April 22, 2023

Let’s talk about consent and the sunk cost fallacy.

If a child wants to back out of an activity they previously agreed to, and you only want them to stay because you already paid for it, then I believe that you should let them change their mind.

Why? Because the money is gone, regardless of what they do next. It’s a sunk cost.

Naturally, you’d rather live in a world without wasted money. But wasted money with relief is better than wasted money with suffering.

This especially applies to physical activities like piercings, but I personally apply the same principle to non-physical activities like scary movies, too.

Without going into details, I found myself in this kind of situation multiple times as a child. In some cases, I didn’t understand my brain well enough to explain why the activity would be hard for me, or why I hadn’t predicted that earlier.

But in all cases, the feeling of being trapped and unable to escape was just as bad as the thing I was trying to escape from. So now I advocate for kids to have more autonomy.

And while they set boundaries around what they’re willing to do, you can set boundaries around what you’re willing to spend in the future, knowing the risk.

(Note that this issue is more complex when there are other reasons to continue besides a sunk cost. I’m mainly trying to undo the fallacy that a child’s comfort – or our own, as adults who change our minds – is less important than getting what we paid for.)

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.