Monday, May 06, 2013

The slippery-slope argument

(photo by Bethany Carlson; used with permission)

I have been spending some time challenging myself when it comes to logical fallacies.  I know that these aren't just issues that creep up in politics and media.  When looking at my own life, I can see how I use them, even in my parenting.

While I fight hard to avoid using the classic "slippery-slope argument," and also encourage others to do the same, I have to admit that I'm pulled to it like a magnet when guiding my kids.  I know why I do it (fear, much?).  I know why I ignore that I do it (again with the fear).

Okay, so you may not have a clue what I'm talking about.  What is this whole slippery-slope thing?  We've all heard it, experienced it and probably used it.

"A slippery slope argument goes like this.
If you take position A, you run the risk of taking position B;
position B is wrong,
therefore A is also wrong." - John Frame
We want to protect our kids.  We want them to learn from our mistakes (meaning:  we want them to be totally different from the way we were at their age).  If we are concerned with their choices, we feel extremely out of control.  That giant feeling then creates havoc in our brains which causes us to want to fight against it.  If you can't stop someone with brute force, then ... maybe you can stop them with fear. Slippery-slope argument, enter stage left.

"Smoking will lead to drugs."

"Drinking will lead to drugs."

"Not cleaning your room will lead to drugs."

"Premarital sex will lead to dancing!"  (sorry ... any other recovering Southern Baptists in the house?)

I kid, I kid.  But we do it.  We do it even in the tiniest of things.  I have four teenagers, and am trying to focus hard on my words and my intentions.  Mostly my intentions.  That's where I start to screw up.

In our home, we focus a lot on living in community:  within these walls, within our park/small business, within ... the world.  We talk about a balance between creativity, self-expression, radical acceptance, teamwork with the human race and thoughtfulness.  It is a constant tension.  We get it right as much as we get it wrong, because there are a million different nuances to it.

I have things I can teach my children.  I have things I can guide them through.  They can choose to absorb that information or not (and sometimes, their lack of absorption is not a choice ... they're busy working out something else in their heart/mind/life).  My fear, however, is something I can count on most of the time.

Over the last two weeks I have repeated something to at least five other parents that resonates with them.  It is true for me over and over again.  When I find myself facing a behavior (or what appears to be a "snowball" of behaviors) with one of my kids, I start to panic.  I could easily name that feeling as "fear," but even more so, it is a big wad of, "I want it to stop.  I want to make it stop.  Stop!  I NEED IT TO STOP!"  It is unbelievably intense.  Overwhelming.

That's when I love to use those slippery-slope arguments with my kids.  I don't think about it.  Instead, my words just start to move there.  I want them to be scared.  I want them to be as scared as I am.

Yeesh.  Okay.  I said it out loud.

I am currently working extra hard on all of this.  With all the talk of same-sex marriage, I've also seen a surge in slippery-slope arguments.  I want to make sure I'm not countering those arguments if I'm doing the same thing myself.  Not just in political or human rights discussions, but sitting right here at my kitchen table.

So, every time I go there (or I want to go there) I'm asking myself, "What am I afraid of?"

Then I'm reminding myself that I do not want to live a life of fear.  So, I should choose my words and my actions based on what is actually happening and what is actually true.

Even when I still feel afraid.

Especially when I still feel afraid.


Wordy girl said...

I love this! With all the behaviors we have been dealing with lately, the hardest thing is not the behaviors themselves, but what I fear they will lead to. When I just focus on what is happening TODAY, I can handle it much better.

Slippery slope has become THE argument today. It is so frustrating. You are either sliding one way or the other - nuance is very out of fashion. All this "slippery slope" bs is just a propaganda tool for people to get you to join their mob.

"All or nothing" is another load of crap I am sick of. It is much harder to pursue incremental change. It's easier to just walk away because you can't have everything right now.

My8kidsmom said...

So dealing with fear in my neck of the woods. their fear, my's all big and looming. I have been thinking a lot about the intense desire to allow fear to drive my decisions because it seems so scary not to, right? I mean what if....any way all that to say: well said girl, well said.