I came across Thomas Sowell’s summation of a parent’s duty, “Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late,” in an article about conflicting ideas about parenting. The author, Tony Woodleif, a homeschooling father of four, lays out Sowell’s two competing theories:
Mr. Sowell contrasted the “unconstrained vision” of utopians, who want to radically improve humankind, with the “constrained vision” of realists, who begin with the proposition that man is inherently self-interested, and not moldable into whatever form the high-minded types have in store for us once they get their itchy fingers on the levers of power.
Like the author, I fall in to the “constrained vision” camp, described here:
The constrained vision indicates that world harmony and universal satisfaction are mirages. People are innately selfish, and they’ll always desire more goodies. This means that tradeoffs between competing wants are inevitable. My wife and I therefore forbid our children to use the word “fair.” Parents still in the thrall of the unconstrained worldview are prone to manipulation by their kids, who like little human-rights lawyers insist on fairness as an imperative. And don’t get me started on the damage that an exaggerated sense of fairness and entitlement has done to public schools. In our house things are much simpler: That last piece of cake had to be divided somehow, and in this imperfect world your brother got the extra frosting. Deal with it.
Also, read the article to get an thoughtful defense of “Because I said so.”