If I let him, he would never...
If I let him, he would always...
If I let him, he would do nothing but...

A collection of fallacies

see also Myths too many parents believe

These are statements actual parents made in public, most of them in writing. I wish I had saved all I'd ever seen, but twelve years ago I had no idea there would be SO MANY. So this is a collection begun in 2003, for the edification of those who are trying to move from authoritarian parenting to mindful, attachment, being your child's partner in learning about the world. The names have not been saved because many of them changed their minds before long after reading what the unschoolers online had to say. Others, unwilling to defend their beliefs, went away grumpy that anyone would give children choices and freedom.

Two on Chores

If I just let my kids hang out without doing any housework or having any responsibilities, my house would be condemned.

[I]f we tried that nothing would ever get done and the house would be full of garbage and cockroaches!

A more general assortment of assurances:
He would drink soda all day long every day if it was in the house.

If my boys had their own way, they would be watching gaming videos full of bad words from morning until night.

My children get to regulate what they eat within a framework that I establish, otherwise they would choose a variety of candy and nothing else.
     comment on a podcast on unschoolers and food, May 2018; not mine

If we have tons of ice cream he will eat just ice cream all day!

If I let her eat whatever she wanted she'd eat nothing but oatmeal.

He would eat 6+ apples a day if let to his own devices.
     (The mother had stopped him, because he had cavities.)

He likes TV. If he could, he'd watch it all day.

This one is wordy but says "If we let him, he would listen to audiobooks all the time, period."
He has a passion for listening to audio books (and, actually, listening to anyone read to him) and we listen to them tons in the car. I know that if we ever got him a cd player that is all he'd be doing. Period.

I am not any time soon going to be buying him one for just that very reason.

Deb Lewis's response to that

My experience has been that left completely to their own devices they will stay online alllllll day, and then around 4/5pm they will be stir-crazy, irritable and listless, but unable to think of anything to do.
      (editor's note: wait... I thought they were online all day. Can't have both.)

If we let him, he will just play wii all day.

My son would have consistently picked only certain people to learn from - those with computer expertise - left to his own devices :)

If I didn't come up with something, he'd just sit and lie around..unless he played something.

When it comes to ballet, she would train all day if I let her...

My kids would have played video games all day if I unschooled them, so they weren't unschooling material.

My main idea about Unschooling was: "Unschooling is entirely child-led. If it (education) were all up to my son he'd just play all day and not learn a thing." (She got better.)

She isnt interested in learning about anything and would watch movies over and over again if I let her.

I have a son who'd eat flour and sugar all the time.

If I were to allow it all they would do is play video games, watch cartoons, and play.

My children LOVE video and computer games. If left to them they would play them ALL DAY LONG.

I do struggle with the fact that he could sit and play computer games all day - literally form morning until bed - if I let him.

if there is junk in the house my 3 yo will eat that and nothing else if i let him

I do know that my son would eat trash and dead birds if I let him, so in that way I am not permissive. (the mother of a 22 month old wrote that in 2007)

If I leave them to decide each meal it will go poorly in the sense that they will think, hmm, I want candy.

If my boys were allowed to self-direct, they'd spend all day reading Hardy Boy books, blowing up the house with science experiments, and not much else.

If I left him to do what he wanted, he would eat junk food and play video games all day long...

She mentioned at that point that if her daughter is left to herself to be inspired she will sit down and read all day.
He would still only eat chocolate and crisps if he had his way.

If my son had his way he would play video games all day long.

My son is one of those who would spend 24 hours a day playing video and computer games, if nobody dragged his nose away from them

Left on his own he would play War Craft all day (or at least a lot) that would include breaks for drum playing.

[That one was in private e-mail, not in public, and the next e-mail said "I must admit that this game is probably responsible for some of the reading ability that he currently has. And he pretty brilliant in the game. His drumming is pretty amazing too."]

I can tell you that if my children could do WHATEVER they wanted they would be wild. My 3 yr old would eat until he pukes and my 4 yr old would get into so much trouble...

He would play games all day if I let him...

Also, he LOVES to play Final Fantasy Online. If I let him, he'd play ALL day!

They would spend all day, every day, in front of the the TV, computer or playstation if they were allowed to.

If I I left him to his own plans, he would be playing the gameboy or watching TV all day long.

child...would play video games all day, if I let him

Left to himself he would play Gamecube and torment his sister.

My Mitchell (5) would watch it all day if I didn't say that's enough...get outside and play, now.

I know if I let my son do ONLY what he wanted to do that is what he would choose. [of video games]

If I let him do exactly what he wants he will just watch tv constantly.

I'm telling you, he would NEVER stop playing if we didn't make him once in a while...

My boys are lazy and it seems like if left to their own devices they'd just watch TV and play with toys or computer games all day.

If I let them they would sit in front of the TV ALL day.

I have one that would sit in front of the TV all day everyday.

No matter how tired she is, she would *never* just doze off in front of a video. [That one is a version of "would never go to sleep."]

If left to his own devices, my son would eat sugar all day.

If left on their own, they will see nothing wrong with eating junk food all day.

He will choose to go without food and just eat sweets if allowed.

My son would subsist on sweets if I didn't occasionally intervene and tell him that he's free to graze on "junk food" after he eats nutritious foods (fruits, veggies, etc.).

Worked great out on the savannah. Now my kids would go hunt-and- gather chicken nuggets, chocolate milk, fries, and a Sponge-Bob ice cream cone.

[I]f I answered every question my kids asked, my son would ask questions all day.

If he had his choice he would want me to just play with him all day. (of a nine year old boy)

If he had his way, he'd have me playing video games with him, watching T.V. with him, doing something with him ALL DAY LONG!

I'm telling you, he would NEVER stop playing [video games] if we didn't make him once in a while...

We have to have rules about when bedtime is or she would never stop moving long enough to fall asleep.

She can't leave them totally alone or they would do nothing productive. (written by a grandmother making an inquiry)

Left to her own devices, she would choose nothing.

If allowed, she will do NOTHING but watch television all day.

It would be my son's choice to spend all day on the computer playing games, or playing PlayStation.

If I let them, they would decide that they are big enough and capable of deciding to hop in the car and drive to their gran's house.

He'll talk your ear off if you'll let him.

If I left it to him he would never talk. That's just the way he is.

Not to mention my son would sit and play Playstation for hours at a time if I didn't limit it.

I do restrict his computer access - otherwise he would just play all the time - he loves strategy games.

I am mainly concerned about the littles- because they would choose to eat chocolate chip cookies all day every day if they were allowed to.

My kids will not choose to do anything other than watch TV if I didn't turn it off.

If I let him go and say you can do whatever (or even tell him we are going to try unschooling) he knows what it is we have friends who unschool. I am so afraid to have a couch potato kid that would never come out to the light of the day, and he would be brain dead from games.

This one is just almost too big for this page, so brace yourself:

If my kids had their way, they'd go barefoot outside of their own yard, run in the street between cars, never take baths, never eat their veggies and instead opt for chocolate cake every meal, mistreat animals, burn down the house playing with matches, never go to bed, never brush their teeth, etc.
twelve-year-old Holly's responses to that

My children would have a houseful of inappropriate animals, no teeth and square eyes if they had the same say as us.

(square eyes!?)

Left to my own devices, my education would have been limited to American Literature, ballet, popcorn, movies, popcorn and movies and the Beatles.

Of a dad:

My husband would eat liver and onions every day if the rest of us could stand the smell.
(More of that, and my response: Radical Unschooling Info (on Facebook),
which you should be able to see if you have a facebook account.)

Three statements pulled from the same long paragraph:

". . .but if I let him do exactly what he wants he will just watch tv constantly. I know many (all?) of you wouldn't have a problem with that. . ."

That's just what Cameron did when I pulled him out of school after sixth grade; he watched TV all day and all night. He ate, slept, and talked on the 'phone, too. But mostly he just watched TV.

One day I overheard him talking with a schooled friend (who was/is *totally* brainwashed into believing school is the *only* way to success). Noah said that, if he were being homeschooled like Cameron, where he could do anything he wanted all day, he would just watch TV ALL DAY!

Cameron laughed and said, "TV all day gets old, dude! It's the same stuff over and over!"



The following are qualified statements which are truthful because they express concern or doubt (as opposed to the definite statements above which are essentially betting against one's own child).
Does anybody out there have a kid that would happily watch TV all day? Or a child who glued himself to a gameboy during all his waking hours? I feel my kids would gravitate to this if allowed.

I am very concerned that they will watch TV, play video games (we have nintendo and play station), and play computer games all day long.

This one's just fun. A quote of a quote.
I am so sick of hearing them say "My daughter eats sugar right out of the bowl and she would do it all day if I let her."

A combination insult and dire prediction:

If I didn't place some kind of restrictions on these immature souls, they would try EVERYTHING. Are you saying that I should tell them "Forget everything I ever said about drugs. Do what you want and make your own decisions?" Where the heck do you people draw the line? And if you don't - may God protect your children!!!

Not exactly "if I let him..." but similar sentiment:

Where do we draw the line? If I provide an abundance of everything, we will not have a home to live in, or we may, but then we wouldn't have a car or any utilities in that home.

Comment on the list above, August 2006, by Sandra:

I love that page, and I will admit that some of them make me laugh.

I feel a little bad, sometimes, laughing about something someone meant sincerely, but it does amaze me, STUN me, that so many people can think something, and verbalize it, and write it down and send it to a thousand strangers without seeing how unreasonable it really is. And how mean, and judgmental of their children (or themselves). How harsh. How unbending. How much they're just parroting someone else in their past who was harsh and mean and unbending, and they don't even hear themselves (or read themselves) parroting.

But they do it all the time. How many millions of times more than on my puny little collection have parents said those things to and about their kids as though saying it made it true?

But just hearing what we say can change us.

Hearing the negativity and the implied threat and the explicit insults can help us become softer, and more flexible and more thoughtful and original.

Speaking or writing without thinking is a little like driving a car with a blindfold. Others get hurt, we get hurt, the car gets wrecked.

Speaking or writing without thinking is like operating a relationship with a blindfold, with ear plugs, going "LA LA LA LA, I DON'T HAVE TO LISTEN TO MYSELF!!" all the whole time.

How can one see her own child directly without hushing, pulling out the earplugs, and looking at him?

In 2021, the page was still being helpful.

A mom wrote on facebook:
I read this at the beginning of my unschooling journey, probably about 6-8 months ago. My 7 year old hasn’t had any formal instruction since March of 2020. I was already on board then with giggling at the absurdity of this thinking, but still had teensy itchy doubt in the way back about how it would really ‘work.’ This many months later and I want to write an anti “if I let” article!

If I let her eat what she wanted all day... she would choose to eat what nourished her at the moment and all in all get what her body needed throughout the day, week, month, year, and learn about how food feels to her individually and be able to make her own choices about it. If I let him do what he wanted he would watch tv all day... and learn a bunch of things because tv is just as valid of a learning resource as books or curriculum or museum or outside time.

And so on and so forth.

Sandra, Thank you so much for all you have provided new unschoolers.

Brandi G


Interestingly, I was criticized for having this page. I think the charge was that I was being cruel, to show moms their words. From my point of view, these moms were being shortsighted and cruel, and it's better to point it out, for the sake of their kids and the future (if any) of their unschooling.

This isn't considered to be "supportive." The deal is, I'm supporting unschooling. If a mom has read this far and agrees that she would prefer support, I've provided that too. Click here for support.

see also Myths too many parents believe

Pam Sorooshian's article on economics for unschoolers explaining WHY these things aren't true

Strewing TV/Video Video Games Food Choices