As I was reading a book on child discipline, I learned something about the role of children in shaping anti-authoritarian movements. (The book is Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen, Ed.D., copyright 1987.)
A lot of people in the United States have a vision in their head of "the good old days" when children were obedient and didn't have this teen pregnancy, drug use, gang violence, etc.
Remember when Mom obediently did whatever Dad said, or at least gave the impression she did, because it was the culturally acceptable thing to do? In the good old days few people questioned the idea that Dad's decisions were final. Because of the human-rights movement, this is no longer true. When Mom quit modeling submissiveness, children stopped being submissive. Rudolph Dreikurs pointed out, "When Dad lost control of Mom, they both lost control of the children." (9)My first thought upon reading that passage was: "If only I had been obedient to my husband, my children would behave!" Tongue in cheek, of course.
But my second thought was: "Whoa. As a parent, I'm not providing anti-authoritarian discipline simply because it's the right thing to do. I'm doing it because my children wouldn't stand for the old style of authoritarian discipline."
It's a boring truism that raising kids is hard. Yeah, and what isn't? What's interesting to me is in which ways it's hard. What's hard is to get children to change their behavior without yelling at them, locking them in their room, and taking other authoritarian measures. Apparently, now that the feminist movement has liberated me, it's that much harder.
That is to say, feminist social movements also gave children the tools to liberate themselves. In the broader society, children are extremely disempowered and marginalized, but in the family situation, they have the ability to make their parents' life a living hell. (Or heaven, of course.)
In response, many parents have of necessity adopted an anti-authoritarian style. (Whether they adopt an anti-authoritarian style or an authoritarian one depends partly on ideology and partly on the skills they have on hand.)
Now what gets really interesting here is that once children are raised using anti-authoritarian methods, they become anti-authoritarian adults who participate in social movements.
That is to say, social movements that cause the liberation of adults can cause the liberation of children, and the liberation of children can strengthen social movements. It's a two-way street.
I have a final note about Dreikur's associate Alfred Adler, who made important contributions to positive discipline.
"Alfred Adler was a man with ideas ahead of his time. He was advocating equality for all people, all races, women, and children long before it was popular to do so. Adler, an Austrian of Jewish descent, had to leave his native land during the Nazi persecution in order to continue his work." (23)
I'd be curious to learn more about his history, but I take this to mean that his work was so threatening to fascism that he had to get the heck out of Nazi Germany.
My takeaway is this: if we want anti-authoritarian social movements to be successful, we need to pay close attention to children. They're marginalized, they're ignored, they're disempowered, but they can still sock it to The Man.