparing the meals, why should anyone be able to dictate to you how long or when those meals are made available. You make and provide the meals when you choose, and they are available then and only then. As soon as children are old enough to understand the relationship between their choices and consequences it may be put to them just that way. Dinner is at five o'clock. If you are not at the table at five o'clock, you get no dinner.

"Why do I have to go to bed now?" The answer is, "Go to bed when you like, but if you do not go to bed now, you will not go to the fair tomorrow."

"I don't want to clean up my room." The answer is, "OK. I'll clean it up, and everything that's not where it's supposed to be goes in the trash."

The point is not to make children obedient little automatons, but responsible individuals who understand there are consequences for their choices, and that they must respect other people's property and freedom, and that they have no "right" to anything they have not earned and deserve. One of the things your children will covet, if you have demonstrated your reasonableness and objectivity in dealing with them, is your approval.

So long as your expectations of your children are reasonable, (and do not underestimate what can be expected), it is important to let them know when you are disappointed in them when they fail to achieve what you know they are capable of achieving, but be sure to show your approval when they have accomplished anything of real merit.

Be Sure Your Family Is Free

This could be very long, but I'll make it short.

It's your family. It does not matter what anyone else thinks about your family, how your run it, or how you raise your children. You neither have to explain or apologize for anything about your family to anyone else, ever. Both of these are a matter of justice.

Yours is the best family possible, because it is yours, and you are living it the way you choose, and because there is only one standard by which families can be measured, the degree of success and happiness enjoyed by the members of that family, and they are the only one's who can know it.

Be sure your children understand, they are beholding no one but you, and then only until they are on their own. Never compare, your family, your children, or your life to others. It's something your children will try. "Sally's mother is letting her go to the show," when you've just told your daughter she may not. It does not matter how you answer this so long as your child understands what other people do does not matter, and that you make your own choices and you expect your children to do the same. That is, after all, what freedom is.

You must be free yourself if your family is to be free. It is a mistake to allow yourself to be entrapped in any unfree situation because of family. First, make yourself free, then make your family free.