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How to Raise a Creative Child – Step One: Back Off (2016) (nytimes.com)
517 points by bensummers on April 16, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 253 comments

In adulthood, many prodigies become experts in their fields and leaders in their organizations. Yet only a fraction of gifted children eventually become revolutionary adult creators.

My daughter is being treated for Leukemia by some amazing doctors at Boston Children's Hospital. To my knowledge, none of the health care professionals at this world-class institution have won Nobel Prizes in medicine. All the same, for my daughter's sake, I'm still glad they hit the books for a couple decades.

There are great honor and value in doing an important job consistently and well. This idea that a life is wasted if you don't remake a field in your image seems hollow when these prodigies often end up with the power to save lives.

Maybe I'm biased because I'm a no-name physician at a community hospital, but the "best doctors" in my eyes are the ones with the best outcomes, lowest utilization, highest efficiency and highest patient satisfaction. These measures don't correlate well with the physician's credentials. I learned this in residency, which I did just down the street from a "top" university hospital. We out-performed that place on every level except our doctors went to "lesser" medical schools. They simply spent more money (on wild things like ECMO, which makes everyone feel they're making more of a difference even though the outcomes are the same without it).

Our profession is moving toward identifying these doctors and promoting their behavior to the entire field.

There's a study that showed lower heart attack mortality when all the "top" cardiologists were out of the hospital attending a cardiology meeting. Too many confounders to make any real conclusions from that, but it lines up with my point.

Of course, if your child has a serious life-threatening and/or rare disease, then you want her to be treated at a vanguard institution like the one you took yours to. No dispute from me on that one.

But in the system as a whole, we make the most difference reducing complications of cardiovascular disease, sepsis, pneumonia, COPD, and kidney disease (which are orders of magnitude more common). And we're starting to find out how to identify doctors that do it better, with fewer complications, and with much higher efficiency than others. I think those are the best doctors and it's what I'm striving to be.

> "These measures don't correlate well with the physician's credentials."

This. I think I've even posted about this here before. This has been my wife's experience too (surgeon). She trained with highly regarded academic surgeons that set the treatment recommendations and standards for her field. Then during her job search she went to a center with, well, surgeons not at all academic and she had a life changing moment because she realized their operations and outcomes (utilization, efficiency etc.) are far far better. At the academic centers you are recognized based on your research and publications, not on your surgical skills. These academic surgeons with relatively little experience are setting the standards for how the operation should be done and what the treatments should be. This is not at all recognized in her field unfortunately and is quite literally harming patients every day because of substandard treatment standards.

This reminds me of Hayek's Knowledge Problem[1]: The most effective ways of solving problems are with those closest to the problems. In an economics setting, this means that central planning is inferior to distributed decision making.

Perhaps it's not a perfect analogy, since it sounds like the academic surgeons are maximizing the wrong utility function (publishing / research).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_knowledge_problem

I think it depends on the academic center. Where I'm at some of the clinicians that don't do any research are some of the most highly regarded faculty.

I'd say a good combination of both academics and skills are needed. As another anecdote, where I am in school they have tried to teach us better clinical reasoning and procedural skills rather than solely preparing us for board exams.

The way I see it, your research and academic pursuits can wait until you have a good clinical background. You only have one chance to fully immerse yourself in the practice of medicine (residency), so why dilute that?

I don't have the original source handy, but I recall a study showing a high correlation between hand dexterity and surgical outcomes.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that applications by 17/18 year olds to medical school here in the UK require that you demonstrate manual dexterity - one person sending in a video of them plaiting their hair which apparently went down well!

[NB This is in addition to the very high academic standards that are required for places at medical school].

The problem with this is that dexterity beyond a certain level is very specific to what has been trained.

I have a friend who is an eye surgeon. I'm definitely better at playing guitar and piano than him, probably equal at things like juggling and card tricks, but absolutely inferior when it comes to cutting people's eyeballs apart.

It doesn't invalidate your point completely, but just because someone is good at plaiting hair doesn't mean they'll be good at surgery!

It seems to me like there should be some middle ground. I don't think the best practicing surgeons are necessarily the best academic/theoretical surgeons (although there's definitely some overlap). That's not to say academic surgeons don't need experience, but I think there's definitely different skill sets involved.

Great insight.

Being a surgeon is more akin to performing arts. I.e you cant read your way to playing an instrument, you have to practice playing it.

  the "best doctors" in my eyes are the ones with the best outcomes,
  lowest utilization, highest efficiency and highest patient 
As a lay-person, how can I tell which institutions or doctors have the best outcomes, and patient satisfaction? How can I make smarter choices about where I take my family for medical help?

  I think those are the best doctors and it's what I'm striving to be.
As a doctor, how do you measure this? How do you know you're becoming better and in which areas you need to focus?

Also, have you seen this article? It might interest you: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/10/03/personal-best

I feel like I've read some research that patient satisfaction is sometimes inversely correlated with other measures of doctors' skill. This is because the sickest patients tend to seek out the most skilled doctors, but doctors are not miracle workers. If you receive a higher fraction of people in marginal condition, you may get worse outcomes, despite having better outcomes than a similarly situated, less skilled doctor. Patients don't know this, being able to see only their own situation, and knowing only that they had a bad outcome.

There is some name for this apparent statistical paradox, but I forget what it is. In any case, the main problem with your criteria is that the "best" doctor would be one that treated only the healthiest patients. They would have low utilization, high satisfaction, good outcomes, and very good efficiency.

I agree 100%. I didn't mean this as a knock against doctors at local hospitals either. The pediatrician who diagnosed my daughter is a perfectly solid practitioner in a small town in New Hampshire. Not every doctor is going to make a breakthrough on the order of Marshall & Warren, Banting & Best, or other Nobel Laureates. That's ok. The middle of the road physician will save millions of man years worth of lives over the course of a career, any parent should be proud if that's "all" their child accomplishes.

Interesting that you bring up Marshall & Warren - in my opinion the truly interesting part of that story is their fight for truth above dogma.

I think you want that in a doctor - a capacity and preparedness to fight the system when it is wrong, unfair, of hurting your patient. Is that a creative skill? I don't know but I doubt it's born out of conformity.

Incidentally I know Dr Marshall, he's an academic at my medical school. He actually paid me to teach him and his team Ruby.

The problem for me as a reasonably educated patient (physics PhD, done some work in biological physics, amateur knowledge of medical literature which I enjoy reading) is that the "top" academically performing doctors leave a public track record of their expertise in the form of academic publications I can go through and evaluate. I fully realize that this doesn't necessarily (or even often) correlate with practical skills that determine patient outcomes, but at least it's a metric I can look at. With most doctors, there is no such metric, so I'm essentially playing the lottery. The salient question then becomes whether it's statistically better to play the lottery or go for the academically prominent doctors, and I'm not aware of any decent studies exploring that. Do you have a recommendation on how to approach that issue from the patient point of view?

You're right that there's no easy way to pick a physician. But when I or one of my loved ones is in the hospital, my only requirement for the hospital staff is that they communicate well with me. If they don't, I politely ask that they be removed from me/our care. I make this requirement clear up front (in a non-demanding kind of way; you don't want to piss people off or make it look like you're a difficult patient/family member).

Also, for every patient and family that I meet, I explain right away that the only promise I make is that I will be honest, upfront, and clear when I'm talking to them; that I will give them my best effort. This has served me very well and I've won numerous local accolades because of it. It also softens the blow when something goes wrong, even when it's my fault. When I was a resident, I frequently had patient's demanding to speak with me instead of the attending because they trusted me more.

Keep in mind that I'm a hospitalist/intensivist, so I don't know if things will necessarily generalize to the primary care/office setting.

This may be a shot in the dark but try looking for doctors who interact and are cheerful(to their patients). The referral thing between the patients is very strong so more patients will come and will feel good which works as a catalyst(Both the parties will have a good amount of dopamine flowing). And eventually the variety and number of patients will increase and so the doctor will have more practice and become better!

In the far off rural areas where connectivity is almost nil,The doctors rarely go to the hospitals and the doctor's assistant does more work,becoming at par with the doctors in a few years.

> wild things like ECMO, which makes everyone feel they're making more of a difference even though the outcomes are the same without it

Knowing that my daughter wouldn't be here today without ECMO, I take issue with this assertion.

Edit: She was born with severe MAS and her lungs were practically non-functional. ECMO was the only way she had time to fight the infections and start breathing. She spent 12 terrifying days on ECMO and then 2 more weeks on ventilators.

My wife corrected me. ECMO for 10 days, ventilator for 3, then 7 more days on a nasal oxygen feed. Time gets fuzzy when you're in the NICU.

Out of curiosity, what brings a physician at a community hospital to a largely programmer forum? I'm genuinely curious, I love the fact that HN has such a diverse set of very intelligent people.

I have an interest in technology. This place has a good offering of technology news and discussion that I can't find elsewhere.

Also, a significant number of my investment gains originated from stuff I read here (bought a bunch of Monero when it was $0.45/unit, for example).

Finally, I learned a little programming (mostly Go and C++) to automate some stuff at work and home (reports, backups, email notifications and things like that). HN is a reasonable litmus test for what people are using to do stuff like this.

That's very cool, thanks for sharing!

I don't think reasonable developers use C++ or Go for any of those things. You might use a backup utility written in C++ or Go; but you don't write your own if you can help it, and you drive it with a scripting language like Python or Ruby or even bash.

No knock for learning. But if you want to get maximum bang for your learning buck, focus on higher level stuff with lots of third-party libraries that integrate with the things you want to automate, ideally with a interpreter REPL for exploratory coding.

Yeah, I know, I was just trying to show that I have a broad set of interests and enjoyed learning Go and C++. I use "rclone" for most of the backup-related things.

They might be consuming some APIs that drive the choice.

\shrug. Hard to know.

I've seems lot of people from other branches of engineering and medicine on HN. My guess is that biology is just an interest in the natural form of tech, seems to be a lot of overlap.

I agree. I may earn my living in the tech field now, but I majored in Cognitive Science, not Computer Science. And I think it has served me well.

As the son of an excellent surgeon (and that assessment seems to be more than a son's pride), I think there's another paramount quality that should be mentioned: empathy.

I think that this is truly what made my father be not just "technically good", but a physician who could solve his patients' problems: he made an effort to understand their perspective, and adjust his treatment accordingly.

I've observed him interact with patients sometimes, and his effort at creating empathy was quite noticeable. It's particularly fascinating to watch with children.

I agree with you though that efficiency, and also just honing one's internal sense of what's going on inside a patient's body is important. My dad was department head at a first-world hospital. But every year he would go on a charity mission to some third-world place for two weeks and treat patients there. With essentially no modern technology (in fact, operations might have to performed in the shine of a flashlight), you are really forced to work with your instincts. I think these trips benefited his first-world patients just as much as his third-world ones.

Your observation reminds me of the original negative definition of the term "meritocracy" which focused on "merit" as being something not terribly strongly linked to actual measurable performance in a field.


OT - why do you consider ECMO a "wild thing"? I ask since our daughter was born with CDH and ECMO came up in the discussions at the time (she didn't need it, luckily). Ireland doesn't have one to date AFAIK.

Doesn't this depend on the severity of cases the hospital gets ie top hospitals get the more acute life threatening cases

Do you have a link to that study somewhere? It think I might be able to use it to prove a point.

What's ECMO?

Whoa that's nuts! Sounds amazing for saving babies though after reading the article my next thought was using that plus a dialysis machine to create a Frankenstein body to cheat death.

My daughter owes her life to ECMO. Scary as hell, but I'm thankful for it every day. The team that saved her life just recently performed the first transport using a portable ECMO machine. The one they used on my daughter was the size of a vending machine. They now have the portable units down to the size of a small suitcase.

Sounds like somebody's a little jealous..

That's a thing that always bothers me about these articles.

If the standard of success for a gifted grade school kid is to be a Nobel laureate, that's a little warped.

My grandfather was one of the smartest guys I ever met. Through the circumstances of fate, he couldn't get education beyond the 8th grade. Yet he tutored my mom in calculus and did all sorts of good things for people. By any standard of mine, he lived a long, fruitful and successful life... yet he's a failure in the debate of an article like this.


I'm sorry for the awful situation but I'm glad her doctors are doing good work and helping her.

I wish her, you, and the rest of your family the best.

In this case it is important to make a difference between medical research and the practice of medicine. The work of medical researchers that get Nobel prizes in physiology or medicine eventually benefits everyone, thought those advances are meaningless if there's no practitioner to apply them.

I wouldn't worry if I were you. I live in a poor country where corruption is huge even in hospitals. But even here a girl diagnosed with Leukemia is being offered the best treatment and doctors care about these things, without expecting anything in return.

Nobody suggested such a life was wasted. But creative people are constantly bombarded with signals that they're too weird or different and need to be more like obvious easy-to-understand role models of diligent behavior.

The parents of ordinary children had an average of six rules, like specific schedules for homework and bedtime. Parents of highly creative children had an average of fewer than one rule.

I grew up in a household where compliance to parental authority was the prevailing rule. This made me fairly compliant as an adult (which opens you up for exploitation by peers and authority figures), but this wasn't too difficult to unravel with a few dozen sessions of therapy.

As a result, I pass down very few rules as a parent, and it's been a joy to watch my daughter's creativity blossom. We've done what the article suggests - provided moral guidelines to live by, rather than any strict set of rules.

She loves real estate - specifically interior design, but also analyzing neighborhoods, improving curb appeal, and understanding what makes a good school district. I think the seeds were planted when I was taking her with me in the evenings to do various handyman tasks at our rental property. We would stop for ice cream and she would sit there and eat it while I put together furniture or changed light bulbs or swept common areas.

And while our lax rules have certainly inspired creativity and fed into her individuality, it hasn't done a great deal to build work ethic. I'm aware of the stereotype of parents believing their kids are lazy, so I'm open to being wrong here.

Striking a balance between giving a kid a framework to discover herself but also emphasizing the importance of work ethic is probably my greatest concern as a parent. I don't want to stifle her from dreaming, but I want her to do what's necessary to accomplish those dreams too.

My big question is this: when the time comes to put in the work the accomplish what she wants, is she going to be ready to put down the ice cream spoon and pick up a screw driver?

I don't know. But I'm going to continue with the light touch and hope for the best.

From one of the comments on the article

> Backing off will no more produce a creative genius than pushing your child. Neither strategy makes the slightest difference to what is essentially an autonomous process. Beethoven's father did not back off. And Lars von Trier's parents left him to his own devices. Both are geniuses and both hated their childhood.

> My guess is that most parents who follow Adam Grant's spurious advice (one rule or none is better than six) will end up with the rude obnoxious brats whom you can see bouncing off the waiting room walls of any upscale Manhattan pediatrician's office. Maybe one of a million such brats will spontaneously become a creative genius as an adult but so will one out of a million drones who win spelling bees and piano competitions.

> But guess what, a large proportion of the remaining brats will be all attitude and no skill while the drones will at least become doctors and corporate lawyers. By using creativity as the ultimate-and perhaps only-benchmark, Mr. Grant falls into the same trap as the Tiger Moms he so despises.

> Enjoying a thing does make it more likely that a child will own it. But sometimes the initial drudgery is necessary to make the breakthrough to find something worth enjoying.

> When it comes to raising children the golden rule is that there is no golden rule. The greatest scientific creative genius of recent memory, Richard Feynman realized this when he tried to teach his children and discovered that what worked for his son did not work for his daughter.

> Feynman realized this when he tried to teach his children and discovered that what worked for his son did not work for his daughter.

Feynman's son was his biological offspring, while the daughter was adopted.

I think this is relevant information that was left out.

Edit: Also, Feynman's son chose to pursuit philosophy, much to Feynman's dismay.

In an article discussing the dispensation of advice to the parenting community as a whole - which includes the whole variety of genetic heterogeneity - her being adopted isn't relevant.

A lot depends on ones beliefs (and possibly facts) about being self taught and if a difference exists in outcomes when various teaching styles and techniques are applied.

Its highly likely that the "best" or "right" way Dad X learned topic Y will work pretty well when helping teach a little clone of himself and not so well when teaching random kids. I'd theorize that parents are generally better at teaching their own kids than public school teachers for this reason, even if on average a public school teacher would be better on long term average at teaching a very large pool of kids.

As a very specific example I remember reading one of Feynman's books where he explained he had very high spacial reasoning performance, much like a mechanical engineer would have. Its much more likely his child would have that ability than a randomly selected kid. So his teaching style for something like calculus volume of a solid of revolution disk vs cylinder seems self explanatory to someone like Feynman, probably his son, or me, because of high spatial reasoning performance but someone without it probably needs to memorize very hard or just guess -n- check, I mean 50:50 odds getting it correct? That's actually an interesting question, how does someone (like his adopted daughter perhaps) without unusually high spatial awareness decide on a disk or cylinder strategy for that class of calculus problem?

> Its highly likely that the "best" or "right" way Dad X learned topic Y will work pretty well when helping teach a little clone of himself

Perhaps, but children aren't clones of either of their biological parents, generally.

Care to explain how? I understand the original comment didn't really add any other information but surely the differences in nature and nurture account for something, when considering Adoption Studies are a thing. [1] Perusing the results of a quick search bring up loads and loads of differences between adopted and non-adopted children, across many different metrics. I'm sure the "parenting community as a whole" doesn't exclude adoptive parents. Almost all of these studies show differences, such as with social skills or behavioral problems [2], and with these differences might the parent have to adapt? There are many things that come into an adopted child's mind about their own adoption too, and challenges specific to adoption [3]. Is this particular information relevant?

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adoption_study

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/10/the-adopt...

[3] https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/f_adimpact.pdf

> Also, Feynman's son chose to pursuit philosophy, much to Feynman's dismay.

Wow really. Poor Feynman.

Good point about Feynman. The only thing I've found to work is trying everything until something starts to work. Of course, you start with the books to get ideas for what to try next. Ive got one of those kids that bounces off the walls. The older I get though the less I care. Some kids just can't sit still. Kids are society's problem and when we don't build spaces for them to be kids, its gonna happen.

> Kids are society's problem

Respectfully, I'm sad for children whose parents think society is going to look out for them. Every kid deserves a couple of people who take personal responsibility for their behavior and well-being.

I have a pretty high tolerance for kids being bouncy and boisterous, but it's always nice to see parents giving the sort of information that helps them become considerate:("Look, that woman's trying to read. She wants it quiet!" -or- "That lamp could break - can you find a safer place to bounce your ball?")

Another big issue that isn't always mentioned is diet. A kid who eats a "normal" amount of sugar, corn syrup, and zero-nutrient high-carb products will understandably be going berserk on the outside because they're on a blood sugar roller coaster on the inside.

As an alternative perspective, I think that in France "kids are society's problem" doesn't mean building special places where they can run rampant, but training them to appreciate the culture and society they're inheriting. French kindergarteners spend 90 minutes sitting down to a white-table-cloth four course meal each day during school. This is done because it's considered essential for them to learn the table manners and appreciation of the cuisine that will allow them a lifetime of enjoyable, civilized dining.

(I think the creation of lots of "good", dignified jobs in the kindergarten-chef field is a wonderful side benefit, as opposed to cafeteria workers in the US who can hardly feel fulfilled while dumping bags of frozen nuggets onto trays.)

> French kindergarteners spend 90 minutes sitting down to a white-table-cloth four course meal each day during school. This is done because it's considered essential for them to learn the table manners and appreciation of the cuisine that will allow them a lifetime of enjoyable, civilized dining.

I wish that were true... They do get a 3 course meal (appetizer, main dish and desert) but it doesn't last 90 minutes and it's not a white table cloth meal... That's embellishing the reality a little bit. There was more decorum than a self service (we were served the food at the table as a kid in kindergarten in primary school) and the food quality is definitely better than most countries in primary schools* but that's about it.

As a kid in kindergarten though we would be told off if we were too boisterous during the meal so I guess that kind of qualifies in term of table manner.

That said, I did find that kids in the US tended to be louder and less well educated than I was used to. The same applies for kids in Japan below the age of 5 (parents there have a laissez faire altitude during the early ages).

(*) Middle schools and high schools are another story. Lunch is a self service concept (so no one brings the meal to the table) and the quality of lunch is lower (it was downright atrocious when I was in middle school to the point where I would usually skip most lunches). This may have changed though.

I appreciate the correction!

I wasn't making the point that society was in charge of my kids, rather that society needs to be tolerant of kids nature and adapt to it to some degree. I can get my kid to sit still, but its not his natural state so I don't often do it. I am glad that there are places you can take your kid to join and indoctrinate them into cultures you want to identify with. I am glad there are options. I would not choose french civility. I would probably more want my kid to eat a big burger with his hands and get ketchup all over his face at an outdoor bbq. God bless choices.

I don't think other people should necessarily have to accept that you prefer not to keep your child reasonably quiet, as an example, in public. Understanding that kids will be kids doesn't mean understanding that you as a parent prefer not to teach your kid how to act in public.

It might seem harsh, but you really do paint the image of someone who thinks it's fine for his kid to keep screaming and running around in public, and having people just accept that that's how it is. I don't know how it is where you live, but neither in my home country or the country I live in now would this be considered fine for a parent to think. In my home country I think the general sentiment would be "At least have the decency to be ashamed of your performance as a parent" and a little bit less harsh where I am now.

You can think the above cultural sentiment is harsh, but it's a culture based on valuing the collective very highly and respecting it more than you value even yourself.

Adults aren't quiet "in public" either. While I do believe in boundaries, as long as kids aren't physically bothering strangers, they have every right to run around and make noise in public as the street musician, the loudly speaking teenager, and the arguing couple.

This doesn't mean a parent is not teaching the kid, it is that their conception of how a kid ought to behave in public is different from yours, thus they have nothing to be 'ashamed' of in their performance. Indeed, I often feel bad for the kid when a parent values other people's judgment more than their child's perfectly valid desire to explore their surroundings.

Sometimes, the majority is wrong. There are many kids who might be hyperactive due to a quirk of their mind/body - say ADHD or a hyper fast metabolism. People don't see these things and expect kids who are really different to be the same as the rest. For that kind of a kid, the value tradeoff between keeping still and not disturbing anyone else vs. not can be very different if they cannot express themselves.

Society ROUTINELY throws minorities under the bus because we have simply accepted that a small inconvenience for a majority could not possibly be worth paying if it helps a few people a lot. I think the cultural sentiment you're talking about is really just "agree with everyone else, or else risk exclusion" - the usual extortion. The same reasoning can justify much worse things. Humans are very social and children are partly raised by the society around them - people deny it because they don't want to have to change.

Just to be clear, I'm really against this because the parent said he can keep his child still, but its not the child's natural state. And you go and call him a "bad parent" for not stifling his kid. Bullshit.

> the parent said he can keep his child still, but its not the child's natural state.

The child can be in its natural state in the privacy of their own home, not in public where it's a bother for everyone else. If we were talking about a child with real issues that could be blamed on disorders, it wouldn't just be about "natural state" and whatnot, and as you say the parent is able to keep the child quiet, proving it's just him preferring to not be considerate to his environment.

> And you go and call him a "bad parent" for not stifling his kid. Bullshit.

Screaming and running around in public doesn't foster any desirable or productive behavior on the part of the child, as far as I can imagine. I don't think it'll ever be in the favor of the child. All it really does is inconvenience people that didn't ask to deal with the noise of the child.

Edit: I want to add that I think there's a lot more that goes into being a bad parent, by the way. The only thing this "Society will have to adapt to me" behavior shows is a general lack of respect for other people and putting your convenience before them.

I would say that your sentiment encapsulates the attitude I disagree with. Public is, by definition, public. As in, for us all. Your norms are valid, but so are mine as well as my child's. I could make the argument that if you want solitude, you should visit the library where this norm is agreeably enforced by all, but I wouldn't. What I'd say is that the next time you are around a child who you feel is disruptive, go up to the parent and say, "I don't mean to be rude, but I was sitting here reading this book before you got here, would you mind asking your child to play more quietly or play somewhere else". I promise you I would not be offended by this (as a parent very little offends me anymore). Just don't expect the default state of a child to be child in church.

You've fallen into the very common trap of taking what someone else says (it's not my child's natural state) and then putting the worst interpretation on it (it's fine for his kid to keep screaming and running around in public)

You can see there's a wide range of behaviour starting at fidgety before you get to running around and screaming.

I certainly wouldn't and didn't go as far to say my kid goes around screaming in public. That's quite a leap from what I was saying. What I said was that at the pediatrician's office, my kid runs around and plays rather than sitting still with his hands in his lap. Kids at play -- laughing, running, exploring, being curious, sometimes shouting -- are a beautiful thing that some find annoying and the point is to remember that we were and are all children.

> French kindergarteners spend 90 minutes sitting down to a white-table-cloth four course meal each day during school.

No they don't, I'm not quite sure where you could've got the idea ?

table-cloth is embellishment, but four-course does seem to be part of the system: https://karenlebillon.com/french-school-lunch-menus/

Four-course sounds grandiose but it's nothing more than a little carrot salad, a meal, a little piece of cheese and a yogurt (and some bread), that you get on your meal tray. No kid spend 90 minutes eating that; they rather spend their time playing during the time of lunch break. So it's top 20 minutes swallowing everything (or half of it actually) as fast of possible.

Is this not standard almost everywhere?

If anything, the soup is missing.

Good to know. Next thing the he was going to say they started educating children on the pleasures of France's great wine production while in kindergarten.

Why we supposed to copy everything the French do? Aren't they regarded as rude? That implies​ not being considerate...

In term of perceived rudeness of French people, I think a lot of it is communication barrier (it's better now and it's changing but French people on average suck at speaking English and are self conscious about it) and the fact that Parisians are universally seen by French people as being ever so slightly snobbish and rude.

The sugar = hyper kids myth has long been debunked.

Instead what studies have found is if the parents believe their kids ate sugar they'll believe their kids are hyper even when the kids were actually given a placebo.


Its not controversial that diabetic behavior is influenced by blood sugar levels.

Studies used to exclude diabetic / prediabetic / obese kids because there were not many of them in the 70s before corn syrup.

Now of course over 1/5 of kids are obese or whatever definition, so once that legacy exclusion is eliminated...

Teaching kids to sit for a 90-minute fancy meal sounds like the height of aristocratic folly. Didn't the French Revolution stamp this out? I'd be in favor of my kids learning to cook such a meal, though.

I prefer to think that kids are society's solution.

This is a great idea.

Kids are society's problem

Did you consider consulting society first before foisting such a responsibility on us?

Society is also society's problem. Kids are just part of that.

Um, the raising of children is literally the thing that allows a civilization to continue.

Um, like, so is food production and uh air.

I'm not responsible for those either, last I checked.

Going to be pedantic. With air, yes you are responsible. Even with food, our food habits determine the market and the market seems to treat the environment like poop to bring about all kinds of food that we want. So yes. Yes we are responsible.

Who do you suppose is responsible for air?

Yes. Turns out kids are part of society too.

I don't see too many dads at sporting events proclaiming "that's societies boy!"

Sure you do, but only when it's the other team and they're losing.

> When it comes to raising children the golden rule is that there is no golden rule. The greatest scientific creative genius of recent memory, Richard Feynman realized this when he tried to teach his children and discovered that what worked for his son did not work for his daughter.

Proof that genetics has some effect, his daughter was adopted.

"Proof" is a very strong word for one data point/anecdote with thousands of possible lurking variables.

> Both are geniuses and both hated their childhood.

I don't know anything about their respective childhoods, and I have greatly enjoyed some of Mr Trier's films, but I fear this is a dangerously egalitarian notion of "genius."

We can't all be Beethovens.

And that is okay. Labels like "genius" and "hero" get watered down in our participation trophy culture.

> The greatest scientific creative genius of recent memory, Richard Feynman

I was going to pick apart the whole comment, but then this stuck out at me. WTF? The Feynman cult truly knows no shame or rational bounds.

> But guess what, a large proportion of the remaining brats will be all attitude and no skill while the drones will at least become doctors and corporate lawyers. By using creativity as the ultimate-and perhaps only-benchmark, Mr. Grant falls into the same trap as the Tiger Moms he so despises.

I guess fuck all the parents who think their kids deserve more than an economically-optimized future?

Seriously with the future of humans doing work so utterly in question right now, especially work that can be done by "drones," this advice is fucking archaic. The days when you acquired some base skill, got good at it, and worked at it for 60 years till retirement are gone. I'd rather be broke and happy.

Seriously with the future of humans doing work so utterly in question right now

I 100% don't buy this narrative at all. I don't know who started it, but something about it makes me reach for a tinfoil hat.

The general historical trend has been towards automation but I still don't see any massive change in the horizon.

Robots do better work without breaks, rest, coffee and in many cases without even occupying physical space. We're on the edge of automating driving, one of the most complex and demanding tasks humans do on a regular basis. The benefits for the companies are infinite: a completely docile workforce of robots that don't need anything but a steady flow of power. There is no reason to suspect any jobs are safe any more.

It's not a conspiracy, it's a cost/benefit chart that any responsible executive is going to be looking at.

We continue to automate an simultaneously make new jobs all of the time. The same arguments you used about driving could be applied to the printing press displacing people who copied books, etc. The more technology increases, the more our quality of life seems to improve.

There was almost no automation during the great depression, yet most people were unemployed. Automation has most certainly increased since 2009 and unemployment has fallen.

I'm skeptical there is any correlation between automation and unemployment at all, unless you are measuring job counts in a very specific industry being automated away.

The entire point of automation is to reduce human intervention in a process. If post-automation jobs = current jobs in terms of quantity and skill, there would be no economic benefit to automation. This means that of the people displaced, only a minority can theoretically get the "new" job, and even then, that hopes that there are no already qualified candidates from outside the displaced pool ready to take that job.

It's true tech increases our quality of life, no one argues this (mostly). That said our current political climate can have it's roots traced to the fact that so many blue collar workers have been displaced (first by overseas labor, second by automation) and their uphill battle to attain new work at even living wages, forget similar wages has been largely ignored if not a target for mockery by the middle class.

We need to start taking a serious look at how to deal with the groups of people who will be displaced so far and at such advanced ages that asking them to re-enter the workforce is impractical not just for them, but for the economy at a whole. Hell, even older TECH workers have a hard time finding new work after their COBOL shop shuts down, do we honestly expect it to be any easier at all for a factory worker or coal miner? I do not understand why so many obviously incredibly intelligent people in the industries I work in and read about have such a hard time grasping that for a worker who's done what they call "dumb work" for 10-30 years will have difficulty getting an education and entering a white collar profession. That was hard for me and I was a kid!

The question is does the automation create "the same number of new jobs".

Disrupting certain fields like "driving" has an even larger impact. Traffic signs, traffic cops, logistics companies, ... it goes on.

Or if you want an example that is just happening, look at journalism and how the internet has killed it. Once reputable news shops are now publishing click-bait top 10 lists and buzzfeed is here to stay.

It's not even hard to manage a small society functioning using robots for all menial work like cleaning, farming, cooking, transportation.

Automation doesn't "create jobs". People's desires plus their creativity to supply new goods or services create jobs. Driving is a relatively big part of the economy, but it's nothing compared to what agriculture used to be (upwards of 90% of employment). Automating agriculture freed up time for a multitude of new and totally unrelated pursuits.

Automated driving on an industrial scale is still decades into the future. And even when it comes, arguing that it will be a huge, earth-shaking change seems far fetched.

Like I said, it's the general trend (we could talk about automations on the same scale as your human driver example that have already happened), but the alarmism is not justified.

I agree it's decades off but I disagree that the alarmism is not justified, simply because we are not set up as a society to at all handle the side effects of the last good paying job that you can attain without really any high cost/long term training (truck driving) going away, and that's not even taking into account the multitude of businesses that were built on the backs of truck drivers; diners, motels, truck stops, service centers, practically any business that operates right next to a highway depends to a certain degree on truckers.

Plus truckers themselves are risky as workers, they have issues with exhaustion, the turnover is insane, they have accidents and they steal things, I'm not trying to demonize the profession don't misunderstand, I'm just saying that if there is one job that companies would LOVE to get people out of, this is it.

Also I really doubt it's decades. Maybe two of them, maybe but I'd say it's closer to 12-15 years depending how the DoT keeps pace, but with so much money and so many interest groups involved in making it happen, I think it's something we really need to start putting serious thought into.

It's really not that good paying of a job. True, gross costs are over 100-200K, but the wage net of maintenance, insurance and food is under 50K.

If I'm wrong, I'd love to be corrected.

Decades is a long time. The internet is only 2.5 decades old and now you can click and have anything you want delivered to your doorstep. Your phone can tell you how to drive to avoid traffic. Your car already runs more software in it over a few minutes than the largest research universities could run in weeks. Image recognition has gone from "scanning digits on checks" to "outperforming humans on classifying images" (at least on some tasks) just in the past decade.

Which aspect of it do you think needs decades?

The hype is infinite.

When you look at the burn rate and technology investments required of a company like Uber just to dispatch cabs, that should hint at the difficulty of the AI revolution.

Cabs are harder though. Cabs need to negotiate the complex and often extremely busy city routes. Most truck driving is LTL to warehouses on the edge of cities, and if a truck had sufficient fuel, it would have no reason to ever leave the freeway.

Not really. All of the tech people like to talk about how easy trucking is because of the distance aspect. That's like saying pilots are obsolete because autopilot does 95% of the work. "The work" is actually the 5%.

Cabs need to drop you to a 50 meter circle adjacent to a street address. Trucks need to land at a specific dock at a specific warehouse at a specific time. Some warehouses are highly optimized and organized. Others are a total shitshow... Amazon warehouses for example often have trucks queued up for hours due to staff shortages or general incompetence at the docks.

So the business case for the automated truck is to take a trailer from X to Y, and be capable of taking direction from a $10/hr temp who can't find his ass with both hands. Or... you need to deliver the trailer to some staging area, and pay drivers to figure out that mess. Or some other solution. In any case, the "getting on the interstate" part is the most trivial problem to solve.

In the distro center I worked at, it was incredibly rare for the long haul trucks to actually attach the trailers to the building. They would jack up the trailers in the lot, let the truck go, then use a switcher to do the remaining lot because the switcher can just pick the thing up and go instead of having to have a worker there to wind the legs up and down on the trailer. Ours was not a huge distro hub either, pretty small one so I'd imagine larger ones have even more infrastructure to handle the freight that doesn't involve the pull truck.

oh but its already started. Dont think robots though, think ai, digitalization etc.

It started in the industrial revolution.

> I'd rather be broke and happy.

Hard to be happy if you are broke.

My son is only 8 months old, so we’ll see how it goes, but my intention is to give him lots of freedom to define what he wants to learn about and work on, but then help provide lots of structure and support for actually doing the work, and making sure it gets pushed all the way to a quasi-finished state.

The thing I was most disappointed about in my own schooling was that I got very little support or time to do serious medium- or large-scale projects, and I got very little mentorship or instruction about the subjects I most cared about personally.

Even in a very good public school district, and then at a very good college, most of what I learned about my own research interests was learned entirely from books and my own experimenting, while most of the work I did felt like pure make-work for the convenience of my teachers.

I feel that it was partly because school only ever provided bite-sized assignments with prescribed subject and scope that I still don’t feel like I have mastered the skill of motivating myself to keep working bit by bit at larger-scale projects.

I wound up with lots of creative ideas, and a fine ability to do specific narrow small tasks, or to do tedious polishing work, but a serious “writer’s block” kind of problem when it comes to diving into the meat of large projects.

I think kids do need freedom, but they also need relationships and guidance. My own girls are 12 and 13 now and doing very well at school. I read a few articles and books about parenting and I do think that helped, not because all of them were great, some were some weren't, but they all helped me think about the problem from different angles.

The best advice I can give is to support their interests and get involved in activities they enjoy, sure. But also allow them to get interested and involved in the things you enjoy. Kids go through a phase from 2 to 6 or so where they love to help and love to find out about everything adults do. They will help do housework, help do shopping, watch you do whatever you are doing. Talk to them and answer their questions. Pitch your answers to their level without being condescending (google maps on your phone works because a satellite floating no up in space can see where you are), spend the extra time it takes. Letting them help will make the job take twice as long, and that's fine. Invest that time and be patient, it's well worth it and will pay dividends for the rest of your life.

What books did you read? I am interested in books recommendation for parenting.

The one that stands out is Raising Happy Children. It brings together a lot of information and advice and isn't one of these 'weird trick' type single author books where someone claims to have discovered the one true way. Just practical down to earth stuff.

I'm late to this discussion, but if you could please drop a link to the book? There are many with that title. Thanks!

End of the day, do your best and don't sweat the advice that you'll get from anyone with a mouth.

Being there and giving a shit is 90% of the battle.

I have a question, did you ask for or seek out mentors?

There's a kind of debate forming on individuals deriving good behavior from core moral principals vs good behavior being externally supplied by some kind of punitive framework. It seems that in cases where the behavior parameters are externally supplied, a person may not have developed any ability to figure out what to do when circumstances change outside of the parameters that were set for them. Whereas when people are taught principals and taught to derive behavior from those principals, they simply don't need lots of rules (if the principals are good ones I suppose), and in many cases will reject rules that seem arbitrary and not useful.

I think it then follows, if this turns out to be the case, that people who are raised in rule "free" environments learn more independent thought and reasoning and more creativity than people who are raised in highly restrictive environments where their internal thought processes may be less developed, and their tasking and behavior needs to be externally supplied.

However, I think this is a very difficult idea to use for child rearing. The balance and thought that needs to go into teaching good principals is much harder than simply making a list of rules. In the worst case, a child will get neither.

Sounds like phony pop psychology. I was raised with strict rules and was able to derive what to do in other circumstances because I was still taught moral principals. I know plenty of people raised with strict rules but nobody that was raised with completely unexplained rules so it's a bit of a strawman comparison.

I'm not a psychologist, but my understanding from people I've spoken to in various psych disciplines is that this is a fertile area of research and there are fairly regularly published papers on this topic. There appear to be deep connections between derivation of behavior based on principles and other-oriented empathy and punitively enforced or superficial behavior training and tendencies towards authoritarianism and various other negative tendencies. Apparently the theories coming out of this are making inroads into various therapeutic and treatment approaches for everything from children's therapy to prisoner rehabilitation.

> but nobody that was raised with completely unexplained rules so it's a bit of a strawman comparison.

That's your strawman creation. I never claimed people were raised with arbitrary and unexplained rules. Typically strict rules are given punitive reasons as motivation for following, not some intrinsic rationale within the rule -- and that's precisely the difference.

"Wash the dishes or you'll be sent to your room" doesn't teach why you should wash the dishes, only that you'll be punished for not doing so.

"I should wash the dishes so I have clean ones to eat off of later, eating off of clean dishes prevents sickness." Provides a complex rationale to drive the behavior.

The punitive approach requires no brainpower to follow, there's no specific reason why the effect (punishment) follows from cause (not washing the dishes) other than it was something imposed.

The principle based approach requires understanding logical cause and effect, chain of events, pre-planning and might drive the person to investigate why dirty dishes make one sick, opening up inquiry and forming connections into hygiene, medicine, pathogens, etc.

Given a different, but similar situation, why should the rules based person create a behavior?

"Wash the thermometer before and after use" is something the principle trained person would come up with naturally based on prior experience and reasoning, but unless some cause and punishment were set out for the rules trained person, it's likely they won't arrive at that behavior.

More sinister, and the context I'm familiar with this work in, is in advertising, building and forming habits. Advertisers are seeking to train consumers to logically arrive at buying their product rather having to be constantly reminded to. Especially since a company has much more trouble "punishing" a consumer for not buying their stuff than a parent might a child. If you can convince a consumer to derive the thought themselves to buy your product, then you own that consumer and no longer really need to advertise to reach them.

>Typically strict rules are given punitive reasons as motivation for following, not some intrinsic rationale within the rule -- and that's precisely the difference.

No, that's the strawman. Rules without explanations. It has nothing to do with punitive enforcement.

>"Wash the dishes or you'll be sent to your room" doesn't teach why you should wash the dishes, only that you'll be punished for not doing so.

Strawman again. The unexplained reasoning is the problem, not the punitive action.

>The punitive approach requires no brainpower to follow, there's no specific reason why the effect (punishment) follows from cause (not washing the dishes)

Ugh, I hope I made the point clear above, but I'll state it one last time: punitive punishments are not the same as unexplained rules.

The rest of your comment is based on this strawman assumption that all parenting using punitive actions follows this stupid method of not explaining rules. It's just as dumb as assuming the opposite (i.e. parents that don't punish children don't teach their children any morals).

"Principles", not "principals".

And while our lax rules have certainly inspired creativity and fed into her individuality, it hasn't done a great deal to build work ethic. I'm aware of the stereotype of parents believing their kids are lazy, so I'm open to being wrong here.

I think the work ethic thing has less to do with rules, and more to do with how you approach small adversities. For a lot of people, if something is hard it's not worth doing. I think kids pick up on that.

Is struggling with something difficult bad, or good?

I read in John Medina's book Brain Rules for Baby that one of the most important things you can teach children is to associate difficulty with progress, to understand that learning how to do something most likely requires failing a bunch of times before you figure it out and that failing is okay, that it doesn't mean you're incapable but rather that you're actually making progress.

My daughter is three years old and for the past year or so, whenever she becomes frustrated that she can't do something—whistle, pronounce a word, build a lego set, draw a letter—I calm her down and remind her that not being able to do it is part of learning how to do it. I often use the example of how she didn't always know how to walk or talk, that she failed lots of times but she tried and tried and tried and eventually she got it, that after falling down so many times now she's running around the room and talking non-stop.

I've been blown away by how that reframing of difficulty has made her seemingly unstoppable. Sure, she still gets frustrated and overwhelmed, but when she starts whistling—full on whistling at three years old—and she tells me, "Daddy! I tried and tried and tried and eventually I got it!", I can't help but think that there's something to this. When she doesn't know I'm watching, I've observed that she seems a lot more determined to do things even when she's repeatedly failing—she doesn't give up as quickly as she did (often quickly followed by a tantrum) before I started explaining to her that learning requires challenge.

I have the same anxiety, on the opposite side of the spectrum. My parents were very relaxed, and now I'm trying to impose more structure on my son's life.

You can't guarantee any outcome. I don't know what level of influence you can even have, there are so many variables involved. All you can do is what you think is right, and react to circumstances as you go along.

> I don't want to stifle her from dreaming, but I want her to do what's necessary to accomplish those dreams too.

This is something I've thought a lot about. I have an (almost) 2 year old, so I'm not speaking from experience exactly.

I know that growing up, I wish someone was more involved in talking to me about my dreams and goals, and asking me the tough questions about how to achieve them.

I'm planning on doing that with my daughter; not telling her what to do, or giving her strict rules for accomplishing things, but asking her to come up with her own rules and her own plans for how she'll accomplish things both big and small.

It's that conversation with her that I hope will be what she needs.

(I think this relates to the idea of encouragement vs. praise that you often see in parenting books.)

My childhood experience was similar to yours: lots of discipline, authority, and dogma. I have turned out to have issues with authority, and dislike working for others (even good bosses). Someday I suspect this will lead me to do my own "thing." In any case, I turned out okay, but the road to "here" was pretty rocky and uncertain. Lots of moments things could've gone sideways.

I have a daughter who reminds me of myself, and I (like you) try to take a gentler approach with her. I hope she can tap her intrinsic motivation and skip a lot of the needless misery I endured. Or at least always know her parents supported her as she spread her wings (whereas mine did not). I too worry about how to develop grit a work ethic for her, but I think that's the key: I CAN'T do any such thing. I can help expose her to things which might engage her interest (arts, inventing, medicine, engineering, etc...) but I don't dictate how the story ends. Stepping back, to me, means honoring the fact that it is their life to make something of, or not. I know until my parents adopted that strategy with me, in my mid-twenties, I was going nowhere fast. Suddenly they behaved like they didn't care if I worked, went to college, dropped out, or whatever. They told me they loved me, but otherwise would just pretty much grunt when I'd tell them what I was up to. So I think we have to communicate to our children that we're not going to try and make them some form of what we think they should be, and that if they want to do anything with their life that will be on them.

With my daughter that means lots of conversations about things like "oh, you want to play guitar, but you're frustrated because you're not good at it right away. Hmmm, well you know the only way to get good at something is to practice, work at it, spend time with it." Somehow she has the completely baseless idea that she should just know how to do everything, and beats herself up for all her perceived inadequacies.

So yeah, as you can tell, I too don't know if this is the best way... I'm just trying to find my way in the dark as best as I can, just as you are. Hopefully as long as we're operating from a place of unconditional love, understanding, patience, and kindness ultimately things will turn out for the best.

If my kids can grow up to be capable of creating their own meaningful lives then I'll be satisfied, no matter what that looks like.

>I CAN'T do any such thing.

You absolutely can. Praise effort instead of talent.

One of the mistakes my parents made when I was younger was to call me talented in things. It resulted in a tremendous amount of stress, and did not make me more likely to try. I felt like I should automatically know how to do things (because that's what talented people do, right?), and hated that I didn't. It made me more resistant to pushing past my comfort zone, because I knew I wouldn't be good at doing so, and I didn't want to disappoint.

There were times they pulled me out of after-school language or music classes, because again, I was stressed out and miserable. But it wasn't because I didn't enjoy the subjects- I just had unrealistic expectations of my own abilities.

I eventually figured out that hard work brings its own rewards, but it wasn't an easy path, and I only found it thanks to other family members who pushed/encouraged me in their own way.

Now, I do not have any children of my own, but I'm uncle to a lot of friends & family. I do my best to encourage the younger ones' efforts, making sure that they know that I see them trying hard. And it really seems to work. Kids need guidance. They do not yet have enough experience to know what they would enjoy. And that sometimes means making decisions for them, and that is OK.

[edit] I want to be very clear, overall I loved my childhood, and I feel very lucky to have had the parents I did. We had (and have) a great relationship. It is simply that with the benefit of hindsight, I can identify choices that I would make differently. I do not expect my parents (or me) to be perfect. The best we can do is try to improve things for the next generation, until it is their turn to do the same.

> As a result, I pass down very few rules as a parent, and it's been a joy to watch my daughter's creativity blossom.

I love the idea that you have your own rules, different than your parents, therefore better. And thus you will completely ignorant of the mistake you will be making, and focusing on the mistakes that your parents made.

Yes, if she is really interested. Lazy people are people not interested in doing anything -- or people who didn't find where their interests are. If your approach is enabling her to be interested in stuff that needs a screw driver it's 100% sure that she will pick up the screw driver.

Thank you for sharing this. It is encouraging.

What sort of therapy? Like did you do CBT, or something more standard?

you're a good parent for thinking a lot about your daughter and by giving her your best, keep it up! :)

I may be biased from my own experience, but I remember being incredibly frustrated at a young age from the lack of help understanding things I was "too young" for. My role models and teachers made zero efforts to help me learn analog circuit design and my first programming language, Perl. This made it much harder than it would have been if I was attending actual classes, and probably set back my understanding many years.

I'm not sure how much of an outlier I am, but our education system is not built for creative types. It's too hard to get placed in anything significantly above your grade level, especially if your brilliance is restricted to a single subject. I remember showing an bistable flipflop design to my science teacher in 5th grade and getting a puzzled "that's nice Johnny" type look when I wanted help figuring out why my breadboard version wouldn't oscillate. A few of my skills were so beyond what anyone expected that they didn't know what to do with me, or what they were even looking at, so they did nothing.

It took another eleven years before I had contact with any teachers that matched my experience level with programming and circuit design. During that time I advanced my skills slightly, but not having any peers made me an outcast and certainly left me far behind where I could have been.

Backing off is a bad idea. You need to take your child's curiousity and do everything you can to keep it alive. I'm sure a lot of kids started out like me but eventually let their dreams die.

>> It's too hard to get placed in anything significantly above your grade level, especially if your brilliance is restricted to a single subject

This. Once past maybe grade 2-3, classes should be per-subject with mixed ages. Throw the 7 year olds together with the 12 year olds who are on the same level for any given subject. At some point, we need to find a way to tailor education to each individual student. Lumping kids together based solely on their age is ridiculous. Letting only very few children skip entire grades across all subjects rather than by level per subject is not the right solution.

I would have given anything to have been 3-5 years ahead in math while at school. I dropped out in grade 11 because the subjects I cared about were so mind-numbingly unchallenging that I lost all interest in what education had to offer me. I make as much today as a software developer as I would with a degree at most companies, so any incentive to go for a Bachelor's or Master's would be for purely personal growth. Of course my high school transcripts are incomplete, so I couldn't even register for university without going back and doing the prerequisite high school equivalency classes.

Today there's a simple solution: the Internet. Youtube, Coursera, Reddit etc provide resources and communities for any topic imaginable to an extent unimaginable when we were children.

The depressing part is that the schools our kids go to entirely fail to take this into account and are, in essence, unchanged from what they were in our childhood, except maybe that they're now playing Math Blaster on iPads instead of desktops.

That's the whole point of the article. The author is saying the exact same thing. I think you misunderstood it.

I share your frustration. Unfortunately, public schools are not places where remarkable people tend to congregate, and those near the mean are typically not equipped to teach such technical subjects, or even recognize the value in having young children learn them. There is vast potential wasted in our [U.S.] public school system.

The problem for me, and perhaps many others, is that the "smart" are sorted out early and carted out of regular classrooms. If you miss the boat it gets substantially more difficult, almost impossible, to get back on that track.

I remember my parents trying to get me into advanced classes in sixth grade but the school rules said it needed to be done by third grade. I couldn't skip a year either, it was too late.

The second (harder) way into double advanced classes was to pass a test going into high school. That test contained math that only those already in advanced classes had been taught. I aced the reading portion, scoring at 11th grade reading level, but it wasn't enough.

The same year I was sponsored to be an exchange student to Europe but my family couldn't afford the plane tickets. A year later, bored out of my skull and disappointed, I gave up completely on public school.

I embraced mediocrity because I figured out I could get by with no real effort. I concentrated my creativity outside of school and learned more programming languages and electronics. I never got above a C average again until college.

Some teachers saw promise but I let them down because I didn't show up to class and was always in trouble. I knew I had missed the boat to the good classes that led to good scholarships and onto good colleges, and I was bitter and didn't give a shit anymore. To get into the caliber of school I dreamed about I would have needed more than just good grades in regular classes, and all the windows except sports closed before highschool even started.

There's been some articles about "lost diamonds", which may explain why smart people do better as a whole but the large majority still end up living average lives and doing nothing of note. I might not have been any smarter than average, but I definitely feel like I was one of those kids who the system left behind. I knew many others I considered smart that shared my company at the troublemaking fringe of highschool society, definitely a pile of wasted potential at the bottom.

So it's their failure and not yours?

I have a comparable story; dropped out of school at 15 and didn't touch education since (>15 years ago now), then spent a few years high and drunk: but I'd learnt perl from the camel even before then.

What do you think you are owed? If i hadn't read k&r or learning perl by myself I should then blame my teachers who hadn't read them either? Most of the best folk I've worked with found these things on their own too.

You feel you're "a lost diamond that the system left behind?"

Bitch, who are you blaming here? The only job I could get in that situation was as a cleaner, and I worked my way from there to where I am now while definitely fitting into your category of those the so called "system" couldn't deal with..

If I hadn't learnt to do our thing regardless should I blame someone else?

I think not. Work hard or don't; blaming the system for your failure, while there are people around you who demonstrably made it from worse situations than yours is pathetic in the extreme.

You're making a false dichotomy.

Yes, you are personally responsible for your own circumstances and society isn't going to take care of you if you don't work.

However, it's also incredibly shitty that society let you down enough at 15 to stay "high and drunk" for several years, which, for most kids, doesn't turn out well.

There's enough blame to go around. Taking personal responsibility and blaming the system aren't mutually exclusive.


I think I would actually be considerably worse off if I had behaved myself, made it through high school and gone to university than I am currently; I know it seems counterintuitive but my point was just that it makes no difference how things go for you in "the system" as my experience is that those who seem to have been let down by it and still work at our level are better than those who went through the traditional process.

Yes; clear case of survivorship bias.

Parent says that being failed by the system was a disadvantage. I say, come conversely that being ignored/misunderstood by my teachers/authorities/family then going wild/rebelling as a result for a bit was essential/positive part of my development..

I don't see any of those events as shitty or sad, I wouldn't be where I am without those experiences, right?

Yeah, that's survivorship bias; I'm not really talking about one experience being better than another though; the only reason I went into my story was to counterbalance OPs statement.

I was only trying to say that being failed by "the system" doesn't count as a measure when So many seem to make it regardless...

It's true that many seem to make it regardless, and the negative things we go through often make us stronger (when they don't kill us).

I wouldn't change anything in my own life. I also wouldn't wish some of the experiences I've had on anyone else. I don't think those statements are contradictory.

The Spartan children that reached adulthood may have been tougher than the kids we raise today, but that is not an argument in favor of the Spartan system.

Your view would be fair if it was openly stated to the smart kids in their young age. Knowing that they're on their own, whatever they end up doing would be an informed choice and their responsibility entirely.

This isn't what happens in reality though. Schools and teachers demand submission to their authority on the implied promise that they are going to take care of you. When children believe that, and then are let down, is it the children's fault?

Gifted kids have high IQ, but probably not high EQ. They're defenceless against bullshit and blind to multi-level messages at that age, like most other kids.

Personally I don't blame the school system. What it does is not fair, but fairness is a fairy tale. It is a tool of society, with a useful purpose, and some unfortunate side-effects. The parents of a kid that's let down by the system should however take charge and start telling him how things really work, and make the kid realise that it's just him now.

I knew I would draw some fire with that one :) . Telling people the system failed has them pointing the finger back at you. They've seen the system work plenty of times before so people that don't make it just suck.

I ended up fine and I don't really have a grudge, but that doesn't stop me from thinking the system is broken. I definitely wasn't the best student in the world but I don't see anything wrong with pointing out what happens to the kids that get left behind.

I've actually never seen "the system" 'work', in that I never willingly hire grads and almost none of my experienced staff have ever had a formal education. But then again I'm not doing hardcore algorithmic stuff in the valley.

My only point was that, at least in my experience and situation, school/'normal progression' means very little in reality. Aas such I don't think it can be used as any sort excuse for anyone's situation.

I was comprehensively failed by the education system in my country and it made no difference. Shit; having thay experience actually seems to be the trend that all the best people I've worked with share.

Smart people are smart people. Some keep going and end up as weird and twisted as us, and some don't.

The ones who kept going tend to be those who got to where they were in spite of their situation. Maybe your world is different to mine tho.

Consider the nation’s most prestigious award for scientifically gifted high school students, the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, called the Super Bowl of science by one American president. From its inception in 1942 until 1994, the search recognized more than 2000 precocious teenagers as finalists. But just 1 percent ended up making the National Academy of Sciences, and just eight have won Nobel Prizes.

8 out of 2000 is a lot higher than most any other sample group.

This is a classic "sounds small, but is actually huge" statistic. Most of these pop up when people are trying to be deceptive, but this one looks like a mistake. I'm surprised it slipped past both the author and editor.

Exactly! 2000 in 8 is fucking ridiculous! For some context, there have been only 8 Chinese and 7 Indian Nobel Laureates. That's two of the most populated countries in the world!

The article "forgets" that the pool of gifted children is much smaller than the general population. Of course, when you have a group of x people, and another group of λx people, you need to check whether you are getting the desired outcome from the two groups on a ration 1:λ and not on a 1:1 ratio.

The article is missing this point.

Yes, but I'm sure they are no Einsteins, which is of course the minimum we expect.

> just eight have won Nobel Prizes

You pick 2000 teenagers, and 8 go on to win a Nobel Prize, and you're still not satisfied? High expectations much...

Author also contradicts himself.

First the author laments only 8 novel prizes of the batch. Then in the next sentence goes on to praise Lisa Randall for revolutionising physics, and notes that for every Lisa Randall there are dozens that fall short of their potential.

Ironic because Lisa Randall didn't win a Nobel Prize in physics. Yet.....

> Ironic because Lisa Randall didn't win a Nobel Prize in physics. Yet.....

And given her current work and experimental results there is no reasonable prospect she ever will, unlike people that you know that would win sooner or later (unless they died)

> For every Lisa Randall who revolutionizes theoretical physics

She did not revolutionize Physics. Not even close. She barely made a dent.

Yeah this is actually a terrible article. The author keeps confusing creativity with success. And he keeps thinking that "creative" people are the ones that change the world, which is ridiculous. To change the world, you need to be almost insanely stubborn and almost insanely self-confident.

Agreed. This article may or may not have made some good points, but I couldn't keep reading after that.

Same here - an instant blocker for me.

That means 1 in 250 go on to win a Nobel Prize. An absurd rate.

I'd bet money that the only group to perform better over the same timeframe is the list Nobel Prize winners themselves.

Edit: I stand corrected. Solvay Conference had 15/29 one year. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solvay_Conference#Fifth_Confer...

Isn't the group of CalTech alumns slightly worse but on around the same order of magnitude?

A dull article ridden with blatantly false claims and oversimplification of an otherwise complicated topic.

>Gifted children who have a noticeable head start and whose skill development begins remarkably early _do not_ usually end up being game changing professionals in their respective fields.

Really now?

>Developing a skill set early on leads to competence in what is learned but stumps creativity and chances of innovation.

So having an deep, innate, intuitive grasp of a certain set of knowledge, made possible by said early exposure and disciplined training, has nothing to do with genius and potential inventive achievement in later life? But rather, it only allows for uncreative competence in what is learned and practiced, that and only that?


Is this man serious? How does something like this even pass for an article? How much thinking goes into writing something like this? Christ almighty.

I love it because the very things that Mr. Grant here paints as inhibitory to creativity are exactly the essential components of creative genius! His information is not only incorrect, it is the exact opposite of how things do work in real life.

It's not a zero sum game. Both of aspects in question - Disciplined skill development as well as Creativity - are essential for intellectual success and are interdependent.

Structure, discipline, strong parent engagement and emphasis on learning and skill development, AS WELL AS creative undertakings, play, leisurely engagement, passionate tinkering / creation - both aspects are crucial.

In order to be able to create, the child has to imitate first. In order to fall in love with a pursuit, it has to be exposed to it first. And in order to be creatively successful in a pursuit, the child has to be very skilled in it first. And parents' intervention, guidance and support are very important in this regard.

>>Gifted children who have a noticeable head start and whose skill development begins remarkably early _do not_ usually end up being game changing professionals in their respective fields.

>Really now?

Um, yes? Are you challenging the article's claim here? Depending on how strictly we're defining "game changing", only a small handful of people, even those who were "gifted" as children, ever accomplish anything really notable.

You can look at this [1] followup of "mathematically precocious" youth, for example. Around 10% ended up tenured at a top-50 university or became CEO of a Fortune 500 company. It is unlikely that anyone in the other ~90% is doing anything "game changing". Not even everyone in that 10% group is doing something "game changing".

[1] https://my.vanderbilt.edu/smpy/files/2013/01/Article-PS-Lubi...

I see two problems with this.

1. You're defining "gifted" in a much narrower way than the article's arguments. Being a high achiever in math doesn't really encapsulate the meaning the article assigns when it creates a gifted vs. creative dichotomy.

2. It's pretty pointless to talk about the achievement of one group without comparing it to your control group. Do you think 10% of the general public is tenured at a top-50 university or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company? What about 10% of the creatives the article lauds? You know, without seatbelts there's only around 25 deaths per billion vehicle miles in the US. Nevermind that seatbelts cut that rate in half. . .

I interpreted the parent comment's "Really now?" as being more like "No duh!" In other words, pointing out that, within some fairly large group of people, only a very small percentage end up being "game changing professionals" is pretty obvious. The author's whole line of argument is pretty absurd - if you find a group where "only" 8 out of 2000 people become Nobel Prize winners (nearly half a percent!), where only 870 people ever have won the Nobel Prize, it means that group is leaps and bounds above just about everyone else in doing whatever makes Nobel Prize winners.

Are you joking? Jeff Dean fails by your metric of "game changing", and so do almost everyone at Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, except for the 6 people at the top of the hierarchy. You think Larry and Sergey ar slept responsible for Google's game changing inventions?

10% is a shit load.

All I see here are your opinions, while the article has numerous citations and data to back up its claims.

The reason why the article is interesting is because it goes against the common wisdom "you need to know the rules to break em", and backs its claim up with peer-reviewed science. And while you may find the findings unpalatable, isn't this how progress is made?

The main data the author cites is a 32-year-old pop psychology book where n=120. The rest is expert opinion. He also avoids making a case for why trying raising a child who is merely hyper-competent is less desirable goal than creating one who remakes a field of inquiry. After all, why would you want your child to become a run-of-the-mill Oncologist if they're not also going to win a Nobel Prize.

For all the author's dressing up a horrid argument with strained "statistics," he misses a key fact. True breakthroughs in most fields come around rarely, in time frames usually measured in decades. In the meantime, the market for high-end practitioners is evergreen.

For every Mozart, there are thousands of musicians to play in world-class orchestras. For every Jonas Salk, there are hundreds of thousands of doctors. On a risk-adjusted scale, shooting for competent if slightly less creative seems like a much wiser bet.

> The gifted learn to play magnificent Mozart melodies, but rarely compose their own original scores.

Performing music and writing music are really very different art forms. I'm surprised this NY Times author has conflated the two. Writing music is not the next step after learning to play music.

Within the Western classical music academy, these indeed are currently quite separate. That is not universal to all musical traditions.


I remember reading some of László Polgár work after becoming interested in how he raised three daughters, two became chess prodigies, the third a concert musician. He posited that "that any child has the innate capacity to become a genius in any chosen field, as long as education starts before their third birthday and they begin to specialise at six". This seems at odds with the notion that parents should "back off".

At least it works if your kid has the genes of a parent with the patience to read through 400 biographies.


Additionally, as I mentioned in another post. Many parts of the world have some of the most creative children and adults and their parents did the opposite.

Not saying either of these is right or wrong, but I am beginning to think creativity, like anything else, is more affected by culture and the surrounding of a child rather than just parenting. Kids are seen more by their peers and teachers than their parents ffs.

My personal theory on this is twofold:

1.) High achievers are used to pushing at things to win. Creativity is like a garden - you have to do some tending, but then you have to back off and let the plants grow. Fiddling doesn't help, in fact you're liable to end up killing the plants.

2.) Smart people actually learn too fast. Creativity requires very broad neural connectivity, and I think fast learning tends to produce neural networks with sparse connectivity to different areas. This is supported to a degree by learning in artificial neural networks. When the learning rate in artificial neural networks is too fast, this can cause the network parameters to converge prematurely. This premature convergence typically results in poor generalization performance. It is also worth noting that human brains mature more slowly than those of previous hominids and great apes.

Using neural networks as a machine learning concept to explain actual concepts in Neuroscience is a huge overstep. People have always thought the most advanced technology can be analogous to cognition, see steam engines and clocks.

Artificial neural networks are much closer to neurons and brains than economic models are to markets, but we give economists a pass. Perhaps we should stop listening to them and revoke their publishing privileges?

Anyhow, the point wasn't to say Brains == ANN, rather it was to show how learning too quickly has consequences in other models of learning. This was mostly so people wouldn't just dismiss the idea out of hand as having no justification (which people seem to want to do regardless).

Really? I think that we have a much better understanding of markets than Neuroscience. The human brain is an immensely complex system. We just figured out that lungs may produce the majority of our blood cells -- do you really have so much faith in a field that routinely misrepresents results to fit their hypotheses?

Your second sentence is definitely true and very interesting but maybe you'd agree that the gap between our most advanced technology and the brain is decreasing to the point where this will eventually be right.

> gap between our most advanced technology and the brain is decreasing

first we need to understand the brain.

And those were progressively better analogies. These are great terms to think in, and it's not an overstep. It doesn't have to be absolutely true to be very useful for understanding.

2) This falls into the just world fallacy. Intelligence does not seem to come with real drawbacks. Highly intelligent people often have upper end reflexes, are unusual attractive, highly creative, social, and or content. They are more often taller and live longer as well.

The trappings of intelligence are different, but very high raw intelligence is seen across most walks of life including actors, athletes, and salesmen.

You might not believe intelligence comes with any drawbacks, but when those neurons are wired well to perform one task, they're by definition wired poorly to perform other tasks. There is no universal neuron wiring that does a great job at everything. Barring things like malnutrition or lack of environmental enrichment, being bad at IQ tests just means your neurons wired differently. There is almost certainly something lower IQ people are better at. Take autistic savants for instance - their abilities arise because their brains are wired very differently from normal. They're not functional in a lot of ways, but there are some things they are freakishly good at.

As for your uber race, maybe you want to use the word "talent" instead. The only thing that connect these highly talented peopled is that they seem to excel at pretty much everything they put their minds to. If you tested them you'd find that their IQs have a fairly broad range. The median would certainly be above average but that isn't what makes them different. It is more about learning to focus and apply yourself than having a knack for manipulating symbols in your head.

IQ tests are proxies for intelegence but not direct measurements. They are fairly good at that from around 60-140, and less useful at the top and bottom.

As to low IQ scores people with an IQ of 60 generally don't have anything that they preform very well. The problem is everything we think of as takes even something as simple as holding your hand steady is really complicated. Getting better at even simple motor functions takes feedback loops, effort, and optimization. Further, intelegence generally allows people to optimize more quickly even as an infant. Which means intelegent people not only get to optimize more quickly they have more time to optimize complex tasks or tasks they are worse at.

Specialization of course kicks in, but the sills a six year old has are fairly universal and things 98% of people can do. Intelegent people tend to be better at.

An IQ of 60 isn't difference, it's indicative of either malnutrition, severe neglect, or some form of developmental disorder. In fact, I'd be surprised if there are many people of below average intelligence that don't suffer from one of those things. I'd even wager that if you took any random infant that didn't have a developmental problem and raised them in a loving affluent western family with good food and an enriched environment odds are good their IQ would measure >110 after a few years.

That's your own bias talking, genetics and environmental toxins can both cause significant issues. But, so can non genetic birth defects resulting from disease or what amounts to bad luck.

Further sub 110 IQ's don't indicate a problem. Natural variation is simply much wider than you assume.

This is only true up to a point. Past ~125 IQ, you start running into serious social problems that mean such individuals are much less likely to obtain leadership positions, join intellectually challenging professions, or obtain advanced degrees.



This get's into questions of what is an is not a good proxy for actual intelligence. IQ tests are more likely to become arbitrary rankings once you looking at ever smaller population sizes and thus relative poor proxy's for g.

Still, Roughly one third to one half of the billionaires (45.0%), Fortune 500 CEOs (38.6%), Senators (41.0%), and federal judges (40.9%) attended a school requiring standardized test scores that likely places them in the top 1% of ability. https://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/56143/wai-... Further, why that's only a proxy for intelligence, those with different backgrounds may also have unusually high IQ's.

Granted we are now using a proxy for g to estimate IQ. But, as I was saying intelligence not scores on IQ test IMO it's a valid approach.

Obviously if you define intelligence as "successful" than intelligence correlates with success. That's a circular void claim.

I am taking about different types of success. Otherwise you can just define a specific IQ test as success.

My point is if you look at Intelligence and assume they should be more successful with more IQ you need validate the IQ test to verify it's still valid at the outer edges. But, if you look at the most successful people and find IQ > 140 to be vastly more common than the general population then intelegence unlikely to be actually harmful.

I would also like to point out that while there might not be any direct drawbacks, think about others. How many kids put down those smarter to feel better about themselves?

Another disagreement: Not all intelligent people are highly social. Many are introverted.

Intelligent or introverted kids get bullied the most.

Your assuming kids are accurately measuring intelegence and then picking on the smartest person. Instead they are picking on an outlier who may be less intelegent than other people in the population with different interests.

Fair point.

>are unusual attractive

Source? I've never heard of intelligence being correlated with visual attractiveness.

Like height the link is probably though health and generally freedom from birth defects. It's not a 1:1 correlation, but it is a positive one.

Consistent with such views, meta-analyses (Jackson, Hunter & Hodge, 1995; Langlois et al., 2000) show that there is a small but significantly positive correlation between intelligence and physical attractiveness https://personal.lse.ac.uk/kanazawa/pdfs/I2011.pdf

That said, selected populations may show a negative correlation such as when more attractive people are more easily given a job etc.

>That said, selected populations may show a negative correlation such as when more attractive people are more easily given a job etc.

How is that possible? If intelligent people are attractive, wouldn't they be the ones getting the jobs?

Retric has made many posts conflating above-average intelligence with the extremely high intelligence that the article talks about.

As a hi IQ Dyslexic id have to disagree

People of average or below average intelegence can also be Dyslexic, so what's you point?

Repeat after me:

Artificial Neural Networks/DL =! Biological Neural Networks

You'd have to be pretty ignorant to assume they are exactly analogous, but to assume that there is no transfer is equally ignorant. Artificial neural networks are much closer to neurons and brains than economic models are to markets, yet we bet the farm on forecasting (with pretty bad results, I might add).

The repeat after me meme is really condescending by the way, might want to avoid using that.

What are the analogous components? Backpropagation is biologically implausible.

Dopamine released from task success primes long term potentiation, effectively acting as the analog of the cost function's gradient. The larger the dopamine hit (generally) the bigger the learning step.

You are correct that neurons can't do backprop. Keep in mind that the networks of the brain aren't straight feedforward, they're recurrent. In order to provide temporal control of activation propagation throughout the network, inhibitory neurons are needed. Thus, instead of "tweaking weights" backwards in the network, the brain learns to activate inhibitory neurons to provide forward feedback against activation.The mechanism is different but the learning effect is pretty similar.

It's so important to let your kid think. I see parents helicoptering and it's very damaging. I had met a couple at a friendly gathering that brought their 2 year old. Not only could he hardly talk, which was surprising to me, he had no chance to make any decision. The child and his parents were paging through a sales flyer, because they didn't think to bring suitable activities, and they were ogling over toys. So I pointed to the knives on a page that came up and joined in, "oh let's get these" and the child instinctively said yeah! Then I could see the clockworks moving and before the kid could say anything the parents chimed in. A missed opportunity to let the kid make his own, good, decision. I fear he'll grow up and fail to make decisions at all.

Conversely, with my children, I try to talk with them as much as I can, and let them talk too. I let them order food themselves and I demand good table manners. That doesn't mean they can't be children, but they are not allowed to climb under or on the table, or be a nuisance. An easy fix for a problem child in a restaurant is to leave. The child must learn that there are consequences. The child wont go? Leave without them and they will freak and catch up. They fail that drag them out. Saying no and sticking with it is important, but equally important is giving the child a chance to catch up, mentally, with decision making and situational awareness.

I didn't talk at all till I was 5 years old. I turned out well. But my parents were the opposite of helicopter parents though. I literally just did whatever I wanted all the time. I use to walk around a swamp near by, by myself or with friends, to catch turtles and snakes. Never got in trouble for grades. Got in a fight once when I was in 5th grade. Most my Mom did was ask me if I got any good hits in. lol

I think extemes in general are bad, but off the cuff I would suspect no parenting to be better than overparenting. At least you got to see the consequences of poor choices, and that the world really doesn't give two shits about you (or anyone).

> When Dr. Bloom’s team interviewed tennis players who were ranked in the top 10 in the world, they were not, to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, doing push-ups since they were a fetus.

And then you see a clip of 5-year old Messi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DWZ0fD64Uk) demolishing the other 5-year old kids who happened to share the same football field as him and realize that "letting your kid be creative" and all this mumbo-jumbo talk doesn't mean anything unless your kid doesn't have the inside genius-like quality. Bonus link, the Maradona childhood tricks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAjQ7NF8Hj0

It's even more laughable for any sort of endurance sports, where the genetic components are very well known.

The best marathon runner is probably sitting on a couch eating a bag of cheetos.

The best marathon runners are from an African community of genetically strong marathoners , who run a lot all their lives. Nature + nurture beats either alone

>What holds them back is that they don’t learn to be original.

More than likely, they simply lacked the capacity to be original (as in, world-class historical originality, which is the subject under discussion here), just in the same way that almost all people lack this capacity. It's only particularly surprising that child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses if you confuse genius with the capacity to learn information and acquire skills. Mastering calculus at age 6, though highly unusual, does not in itself constitute original work, and, going off of the data, is not an extremely strong indicator of the presence of the capacity to do original work.

So you can't necessarily expect creativity-focused interventions on child prodigies to produce more revolutionary geniuses than normal.

Excellent point. If anything the anecdotal data points to the opposite being true. Hendrix didn't learn guitar until 17. Einstein showed signs of having a genius for math and science in his education, but not anything above warranting anything, but being accepted to a middling teachers college. Edison didn't graduate high school and invented the phonograph in his spare time in his late 20s as a telegraph operator.

Nurture should follow nature. No single parenting style will fit every child. Some children need to be pushed harder, some need more freedom; what's important is to recognize what works and what doesn't and accommodate as necessary. Of course, this is not an easy task, and you only get one chance.

I think the most important thing, however, is to provide resources for learning, far beyond what is available in our pitiful public education system, which is designed more to cater to the mean and less to allow remarkable students to fully excel.

My Step 1 would be: Don't listen to an internet article on how to raise a fucking child... specially if it's a NYT article.

Being a good parent is becoming an increasing concern of mine as I am reaching an age where I could probably get married in some parts of the world. Its giving me anxiety, wanting to be not a shitty father...

Digression aside:

> Creativity may be hard to nurture, but it’s easy to thwart.

There are many parents though that do just to opposite by not backing off no? This is sort of generalizing, but kids from Asian countries are a great counterpoint to this. With that in mind, couldn't we also amend that theory, and add culture as a factor?

Furthermore, isn't it also the case that since kids are getting into school earlier than they used to (say 50 or so years ago; random number, don't goto imright.com and disprove it xD), wouldn't they be more susceptible to other kids/teachers? I mean now a days parents see their kids less than their teachers. They basically work 9-5 just like adults.

Addendum: Forgot which famous book this is from: But appraising a child for their hardwork over natural talent is one of the best things we can do. So to that end, creativity should be garnered as something one has to work towards. Man.. I can't wait to test all this shit on my kids.. (obviously joking)

Edit: Change wording and add more meaningful question.

The book might be 'Brain Rules for kids' by John Medina. A scientific account of what we know and don't know of brain development from the womb to 5. Really enjoyable and full of useful insights

or 'Nurture Shock' that also has a chapter on that.

"From its inception in 1942 until 1994, the search recognized more than 2000 precocious teenagers as finalists. But... just eight have won Nobel Prizes."


Said differently: slightly less than 1/2% of identified gifted teenagers in this group went on to win Nobel prizes. Given the rarity of Nobel prize winners and the difficulty of predicting future Nobel prize winners (as teenagers) that strikes me is pretty amazing.

To put that in perspective (thanks to another comment), there have only ever been 8 Nobel Prize winners from India.

I think 'genius' is more about tuning the innate plasticity of a child's mind to be good at a certain type of task. World class chess players see positions and variations like how 'normals' might recognize an old friend. The 'creative' part comes in when you have brain that is marvelously tuned for one thing, you can iterate and experiment very quickly.

While there is plenty to criticize about this article, knowing when not to intervene or help is one of the tougher and critical tasks of parenting.

As an anecdotal example my toddler was often the smallest kid in a given group of playing children. He was at the mall play area one day and he kept getting knocked down onto the foam floor. I kept thinking man I've got to step in and helicopter a bit. I almost did, but right as another kid was about to bump into him he did something new. He bowed at the legs, leaned and braced with his elbows causing the kid to bounce off harmlessly and they both ran on.

I'm often reminded of that moment now when I see him in safe but precarious situations. I'm always there for him if he needs me, but I have to wonder if I step in am I denying him a life lesson?

Let's take a big step back and remember that even if you set up the most creativity-nurturing environment, it does not guarantee that your kids are going to flourish creatively. Kids are autonomous creatures that still choose their own activities.

My siblings and I had the same imperfect parenting, same resources, similar genetics, etc, and at the end of the day I was the one that went hardcore down creative pursuits during childhood. I could see a similar spark in my siblings, but for whatever reason they put their 10,000 hours elsewhere. It was only during college that one of my brothers picked up writing and the other picked up music. The potential (and opportunity!) was always there, but for whatever reason they didn't capitalize on it in childhood.

Tiger Woods and Serena and Venus Williams are arguably the most iconic players in their sports in the last two decades and both are famous for overbearing fathers who forced them to practice from the time they could hold clubs and racquets.

They're also famous as athletes and not creatives.

The article's author referenced athletes as well as creatives:

Even the best athletes didn’t start out any better than their peers. When Dr. Bloom’s team interviewed tennis players who were ranked in the top 10 in the world, they were not, to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, doing push-ups since they were a fetus. Few of them faced intense pressure to perfect the game as Andre Agassi did. A majority of the tennis stars remembered one thing about their first coaches: They made tennis enjoyable.

And on the other end you have Todd Marinovich.

Step zero: Get to know them. Then decide if you should back off or do any other of a thousand things that might help them.

All kids are different. Child rearing is as far from "one weird trick" territory as you can get.

Over time, I see articles bouncing between discipline your children (aka tiger parenting) and let them free (aka nuture creativity.) There are passionate camps and black/white discussions. I think the most successful professionals need to have both. So it's best to work on both.

In the case where you can't have both. I think it's better to focus on discipline. At least you'd get something tiny done, not just wandering around.

In cultures like Korea, hierarchy and unconditional respect for their elders is so deeply rooted that it is evident in the language itself (When addressing elders or someone more important, you have to speak a specific way). This gives a false sense of righteousness and superiority. In societies like these, could the culture itself be an obstacle to creative growth?

It is similar in many countries. In Thailand, where I live, it is also built into the language. There are many different pronouns for addressing others based on your relative social standing. There are pronouns not only for normal societal interactions, but special pronouns for when you are speaking to monks and another set when speaking to/about royal family members. In fact, there are even different verbs that are used when talking about common activities of monks and royalty. Makes for a very pretentious culture and it certainly does inhibit critical thinking in much of the population.

I'd be really curious to hear from engineers that were made to play a musical instrument in childhood.

I know some people believe there's a correlation between good engineers and musical study (no idea if that's true, only that I've read it before)

I also know that I've rarely met a child that wants to practice their musical instrument. Usually they have to be made to do it "No TV, no internet, no video games until you've finished your piano practice!" "But Mom!!!!!"

I know lots of adults that are happy they can play a musical instrument or speak a second language (parents sent them to language school as a child) but I know of few children who would chose to do either of them.

100% true. Learning to play a musical instrument in childhood has positive long term effects in a variety of ways (improved neural plasticity past middle age, improved spatial reasoning ability throughout life, etc.) There's a pretty substantial and growing body of research on the subject now.

There is no way quite as certain to accelerate a child's pursuit of great goals, than to instill confidence in them. In my experience, it is the first and most important step with which they begin to choose their own pace in learning new skills, by convincing them that any failures are temporary, and that they can believe in their vision because those they trust believe in them.

I believe that the second step, making things fun, mostly consists of letting young people be with their friends, with no more than some open space, and only the minimum adult involvement needed to maintain safety.

>prestigious award for scientifically gifted high school students

I find this somewhat offensive. Gifted kids should be encouraged (cautiously & organically) - not be turned into a beauty pageant style competition.

In adulthood, many prodigies become experts in their fields and leaders in their organizations. Yet only a fraction of gifted children eventually become revolutionary adult creators. This sentence, which the article hinges around, has no meaning. A tiny fraction will become revolutionary adult creators by definition - if their achievements were more commonplace then our understanding of what a revolutionary creator was would change to become more exclusive.

> In adulthood, many prodigies become experts in their fields and leaders in their organizations. Yet “only a fraction of gifted children eventually become revolutionary adult creators,” laments the psychologist Ellen Winner.

Why on earth is that something to 'lament'?

I think their point is that, for some reason, it is lamentable that they did not fulfill the whole of their potential. Whether or not that is lamentable is its own argument. The privilege exhibited by the talented who consciously do not use their potential is the ultimate insult to those who are not given the opportunity - not only is it in no way controllable by humanity, it can in no way be granted by any kind of affirmative action. I imagine the lament is probably sourced there somehow.

Having not yet read the article, I would say yes, there is truth in that statement, but holding people accountable is a big part of what drives success. Compromise: Tease them into and help them create some of their own rules but enforce them(?)

Every child must be raised by the book - unfortunately every child has their own book...

I don't think there is a fixed pattern in raising a creative child. Every child is different. Instilling creativity is not like a program running under specific conditions.

I'd like to know how to make an adult creative, not just a child.

This article in the NYTimes is like Duchamp's urinal in a museum.

Why do you feel entitled to foist your own or other peoples problems onto strangers?

Would you please not post uncivilly to HN? Personal abrasiveness, which this comment veers into, is something to be avoided.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14128052 and marked it off-topic.

Why do you assume kids are problems to begin with? I have met hundreds of kids during my adult life and the highest any of them has risen to for me is minor annoyance. I've had more trouble from my cars.

I'm not the one that used "problem" to describe kids, btw. FWIW I quite like kids. But saying strangers kids are my responsibility because of "society" is not true at all.

Kids are a part of society, and society has a stake in what kind of adult they become.

In the same way drug addicts are society's problem, or unemployed people are society's problem, or sociopathic second generation rich never-worked-a-day drunk drivers are society's problem.

This isn't to say that you'll be conscripted in to a psudo-parent role against your will, but they are your responsibility as a member of society in a very abstract way.

In that case, I revoke my membership to society. I have my own problems.

You can do so by moving out in to the middle of nowhere and becoming a self-sufficient hermit.

Anything less and sorry, but you're a part of society.

who are you to tell an individual what responsibilities they have, and to try and make outcasts of people who don't want them?

I don't have to move anywhere to absolve myself of the responsibility to strangers.

I don't think that you quite understand the point I'm making?

By taking part in every day life, using civil infrastructure, having contact with other people you're a part of society with all that goes with that.

It logically follows that the only way to extricate yourself from the situation is to leave society and all the benefits it brings. There are people who have done that!

However I don't see how you can possibly do so and have the convenience of a doctor available when you're sick, coffee sold by the cup and roads on which for you to drive. These are physical and organisational manifestations of 'society'.

By remaining in proximity and contact of other humans you're their responsibility and they are yours.

It's fine to want out but that does need to come with a realisation of what benefits you draw from societal organisation and what you'll need to lose to withdraw from the uninvited, unwritten, yet tangible 'bargain' that society represents.

I'm trying to picture what remaining with other people yet rejecting 'society' theoretically looks like and I can only see it as a kind of parasitic relationship. When aware of parasites humans have a tendency to try and kill or remove them. After all, you would be rejecting all the protections legal and otherwise that society offers its members.

By remaining in proximity and contact of other humans you're their responsibility and they are yours.

I reject this completely. That's your reality, not mine.

Please respond to the rest of my post, not just the weakest line.

All of your post hinges on the premise that you feel responsibility for individual problems should be collectivised, by force presumably, and that I am required to morally feel obliged to help any and all strangers by virtue of being born or living in roughly the same area. I find that world view monstrous and can't really debate it objectively. We're on different planets here.

I'm an individual and I'm free to help or not help strangers as I see fit. Neither you nor anyone else has the right to tell me what problems of which people I'm responsible for.

I agree with lacampbell that we're not responsible for other people's kids. In western society the individual is sovereign and our only responsibility is to do no harm. It is equally important to note however that the individual is missing out if he foregoes the pleasure of friendly interactions with other people, and is free to be a good neighbour and to give where he chooses. He is also wise if he aligns his ambitions with the general good of all.

But he may not be compelled. Indeed, it is the societies where people have talked about us all being responsible for everybody else that have murdered the most people (e.g. Soviet Union).

The foregoing interaction with lacampbell might be an analogy of how society fails creative types. They are often awkward, abrasive people who insist on doing things their own way. As a result they are denied jobs, ostracised socially (in the name of friendliness) and generally swept under the rug.

Society would far rather give academic posts, for example, to those who fit in enthusiastically:


The desire to be accepted and to fit in, despite appearances, is not really about friendliness, is my guess. It is actually rooted in the fear of others and the fear of being cast out of the tribe. Like all emotions this fear enacts behaviours which tend to install it in other people. As a result of early socialisation most of our creativity goes into being/appearing normal instead of into making original stuff.

Hmm, I think I can see where we're failing to connect here. I'll reply to you by replying to lacampbell.

> All of your post hinges on the premise that you feel responsibility for individual problems should be collectivised, by force presumably, and that I am required to morally feel obliged to help any and all strangers by virtue of being born or living in roughly the same area.

I categorically reject that this is my position and am sorry I wasn't able to explain it better. Let me try further:

I'm not suggesting that you be required to do anything. At all. It is your choice to choose to do nothing.

However as a member of society, of which the only way of really escaping is to escape the proximity and influence of those who comprise 'society' you do have a collectivized stake in the outcome of society. If you for example choose to do nothing about drug addicts, and the rest of society does the same... society is then responsible for what happens as a result of untreated drug addiction. You, as a member of society, have some small part ownership over what happens.

Does that make sense? I'm talking in a very abstract sense, not a direct "here is a kid -> take care of it" sense.

Yes there are such things as social problems, and the keeping the peace (which is the government's responsibility) entails addressing them. Sometimes keeping the peace will even entail looking after other people's children. For example, children evacuated from London in WW2.

But problems are solved by individuals. So part of the gauge of the strength of a society is how receptive it is to knowledge originating in the minds of rare individuals. Does it protect them? Or does it shut them down with censorship, disemployment and so on?

It's vital that people realise that they are not responsible for the fall of every sparrow, lest they be burdened with undue guilt. Their minds are then at least capable of remaining free and creative.

The foregoing interaction with lacampbell might be an analogy of how society fails creative types. They are often awkward, abrasive people who insist on doing things their own way. As a result they are denied jobs, ostracised socially (in the name of friendliness) and generally swept under the rug.

I'd like to think I'm not particularly awkward or abrasive. I'm not some cold hearted monster that has no empathy, or never helps or shows kindness to strangers. But you rightly point out that I reject being compelled to help all and sundry. A charitable act should be mine to perform freely.

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