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Taking Children Seriously (fallibleideas.com)
235 points by monort on Dec 3, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 229 comments



I fully agree that you have to take children seriously, respectfully and make sure they are able to live life to the fullest.

But the "rules are bad" trope is, unfortunately, a trend in The Netherlands. Parents that live by this rule are sacrificing themselves. It's bad parenting.

I see a lot of parents (mothers mostly) in public places desperately trying to explain their dissatisfaction to their misbehaving children. The children meanwhile are completely disregarding them and will continue doing whatever they were doing untill the parents give up. The parents will end up awkwardly trying to ignore their children, visibly ashamed but still unable to use their authority for fear of breaking their chosen path to happy parenting. They won't even raise their voice.

As a parent, I see this all the time. In school, on the street, in stores, it's everywhere.

Reasoning with kids that are completely unwilling to listen to your "adult talk" is completely hopeless. Rules aren't fun but they aren't bad either. You don't have to explain your rules everytime, just make sure you enforce them consistently.


Let me provide you a personal experience that might help put this "rules are bad" trope in context.

One day I was with my daughter (~24 months old) at the Zoo and she wanted an Ice Cream and I said "nope". She looked around with wide eyes and noticed all the people near by. Then, she did something I had never seen before -- she dropped down on the ground, twisted and swirled, and started to scream; for quite some time. I calmly sat down nearby and asked her: "when you're done, could you let me know?". Over the next minute or so, several parents gathered around to gawk at the spectacle. When my daughter got close enough to some urine on the ground, I got up, walked over and said: "careful, icky pee here". Without stopping the rolling or the screaming, she immediately recognized and steered clear of the urine. I then sat down again and said, "when you're done, could you let me know?". After another minute or two longer, with hoarse voice and a few bruises, she stood straight up and said: "Fine; I'm done. Monkey next?".

What was problematic was the reaction of other parents. During the episode, they became increasingly anxious looking at each other and trying to catch my attention. One of the mothers asked me "Where is your wife?", to which I responded: "at work, but don't worry, I'm the primary care giver". A father said (after being nudged by his wife): "well, you're just going to sit there?" to which I calmly responded: "It's a temper tantrum". One final mother didn't say a word, but made sure to give my daughter comforting eyes and looked harshly at me, making sure I knew she was dialing someone (police?) on her cell phone.

Once my daughter got up, we inspected her pants for horse urine and talked about how that was an extreme waste of time. Later on I asked her what the Tantrum was about. She explained it quite clearly to me: "well, daddy, one other boy just had one and he got the ice cream, so I wanted to see if that would work". I explained to her that this was pretty bad behavior and that if I ever see it again, we will go home immediately. I've had a few tantrums since, but none of them have been public. My daughter and I then had a very fantastic afternoon talking about Monkeys and more effective ways to communicate her desires.

This was a very unexpected experience for me. I seriously didn't expect that in 1-2 minutes, I'd have a dozen adults gathering around in a circle. I didn't expect 2 of them would be brave enough to hurl insults. I didn't expect one of them to be implicitly threatening police (CPS?). I can see how many parents would have caved under such peer pressure. Perhaps it's not the parent's fear of the children that leads to these problems, but instead, fear of what other parents might say or do?

So. I'm not sure how to connect this to this thread. First I'm not sure a "rule" would have helped. Punishing her wasn't going to help (I evaluated going immediately home, but I think the event was traumatic enough for her already). I'm not sure. Would you do it differently? If you saw me on the bench, would you think that I had given up?


Your anecdote was so great to read. It's funny, my therapist related almost the exact same anecdote. It was about a mother he saw once whose child was screaming for ice cream. The mother just kneeled down, smiled and said, "You can't have any ice cream. But it's OK to want it, and it's OK to be angry that you're not getting it," and she let the child scream until she was done.

The point of my therapist's anecdote, and implicit in what you wrote as well, is that the tantrum isn't shameful or "wrong," it just is. You made it clear that it's not an acceptable way to get something from you but you neither condoned nor condemned the emotional reaction itself. I think the part that TCS gets "right" is that there's no need to shame an emotional reaction. I personally try to treat everyone in my life, adult or child, according to this principle.

I think the dangerous part of what I read in this article is that we shouldn't establish boundaries. Establishing a boundary, like telling a child that she won't get ice cream, is critical, not just for children but for adults. You can furthermore make consequences clear from the beginning so that if you need to "punish," really you're just enforcing the boundary. I think that's really healthy for all of us, children included. It provides stability and rationality, and it shows that you can treat people while respecting your own needs without resorting to anger and shame.

I'm not a parent yet, but I hopefully when I become one I'll be able to deal with such situations with the grace and compassion that you had! Thanks for sharing.


> is that the tantrum isn't shameful or "wrong," it just is.

Wait.. it is wrong. If we don't get something that we want, we don't throw a tantrum. Yes, it is an emotional reaction, and it's one that isn't acceptable.

I'm not a perfect parent, but IMO if I were in GP's shoes, I'd leave immediately. Throwing a tantrum is not acceptable, and the consequence has to be immediate and clear. That's my boundary.


I see it differently. A Zoo is a safe place for parenting and learning. If you feel disrespected by mere glancing on a child having a temper tantrum in a Zoo, then you and I simply aren't going to agree on much. I'm certainly not going to escalate a situation with my daughter to physical confrontation so that you might feel more comfortable.


Based on what you wrote, you're almost certainly a great parent, but I have a question:

If your daughter learned by observing the boy using a tantrum to get his way, couldn't there be other children who observed both the boy and your daughter, see that a tantrum at the very worst amounts to a 50% chance of ice cream and a 50% chance of continuing the zoo trip?

If you had told her: "When you're done, let me know. And if this goes on much longer we're going home once you're done." The other children may have observed possible negative consequences for their actions.


Thanks for the complement. To answer the question, I try not to escalate the situation or change the message while adrenaline is high.

That said, after the tantrum was over and the crowd had dispersed, my daughter and I stayed and discussed the situation (and consequences). One mother and her 3 year old boy lingered, eventually joining in. Her young boy was very assured that he would never, ever have such a tantrum like that! I told him I was so relieved, especially because of hidden dangers like stinky horse urine puddles.


I think that is great! Thanks for the reply, I hope I remember this message if I ever have children.


There's two parts here: a.) What would I do, as the parent, if my child were to throw a tantrum, and b.) How would I react, as a parent, to another child throwing a tantrum.

For A: As stated, I would leave immediately. I'll hedge that a bit and say that getting to the point where a child is rolling around on the ground is a failure for everyone concerned, so ideally we'd never reach this point in the first place. If there's a disagreement, my kids and I can talk it out without resorting to a tantrum.

For B: I don't care what you do with your kids. In public at a zoo in an open area, have at it. It's a tough situation all around and I'm not going to make another parent's day worse by saying anything.


Thanks for the response.

When you say "I would leave immediately", you do mean that you would physically intervene to remove your child, correct? Doing this at 2 years is pretty easy; you can just pick them up and leave. How do you do it at 6 years (50 lbs, 42")? Do you try at 10 years? How do you "leave immediately" with an older child if they physically resist?

If you transition from physical to physiological intervention at a later year, what sort of practice will you and your children have had will make this likely to succeed? If you could make that transition (away from physical manipulation) earlier, is there a reason to wait?


> When you say "I would leave immediately", you do mean that you would physically intervene to remove your child, correct? Doing this at 2 years is pretty easy; you can just pick them up and leave. How do you do it at 6 years (50 lbs, 42")? Do you try at 10 years? How do you "leave immediately" with an older child if they physically resist?

This is tougher, and really I can only offer my own experience and thoughts. For context, I have a 9yo and a 18yo. I don't actually recall needing to intervene with any of them engaging in full-on temper tantrum mode. At their worst, usually pulling them aside, explaining their behaviour is not appropriate, and staying with them with the idea that when they're ready to behave correctly we can resume whatever it was we're doing is enough. Often it would be something that we could talk about together and reflect on their feelings. Depending on their age, if they're very young it's the kind of thing that can happen, and maybe some time out together is enough. If they get older and are still having this kind of behaviour then maybe you do need to leave for the day.

My youngest will often talk to me at bedtime about how she felt about certain things that happened that day. For example, if she yelled at me that day I'll bring it up and we can talk about how she felt, how that made me feel, and how to deal with it in the future. More commonly it's about something that happened at school that day.

> If you transition from physical to physiological intervention at a later year, what sort of practice will you and your children have had will make this likely to succeed? If you could make that transition (away from physical manipulation) earlier, is there a reason to wait?

IMO (and I'm just a random person with no training, so don't take this as actual advice), parenting succeeds when expectations are clear, consequences are not arbitrary and promises are kept. If you say X is going to happen when they do Y, then you better follow through. Whether X is a punishment or a reward, it doesn't matter. Trust is what probably makes it easier to transition to you using words to de-escalate situations. At a very young age children just can't remember or understand your reaction to their behaviour, and it takes time for them to learn that.

All that said, it's been awhile since I've needed to deal with children throwing a temper tantrum, so I've probably left a lot out. All I can say is that at my kids' age today I don't need to deal with this problem. Sure, sometimes they're disappointed at not getting what they want. We can talk about it and if they feel they're not being treated fairly we can usually come to some sort of compromise.


As a parent I strongly agree with you. A tantrum indicates lack of emotional control and a lack of respect for other people in the area, both from the child and the parent.

It's OK to be angry. It's not OK to let that anger take over physically once a child has more emotional maturity than a baby.

For those who permit their children to behave like that, what will be the cut-off age when they have to stop? 12, 16, 18? Or 32 and throwing a tantrum in a workplace?


If it was actual lack of emotional control, then imposing a penalty wouldn't work, since that implies they do have control over it. I doubt tantrums really are anger taking over, they're just an attempt at emotional manipulation of others, and they persist only if they get a positive response.

Some kids do lose emotional control - a close (minor) family member had that problem, probably due to difficult childhood moments - but in that case they need help in handling it, not punishment.

These are just my personal views; I'm certainly not an expert.


> If it was actual lack of emotional control, then imposing a penalty wouldn't work, since that implies they do have control over it.

The point is that children need to LEARN to control themselves, emotional or otherwise.


I think she might mean it's not wrong in the sense of "deeply immoral." Murderer is wrong. Physical abuse is wrong. Many things are deeply and intrinsically immoral. Tantrums aren't. They're unacceptable but they aren't immoral. At least not before a certain age.


I think that we may be talking past each other.

I'm distinguishing between something being "wrong" vs. something being "acceptable." Wrongness to me is a moral attribute; whether something is acceptable is a purely subjective and individual quality. Maybe the tantrum is unacceptable to us and to nearly every other adult in human society, but it's still subjective. I think that parents absolutely should show with their actions and words whether something is acceptable _to them_ and give advice about what will be acceptable to others (they will learn soon enough anyway). That's what GP did by showing that throwing a tantrum was an unacceptable way to get ice cream.

The key part is that he didn't then go on to say/communicate "and what you're doing is wrong and you should be ashamed of yourself," or something to that effect. The exact words don't matter, kids internalize shame very easily: if you think it's wrong or shameful, then they will get the point. It will be effective at preventing the behavior in the future, but damn, shame is like the nuclear option in my opinion when it comes to parenting. Obviously there's a healthy amount of shame that we should all have for things that are genuinely shameful. But is there really anything shameful or wrong about a lack of emotional control? The child is a child, they don't know any better.

So the question is what is unacceptable? I would argue that the tantrum itself is totally acceptable, assuming (as GP has said in follow-up comments) that it's a safe space for the child and the parent has the capacity in that moment to hold emotional space for the child. I would even argue that although the tantrum is obnoxious, the part of the tantrum where the parent says "yes, it's good to express and vent your anger"--even more so for a girl in a world where girls are told not to show anger--is downright healthy. The part that's totally unacceptable, in my opinion, is the idea that the anger will get her the ice cream. But if you say "not only will you not get this ice cream, but also you're not allowed to throw a tantrum ever because it's wrong," that kid will more likely than not internalize a certain amount of shame for her actions, and next time she wants to express anger she will feel ashamed about it. Which sucks, because that stuff, built up over time, will stick with you well into adulthood. Hence the therapist :-).


Thank you for sharing this. As a father, other parents are my greatest fear. Right now we live in Japan, and I gotta say the way preschoolers are treated here I'm really quite comfortable with (generally relaxed, but calm/sometimes stern talking-to, leaving other parents space, also tons and tons of infrastructure that helps, no helicoptering). I'm really quite concerned about moving back to Europe - while I like the schooling system there better, the helicopter-parenting scares me. My hope is that German-speaking / Swiss culture is still the way I remember, with lots of self-responsibility given at young age, but some stories I hear make me worried.


I'm in Zurich atm and saw plenty of 8-10 yr old kids runnig around Sunday morning alone, playing soccer or riding tram. The place seems still all right.


Good to know, thanks. I will actively avoid living in places (like AFAIK most of US/UK), where this isn't completely normal. In Switzerland, children are sent alone to (and prepared for) Kindergarden at age 6 - I hope that we'll be able to do that as well once my 2yo is at that age.


> "well, daddy, one other boy just had one and he got the ice cream, so I wanted to see if that would work"

Pretty advanced for a 2 year old.

With 2 year olds in general, and any discipline advice: YMMV for everyone because they are very unpredictable at that age.

Any "I did this with my 2 yr old" and "I got this result" causality should be taken with a pinch of salt.


I can assure you that young children are way smarter that most give them credit. They can pattern match pretty quickly.


> "I wanted to see if that would work"

This seems advanced to me. Of course this could be a stock phrase copied from an adult. My 2 year old does this a lot and it makes her sound grown up. As an adult I use confirmation bias to say "yup she's smart".


2-year-olds are definitely capable of this kind of thinking. The ability to explain it and introspect is more rare.


Yes, she is precocious. The story I presented was a story; I explained to the best of my recollection what happened so that it may be used at a data point. Every situation is different and if the story helps someone, that is fantastic.

I'm more interested in how observers could be more helpful in these situations. When I see children out of control and an overwhelmed parent, I will sometimes try to help by de-escalating. In fact, I'm coming to think that we should learn as a culture how to talk to other people's children directly in a way that grows community and mutual respect. Children will often listen more intently to another parent (or, even better, especially a slightly older child).


I am very firmly in your camp on how to handle that. I’ve watched my daughter do this so many times even at 20 months. Each time I hang out nearby, I will typically talk calmly to her but I will not attempt to soothe the wild beast. Sure enough, she tires of it pretty quickly, gets up, and is right back to her happy self every time.


Thanks for this story. I like to think I would do better than some of those other parents... (At least, father to father, I wouldn't challenge your capability by asking about mommy!) I'll do my best to keep this story in mind in the future.

It seems to me, reading this from your perspective, is that the correct attempt at intervention would simply be asking, "Is everything OK?" And after hearing it's a temper tantrum, a hearty "good luck" before walking off!


I also could care less about other parents.. But my daughter would not stop after 1 or 2 minutes. Even after 20. I tried it many times. Distractions mostly do not work neither as she was quite smart early enough :)

Not every single child is the same. Some need more powerful nudge towards behaving while others can sit in the carryon for 2 hours at movie theatre totally awake and not enjoying grown-up movie..


That sounds really tough. Yep, children like all people are all a bit different. I wish you luck and hope you find what works for you.


What happens if you just walk away? Will she continue? My kids will stop when they notice I'm not there.


i would expect it to differ based on environment and trigger, but most likely she will just run after me without changing much of behavior :) I love the fact my both kids are persistent. I just need to get through their childhood and direct their powers to good beginnings :)


With that attitude I’m sure you will succeed. Best of luck to you and your family.


I would have done it just slightly different -- picked the child up and held her in silence through the tantrum, even still sitting on the ground. That way, she can feel you there (in case it were a real melt-down -- say from fever or overstimulation, not something calculated), not get bruised, keep out of horse urine, and show other parents that you're not quite that cold. You were right to be absolutely boring and unimpressed. Two is probably a little young to understand "extreme waste of time."


Yea, that’s not going to work with all children. Mine would just get more agitated from this. For me calm down time comes later and starts with “hug?” and they come to you for resolution.


I'll second comstock's reply that this won't work for all kids. Picking my 2-year old up mid-tantrum would just make him try to fling himself backward out of my arms and potentially get hurt from falling.


I wouldn't even have waited. I will just walk away myself, the kid will follow and if he/she doesn't I will observe from a distance.

Question: how do you handle other types of bad behavior, like when your kids are running around in a tightly packed shop?


Went as a volunteer to a camp for kids with ADHD and Aspagers. Tantrums are unavoidable. We had drafted a contract with the kids that lines out rules of conduct for pretty much everything, ie. swearing == 10 push-ups or squats, any attention seeking behavior had to be diffused with holding and counting down from ten. It was ranging from a symbolic hand holding up to a full ground tackle if the situation was going a bit overboard.

IMHO you acted the best way you could. I've seen to many kids traumatized by a lack of a framework that would allow them to think about consequences. The key is communication and respect for the rules from both sides.


I was about to ask "which age are those suggestions for".

We cannot expect a 24 months old to understand all our explanations. Sure, we DO explain things, but sometimes a rule it's just a rule, and an outburst is just an outburst.

I agree with the article in that, when they grow up, we should prefer explanations over rules, while we parents may tend to "keep enforcing arbitrary rules" forever.


But why didn’t you give her the ice cream in the first place? Perhaps, because of a rule? Perhaps that rule was not so bad after all?


This part is laughable:

> Some parents are having a hard time. They sacrifice for their children and give so much. They want some rules to keep things under control. But rules can’t create good family relationships. Cooperative learning and problem solving is the only win/win approach.

You can't spend time explaining ALL the rules around in society because it takes literally years to explain the ins and outs of everything. And kids need to know how to behave well before they can master speech and language, so it's pretty obvious you need some level of rules and some level of obedience. I am totally for "explaining why", but just saying "rules are bad" sounds like a very poor generalizing principle.


In practice you can probably get away with explaining some fairly general rules that cover most of day to day life early on and defer detailed exception clauses for later.

Explaining all the rules is what school is for, basically.


> Explaining all the rules is what school is for, basically.

And this is where so many people go wrong. Parents are teachers too, and it's their job to teach their children how to fit into society, behave, be decent people, etc.

A lot of rules, like math tables, help you learn the basic foundational building blocks. Once you have those, you have a reference to understand more things.

School is, basically, for most of the other stuff.


>Explaining all the rules is what school is for, basically.

Heh. My school published a list of rules which included: 'Any breach of common sense is also a breach of school rules.'


Gödel suggests If you can explain all the [sufficiently complex] rules; your system is inconsistent (contradictory rules are true).

If the rules are consistent, some things can't be explained.


Learning that any sufficiently advanced system is usually inconsistent and breakable is one of life's most important lessons. Rules are contradictory, both in meaning and application. There is no master theorem and they are not consistently or evenly applied. The world is not fair and just.

It is one of my main conflicts with homeschooling, the point of conventional schooling is that everyone must fit a mould and conforming to a structure. The lesson of that point is finding a way to deal with that conformity, you need to know the rules of hierarchical groups in order to break them or succeed inside or outside of them.


First of all, Gödel talks about the provability of true statements in formal systems, not the explain-ability of laws, and second of all, in any nontrivial formal system there are things that can't be explained, namely the axioms.


I was unaware that explaining social rules to kids involved arithmetic.


That is so ridiculously poorly applied to the legal system. Your system of rules needs power too. Don't just spread lies.


> Don't just spread lies.

Would you mind editing out such name-calling from your comments here? The rest of your comment makes your point just fine.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


From a comment below: "It should go without saying that this strategy should be used only when it's reasonable".


Right, exactly. I don't think the explanation always needs to come first — my toddler knows not to touch the oven, but doesn't understand why. Someday he will, but for now he just needs to fucking listen so he doesn't injure himself.

Even as adults, there are plenty of "rules first, explanation later" situations — and there are plenty of rules that people obey without knowing why. It's not so bad.


As a parent, I’ve stopped judging other parents. When I see a parent struggling with a “misbehaving” kid in public, I don’t see a failed parent. I just see someone in a difficult situation with no easy way out.

I don’t think “This wouldn’t have happened if the parent followed my parenting philosophy.”

Parenting is hard, we all struggle, and dismissing other people’s ways is easy, but it doesn’t do anything besides making you feel good about yourself.


I really find the original comment very strange, and quite shocking that it's currently the top comment. In particular the way it singles out "mostly mothers" as being "bad parents".

Parenting is very hard, if these mothers are the sole/primary care-givers they are doing an extremely difficult job.

For those who haven't experienced this, the difficulty in my view is not dealing with an isolated situation. It's dealing with these situations every day, over an extended period of time. It's hard work, and it's hard to get everything right.


I completely agree. In the book Reviving Ophelia [1] the author asserts that the most well-adjusted girls were the ones who had plenty of well-defined boundaries at home. Rules are good and accepted in the adult world; why would the child world be any different?

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


Well behaved women rarely make history. This could be precisely the reason why women do so poorly socioeconomically, because they are taught to be endlessly obedient and subservient without question.

It may make them well behaved, but it makes for terrible leaders who need to defy societal norms to perpetuate or see through a novel idea or business model, terrible self esteem for STEM fields when women need to feel confident in their own understanding of how things work and be willing to dig into the why's instead of mentally reoienting to the politically correct or expected answer.

It's bad for basically every level of Independence that women need to excercise to be socioeconomic equals.

Bringing up well behaved women with excessive boundaries in correlation to children is precisely the issue with society.

I think I'm going to go ahead and buy that t-shirt that says "raise boys and girls the same way"

If boys get to play in the woods and turn their sisters curling irons into backyard bombs, go out late at night then girls should have the same freedom to comfortably practice exploration, tinkering with stuff and breaking stuff and building stuff and roaming about without their mothers worried about where they are going and loading them down with more domestic chores than their male siblings.


My apologies if my comment appeared to make a distinction between boys and girls; it wasn't my intent. In my opinion the original premise that "rules and obedience are bad" is wrong (for both boys and girls). While this topic is largely subjective I cited the book as supportive of my opinion; that it is based largely on the author's experience with girls is coincidental.


Well behaved women typically make good mothers and this is absolutely immense for the history of humankind.


You mean, treat them as good submissives and order them as appropriately?

No. Seriously, what would be said about myself if I started making huge sweeping generalizations about a gender? Its bad for males, and its bad for females. Primarily, any effect one "tries" to find is so close to 50% its useless.

Tl;Dr. Reviving Ophelia is junk science, meant only to sell more of their books.


Just going to insert my layman’s opinion here, but I think the article’s suggested methods are good.

Children learn by example and they are always watching. If a child is misbehaving In public, the child is still watching. How does my parent (my role model) solve their problems? By yelling? By hitting? Or by talking?

And to counter anecdote with anecdote, I have seen plenty of misbehaving children in public with parents frantically trying to control them by yelling at them or spanking them, and it usually only results in even louder crying and more defiance.

Children misbehave as a kind of experimentation. At least some bad behavior is unavoidable, and it is an excellent chance for parents to give their children a lesson in conflict resolution.


As a father, my 2 cents: There's something in between talking and yelling. Call it the 'stern' talk if you will. I get this authoritative voice, usually giving the little guy two choices: Either accept what you have right now peacefully (i.e. take your winnings), or play me again and I'll take away some of your freedom (pick him up, put in baby car, put to bed, something like that). So far it has proven very effective with my 2yo, calms him down immediately and after a little while his mood tends to be great. The little bastards seem to like when they get to know their boundaries, it seems to give them a feeling of safety. So far its also not becoming more frequently necessary (which I fear, because inevitably it will loose effectiveness at some point). Maybe 0.5-1.0 occurrences per day or so. Also, it's only ever needed when he's with his mother and I'm there (the 'good cop' who can't be strict with him until she breaks down...), when I'm alone with him he pretty much behaves 100%. Kids, they are masters at what they're doing...


This.

Children thrive on boundaries. It gives them an 'area' within which they can fully explore, learn, play, etc, while KNOWING that as long as they stay within those lines, everything will be fine.

I call it THE VOICE, and I try and keep its use to the minimum, so as to not reduce its effectiveness. However, when I do use it, mine knows he has to stop pushing boundaries, or there will be repercussions.


Same here (2.5 kids raised).

The other important part - remeber to losen the boundaries as they continue growing up, so when they are 18-ish there is no difference between boundaries on and off.


Thank you. Yes, good point. The way my little buddy works, boundaries are frequently tested anyways, and sometimes they fall when we feel he's ready - I think it's kind of a natural, almost automatic process. That being said, rationally balancing risks vs. freedoms is the most intense parenting task IMO.


This is all true. Stern talk is certainly helpful... to a point. Be aware that he is listening and absorbing everything, and since your rules are literally his entire world, he will be the most amazing rules lawyer possible. And he is way smarter than you think way younger. At 3 my kid was reprimanding my behavior for not following my own rules, and lately he's begun to tell me when I've been unreasonably angry ("you need to listen" or "you yelled and made me sad" are the forms this sometimes take... just apply judgment as to whether he's correct so he doesn't take advantage of parental guilt). He's sometimes mixed up about cause and effect (he's 3) but taking his emotions and 3 year old logic seriously has been very helpful for understanding why he's upset and helping him control himself, or tell me when I've been acting unreasonably.

Also, Daniel Tiger is amazing. There's a song for everything and he's memorized all of them.


We had one instance where it backfired so far. About two months ago I overdid it a bit when telling him to cut out going number two in the shower/bath (happened 2-3 times during potty training). That traumatised him about bathing, to the point where he was scared of going to take a bath, instead wanted to sit on the toilet for 1-2h. Let's say he already showed me where my boundaries are...


God yes hallelujah!


>But the "rules are bad" trope is, unfortunately, a trend in The Netherlands. Parents that live by this rule are sacrificing themselves. It's bad parenting.

TCS explicitly says don't sacrifice yourself, even in the specific essay linked. The people in the Netherlands are not doing TCS.

It's a common trap people fall into though, even with conventional parents. I agree that self-sacrifice is bad. There's a lot to TCS other than not having rules though.

You can't just drop rules and expect everything to work out great. That would be naive. You have to actively seek out solutions that work for you and your kid. And really work, not "work" in a compromising, sharing-of-misery kind of way.

>I see a lot of parents (mothers mostly) in public places desperately trying to explain their dissatisfaction to their misbehaving children.

What you aren't seeing is the thousands of times the child has been thwarted, denied, forced, coerced, dragged around, insufficiently helped, etc.

>The children meanwhile are completely disregarding them and will continue doing whatever they were doing untill the parents give up.

Does that strike you as the approach a child would take if their parent were typically super helpful, responsive, and had a really strong strong track record of taking the child seriously?

>The parents will end up awkwardly trying to ignore their children,

this is not TCS!

>visibly ashamed

ashamed of their helpless, dependent children who are actively upset about something!

>but still unable to use their authority for fear of breaking their chosen path to happy parenting.

You describe a sad situation but something that is not at all a criticism of TCS. It's rather compatible with the TCS worldview (the bare facts of the situations described, not your interpretation)

>They won't even raise their voice.

Having a big person yell at you isn't helpful or nice.


> Does that strike you as the approach a child would take if their parent were typically super helpful, responsive, and had a really strong strong track record of taking the child seriously?

How many 2 year olds have you raised? I ask, because that’s exactly how many kids act naturally. They don’t realize when parents are ‘super helpful’, their behavior is much more base than that.

I can tell you first hand, a small percentage of kids will behave well almost naturally n matter what you do, and some will behave poorly no matter what is done. Most though seem to thrive with sensible boundaries in place.


You have never had children, right? Or if you did, you had one and they’re still pre-toddler?

I know that some people had horrible parents that mistreated them and hence they ended up being very sensitive to any parental reprimand. That sucks. None the less, kids need unconditional love, but they also need boundaries. Loving them means you sometime have to lay down the law. It’s not fun. It’s a hell of a lot easier to not do it.


But there are real reasons to not do it? Doesn't it seem rude or unfair or maybe hateful to imply (imply, not say explicitly) that the only reason people would avoid laying down the law is out of laziness?


No I don’t think there are reasons to never do it. There are simply so many situations that come up that I cannot comprehend why never doing it is the right choice. Please note though, I’m not saying that the reason you’d not do it is laziness. Hell no. If anything that approach is more work.


Hm ok.. I don't know why i interpreted that way but its comforting to hear thats not what you intended.


You sound very judgmental.

Bring up kids is hard, what those “mothers” are doing is hard, physically exhausting work which often takes 18 hours a day. You know nothing of their personal circumstances but decide to judge them anyway. For me, it’s amazing that many full time care givers can hold it together as well as they do.


I live in the Netherlands, have 4 kids. I don't see what you see.

Anecdotal evidence is a really terrible way to inform your parenting.


There's a ton of selection bias on both sides of this discussion. You were motivated to post your personal counterexample in order to defend Dutch parenting (whereas Dutch parents with misbehaving children would not be), and the poster above would have been noticing the misbehaving children regardless of how many well-behaved children were nearby.


Sometimes what you experience firsthand is ten times more valuable then what you read on the internet. And maybe the struggling parents I saw are a local problem. But judging by the upvotes, there are more people who have similar experiences.


You’re getting upvotes most likely because most of the people on HN are either childless (and don’t fully understand what parenting involves) or don’t take an active role in parenting (this is unfortunately true of the people I know in real life who are on HN).


Or maybe its just the childless Americans (raised in a culture where spanking is widely accepted) that upvote the tough line on child discipline.

I mean, your original post was really about how to enforce rules, though you spent most of it conjuring up the image of publicly annoying children and then assuming their parents don't set any rules.

Somewhat surprisingly you also describe how the same parents that supposedly don't set rules clearly trying (but failing) to enforce said non-existing rules...

Just say what you mean: you make your children obey you by physical means.


I hope I'm misreading your implications when you say "you make your children obey you by physical means", because it sounds like you're accusing the parent commenter of child abuse. I'm sure that's not what you intended but I wanted to make it clear how that could come across.


Spanking isn't considered abuse in American culture. But you can make children obey physically without spanking. There is snatching from them, picking them up, etc. Those are physically asserting yourself over them to enforce a specific outcome. Not saying that's good or bad, just showing how the poster didn't imply abuse.


The original commenter didn't mention physical discipline though - in fact, they explicitly stated that the parents in question wouldn't even raise their voice, which I took to mean that the solution was to verbally discipline misbehaving children rather than trying to explain the rules to them as you would an adult peer.


Sometimes these other attempts do not work. (I had to use medieval methods exactly once for very good reason: electric sockets. Child safety and covers only go so far.)


>Just say what you mean: you make your children obey you by physical means.

You say this like its inherently a bad thing. Do you think children are abused by their nervous system that keeps them from biting their tongue and chewing on their jaw by causing them pain when they do so? Does this process cause them mental trauma? If not then why do we act like using a proportional amount of physical means to instill correct behavior in young children is inherently a bad thing? This "enlightened" parenting movement has really jumped the shark.


Does it seem brutish or incivil to stoop to physical means to adjust your child? Maybe you should cultivate reason. I wouldn't have written this comment except your comment about the enlightened parenting movement jumping the shark seriously rubbed me the wrong way.. as if to say we should not try and do better, we should just do things the way theyve been done for most of time. Its such a backwards and harmful perspective. We see problems that we can fix, why wouldn't we? Does it threaten your parenting style? Will your kids not respect you if you withhold violence?


>We see problems that we can fix, why wouldn't we?

Because we don't know its a problem. We have ideas that may or may not be sound. But we push them on the world with a fervor far beyond that which is justified by the facts, going so far as to criminalize non-abusive spanking in some places.

>Does it seem brutish or incivil to stoop to physical means to adjust your child?

These just aren't the types of judgments that a make sound basis for widespread forcible change of parenting styles.


>Because we don't know its a problem. We have ideas that may or may not be sound. But we push them on the world with a fervor far beyond that which is justified by the facts, going so far as to criminalize non-abusive spanking in some places.

We should operate on our best understanding, no? You're right we don't know it, as we don't know anything. I suppose we should not act like we know it, as you say, and should not punish people too severely for such things. Thats not to say we shouldn't use our best judgement, which is that such parenting styles are perhaps "savage" (i hesitate to use that word in particular, but maybe you get the meaning). If verbal conflict is enough to be incredibly stressful, can you imagine physical conflict? Verbal conflict already gives me immense anxiety.

>These just aren't the types of judgments that a make sound basis for widespread forcible change of parenting styles.

Why not? And then what types of judgements would? THis sounds like a comment just intended to resist change, and the kinds of judgements I imagine you supporting are ones that dont cause change.


I just think widespread change should be instigated by sound science, not by unproven ideas about how things should be or what we think is ideal. There is a lot of information encoded in current practices, we should not wholesale toss out convention without fully understanding the consequences. There is the potential for immense damage if our ideas about how to best raise competent adults is wrong.

>Thats not to say we shouldn't use our best judgement, which is that such parenting styles are perhaps "savage"

My concern is the value of these judgments in getting at the truth of the matter. Judging corporal punishment as harmful because we as a society have decided that violence is savage, is just an invalid deduction. But we've become so accustomed to reasoning-by-emotion that its hard to push back against loud voices that declare corporal punishment no longer acceptable. But the risks are too high to let our emotions overtake the science on the issue.


This topic is very hard. What would be harmful? We have to agree about that first.. somehow it seems putting your child into an awkward position is harmful, and itd be awkward if your child was normalized to corporal punishment.. Thats probably not that severe of a harm to the point that it should prevent you from considering corporal punishment.


Harmful in the sense of raising children who have never had any real boundaries growing up and so don't respect a parent's authority, are impulse-driven, are unable to delay gratification, have no work ethic, etc. These traits are detrimental to academic careers and job prospects.

That isn't to say that all children who aren't spanked grow up into these sorts of adults. But some children inherently have more behavioral issues, or are brought up in bad environments with a lot of negative influences, and they can grow into serious deviant adult behavior if not properly addressed when they're young. Corporal punishment is an effective tool and it needs to be on the table unless proven otherwise.


I didnt know we were still concerned about deviant adult behavior in 2017 lol.. Seems like deviance is fine to me and everyone is free to live a life according to their own wishes and priorities


You misread me. I mean deviant as harmful, not deviant as alternative.


> Just say what you mean: you make your children obey you by physical means.

This comment badly breaks the HN guideline which asks you to "respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize." I know it's not always easy, but please follow it when commenting here. Otherwise we just end up with misplaced outrage compounded.


If true, this would be an unfortunate ignorance of Kohlberg's theories of moral development (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg%27s_stages_o...).


These are not laws. The observations and patterns do not exactly match across cultures. The basic premise of moral rationality is plenty flawed as well.


> But the "rules are bad" trope is, unfortunately, a trend in The Netherlands. Parents that live by this rule are sacrificing themselves. It's bad parenting.

Ironically the problem arises from a self inflicted rule: "don't be angry". If they truly thought from first principles they would have realized.


My brother, who have no kids, have a kind of doing things that makes the kids like him (he was a handball coach at the time). When I asked him what it was many years ago, he told me : « I treat them as adults, talk to them on an equal base »

So when my children was born, I decided to do the same for them. Talking like an adult (with sometimes words they had no chance to understand), explain the why and how of stuff we ask them to do.

Never raised the hand on them. Sometimes it’s a little hard to deal, but most of the time everything goes well.

We’ll see when they will be teenagers, but for now, we all live in harmony, and we are often complimented by other parents for their behavior.

Maybe we got lucky (we will never know) or may be this approach was good.

But for us, it’s the way to do.


It's always worked for me. Kids are used to being dominated and condescended. If you talk to them as respected individuals, you usually get respect back. It also gives more weight to the times you have to be more assertive.

The other helpful thing is to let them be right. Make mistakes on purpose and let them correct you. They're so hungry to be right that it gives a real confident boost.

It should go without saying that this strategy should be used only when it's reasonable, not in cases of safety or when keeping kids from wrecking havoc etc.


> [Subordinates] are used to being dominated and condescended. If you talk to them as respected individuals, you usually get respect back. It also gives more weight to the times you have to be more assertive.

This is actually pretty good advice for any time you're trying to manage people -- and kids are just little people.


One point of view I find helpful is the reverse, that people are just really old kids. It makes it easier to, within limits, accept and forgive irrational behavior (including my own!) while keeping a positive, growth-oriented mindset.


The Coding Horror blog has a great piece on how the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk helped him out with a lot more than just his kids.

https://blog.codinghorror.com/how-to-talk-to-human-beings/


Excellent blog post!

And if anyone is looking for the book (like I was), this seems to be a more recent edition (with better availability):

https://www.amazon.com/How-Talk-Kids-Will-Listen/dp/14516638...


Yes and because children are people rather than intellectual abstractions they need authority (not domineering but authority backed up by force nonetheless). A developing mind is like a nation, with many strands. I live in a relatively peaceful and advanced country but I know that if the police had their weapons and handcuffs taken away tomorrow then evil strands would quickly rise up and destroy everything.



The thing is: it's very different being the coach or the nanny than being the parents: one friend told me that it was very easy for her to take care of others children so she expected that it would be the same for her own children, which wasn't the case at all!


As he still have no kids at 44 (and not intend to have any), I guess I’ll never know if he would have be a good father or not.

Beside that, I followed his advice and I am very glad I did


Definitively got lucky. Some kids just don't listen, no matter how you talk to them.


> My brother, who have no kids, have a kind of doing things that makes the kids like him (he was a handball coach at the time).

Yep. I'm an Uncle of three kids, and I often get comments about how well I connect with them. I take exactly the same approach - treat them as equals, respect what they say, more than anything _listen to them_.


Thanks for sharing, treating children with the same dignity you would give to an adult is certainly a great way to respect them as individuals.

I'm sure you make a positive impact on every young person you speak to this way—maybe once they are grown they will share with you and you'll have results to your 'experiment' :D


I'm hoping to combine this with a lack of understanding on false dichotomy to foster both respect and free thinking... Which are somewhat incongruous goals, so it's a toughie. The general idea is to not only talk to them like adults, but allow them to make choices like one also. But I'm hoping that offering controlled choices with consistent consequences will get us there. I'll know I'm in trouble when they start coming up with their own choices...


I like this idea but let's take it to the limit. Very young children (<2 say) aren't reasoning or reasonable creatures in the usual way we might expect of adults.

They are very scientific (aka will try all the things and are surprisingly astute and pragmatic about learning what works) but they do not have a broader perspective on the world.

"Rules" like "time to go to sleep" and "I'll stop you running onto the road" are not negotiable in any meaningful sense. Other rules for older children can often be viewed as extensions of this.

Mistakes are not free. Some rules are OK.


Clearly it is a process - the point the article is making isn't that rules shouldn't exist, rather that any rule should just be a conclusion being explained to the child.

i.e: The answer to "why" should never be "because I said so".

I get that many kids will just ask why infinitely, and lots of parents say that because they are fed up and know the child isn't taking on board the answer, but I'd recommend instead insisting on a specific question - when they ask "why", ask "what don't you understand?" or drill down. This has the advantage of potentially catching a real miscommunication where the child doesn't understand something but truly is trying to work it out, and tends to remove an easy annoyance of the "why" forever.

If the child isn't old enough to understand that cooker == hot and hot + hand == pain, clearly you have to stop them touching the cooker, but that's not mutually exclusive with helping them understand why, if possible.

I remember my parents teaching me not to put my fingers in the door frame when it was open by putting a carrot through and letting me close the door, slicing the carrot in half. I wasn't afraid of punishment or following a rule - I understood why I shouldn't do it, so I didn't.


Pretty much this. A personal anecdote: a few months ago we realized our daughter was waking up very tired in the morning, so we figured she wasn't getting enough sleep. When we told her that bedtime was moving earlier, her initial reaction was to get very upset and ask why. Instead of saying "because we've said so" (like I know a lot of parents do), we calmly explained how it's important for humans to get adequate amounts of sleep, and that at her age she should be getting X hours of sleep at night (and we showed her the math matching the new bed time with the time she has to wake up for school). The explanation made perfect sense to her, and she's so into the new routine that we don't even have to tell her it's time to go to bed most nights.


This is it. It's definitely hard because teaching is not easy. It takes time to explain things to kids and it can be hard to tell what they are taking on board and when they are just asking questions because they can and not really caring (although making it a dialogue by asking questions back about what they want to know can help a lot).

It definitely pays off a lot though, and I remember being a child and the frustration I felt when I didn't understand and rules felt arbitrary. I wouldn't wish that on any child.


May I ask how old your daughter was at the time?


9.


"I find many adults are put off when young children pose scientific questions. Why is the Moon round? the children ask. Why is grass green? What is a dream? How deep can you dig a hole? When is the world’s birthday? Why do we have toes? Too many teachers and parents answer with irritation or ridicule, or quickly move on to something else: ‘What did you expect the Moon to be, square?’ Children soon recognize that somehow this kind of question annoys the grown-ups. A few more experiences like it, and another child has been lost to science. Why adults should pretend to omniscience before 6-year-olds, I can’t for the life of me understand. What’s wrong with admitting that we don’t know something? " - Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World


But that's the best bit of having small kids. They ask the best questions!


The carrot example is a great example. I think I’ll try it. Thanks!

My only fear is that I’ll just teach them a new way to chop carrots :)


Obviously some things are not easy to make so visceral and easy to understand, but that one is indeed a great one. It stuck with me well.


Parent of a two year old. Totally agreed. Nap time and safety issues are when we lose our cool :(


Very well said. Even at 9 and 10, or arguably up to 18-years-old many rules are non-negotiable.


My experience is that by 13 years old a person has enough cognitive ability to understand and negotiate any rule. They lack the experience to negotiate every rule, but any individual thing they pick, from sex to drugs to skipping school, can be understood deep enough for them to set their own terms safely if they aren't happy with the default.


If you are a parent and are interested in this article, I highly recommend you go find another parenting method that actually provides any semblance of research, investigation, etc. This is nothing more than an anecdotal blog post about parenting, filled with agreeable-sounding ideas. Many of which seem to only pertain to handling children's learning, rather than overall parenting, but the author suggests them generally.

My two cents: children are not little adults and should not be treated as such. Adults have >20 years of life experience, children do not. Children do not know how to control emotions and are not reasonable (duh). There is substantial research into how children develop, including their brains and thought processes. For example, young children are not capable of abstract thought like adults are. This recent fad of treating children as equals is, to me, bizarre and damaging. Don't learn from a random blog post - go read the science (or a parenting book by someone who has). Anecdotally, children I encounter who are raised by this sort of method are rude, brittle know-it-alls who cannot accept being told 'no'.

My favorite parenting rule of thumb: teach your children now with rules and tough love because if you don't, the world will teach them later - and the world doesn't love your children.


Another thing that seems pretty suspect is that this article makes no mention of ideas of empathy, emotion, or love. I don't have kids, but it seems a little cold to raise a child without an emphasis on understanding their emotions and the emotions of others. Teaching rationality is all well and good but it's no substitute for helping kids learn softer skills -- since the human interactions they facilitate in later life are probably more important than being able to solve a hard math problem.

Also the section that "Children Aren't Fragile" is a gross oversimplification. Kids are extremely fragile when it comes to things like neglect, abuse and instability in their environment.


I would not go as far as "extremely" there, kids are resilient too but anything with big enough impact will have far reaching results.


There are some useful, attractive parenting principles here, but it's worth remembering that raising a child is like a large, complex, multi-year software dev project with a vague spec and constant scope creep. There are some methods that can help, but every one is a unique snowflake. I love the concept of critical rationalism, but it isn't going to work always, or work for all kids. Sometimes, someone in charge just needs to make a decision for things to work.

Set the example, be consistent, give them your attention, help them to own their decisions, and teach them to follow Wheaton's Law. After that, you've just got to hope that things work out.

Source: father of two (quite different) children, with approximately 10,000 parenting failures under my belt.


I love your humility. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


That's such a wonderful description of parenting!


With my daughter, I avoided telling her something was wrong, or bad. If she was doing something that negatively impacted the people around her, I'd hold her attention. (This practice started around nine months, so quite literally held her attention. Both hands, and maintained eye contact.)

In a calm voice I would ask her questions about what she is doing, and those around her. She's usually come to an understanding of her own, pre-veral she'd go give hugs and change her behaviour. Post-verbal she would apologize, and change her behaviour.

I was always very proud of her ability to learn and look at out side perspectives. Even if she had to be prompted into viewing them.

I recently thought about this, (earlier today actually). How it differs from sending to their room or corner to "think about what they did."

They don't know at that age what they did. Heck up into young teen years. What do YOU do when sent to your room? If you're like me, you stomped, you sulked, you threw things, you thought about how much everyone hates you. That you're just a burden, that no one would even notice if you were gone... Then your think, no they'll notice, that they have less food to make, less expenses etc, all the ways your mere existence is a burden. Maybe, again, if you're like me, you drift into thought about your grandparents, they love you, they'll miss you. You're never a burden to them. You contemplate running away, maybe to their house. But at no point, do you think about apologizing, what did you do? They're just mean control freaks!

So if you didn't come to think about your actions, you an intelligent, thought oriented, hacker type, what hope does your adolescent child have?

Share your wisdom and insight. They'll learn better if you let them think and help them to it, than if you tell them to and leave it at that. They might even help you think about new perspectives, who knows.


> In a calm voice I would ask her questions about what she is doing, and those around her.

Would you mind to elaborate and give concrete examples?

In day care we have a 2y old child (younger brother to a 3.5y old) that bites (hard), scratches and hits other kids when it does not get its way. This goes on for over a year now. The parents dont seem to know how to cope and just shrug it off as "he is just wild, thats what kids do in this age".

The other day i could witness myself how he was hitting an older kid with a sound wood full force on the head (because the other kid did not want to give away his toy). The other kid started crying and he had this evil grin, knowing full well he hurt the other kid.

What to do with such a child?


The child is a danger to other kids and should be expelled from the day care. If the day care isn't willing to do that you should find a new safer day care for your child.

--edit:

I just want to add that as was posted this behavior has been ongoing for over 1 year now, and the child is physically assaulting other children by hard biting (possibly breaking skin??), scratching and hitting "full force" another child on their head.

The severity and chronic nature of the bad behavior I think requires attention that this particular day care has not been able to provide. Additionally it is putting the other children continually at risk.

If these were adults, we wouldn't think twice about removing the individual. However since these are "just" preschoolers - is it somehow acceptable for kids to be subjected to these kinds of dangers? We rationalize that it's ok to send our children into such a stressful and potentially dangerous environment - and sometimes it is indeed "kids being kids" - but not in this case imo.

I respect and admire the compassion shown by some posts here to try to "fix" the child who is misbehaving. But the safety of the other children also has to be considered.

My son's daycare had a similar child who would bite and throw things when he didn't get his way. They tried to work with the child and the parents but after a while they expelled the child for the safety of the other children.


> What to do with such a child?

In the UK (and this advice might not work elsewhere): make a referral to child protective social services.

The child is exhibiting behaviour that's harmful to other people, and to the child. The parents are not addressing that behaviour. The child needs support to change the behaviour. The route to that support (such as access to a parenting course like Webster-Stratton) is via child protective social services.

If they go through a parenting course and the behaviour isn't changing there are a range of other things - referral to CAMHS for assessments for autism or ADHD or other disorders - that can be tried.

Child protective social workers should not be punitive, and this isn't about removing the child from the parents, so this advice doesn't apply to countries with dysfunctional child protective systems.


If the kid where given special training in lending/giving, with a lot of positive feedback, that may have a great effect. That is, not just that kid, but let the whole group do exercises where the good behavior is given a lot of positive feedback. Give no feedback on the bad but rather on the good, and let them have chances to do good, i.e. stopping the bad event in the track and give them a chance to turn it around.

At our local daycare they run campaigns certain story where they do all kind of games/workshops with the characters in the story the chose. I as a parent feel that it's empowering me as well, because I can easily relate to my kid at home or the playground when somethings off. It's not something you do one day, but rather a couple of months, interacting with lecturers that instruct staff in the day care how to do it properly etc. From what I have talked with the staff they enjoy it very much as well. This combined with tailored structure is powerful. AFAIK universities/research are quite interested in this.

We do have such a kid in they neighborhood and on the daycare, they think a lot of how to turn it around though. I hope that they will find a way to reach that kid with their current tool set. I think focused efforts on that kid/group for a longer period would have a good effect.


I’d see a psychologist because your child kinda sounds like a sociopath: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/when-yo...


It’s not his child


I’d see a psychologist because THAT child kinda sounds like a sociopath.


You cannot diagnose sociopathy or psychopathy in toddlers.


I know this is HN and the mob is capricious and vengeful, but the downvotes make no sense. Hurting other children and laughing about it is actually a frightening symptom of sociopathy. But I know The Atlantic isn’t about startups so everyone’s probably just ignoring the article.


Your advice is unhelpful, in two ways. One, you're suggesting a psychological diagnosis without nearly enough information. Two, the action you suggest taking (see a psychologist) is not an avenue available to the person you're talking to. How would them seeing a psychologist help when another person's child is the perpetrator?

That's my guess about why you are being downvoted. If I had enough karma, I'd do the same.


Yes and no. From my limited exposure to kids (father of two - 3.5 and 1.5), while in vast majority of cases explaining makes a difference, there are areas where there's perfect understanding but that doesn't lead to desired behavior. Like the older taking everything away from his little brother. He knows perfectly well he can't do it. He was also shown how it feels (I took everything from him for several minutes). He still does it. There's a certain emotional (on one side) and moral (on the other side) aspect that goes beyond mere explaining and understanding.


I've been reading the 1-2-3 Magic book (expecting my first soon), and the philosophies have extremely stark differences. The 123 approach outright attacks (what it calls) the fallacy of "little adults" - saying that explaining is just frustrating to children who don't have a chance at understanding. The 123 approach probably comes across as more traditional.

The best theory I have is to build rock-solid boundaries, but to do so at a meaningful distance. Humans and animals are good at working with a "duality" of personalities. Children should have plenty of space to explore, be creative, and develop relationships, but going beyond a certain well-established limit brings out the bad cop. A lot of 123 methods looks like, to me, ways to make the kid recognize and respect the bad cop... but still have confidence that bad cop won't show up if they will stay inside of defined bounds.

Constant behavior correction is terrible, and leads to psychological problems. Too much of what I see takes this problem and turns it around to "no correction". That's probably not AS bad for the child, but is inviting disaster on the part of the parents.


I have two teenagers. An important aspect of 123 is that you are in absolute total control of your emotions. Saying "that's 1" and "that's 2" is a way of calming yourself down so you can manage the situation rationally without having to physically intervene.

It's all about controlling your own behavior.

When my spouse and I were expecting, I actually took a class on 123 at the hospital. The instructor gave one piece of advice, which I still remember: Your home environment when you were growing up will determine whether 123 will work for you now. Nothing works for everybody.


I need to get this book. I can feel the veneer of my patience slipping. My daughter is 22 months, and she's definitely in the boundary-pushing stage, and trying to assert control over as much as she can.


One trick I developed: The 123 thing is great for stopping a behavior, but not necessarily for starting one, such as getting into the bathtub. For those things, I used a count-down: 10, 9, 8...

My kids never found out what happened if I got to zero.

I think the method was useful because it distracted them from whatever they actually wanted to do, just long enough to get their minds on what I wanted.


Me and my wife (a highly qualified childcare professional) used to have theories, too. Now that we have kids, we no longer have theories. We just play by ear.

BTW I never heard of 123 but it just sounds like a pretty natural, common sense approach.


I agree. What’s been interesting is getting to know other families with kids. It’s obviously not always the case, but the fathers often have these elaborate theories. They also look really good in public. I know their wives too. The reality is that they do almost no childcare at home, and their wives have to do almost everything.

It sucks, but the reality (to me) is that you deal with the situations as they appear. Hardest part is managing your own exhaustion after little sleep, look after kids for hours a day for years, and trying to hold down a job at the same time.


I suspect that we are strongly influenced by how we were raised ourselves, and possibly even by genetics. The deluge of parenting advice may give a false impression of how much control we actually have.


This is the closest thing to true, imo. I'm not trying to say we know nothing about parenting. Beating your children probably leads to worse outcomes than not, for example. However the rest is vulnerable to a host of selection bias issues, which rarely seem to be addressed. I'm not saying to ignore advice either, but take it with a grain of salt. If it doesn't work for you, maybe you are doing it wrong. Or maybe your kid is just not the type for which it will work.


There is beating and then there is Pavlovian discipline. While really not the best thing to do, sometimes it really is the last resort... (Say when the kid really is attempting something deadly.)

Have to be real careful when forming associations this way, like some other poster tried with his kid potty training and messed it up. The whole situation gets associated not just what you want. And it is real hard to reverse.


Children don't develop meaningful self control and decision making until age 3-5. He's still developing the capacity to make decisions about not doing something he wants to. I would argue that the moral/explaining/understanding part of the equation is never even invoked because the capability to invoke it hasn't physically developed yet.


It's never a binary thing, though. You can't just one day wake up and say 'son, now you're old enough to know better'. If you do so, a smart kid will simply ask 'so dad, what changed since yesterday?'.


Oh absolutely, you have to treat them the same regardless, I just meant the parent should expect results until they are like 5.


That doesn't seem much of an obstacle. Something did change, and you can certainly explain that.


The point is that nothing did change. Children don't go from animals to sentient beings overnight - they develop gradually.

So how do you deal with that? You take them seriously, and you accept that it isn't going to work at first, and then will work imperfectly, but will work fully when they're ready for it.


Yes, something did change, or else why are you changing the rules? Your understanding of them changes. Your opinion changes. Something had to change. And even if you don't know when it changed, you can still explain that it has.


I would recommend checking out the Stanford marshmallow experiment and the connection to the prefrontal cortex.

In the context of the article, it is rather unclear if punishment will work when a kid understand a rule but is unable to moderate their own behavior.


Stanford marshmallow experiment has been debunked. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/09/09/03kohn.h34.htm...


>> Stanford marshmallow experiment and the connection to the prefrontal cortex.

From that article:

> The outcome, as it's usually represented, is that the children who were able to wait for an extra treat scored better on measures of cognitive and social skills many years later and had higher SAT scores. Thus, if we teach kids to put off the payoff as long as possible, they'll be more successful.

But I did not use the usually representation. See the highlighted part I made? "The connection to the prefrontal cortex", ie the development of the brain to moderating social behavior in particular young children? The linked article is not debunking nor dispelling the link between prefrontal cortex development and the ability to moderate social behavior.

What the the article do debunk is the predictable nature of looking at early ability to moderate social behavior in young children.

> when the children were tracked down 10 years later, those who had been more likely to wait didn't have any more self-control or willpower than the others.

Which is possible true. It was just not the part I refereed to. Here is some sources if you like: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S187892931...

"We suggest that input from these brain regions contribute to three functions involved in generating flexible behavior within social contexts: valuation, inhibition, and rule use"

See the connection between topic we are talking about and inhibition and rule use? Lets take an other study. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110831160220.h...

That one somewhat debunks the debunking article, but I have no horse in that race. The Stanford marshmallow experiment is simply a starting point on the subject, but its an old study with multiple claims, some that is likely to be false. One can always skip it and jump directly into the more heavy research papers from recent dates.


I'm skeptical. Their emphasis on "rational philosophy" and Popper* would be more convincing if they put the research front and centre. Everybody has advice on how to bring up someone else's kids. Most of it isn't nearly as helpful as they imagine.

* Aside: seriously people, there have been rational philosophers since Popper


Here's a puzzle that I've struggled with: I love critical rationalism, but I'm a terrible debater and negotiator. Put in the context of raising kids, if they ask "why" and end up winning the debate despite being wrong, do they get their way?

Should my own actions be dictated by anybody who happens to be a better debater than me? I hope the hell not.

What if the options at hand aren't as crystal clear as the textbook cases that tend to be cited in discussions and books, and the illusion of rationality is just that? What if debate skill is not strictly rational, or even informational, but includes an emotional component plus time pressure?

I suspect that what we consider to be "irrational" approaches, such as asserting our own authority, are in fact survival skills that reflect the limitations of rational debate.


> but includes an emotional component plus time pressure?

You don't even need those things. Intelligence and practice will suffice, even for "purely rational arguments".

Defending Truth makes debates easier to win, but isn't a necessary or sufficient condition.


Maybe motivation is a factor too. Debate and negotiation are not games that I anticipate enjoying, whereas spending intelligence and practice on becoming a better musician motivates me. ;-)

Also, I suspect that Truth isn't always easy to discern, especially in a world where we're immersed in tradeoffs and complex systems.


>Debate and negotiation are not games that I anticipate enjoying

Yes and I think that's because they entail criticism, which is used to attack ideas and people we don't like. Whereas creating something worthwhile is about discovering or perceiving something already inside the mind that we do like (and therefore cannot seriously attempt to criticize). Building a family is an attempt to create something worthwhile.


I'm reminded of a saying: "It takes a carpenter to build a shed, but a jackass can knock it down."


I dedicate this comment to future parents. You'll come across many a BS, and it'll hit you in a very sensitive period of life - when many of your established defence mechanisms would enter a general CCD state. And some of it is actually true! But how can we tell the difference? Surely there's a simple bluestick test for that? Yes, there is!

1. Does it offer something concrete? Does it give examples? Does it include recipes how to handle situations? Can you tell if your own parents followed that "way" or not? Parenting BS/fluff tend to appear in the form of a "philosophy". If you say something very specific, people may actually try it, and find out it does not work for them.

2. Ask your parents. They are 20++ yoe ahead of you on this one.


> 2. Ask your parents. They are 20++ yoe ahead of you on this one.

And they might still not be very good at it. There's a catch-22 here, in that if your parents were good at parenting, you've probably grown up into a well-adjusted adult whose natural instincts are to be a good parent yourself. Whereas if your parents were bad at parenting, you've probably grown up to be a normal messed-up member of society whose instincts can't be relied on. Parenting advice is most useful for those people, and they can't rely on their parent's evaluation of it.


"Obedience and rules are bad."

Yeah, okay, um...I really really really don't want to have to be around these families in a public space then. There's nothing more obnoxious than trying to raise my own munchkins to be well behaved while hipster spawn are being disrespectful, selfish, and loud as hell with their parents cheering them on (at the library, movie theater, grocery store, playground, etc).


You don't need obedience and rules to have good behaviour.

The difference is the framing, not the outcome. The author is saying you shouldn't just say "Don't shout in the cinema." and expect them not to do it because you told them. You should say "Shouting in the cinema will ruin the film for other people." and expect them not to do it because they understand they are impacting others.

I see the kind of parenting being described all the time - the "because I said so" parent. I get that sometimes kids are unreasonable and won't take a reasoned argument, but many parents never try or give up forever, and that means the child isn't learning or understanding why they are doing or not doing things, just (at best) forming a habit that may or may not persist when the parent isn't there.

My parents taught me by explaining - treating me like a person with little experience, not an animal to be trained.

The point is, rules shouldn't be needed - they should be logical conclusions from the things you are teaching them. Yes, sometimes you have to step in (because they misunderstood something, or messed up the logic), but that's the exception, not the rule, and it's fixed by teaching, not demanding obedience. The parenting style that expects children never to question their parents is just astounding to me, how are they meant to learn?


> I see the kind of parenting being described all the time - the "because I said so" parent.

Wandering the topic a bit, I'm reminded of a book [0] which argues that sometimes "because that's what I want" is actually better and more-honest than making up a reason like "because that's what good little children do."

So I'd like to propose a hierarchy of

1. Explain what practical or empathetic concern drives you to make the request, so they can learn to emulate your logic.

2. Ask them to do it because you desire it.

3. Explain with a "you should always" story that involves badness or guilt which isn't actually the logic you used to reach that decision.

[0] "When I Say No, I Feel Guilty" by Manuel J. Smith


"Because that's what I want" is a perfectly good reason - your children should absolutely be learning you are a person like them, and they should aim to help any person achieve what they want if it is reasonable for them to do so. It's not at all the same as "because I said so", which is a claim of authority.

Of course, you also shouldn't just frame everything that way, otherwise they won't understand the reasons they should want to do things, and because if it is a "want", that should be weighed up against what other people want and how important it is to them, fairness, etc... which is probably a more complex problem than most.


I think the point is to try to be the most honest and clear that you can about the situation and consequences.

With that you don’t need a hierarchy:

1 and 2 are the same, you just have shallower arguments in 2

3 is not an option IMO, it really should be 2: you can plainly say “I can’t explain, but that’s what I believe is right” and let the kid decide what they want to do.

This helps if the kid doesn’t take your side: if you’re not happy with outcome, there was clear a warning, making an eventual punishment more fair;

Or if they happen to be right, you don’t lose credibility as you were transparent about your standpoint and you can make it right to them.


I don’t agree. TBH I haven’t read the whole article, but as a parent raising two kids with this approach, The trick is to explain. It’s not rules as in « it’s forbidden to do this or that » but rather to explain why you don’t do that.

You don’t behave well because you must, you behave well because it’s the kindest way to do.

As stated, children are not stupid, and if you treat them as person and not as inferior human, a lot of good things can come out of this :-)


I also think that trust is better than obedience, and that insight is better than rules. Sometimes there can be a rule first and insight later, such as "don't run into the road until you're old enough to understand why", but when the trust is there, and parents generally "practice what they preach", when they themselves act out of trust and insight rather than out of obedience to arbitrary rules, it helps. It doesn't mean the child will magically understand everything on first attempt without hiccups, but when parents lack too much grounding and confidence, that makes it really hard on kids.

IMO it's demanding too much of both parents and children to expect that in 100.0% of all situations, but at least as something to strive towards I find it very important. Parents can be stressed out or confused, they can be under pressure from other adults, life can throw all sorts of curve balls and often we have to make do with what we have at that time. And that's fine; parents thinking they're bad parents just because they're not "perfect", or because life isn't perfect even though they did nothing wrong per se, also erodes trust and makes the whole enterprise harder than it needs to be. So at the very least, one has to trust that one can get to a place where one can trust themselves, and be on the way to that. Kids notice that, and adults can save themselves a lot of trouble by not lying to them, which is only possible if they aren't lying to themselves. "Because I say so" should never be the final statement, at least make it something like "right now because I say so, but I'll explain when things are less hectic" etc. Kids smell weakness and dishonesty, as they should. It's okay to be weak sometimes, but dishonesty is not.

When I was a kid, I didn't take shit from anyone, but I also respected the adults who didn't take shit from me. And I still remember plenty of such occasions fondly, mostly teachers; but one time I was arguing with a friend, you might say we had a fight, and some random stranger bought us two ice cream cones and said to play nice (our parents were present, he wasn't a creep, it was in a holiday resort). I told him "das kannst du dir in die Haare schmieren", which you could translate as "shove it up your ass", but literally means "you can smear that into your own hair". He proceeded to smear the ice cream cone into my hair. Slowly, in a friendly way, while smiling, but that's still what he did. I was awestruck. I wasn't even mad, I instantly respected the person. And our parents laughed, too; I guess these days, with the wrong parents, he would have the cops called on him. But he just took me seriously, he didn't treat me "like a child", that's how it felt to me. It's hard to explain, and the anecdote is really silly I know. But that actually happened, and I'll always cherish the memory ^^


You have a very naive idealistic view of the world. A lot of bad things HAVE come out of such views of the world.


That's quite clearly not what the author is suggesting.


Honestly, I suspect you'd probably like them. The fact is that trying to apply any parenting philosophy, however false, is on average going to be an improvement over current parenting. Children are starving for attention and interaction with adults. But parental attention is elsewhere, despite the fact that being with children is about the most fun and satisfying thing there is.


Being loud on playground is officially ok.


I’d be worried about a kid being quiet on the playground. Those are the ones up to something mischievous lol


Yes. We have the concept of "inside voices" or "outside voices".


I believe that letting kids get their loudness out outside is essential for them to learn to be quiet and respectful inside.

My niece has this obnoxious fucking horn she "plays" all the time. We've told her that she's allowed to play it all she wants, she just has to do it outside (so our ears don't bleed).


The article makes many good points but (as many others have noted) it really misses the mark on rules and obedience. Rules and obedience are an essential abstraction to allow larger organisations of people to function and interoperate. The rules aren't always the best for each individual at every time, but overall they help things run smoothly. There is always some kind of consequence for not following them.

To understand (and eventually change) a system you always starts with a high level acceptance of the 'rules' and drill down from there. Why shouldn't children also be taught to operate on that basis?

Say they want to question the 'rule' about having 3 meals a day. That's fine, drill down into why and maybe change it. Maybe bed-time is unfair, perhaps the 8yo doesn't want to go to bed at the same time as the 5yo. It should be ok to challenge these things to an extent, but at the end of the day someone needs to make things run smoothly for everyone, and that's the parents' job. Rules (with an expectation of obedience) are how they do that.


I agree with you. My grandma used to say, "children are as complicated as people, only more so."

But rules and obedience are an essential abstraction. With my own young kids, I try to let them challenge the rules and chart their own course as much as I can, but if you go with no rules at all I think you are almost as likely to end up with a bad result as if you parented through only rules and obedience.

When confronted (as all parents inevitably are from time to time) with blanket ideas for "how to raise children" I find it helpful to swap out "children" for "employees" and then "farm animals" and see how the advice sounds from those two additional perspectives.

Children are kind of a middle ground between those (as well as being many other things).

There's very little science to parenting, unfortunately. It's mostly intuition and magic.


> There's very little science to parenting, unfortunately. It's mostly intuition and magic.

This made my day, and I'll be repeating it to others - thanks :)


Everything is wonderful when the kids are not in chaos mode. When you are with children and they are behaving it is easy to take them seriously. But find yourself in a situation that you don't even know how everything started and kids are just going nuts, then all the rules change.

At the end of the day you want to get them to go to non-chaos mode before you can apply any technique. What worked for me is creating a pattern very early on:

"I'm gonna count to 3 and we will do X" I've said that a thousand times since very early childhood. Now, before I even finish the sentence, the kids get in position and wait for "three!" After that we have a normal adult conversation, sometimes I even use words (like someone mentioned in the comments) that they have no hope of understanding. But they know that whatever they say they will be taken seriously.

So far it has worked for me with both my niece and nephew and I hope that they never find out that I have no backup plan if they don't stop on three.

In other words, you need create a pattern that leads to quiet mode before you can take the kids seriously.


>Punishing doesn’t help with learning.

The point of punishing isn't to help with learning, it's to restore the emotional connection between parent and child by stopping the parent from hating the child. As Jordan Peterson put it: 'Don't let your kids do anything that makes you dislike them'. (He said this because he knows that people who dislike others work against them whether they realise it or not.)

The arguments against punishments tend to focus on severity, particularly if physical violence is involved. But the stronger the existing connection between parent and child, the milder the punishment need be. If it is strong even a frown might suffice.


> The point of punishing isn't to help with learning, it's to restore the emotional connection between parent and child by stopping the parent from hating the child.

Maybe I'm misreading you, but any resentment a parent builds towards their child is a symptom of their own lack of emotional development; punishment is absolutely not an outlet for making parents feel more in control so they can avoid resenting their children.

There is deliberate behavior modification, which creates an obvious consequence as a hack around the inability to comprehend more subtle ones, but doesn't involve any emotional exchange. Then there is emotional abuse that makes the abuser feel in control (guilting, shaming, yelling, etc).

Anything you don't like that comes out of a person, went into that person, either genetically or environmentally. The only way to help them stop doing that is to help them build a better platform to work from.


Have you read my reply to pysc? I don't think you can 'get out of the game' of punishment. The fact is that you will punish people you are in close relationship to whether you like it or not. Even a frown or silence can be punishment and these sorts of things are not always under voluntary control.

I agree that the development of the parent is the key to reducing this. But note that development and learning themselves require peace and keeping the peace is a function of authority, both in families and in wider society. (This is not to be confused with authority in knowledge, which is irrational.)


Yes, I saw that before commenting. I never advocated for the abolition of punishment.

What I take issue with at several levels is the use of punishment as a means of avoiding the development of parental resentment against kids, which is what it sounded like you were describing in the quote I pulled. My mistake if that's not what you were describing.


This is the best justification I’ve seen, though it still isn’t very good. As a child, I saw discipline as serving the convenience of the adults. Sometimes providing the adults with a sense of power over others that they couldn’t experience in their adult relationships. I have yet to see anything that would change my mind about this. The best parents I know strive to address their kids as something close to equals, as much as possible. The others are mean people who themselves lack self-control.


My guess is that you saw punishment where it was excessive. This is a symptom of that lack of control at a deeper level. But control comes from self-awareness; removing authority would only make matters matters worse. Parents who try to be 'equals, as much as possible' will grow to dislike those they are responsible for and will periodically lash out in an uncontrolled manner. Literally so in some cases. Conversely, kids will willingly endure any punishment or chore in order to restore emotional connection to their parents.


I think an important part of 'rules' is that the child learns that a rule is reasonable and fair. So for every rule the parent should be able to explain the 'why'.

That said, rules are very important, not only to give the child an orientation at which it can measure its own actions but also because they can introduce some kind of objectivity into parenting (from the perspective of the child).

So rules should always be communicated to the child before they are enforced. Punishing a child for breaking a rule it never heard of before is not fair.

Btw. sometimes it can be a good idea to let the child define rules to let it find out how well it can follow its own rules ;-)


I'm a fan of Popper, but I'm skeptical this person has spent a lot time parenting, especially with difficult children. There are emotionally fragile adults and it would be 'anti-rational' to assume that at least some of them didn't start out that way. I wish him good luck though.


I can attest to this; as a child nothing irked me more than when I perceived adults to not taking me seriously. I always told myself that as I grew older I'd take children seriously and treat them as an adult


The nonsensical overestimation of children shown in this thread leads directly to travesties like this judge arguing that toddlers are capable of representing themselves in immigration court. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/can-a...


> But the questions can easily trip up children with no lawyers, the attorneys said. A judge may ask, for example, if the child wants to leave the country voluntarily or would rather be ordered deported. If the child chooses either option, he or she cannot apply for other forms of immigration relief such as asylum in the United States.

I'm an adult and I would need a lawyer to be able to understand and answer questions like that.


I would tend to agree. Somewhere else in the thread someone recounted a conversation with a 24 month old far more advanced than any two year old I've met could manage. I think it would be pretty lucid even for my 3yo. That's not to say the conversation couldn't have happened, but the advice seems somewhat miscalibrated if that is taken to be typical.

My question: for all this talk of rationalism, where is the research to show this approach yields better outcomes than any other?


Unfortunately psychological interventional research on humans who cannot consent is quite forbidden.

(But we do that all the time actually.)

What do you do with failed experiments? How do you estimate outcomes and whether techniques were applied correctly?


That's not actually true, parents can consent on behalf of minors. Why would this present any more trouble in dealing with failed experiments than other psychological experiments?


There's a huge difference between parenting and an adversarial courtroom.

I think it's possible to agree with the article and also disagree with this judge.


Definitely - I was very much responding to the hn comments here, not the article.


Why do we rationalize with Children and punish teenagers? We must build trust with our children. Research has shown that this is the key, especially for children of abuse.

To me (Father of Five, two biological and three foster) this is 100% flipped upside down and isn't well researched nor universal.

My foster kids had horrible environment growing up and every kind of abuse. Their mother murdered 8 blocks from our house by a baseball bat to her head while the children were in my home. Children raised from abuse would actually be harmed by this.

Children need to learn 100% but not through non-developmentally appropriate techniques. Kids learn through play doing in a safe and purposeful manner. This is neither purposeful nor safe. They need to know that they must use gentle hands and bodies, be respectful to each other and pick up after themselves.

If it doesn't work for abused or special needs children it isn't universal. This is what good research looks like for parenting. https://child.tcu.edu/about-us/research/#sthash.6ctKjxoi.dpb...

1) We have children ask and not tell what they want

2) Parenting is hard and demanding and we invest in it

3) Kids will look at you when you are speaking with them (FOr building up relationship)

4) Redirect bad behavior by having the child redo in the correct behavior. Not yelling or demanding. Scripting

5) Socialize interaction with competent adult and ability to play properly with other children.

https://youtu.be/XGqwz8L6JBo?t=8m6s

https://youtu.be/XGqwz8L6JBo?t=8m6s


I agree, but parenting is a hard job which society often doesn’t seem to value very highly.

In this community I’ve literary heard someone say “Machine learning is very important for the future of humanity, so I can’t spend time looking after my child”.

For me it’s all about investing time, and the long game. Looking after, being patent and educating a child for a couple of hours isn’t too hard. Doing that for 10s of hours every day, particularly with young children, is much harder.

It’s even harder when that work is systematically devalued.


You speak about universality, but then say this:

> 3) Kids will look at you when you are speaking with them (FOr building up relationship)

Autistic people sometimes have trouble making eye contact when you're speaking.

Some black people are taught that direct eye contact in some situations is a display of defiance, and is to be avoided.


Having worked with autistic children for several years it is actually apart of their treatment plan for them to learn to look at people in their eyes. https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2015/07/17/why-it-so-hard-...


And recent research tells us that approach might be cruel and pointless.

http://dart.ed.ac.uk/app-eye-contact/

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-03378-5

The fact you quote Autism Speaks is telling - it's hated by many autistic people precisely because it pushes this "cure for autism" bullshit.


The research is clear it helps children. The controversy is, is it worth it. 99% of the time it is worth it.

> The fact you quote Autism Speaks is telling

Yes vaccines DON'T cause Autism. You say it does then your also into other pseudo-science and controversies. The science is clear vaccines don't cause autism.


> Parenting generally goes pretty smoothly when you and your child agree.

CHILD. Singular. If you have more than a couple children you know how different it is. Someplace there's a comedian that has a bit about how having one or two kids is like comparing the Coast Guard to the Navy Seals. It's VERY different having a CHILD than having several CHILDREN.


We have three. If for any reason we have to care for only one for a stretch of time, it's like having no kids. Man, it's so much easier. Three kids is, no joke, like 10x as hard as one.

Each one also makes housing way harder (=more expensive, fewer options), especially after the first one. And transportation. And, and, and.


Absolutely. Especially when you have multiple children close in age you might bring the voice of reason to your family, but your kids will learn a lot about jealousy, agression and defiance from their counterparts.


I hear a lot about kids being kids, and adults being "childish." By the time I was ten, I could read Michael Crichton and Frank Herbert, and although I wasn't a mathematical wiz, I did have an innate understanding of the scientific method.

I'm of the mind that children have a precocial learning intelligence similar in rank and power to the adult mind--that is, the moment a child is born, they begin to absorb and construct knowledge about the world, with the only difference to the adult mind being that adults have more context for their "world theory"--and that it's the duty of the public to acknowledge and foster this.

When I consider that some people talk to children with "baby talk," I wonder how many people have been hurt by `keeping parrots with chickens` (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parrot#Intelligence_and_learni...) so to speak. It's a controversial theory that might garner criticism, but that may be a failing--children can hear voices in the womb before they're born, talking to them in infancy as if they can't understand their mother's language is, at first, disrespectful, and later, possibly inhibits their development.


Garbage like this is what happens when people reason from first principles without any reference to what they are actually trying to do. It's a parenting philosophy composed by someone who has never met a child (and has no interest in meeting one).

Coming up next: "How to build houses", by someone who has never built one and has no interest in building one.


> Most approaches to parenting start with some beliefs about how to treat children first

Like believing they respond to reason? Hell, even adults aren't rational beings. We're totally ruled by our emotions and beliefs, and it is incredibly hard to persuade someone using reason.


Why are you assuming reasonableness increases with age? Isn't it possible children start out reasonable and get unreason baked into them through their experiences?


I have not found enough evidence to change from being a strong wall of no to my children. They know I’ll keep talking with them through their big emotions and that I love them but I don’t negotiate with terrorists. 5 and 8, they are thriving.


I do have children. And I did raise them following Taking Children Seriously to the best of my ability. If I had it to do over I'd only learn TCS better and follow it better, not in the other direction. It was liberating to me to find that it was possible to raise children without using rules or punishment/reward. My children are grown now and are wonderful people. So if anyone here is thinking TCS can't work out well with real children, I'm here to tell you it can. This is a small sample size but it's more than zero.


hey RebeccaBV, glad to hear about your positive experience with TCS!

there is an active online community which discusses TCS and other related ideas at the Fallible Ideas discussion group. you can learn more about important philosophical ideas like TCS and get help applying them to your life! http://fallibleideas.com/discussion-info


Some people complain about kids making nonsense. But kids get exposed to a LOT of nonsense.

Think about it: You are trying to make sense out of the world and people keep making gibberish sounds, hiding for no reason, showing you anthropomorphized animals and objects, telling you stories that have absolutely no point, having you play with stupid pianos that make random sounds...

Then, after they have built a model of the world containing all these nonsense, a lot of time then has to be spent having them unlearning that nonsense through discipline.

However, what if they don't get exposed to the nonsense in the first place? Or get exposed to it in a more structured way? I mean entertainment doesn't have to be nonsensical. You can learn about animals, architecture, vehicles, even simple math... instead of dumb trains with faces and teletubbies making gibberish sounds.

Btw, I am not trying to say the production of that material has no merit. I can have a lot of merit, and can be incredibly creative, it's just it could be better focused.


Kids are not entertained by cartoons because they are forced upon them. Kids are often attracted to, and entertained by cartoons and other stories.

Why exactly I don’t know, but they also make up their own imaginary characters sometimes.

In any case, they don’t simply have this stuff forced upon them (in general).


As a kid, I had so many questions about physics and when I asked my mother about it she gave some dumbed down reply and when I inquired further she said that I would learn that later, it was really frustrating.

If I ever have kids, the one thing that I want to do right is answering their questions appropriately, I would have loved my mom to say something like "because electrons attract protons, no one really knows why, there are people who dedicate their lives to trying to know why that attraction exists, they are called physicists. That attraction is one of four fundamental forces that we know of, the other three are gravity, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force". Even if I understood less than half of what she said, I would have known that there are people who also wanted to know what I wanted know, and would feel fascinated by that.


Seems exhausting for a parent, but beneficial for certain careers. Dunno if it would significantly improve their thinking a decade later.


Child here! 14 years old, in middle school.

If anyone has questions, I'd be happy to answer.


Anon makes a judgement about TCS. He does not use reason to interact with his child.

TCS is about using reason. He does not take his child seriously.


Beginners follow the rules. Intermediates bend the rules. Masters create the rules.


Kids acting like kids is basically why we invented religion. You can't actually always take a kid seriously. But you can always threaten them with god.

It works, apparently.


a lotta you are really convinced that being nasty is akin to being reasonable and practically minded.


This page credits David Deutsch with first writing about this philosophy of parenting. It's more-or-less the style of parenting I was subjected to. I didn't know until now that he had written about parenting, but he's the author of one of my favorite works of nonfiction, The Beginning of Infinity. I plan to take this approach to parenting with my own children. That is to say, I'm very supportive of it.

HOWEVER: there's a major philosophical failing of TCS, which is that you can't objectively justify claims about what you should and shouldn't do (aka normative claims). If you tell your child "don't hit other kids," they can disagree, which will force you to justify your original statement with a more general normative principle. Eventually you'll be forced to appeal to the foundational principles of morality, something like "it's bad to be in certain mental states like pain, good to be in other states, like joy" and "what matters is which of those mental states the average person on earth is, not which state you, personally, are in." These are one possible version of the sacred principles of morality, and they are probably not justifiable. There are attempts to justify them, such as Sam Harris's The Moral Landscape, but Harris relies (implicitly) on hard to grasp claims like the nonexistence of self, which you're not going to be able to explain to a seven year old unless they're exceptionally introspectively mature.

Sacred principles can just as well be called unquestionable principles. They don't have a justification, but our way of life relies on their acceptance. Society will not tolerate threats to their sanctity, so if you let your child question them, society will punish your child. If you say "don't hit other kids" and your child says (after a chain of justifications) "it doesn't matter if other kids feel pain, what matters is that I feel good when I hurt them," you're not going to be able to rationally argue against that. The most honest response is the ad baculum "if you say things like that when you're an adult, someone might just murder you, so you ought never to do things that you can only justify in that kind of way unless you want to be murdered." But that's not really teaching your child morality; they might someday find themselves in a situation where they don't need to worry about violent reprisal for questioning sacred values, say if they become a powerful dictator. Are you committed enough to morality to want them to be moral even if they don't have to be? Should you be? If yes, then you can't take your children seriously when they question sacred principles. How, then, do you respond when they say "all that matters is that I feel good when I hurt other kids?" You could say "You're wrong. Why? Because I said so." Or you could just punish them. But if they're used to always being taken seriously, they're going to notice that something's fishy.

Fortunately, there's a good chance your child won't ever question sacred principles. I was taken quite seriously as a child, but I justified the sacred principles to myself in ways that only began to crumble when I was 17, so my parents never encountered the dilemma I just described. By the time my old justifications ceased to work I was already adept at being a moral person, and I was ready to understand the lessons of Crime and Punishment, which warns against violating the sacred principles of your society despite acknowledging them to be unfounded, and I was ready to understand the more sophisticated justifications of the sacred principles.

But other children could be more likely to question sacred principles. I wasn't naturally inclined to cruelty. I didn't want to hurt other kids. When I did hurt others, I didn't need to learn why not to, I just needed to learn how not to. Not all kids are like that (not a moral judgment) some will need to by told why they shouldn't be cruel, and you can't do that while taking them entirely seriously.


My dad says the biggest mistake most people make when raising kids is treating them like people.


As with any oneliner, it’s of no value without context.

Kids need a different treatment when they are 3 months old than when they are 2, yet different from a 7 year old, different from a teenager and different from a 20 year old.

Otherwise you realize you will always be your dad’s kid, so by your oneliner he’ll never treat you like people.


What should they be treated like?


Like kids, d'oh!




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