Unpopular ideas about children

I’ve been compiling lists of “unpopular ideas,” things that seem weird or bad to most people (at least, to most educated urbanites in the United States, which is the demographic I know best).

Because my collection of unpopular ideas became so long, I’ve broken it into categories. Below, I focus specifically on ideas about children. (Here are my previous lists, on social normspolitical & economic systems, and crime & punishment.) I’ll be posting similar lists on other topics and adding to each one over time as I find new examples.

Why am I making these lists? Even though I disagree with many of these ideas, I nevertheless think it’s valuable to practice engaging with ideas that seem weird or bad, for two reasons: First, because such ideas might occasionally be true, and it’s worth sifting through some duds to find a gem.

And second, because I think our imaginations tend to be too constrained by conventional “common sense,” and that many ideas we accept as true today were counterintuitive to past generations. Considering weird ideas helps de-anchor us from the status quo, and that’s valuable independently of whether those particular ideas are true or not.

[Because some people have missed this disclaimer in the past, I’m going to say again that I’m not endorsing these ideas, merely collecting them, and I disagree with many of them.]

  1. Anti-natalism: it’s morally wrong to have children because it condemns them, without their consent, to an existence that will include suffering (1)
  2. Pro-natalism: you have a moral obligation to have children if you are able to, and if those children’s lives are likely to be worth living (1)
  3. It’s morally preferable not to have children, because of the harmful impact of additional people on the environment (1)
  4. Parenting has little influence on children’s long-run personalities or fortunes (1)
  5. People should be able to sell parental rights to their infants (1)
  6. Infanticide is no worse than abortion (1)
  7. It’s immoral to circumcise male infants – it’s medically unnecessary, and it’s immoral to remove a piece of a person’s body without their consent (1)
  8. Children are an oppressed group; it’s unfair to deny a person rights based solely on their age (1, 2, 3)
  9. Attachment theory: It’s vital for children’s long-term emotional health to have their primary caregiver available 24/7 during their early years to reassure them emotionally (1, 2)
  10. Once it becomes possible to exercise some choice over the traits of our babies, we will have a moral obligation to do so, choosing traits like IQ and self-control that give our children the best chance at a good life. (1)
  11. Anti-child-labor laws are unfair to children and their families (1)
  12. People who want to raise children – including their own biological children – should be required to get a license from the state to show they are competent to do (1)
  13. It’s morally wrong for parents to be their children’s only source of care. Society has an obligation to provide, and require, institutional child care as a supplement to parental care. (1)
  14. Some kinds of corporal punishment for kids are good (1)
  15. Sexual contact between adults and children is not as harmful as generally believed (1)
  16. Parents should not be legally required to care for, or even feed, their children (1)