“Best for the Kids”

I hate “best for the kids” arguments, not because it’s a horrible concept (obviously not), but because these arguments are often used in cases where a) it’s a judgment call with good arguments on both sides, and b) the adults are just going to do whatever they want anyway. There is always a way to rationalize these decisions as being “best for the kids,” no matter what. And if you’re just gonna do whatever you want, then why bring your kids into it?

Take divorce. I’ve known people who used to pray every night that their parents would split up, and I know people who were blindsided and traumatized by their parents’ divorce. And there are even more ambiguous cases where the kid agrees that divorce is for the best, but is still negatively affected by it. Not to mention cases where one kid is not really affected by their parents’ divorce, while their sibling is broken by it. So what is “best for the kids” in one particular situation? And how do you know?

Or take all the competing parenting philosophies. Attachment, holistic, French style, tiger mom, free range, I don’t even know what they all are. Whatever philosophy you go with must be described as being a) best for the kids and b) just my personal preference for my family, it may not be right for you, no judgment, blah blah blah. The result is a mishmash of competing norms and conflicting directives, not no judgment but lots of it. How could somebody formula feed/breastfeed so long/overschedule/fail to enrich/spank/not spank/etc.? They must not really care because they’re not doing it this way, and this way is what’s best for kids.

Photo by 502artistb, used under a Morguefile license.