I truly believe that one day mankind will look back on the way children were treated in 2016 with the same incredulity and revulsion as they do how slaves were treated in 1816. The inhuman treatment of children combined with the habitual denial of even their most basic human rights is an inerasable stain upon humanity that only full confession and time can begin to heal. For those who do not understand this subject, I present to you six ways in which children are treated like—and in some cases even worse than—slaves.
Children are controlled through superstition and lies. From their earliest days, most children face an onslaught of lies and misinformation designed to control them and modify their behavior. From threats of eternal torment masquerading as religion to the mystical "naughty or nice" list maintained by Santa Claus to the permanent installation of a tattletale "elf on the shelf," children's self-ownership and sovereignty is threatened by the specter of mythological beings whose sole duty is to spy on and punish children who do not obsequiously submit to the iron will of their parents. Much like these unfortunate children, slaves were also manipulated through tales of gods who would monitor them and punish those who dared to run away or attempt to regain their freedom. The desire to own or control another human being—be it a child or a slave—is perhaps the greatest evil of all.
Children are denied access to information and truth. Just like slaves were denied the skill of reading for fear that it might give them ideas their masters preferred them not to possess, so children are routinely denied information because they are "too young to understand it." If they are indeed too young to comprehend a truth's significance, what harm could there be in hearing that truth? Even when they directly ask about things they observe, children are often given ridiculous misinformation such as the claim that human birth is caused by a stork's delivery of a baby.
Children are indoctrinated into statism. This issue is related to points 1 and 2, but goes even further. In addition to the untruths told children as a method of control and the truths denied to them as a means of keeping them helpless and uninformed, there is the "education" system which indoctrinates them nearly non-stop from their earliest days until they finally gain their (largely theoretical) independence at the age of 18.
In school, children are taught that authority is real and that states (and their parents) possess a legitimate right to initiate violence against those who do not obey. They are taught the fallacy of a "social contract" as if it were truth and regaled with the notion of "duty" to country and to society. Their self-ownership is beaten down until they believe that they are a part of an inescapable collective rather than a sovereign individual with no positive obligations to anyone.
Children are physically abused. This fact is perhaps the most obvious and direct comparison to slavery in that it is no longer tolerated in any other context. Not even convicted serial killers are subject to the physical battery that many children regularly undergo. Children face physical abuse for the slightest transgression. Even a look deemed "disrespectful" is sufficient in the eyes of many parents to earn a most savage beating. Free speech? Forget about it! Mere words that offend the sensibilities of a parent are often considered an adequate excuse to use physical implements—spoons, hairbrushes, belts, tree branches, whips, etc.—as methods of coercion and torture. Not since the institution of slavery has any other class of persons been routinely subject to regular "legal" assaults as punishment even for thoughts and words.
Children are denied basic freedom. There are many examples of this problem, but one of the most obvious is the freedom to travel. If a child leaves home without permission, the act is known as "running away." It's an interesting term because we really don't use it to describe most adults who travel. It's a term applied to slaves, prisoners, pets, zoo animals, and others who are recognized as being in captivity. While most parents would recoil at the notion that their children are captives, the very fact that their efforts to leave would be classified as "running away" defies their parents' protestations.
Another example is forcing children to eat food they do not like. Even slaves and prisoners are generally free to eat only part of their meal or to skip an undesirable meal and wait for the next one, but children frequently face far more coercion. Failure to eat one part of a meal can lead to the withholding of the rest of it. A skipped meal may be preserved and re-presented for future consumption until the child's spirit is broken.
A third example is free speech, which we touched upon under point 4. The free speech rights of the average prisoner garner more respect than those of children. It is often considered normal and even expected that parents will limit a child's speech both in manner and in content. Certain words and topics are frequently forbidden. Children who keep diaries intended to preserve secret thoughts for their own consideration are routinely spied upon and in many cases face severe penalties solely for their thoughts.
The final example in this non-exhaustive list is freedom of association. Children are often denied access to their friends, neighbors, and even family members. Older children are denied the right to date and to form romantic attachments. Again we see an example where the restrictions placed on children often exceed those placed on prisoners and even slaves.
Children are overworked and denied compensation. The most basic freedom is the right to say no. Employees have the right to quit. Dissatisfied partners have the right to divorce. Churchgoers have the right to stay home. What rights do children possess? While perhaps not as common as some of the other problems delineated in this list, the overworking of children remains a serious violation of their rights. It is quite common indeed for children to be ordered to do chores. Unlike an employee (but very much like a slave), the children are not given the option to refuse or to seek terms that are agreeable to them. Failure to comply may result in physical abuse, the confiscation of property, incarceration in a room or chair, or some other method of coercion.
While some parents may provide their children with an allowance, this cannot be considered compensation for labor unless the child has the right to forgo the allowance in order to avoid the labor. Once again, most children are denied the freedom to say no to the "offer" they quite literally cannot refuse.
Do children have a "duty" to "contribute" to their household? Variations of this argument are frequently presented as justification for forced labor, but ignore the underlying coercion. Did the child choose to be a part of the household? Are they free to go? (See point 5.) Rather than persuading their child to help or inducing them through an offer that will garner voluntary acceptance, many parents extract labor through threats and fear. In addition to the inherent rights violation which is occurring, such a scenario also serves as another method of indoctrination into statism (See point 3.)
What has happened to mankind? What did we miss? We have rejected slavery and have begun the journey toward treating prisoners more humanely. We long ago discarded the notion that men should be free to beat their wives. Some folks even believe that animals ought to have "rights." What about the children? Children are human beings with the same natural rights as anyone else, yet humanity frequently turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed against them.
I for one will not tolerate it and I certainly will not perpetuate the cycle. If and when I have children, I will not lie to them, deny them the truth, or indoctrinate them. I will not abuse them, force them to act, or prevent them from doing what they wish to do (unless an imminent danger requires clarification.) In short, I will treat my children the way I treat all other people—as sovereign individuals who have the same natural rights which I possess. I hope more parents will choose peaceful parenting as well. The world is full of violence and coercion, and children really shouldn't have to face these evils in their own homes.