For a limited time, the editors of The Objective Standard are making the cover article, “How to Raise a Life-Loving Child,” written by Sarah and Craig Biddle accessible for free. The purpose of this essay is to convey a fundamental principle that governs their approach to parenting.
"The Unknown Awaits" by Bryan Larsen inspired by Ayn Rand's essay Apollo Versus Dionysos on the cover of the Fall Issue of the Objective Standard (TOS). Order prints.
How To Raise a Life-Loving Child
Give me a child for the first seven years, and he is mine for life. —The Jesuits
Raise a child with the Master Question, and he is his own for life. —Sarah and Craig Biddle
During the twelve years we’ve been raising our daughter, we’ve often been asked about our approach to parenting, and we’ve enjoyed sharing our thoughts in countless conversations. Now that our daughter is almost thirteen, we’re happy to present the essence of our approach in the form of an essay. Because we’re only part way through this wonderful adventure, our discussion here is limited to our experiences and thoughts about raising a child through her preteen years.
Parenting is a big subject about which many good books and articles have been written (we recommend several in an appendix below). Our purpose in this essay is not to cover every aspect or area of parenting, nor to restate things that others have stated well. Rather, our purpose is to convey a fundamental principle that governs our approach to the endeavor and to show how that principle applies to various parenting situations and contexts.
In particular, we do not address children’s education in this essay. Although education is an aspect of parenting, it is also a science in its own right, and we think it is best treated separately. For good article-length discussions of education, we recommend Heike Larson’s “The Montessori Method: Educating Children for a Lifetime of Learning and Happiness” (TOS, Summer 2010); and Lisa VanDamme’s “The Hierarchy of Knowledge: The Most Neglected Issue in Education” (TOS, Spring 2006) and “The False Promise of Classical Education” (TOS, Summer 2007).
The Master Question
We approach parenting as we approach any major project or undertaking: by first identifying and clarifying the purpose of the endeavor. What are we trying to do here—and why? The purpose of parenting, as we see it, is not merely to raise a child to be an independent, happy adult. That is a goal of parenting (and an important one), but is not the overarching purpose.
The purpose of parenting, in our view, is to enable a child to learn about the world, to develop his mind and skills, and to make his own choices so that he can live well and love life—not only in adulthood, but also throughout childhood.1 That’s a mouthful. Fortunately, as we think you’ll come to agree, that lengthy idea can be condensed to: The purpose of parenting is to raise a life-loving child.
That purpose, however, is declarative. It states a truth and an aim, but it does not necessarily activate our minds toward that end. To turn this principle into a tool that activates our minds, we convert it into a question: 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?
The very act of asking this question (or any version of it) focuses our minds on the task of answering it. And by proceeding to answer this question in any given context, we set our minds to the process of good parenting. Because this question is both central and fundamental to our approach, we call it the Master Question (MQ). Read more
If you’ve not yet subscribed to The Objective Standard, you can do so here. The journal makes a great gift for active-minded friends and relatives. Subscriptions start at just $29 and are available in Print, Online, E-book, and Audio editions.
Subscribe Here | Give Gifts Here
Content The Objective Standard, Vol. 10, No. 3.