Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
What Mental Models would you want to instill in your children?
38 points by bkohlmann on Jan 28, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments
I have two sons, and I want them to grow up with useful mental frameworks about the world. What mental models have you come to believe that you wish you had adopted earlier?

Here are three I've been contemplating.

1) When I fail at something, it is not an indictment of my moral being. On the contrary, failures make me a better person.

2)My formal education may incentivize me to find correct answers to solvable problems. But I will explore problems that don’t have an answer, since these are the ones that change society.

3)Curiosity is the foundation of understanding. When I disagree with someone, I will seek to understand rather than attack.

One I instilled in my own children: People do things for a reason. In most cases, that reason is about them, not you. In most cases, finding out why they do things will get you further in resolving interpersonal problems than just assuming malfeasance.

Almost everything you interact with was designed and built by people like you. Understanding why those things work the way they do, and are made the way they are, is powerful.

You don't need permission from someone else to start working on something that interests you, nor do you need to know everything about how to start.

I love this "nor do you need to know everything about how to start".

It's hard to encourage adults to try to learn new things. Myself included. I hope that by reinforcing learning and experimenting with my children they can have a higher tolerance to the fear associated with 'starting'.

caveat - unless it's dangerous. e.g. don't mess with electricity or chemicals.

I tell my kids 3 things.

1) If you want to be good at something, practice. 2) Everyone can make mistakes, own up to yours and don't blame your brother for things you have done. If I find out you will be punished. 3) Learn how to win and loose with grace.

My kids school teaches my oldest 6 things which I can really get behind.


Every member of our community takes ownership! We take responsibility for making sure that our schools and scholars are reaching the highest possible standards across the board.


Our schools are fueled by wonder. Scholars, teachers, and staff always ask, “What if?”

Try & Try

Our entire community understands that tackling tough challenges takes elbow grease, grit, and perseverance.


We are honest, open, and transparent.


We never forget to look out for each other. From helping someone on a project to smiling in the hallways, we build a community of mutual respect and support.

No Shortcuts

Excellent learning takes time and effort.

Probably the most common in our house:

1. The world doesn’t own you or owe you. At the end of the day, your fate is decided by the sum of your own actions.

2. It’s ok to fall, but do not wallow. Get up. Learn. Move on.

3. Life is earned in struggle. Anything is achievable with enough work. Never allow yourself to be convinced great can be made easily.

4. Always be kind, but be willing to be unkind.

5. Love yourself. If you find otherwise, refer to rule 2.

I just want my kids to be nice people.

I hope they become nice people with teeth. Wimpy nice people get the snot kicked out of them.

Down voted, eh? I'm surprised, "Talk softly, but carry a big stick" is out of fashion. Anyone that disagrees (or sees a place to disagree) please comment. I'm genuinely curious.

Where did you grow up? Or when?

On both sides of the tracks in the 80s. However, the danger to the naive/nice is universal and timeless. Every oral tradition has tales of hidden dangers in the seemingly benign. In this message I, as a person, as an individual, am of no consequence.

Awesome question. I also have two small boys and I think about these same things. I'm also hesitant about conventional education and sometimes wish that if I had the financial means, I might like to home-school them (at least for some of their schooling years).

Some random thoughts:

* I think failure is glorified in a way that is not healthy, particularly in the startup field. Try to optimise for success https://signalvnoise.com/posts/1555-learning-from-failure-is...

* Like you, I'd like to find the right/correct answer but lately it's the context that's more important. Helping my boys put this int practise would be valuable I think - more-so in human relationships than STEM pursuits.

* If I can humble myself to learn how to learn about someone else's point of view, rather than attacking and trying to pull them around to my view, then I'll be setting a good example to my boys. I don't what them to think they have to agree or even tolerate other's points of view, but they should respect that someone else holds something different, even (especially) when they don't agree with it.

* I'd also like them to build strong convictions to what they believe. I'd like them to use science and evidence to support things but at the same time, many things in life that are important, have to be taken on some measure of faith - I'd like my boys to have the resolve to choose a foundation they agree with and resist external influence if it's very important to them.

4) you have the right to exist and my love for you is independent of anything you can say, be or do.

This includes your beliefs and mental models and attitude toward my best intentions for your life.

I do this with the awareness that in case of contradiction, their personal experience and my modeling beat anything I may say.

Among great advice in here, of which I'd also instill upon my children, I'll show them how to work with a cash budget.

Money management was heavily glossed-over (or outright ignored) in an otherwise great public school system, for my wife and I.

I didn't know I had a problem until I was in an expensive college, taking out student loans, and living beyond my means.

This will only get worse/harder for children who grow up with no concept of cash at all (I missed that by a couples years, anyway).

1. What matters is what I give to society, not what society gives to me. People are reciprocative, so giving more to society means getting more things back in the long run, even if I am not good at things like negotiating.

2. Be honest. Credibility is something everyone starts with. But once you lose it, you don't get it back. It's also quite rare and easy. A lot of people will simply pick an honest person over someone more skilled but less honest.

We live in a world where less and less you can make a good income from a 'job'. Erosion of the middle class, and all that.

So learn how to live within your means, and invest money to make it work harder for you. Love your job, but enjoy being able to quit it whenever you like and take a rest because you've set yourself up.

True, and yet...

"Money is like gasoline during a road trip. You don't want to run out of gas on your trip, but you're not doing a tour of gas stations. You have to pay attention to money, but it shouldn't be about the money." - Tim O'Reilly

You need to teach good money habits. They're important for your kids to know. You also need to teach that money is not the central focus of life. That's at least as important.

Great question! And terrific answers so far ;)

Cultivating true friendships is so important at that age. Its a learning process and a skill that must be continuously reinforced. And it opens one up to a foundational belief. That you will be defined by the people you surround yourself with in life.

1) you have the potential to become good at something if you put effort towards it.

2) in order to learn and get better at something, you sometimes have to make mistakes

3) you do not always have to know the answer, just understand the question

I'm teaching my kids how to solve the Rubik's Cube and also how to juggle. Both teach them mental and physical dexterity and show the reward of sticking with something even when it's difficult.

Your thoughts and emotions are things that you perceive, not things that you are. They can be ignored if they aren’t helpful, or changed for the better through practice.

Re #3: However, your sons' mental models need to include that sometimes people are dishonest and/or manipulative.

Always stand in shoes of the other person and look at things from his perspective.

number one is: failure the greatest teacher is.


@all who have done it: How noticeable was the impact on your children with the particular mental model?

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact