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How to get kids to pay attention (npr.org)
670 points by bkohlmann 19 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 266 comments

I often wonder whether this has a lot to do with how we treat our kids. I often catch myself acting uninterested in my daughter's interests (she's two and often wants to show me things for the 50th time that were pretty boring in the first place.) She doesn't have any attention or behavioral issues in general, but I was amazed when a friend of mine came to visit who is an early music educator. They didn't do anything music related, but watching her interact with my daughter was eye-opening. She was very present and respectful with regards to my daughter's interests and what my daughter wanted to do. I guess more or less she treated my daughter more or less like an adult. Thinking about it, it's so easy to be flippant or dismissive about what our kids are doing or are interested in without even noticing.

I was really amazed to see how much my daughter reciprocated the attention and my friend was able to get her to pay attention to this or that or be much more engaged than I usually can.

This is obviously a very small sample, but it really made me think about the ways that we don't treat our children like adults (and how maybe they act like children because we treat them that way.)

An indirect way of encouraging this is including kids in what you are doing, as opposed to engineering activities for them.

A lot of kids' world these days is an artificial reality, made for them. School, soccer, art class, play dates. The reason the activity exists is to give kids an experience. We're not interested in it, because it's kid stuff.

When I was a kid, some of the most formative activities were fishing, sheep farming & vegetables gardening (grandparents on a farm), home repair jobs like painting or brickwork.

When I was very small (2-4), if my parents were painting a room, I was also in old clothes with a paintbrush "helping". Same with spring cleaning or whatnot. I had a little hammer I could bang, to help my dad assemble IKEA furniture.

You don't have to conciously "engage" in their stuff, just let them engage in your stuff.

> When I was very small (2-4), if my parents were painting a room, I was also in old clothes with a paintbrush "helping". Same with spring cleaning or whatnot.

One of my favourite childhood photos is me mowing the lawn (with a plastic "bubble spewing" lawnmower). A thing I used to walk behind my father as he mowed the lawn.

It never really had the soap to make bubbles in it. Didn't care about that. I was helping

I second this. I'm a father of a 5½ year old boy. Like the grandparent said, I try to treat him as an adult with no experience, knowledge or skills and with a plastic mind.

Small kids have an instinct to learn: they follow you around and copy your behavior. It takes great responsibility to shape the future of a person. And with your own flaws replayed in front of you, you change, you become a better person because of it.

I remember that age. And I loved when I was doing stuff with my dad. Before I was 7 I had worked with wood, handled the axe and knife, welded metal, messed with bikes, capsized a boat, tied knots and shot rifles. I wasn't good, I didn't contribute, I was just given small tasks to free my dad to do the real work. I felt I was on the team, and I learned a lot.

My father always answered all my weird questions, and if he wasn't able to, he looked it up and told me at bed time.

When I was 12, and enthusiastic told him about a game have played on my Commodere 64. He listened and was understanding of my enthusiasm. Then he said: "But did you program that game?", and I replayed "No, of course not...". And my Dad replayed: "So you are only running other peoples programs...". That sentence is the reason I'm in IT and reading this site...

1. Go to Home Depot or similar.

2. Buy a small hammer, a box of brad nails, and raid the wood cutoff container. Total cost $20.

3. Give these things to your kid.

4. ???

5. Profit

Until about age 6 I didn't understand about nails. I thought I was being helpful with just the hammering.

Then I went through an uncanny valley period where I was too young and uncoordinated to use nails, but too smart to be kept busy with pointless hammering.

A couple bruised thumbs usually sorts out the coordination rather quickly. That's how I learned.

> I often catch myself acting uninterested in my daughter's interests

I read a book that talk about how to improve on this [0], when ever my 5yo daughter shows me some of her drawings I try to take notice of some detail and comment on it, not just say 'that's nice dear'. She draws masses and masses of pictures of stick girls in dresses, but I always try to find some detail that she's done different.

We often draw or paint together, maybe once or twice a week. The last time we did it, I painted a picture of a boat on the sea, she painted a space portal that takes you to another world.

[0]: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/769016.How_to_Talk_So_Ki...

Well, it sounds like in the Mayan village, a kid would have the opportunity to run off and interact with someone else, or do something else, a lot more easily than in an American suburb or city. I don't think we can conclude from the NPR article that the Mayan mothers actually have to put up with looking at the same thing 50 times. It sounds like Mayan children have a lot more physical space to explore, and a lot more other children nearby.

My perspective shifted over time as I watched children become teens, then adults, and marvelling at how I thought of them changed.

It sounds lame, but I came to think of kids a people too vs just children. As in they are adults whose brains haven't finished wiring themselves and they deserve not just to be treated with respect, but also to be thought of respectfully. It's obvious to me now, I mean I can remember how some adults treated me all the way back to 3 yrs old or so. I'm that kid, just older.

I was just explaining what you have said to someone two weeks ago! Am actually a Sunday school teacher. If you treat the kids as you would other people I think you help improve "the wiring". They become mature and intelligent faster than their friends who are treated as lesser humans.

Treating your child with adult-like respect is one of the principles of RIE parenting. Worth reading more about, if you want to learn more about different parenting styles.

> She was very present and respectful with regards to my daughter's interests and what my daughter wanted to do.

I am sure if she came over to your place for 50+ times she would also act different than the first time. I think It’s ok to be bored with a 2 year old request to show the same book or the same picture over and over and over again.

Or Fortnite, or Minecraft.

I'm not sure how to solve for this, but I'm trying to instill that conversations and interactions have to be two way, so just because "you are interested in X" doesn't mean that talking at someone over and over about things they are not interested in isn't a way to foster satisfying interactions for all parties involved.

A parent might placate and be always "oh that's so interesting!", but their peers? Their peers might ignore them leaving the kid confused as to the response.

I don't think it's something you have to solve, it will happen naturally. All kids do this and most tend to stop by adulthood.

It's also usually not the thing itself that they are valuing.

It's the interaction. She wants you to read the same book to her because she knows that you do the voices and act it out and she gets to interact. That's the point. If you ask them, they'll tell you what they value. You don't have to think your way around them, they know, even by the time they're 3 or so. People have desires, and they can tell you what they are, with some help and elicitation.

Hm, I obviously don't get this kid thing. I'll try harder!

It surprises me how much this sort of behaviour towards children still goes on.

I remember being a kid and how people would be disinterested in you beyond anything superficial.

I often wonder how much of this effected my later behaviour.

Speaking personally, it taught me a combination of self awareness (no one is as interested as you are in the thing you are or for the same reasons; don’t spend so much effort trying to change their minds you lose your own passion) and empathy (trying to get interested in the things others are may grow something between you).

If she goes on and on about the same thing, to me that seems like she wants your approval. Give it but also try to gently direct her to do something different?

The inverse of this, of course is the danger raising children who expect everyone to be amazed and engaged with every little thing they do or achieve.

Good point. I think all these engagements have to be done with an eye into the future personality of the child. My friend works with a girl who expects everything to be done for her (including asking the security lady to get two frozen chickens from the office fridge to her car). So should kids be treated the same way different people would treat them in life (with the exception of being abusive of course).

Reciprocity of being interested, by example, FTW. Makes sense to model and ensource behavior

If I get amped up, I become a firehose of consciousness tangents ADD-I but it's usually better to chill, listen and only say what's most important than no-filter crunk-tired.

This is pretty much how I was raised in a small midwestern farming community. I was in charge of the laundry by the time I was 6, and the lawn when I was 8 or 9, and summers were pretty much filled with activities that my friends and I could organize.

Moving to the burbs where play was organized sports and kids had everything done for them was a really big shock.

It was hard to believe how inept at life most of my peers were when I went off to University. They only things they knew were what was on tv or from school.

I can relate, I was born/grew up overseas and was raised this way before my parents moved back to the states. I moved back with them, and it was surprising how little my friends had in life skills. I had learned to cook (from watching/learning) already and would cook for myself after school for example, while most of my friends would have zero ideas on what to do.

It's sad how the U.S. Government prevents native American kids to have this experience in populated areas. There's a cultural vibe of individualism preventing overwatch of kids by adults which has led, in part, to the prohibitive autonomy that I had as a kid.

I was told by my mom that at the age of 4 years old, I hailed a taxi cab alone in the Philippines while she went to the bathroom in a McDonalds. That would never happen here in America.

>There's a cultural vibe of individualism [where?] preventing overwatch of kids [whose kids?] by adults which has led, in part, to the prohibitive [prohibiting what?] autonomy that I had as a kid.

I don't quite understand what you're saying here, but I'm genuinely interested. Could you clarify?

Active listening: What I thought you said is that in, say, the Philippines, there is a culture of individualism that prevents adults from hovering over kids (not sure how that follows), which leads to the kids having significantly more autonomy than in the U.S. (and maybe you used the word "prohibitive" incorrectly?).

I was also raised by American parents in a village in equatorial Congo--thus my interest.

Not OP but I read it as prohibition of the autonomy (of children by today's culture) that they used to have. I can relate, as a child I was expected to be self-sufficient in a way that would be unrecognisable to modern children.

Rather than being ferried by car to the school, and taxied to a series of child appointments, I walked to school alone or with friends. That including crossing a 4 lane highway, at the lights, in a major city. I must have been doing that at age 5 and 6 as at 7 we went to a different school. I don't remember my parents ever taking me apart from the very first time. Maybe a couple more times at most then. Same for everyone else - we all walked. Now every school is near unreachable thanks to the hundreds of cars from parents who are usually near enough to walk.

When playing out I was often told not to come back until dinner, so we'd go off and do stuff.

Every adult around, and everyone else's parent would give us a telling off if we were being out of line. A shopkeeper or stranger might come out to yell. Everyone seemed to have half an eye out for all the kids.

The individualism of today's adults all around has led to them ignoring, or putting up with the excesses of, everyone else's kids. Few would dare say anything, and would probably get a torrent of abuse from the parent if they did.

The over-hype of abuse and stranger danger hasn't helped either - serious things, but not exactly as common as the media imply. Adult males have double the reason not to speak to or tell off someone's child.

I grew up with much the same freedom: in small town Iowa, the school bus was for kids 20 miles away. My street would join the larger neighborhood's kids for the 5 mile walk to and from everyday, rain, thunderstorms, winter snow storm or not. If snow was really bad, dads with snowmobiles would ferry the kids, pulling trains of sleds. Rain was okay, no matter how hard.

After school, the "bike gangs" of kids would be roaming free, stop in for dinner, and then back out till dark. Everyone had this freedom.

As the kids became teens, this being the late 70's, a tax law created incentive for publishing and insurance corporations to move to Iowa. Their families brought major city / coastal teen attitudes, including appetites for a drug culture that Iowa was not sophisticated enough to manage. That Iowa Innocence seems to have been lost. Now it is just another generica in the US corporate sameland, with the original Iowa Natives unable to understand what happened to their culture.

> Now it is just another generica in the US corporate sameland, with the original Iowa Natives unable to understand what happened to their culture.

Is this a very cleverly disguised allegory for the loss of indigenous culture by invading hordes, descended from Europeans who settled the coast of what is now the United States? Do you actually consider small town mid-20th century midwestern US culture to be the culture of the "original Iowa Natives"?

I am referring to the fact that all the States had unique cultures, transplants from their original countries, many idealist moved to the middle states and tried to create utopias in the New World. None of that worked, but there was unique culture, distinct in different parts of many states. Many of these people never move, so they are the original descendants from some religious idealism that fizzled.

I course I recognize these are not the original Iowa Natives. I am referring to the ideal of small towns and their community culture. Which was very real not that long ago.

When playing out I was often told not to come back until dinner, so we'd go off and do stuff.

When I try that with my daughter there is a 97% chance she'll end up at a friends house playing Minecraft or something similar (or she'll just end up in her room playing computer games). Personally I don't think the problem is so much that we don't let kids out, rather that there are so many other, screen based, things competing for kids attention. We don't have to ban kids from playing in the streets since we couldn't convince to do something that boring if we tried.

This isn't new though. It might just be that she's an introvert. I grew up in the 80s and 90s, and I had the freedom to go pretty much where I pleased, and where I pleased was in my room with a book, or copying programs out of books for my TRS-80, or playing with my GameBoy. That's pretty equivalent, I think. As I got older and had even more freedom with a bike, I usually wound up at a friend's house playing D&D.

My interpreta is that in many other countries there is a sense of collectivism in that everyone takes care of children and collaborates a little bit. If you see a kid, you don’t think something must be wrong, you lend assistance to their parents by being an impromptu guardian and help the kid achieve their means.

Whereas in the US the modus operandi is “Well it’s not my kid what do I care? Their parents must be terrible people for not standing right next to them”

For example, as a 7 year old in eastern-ish europe, I would walk 1km to school on my own every morning. The worst that ever happened was when me and a friend decided that umbrellas arr the perfect snow shovel.

Anecdote: in Belgium, everything changed after the Marc Dutroux case. Teenage girl friends of mine who worked summer jobs as youth camp workers told me they were anxious to bear children in arms or being seen too close to them. Same reasoning with letting children walking alone to school.

Seconded. Teachers of teenagers dont dare to be alone with 1 child anymore. The smallest of hints might cause years of misery and job loss. This at an age where the children can be real assholes, and they know their powers.

The article "Letting Kids Light Matches and 9 other seemingly scary things that German parents do" [1] provides the point of view of an American mother on parenting and schooling in Germany. (I can't check the link from France, hope it works.) Otherwise, it's all about Sara Zaske's book "Achtung Baby", anyway [2].

1. http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/parenting/sc-fam-ge...

2. https://sarazaske.com/upcoming-book-achtung-baby/

Have not (yet) read this article.

Nonetheless, I'm a 34-year-old American who has been lighting matches since probably the age of 5 or 6...

I appreciate the active listening, it's close, let me clarify a bit.

There are two major cultural ideas, cultures of individualism [0] and cultures of collectivism [1], that I vaguely pointed out. They're not exclusive but you don't always notice them intertwined together often. In my experience, the Philippines, had both cultures but usually led with a dominance of collectivism. I had autonomy [4], much like the article, to make my own decisions that were un-coerced. That wasn't to say that my parents didn't parent, or that individuals would watch over me where ever I was. In example, I would wander a mall (273k m²~ in size) as a 6-10 year-old kid and when my parents wanted to find me they would look at the shop keepers which would point in the direction I went. I remember chatting with different store keepers like it was normal. That leads me back to the idea of collectivism. I had tons of "uncles" and "aunts" (mostly local college students) which would collectively parent me, but I also had people I barely knew who would watch out for me. There was a construction site next to my parent's house which I would often visit. Those guys would obviously watch out for my safety but when I visited during their breaks they would talk to me, ask how my day was, what I was up to -- small talk. I also lived in post-Soviet bloc Poland, it was a similar experience.

In the United States, when we visited and ultimately moved there it was extremely different for the most part. I had walked not even a quarter mile to a local barbershop in Huntsville, Alabama before I got stopped by police asking where my parents were. I never once had that experience overseas. There was also a cafe, local bookstore, a few restaurants, and a few other shops on that block.

Eventually, it got to the point where my parents took away the majority of my autonomy to go places because of Child Protective Services (CPS). It fell into a few categories but the two big ones were: the hype over stranger danger and the issue of perceived safety of myself by the U.S. Government. I do want to admit that my experience, which has shaped my opinion, would be different if I had lived in Rural America. CPS can be a terrible organization to work with because they're overworked leading to snap decisions rather than understanding the context. I've heard horror stories from friends over the years of the stuff that organization does because the government has the "best interest" for everyone in every situation (one of those friends was a Parent Advocate for the local Public Defenders Office). Also, if you need another example, look at ICE.

On Individualism in America, when was the last time you saw a stranger interact and correct/parent another person's kid in a grocery store. Swizec and NeedMoreTea had a great summary too:

NeedMoreTea [2]

> The individualism of today's adults all around has led to them ignoring, or putting up with the excesses of, everyone else's kids. Few would dare say anything, and would probably get a torrent of abuse from the parent if they did.

> The over-hype of abuse and stranger danger hasn't helped either - serious things, but not exactly as common as the media imply. Adult males have double the reason not to speak to or tell off someone's child.

Swizec [3]

> My interpreta is that in many other countries there is a sense of collectivism in that everyone takes care of children and collaborates a little bit. If you see a kid, you don’t think something must be wrong, you lend assistance to their parents by being an impromptu guardian and help the kid achieve their means.

> Whereas in the US the modus operandi is “Well it’s not my kid what do I care? Their parents must be terrible people for not standing right next to them”

> For example, as a 7 year old in eastern-ish europe, I would walk 1km to school on my own every morning. The worst that ever happened was when me and a friend decided that umbrellas ar[e] the perfect snow shovel.

Hopefully, that provides a bit more clarity for everyone.

Edit: formatting.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualism

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

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17437151

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17437088

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomy && https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomy#Child_development

I don't think the US Government does this more than it is the culture generally. You'll find a difference the kids of wealthy parents find in terms of control in their lives vs. kids in poorer circumstances.

Not really sure about your terms here, you seem to be glorifying individualism in practice, but blaming it in name? What could be more individualistic than doing something on your own?

I disagree, I'm glorifying autonomy in relation to self-determination theory but critiquing individualism as a cultural ideology or orientation. I used different words because I wasn't expecting a response like yours.

If you want a deep dive, this is a good paper: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12518973

Could you explain your distinction in plain English? Virtually nobody on this planet is entitled to read your source without shelling out a nontrivial amount of money, you haven't given a "shallow dive", so I have no interest in a deep one.

I can accept that you make a distinction, but to me the beginning and end of individualism is respect for individual autonomy, and I suspect that a lot of English literates would agree.

This reply, a little further up, should clarify the OP's point.


People naturally rise to their responsibilities, whether it’s work or basic life skills. Like learning a language, it come more naturally to children as there’s to no second guessing the difficulty of the undertaking nor the fear of failing at a task.

This is meant as parody of course but your comment reminded me of South Park's portrayal of that method: https://youtu.be/MBEfHZITrgo

As someone who grew up with zero structure and seeing my wife who came from a very strict background I hope if we ever do have kids we'll land in the middle somewhere.

A lot of that will depend on the circumstances of the birth of your children and how close they come to dying within their first 6 months.

To the contrary, I didn't have a ton of responsibilities at home, some chores but not too many. My parents put a premium on schoolwork and grades.

I did just fine living on campus freshman year (just under four years ago now). I don't think things are inherently that complicated.

Maybe I had more exposure than I think, but in the age of the internet, it's pretty easy to figure things out.

What's really interesting to me is this same thing can be applied to adults too.

The article writes:

> For starters, he says, ask your kid this question: 'What would you do if you didn't have to do anything else?'

I often wonder what civilization would be like if adults asked the same question to themselves and then lead a life where they focused on that instead of being pressured into "making a living".

> I often wonder what civilization would be like if adults asked the same question to themselves and then lead a life where they focused on that instead of being pressured into "making a living".

I imagine we'd have an abundance of pilots, and actors and a severe lack of toilet cleaners.

Personally I think there are more people than you think who would be perfectly happy to clean toilets as their contribution, so long as they were compensated fairly for it.

Isn't that the entire point of the free market? To find the price that incentivizes the necessary level of production of a good/service?

The alternative is a central authority setting prices, which has historically had disastrous results.

Well, in romantic theory, yes. But unfortunately, society doesn't value folks that clean toilets and folks that clean toilets need income to buy food, shelter, and other things. The balance of power seriously works against the person cleaning toilets, and they have no real power over the wages they are paid.

The market forces that determine pay are more competition between folks that hire others to clean toilets. If all of your competitors pay twice as much as you, you might not have quality employees... or any at all, if a job is readily available. If you have a lot of folks desperate for income, you can pay less. If there are few folks that are willing to clean toilets, you probably pay more. You could go without folks to clean toilets, but your average Western accountant probably isn't going to clean the office toilets or breakroom willingly unless it becomes standard for office jobs everywhere. Many places simply cannot leave dirty facilities - and in some jobs, you probably would rather have separate staff cleaning (hospitals, for example).

Luckily, there are a lot of levels between "unregulated, free-market-will-take-care-of-it" and complete control from a central authority. Minimum wages, worker rights, workplace safety, safety nets that ensure less desperate people, and so on.

If the supply of people able and willing to clean toilets is great compared to the demand for toilet cleaning service, the wage for toilet cleaners will be low.

We can redistribute profits from investors to low wage workers like the people who clean toilets, but the consequence of that is lower return on investment, and with it, lower rates of investment/economic-growth.

In the long, policies that lower economic growth rates are very detrimental to all classes of workers. What increases wages for people like toilet cleaners is high levels of production relative to population.

Investment is the mechanism by which we increase production, and profits are how 1. resources are distributed to those who are most effective at growing the economy's level of production 2. people are incentivized to invest to increase production.

There's no escaping economic laws, and no free lunch from policies that redistribute income from high income earners to low income earners.

There are other alternatives. Money isn't only kind of compensation that counts. Once I've covered my expenses - food, housing, transport (that can be public transport if I'm in an area where it's adequate), and medical, I don't care much for extra money. I know this is true, because I have fairly slack hours at the moment and could use my free time to make more money, but I choose not to because I have enough.

Other compensation that I'd accept instead - social status, respect, ability to spend my time in beautiful places and talk to interesting, educated people, opportunities to work in interesting buildings or locations, opportunities to work for organizations that I believe in, ability to have more kids, and live in a community that sees childrearing as a community responsibility. All these things are easier to find if you have money, but they're not exactly things money can buy.

The "necessary" level of production as far as people are able to pay for it. In the iterated free market game power is not equally distributed, which directly affects people's ability to negotiate pay for their work.

Another way is to keep the free market as a price discovery mechanism, but introduce a mechanism that counteracts the tendency to accumulate wealth.

That would mean raising prices, and thus the toilet cleaner him/herself wouldn't be able to buy the things that you want them to reach anyways.

Rather, the toilet cleaner would be able to buy things previously unattainable, and the person who hired the cleaner would have less free cash to spend on other objectives, which would cause a slight drop in the price of those other objectives.

Raising the income of a toilet cleaner doesn't correspond to a general rise in prices. It might mean the development of self-cleaning toilets, which isn't a bad idea.

Legislatively redistributing profits from investors to workers has the predictable long term consequence of reducing the rate of return from investing and with it, the volume of investment and labour productivity growth.

Margins aren't as generous in other fields as in IT.

Yes, and then pay the toilet cleaners even more, raise prices again, and so on. A virtuous upward cycle which would eventually bring their lives more in line with everyone else's.

How did it bring someone's life in line with everyone else when they're still unable to buy the things other people can buy? Do you realise that once the cleaner is more expensive than a Japanese toilet is to maintain, the cleaner will be fired and will have nothing instead?

So the toilet cleaner retrains to become the toilet repair person? What's wrong with that? We all get better toilets out of the deal, too.

The public bathroom still needs cleaning itself, though. Unless you're suggesting that a Japanese toilet is a robot that cleans the whole bathroom? That would be interesting!

> So the toilet cleaner retrains to become the toilet repair person?

I once had a summer job as a manager of this issue - my job was to find a cleaning company and assure quality in one company building (roughly 500 toilets, around 30 cleaners). From my experience, these people were unable to properly do their jobs (not the cleaning part, stuff like opening windows so the toilet doesn't smell like acid and actually dries, not forgetting to clean something...). None of these people would be able to or would want to invest the time to learn to repair the incredibly complex Japanese toilets - they will rather live on welfare. Of course it's anecdotal and I'm sure that a lot of people will do just what you said - most certainly not everyone though, and there won't even be place for everyone, rather like every hundredth at most.

> Unless you're suggesting that a Japanese toilet is a robot that cleans the whole bathroom?

Yes, there are "toilet boxes" that can clean the whole thing including floor, ceiling and walls.

Futile - one repairman needed for every N cleaners. Same with all automation - in fact its the entire point of automation - its cheaper to use machines that require very little human intervention including repair, than humans, to do some job. Until that's true in fact, robots aren't used because they aren't cheaper. In a total cost of ownership sense.

The salary of cleaners would rise until enough people are willing to do the job or it is more profitable to install self-cleaning toilets.

> The salary of cleaners would rise until enough people are willing to do the job or it is more profitable to install self-cleaning toilets.

or we could pass laws to bring in temporary workers from other countries and keep the wages down.

Why do pilots and cleaners need different wages, Is there something a pilot needs to live comfortably that somehow a cleaner doesn't?

The confusion here is because you are mixing up "wage", "a living", and "lifestyle cost".

Wage is compensation for labor and follows all of the normal market rules of supply and demand.

A living relates to the amount of money needed to pay for them to live. Rent, food, etc.

"lifestyle cost" is the above plus non-necessities.

Wage has zero relation to a living, and lifestyle cost. Your wage doesn't go up just because you want to spend more money at brothels in nevada, and it doesn't go down just because you stopped needing to spend as much money on food because you got a costco membership.

Or to put it simply, the rate of your labor has zero relation to your wants and needs.

Hmm, so minimum wages don't exist and when the cost of living rises wages never adapt to accommodate it. I think these concepts are far more linked than you suggest.

>Wage is compensation for labor and follows all of the normal market rules of supply and demand. //

It only follows those rules because those able to influence it have brought in that regime -- USA has been wetting its corporate pants over the idea that the hierarchy of wages might be broken by communism for some time. (Not to say communism is good, just it amuses me how they had to demonise communists - coming over here with their egalitarianism, trying to treat everyone as a person, embodying the maxim of 'being created equal' - in order to maintain capitalism and keep the peons/proles in their place. I digress.

Wages can reflect a person's worth to the owners of a company (they're worth X, because they bring us X+Y leading to profit) ...

OR they can reflect that people are "equal before God" and that one person's time is worth the same as another.

But, my time is worth more than their's -- well great, you can benefit society all the more.

But, no-one will work unless you use greed, selfishness, subjugation of others to motivate them ... well let's just keep mass murdering each other every 50 years or so we can keep the corporate masters in the style they're accustomed too.

Adam Smith pondered this 250 years ago. His writings on the subject are still some of the best.

>Why do pilots and cleaners need different wages

supply and demand

"The last few years I cleaned toilets for a living, but I decided that sucked, so this year I'm a project lead at Google."

I'll bet there are trash collectors that earn more than commercial pilots on second tier carriers.

Wasn't that myth debunked since it essentially happened to only a bunch of guys in NY ?

I personally know a small group of second tier pilots that only get paid peanuts. Something like $40k/yr, and unlike cleaners, they're mandated by a federal agency with teeth not to take a bunch of overtime.

Here's a pretty good introduction to how labor pricing works:


"and a severe lack of toilet cleaners."

not a problem because we probably would have selfcleaning toilets by then by default.

Toilets built by the underemployed pilots and actors? :)

You know not everyone is interested in becoming a pilot or an actor, right?

You know you're missing the point, right? There are some jobs that people just don't tend to enjoy or find meaningful. You can incentive people to do them by paying them lots of money, but that doesn't necessarily make people happy or fulfilled while doing the work, which was the original topic of this discussion.

We already have some for public loos.

They're somewhat terrifying cubicles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Fw9hxMCBdU

I don't think it would be as extreme as a full career change. There exists a very large startup cost to becoming a pilot. I'd think to measure the number of people motivated to those as "failed actors", people who tried to make their career as an actor but eventually moved on to other things. Isn't that what we already have today?

Maybe that would lead to all adults cleaning up their own shit so that "toilet cleaner" wouldn't have to be someones job title. I think that might be the least likely of all the hypothetical outcomes though :/

Made me think of this qoute:

" I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops." - Stephen Jay Gould

Well, today is a national holiday for me but about a dozen of us have to be at work (long story). For the next three hours, short of an emergency situation, we have literally nothing to do. No cellphones, but half of us are playing X-box (not networked). The other half are surfing the web, two of those are trying to find a way to watch the world cup despite our security filters. I would much rather be walking a dog on a beach, or flying fighter jet. My point: what we want to do with our free time is constantly limited by current circumstance. Letting kids do whatever the want, within the limitation that it must happen inside the classroom, will inevitably result in X-box and we surfing.

How about this: Give the kids a fire pit. I'd bet that most of them would rather learn how to start and maintain a fire than play x-box. I know I'd rather be chopping wood than sitting in an office chair.

"Fire pits and power tools good for preschoolers" https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/parenting/little-kids/pre...

I've met US teenagers who don't know how to use matches.

Have you tried reading or learning? I've always a book in my bag for unexpected breaks. Depending on the topic or book, you can easily go from something else to reading and back to work.

A month ago there was a thread about the "one book that changed your life": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17168136

I read Mindset by Carol Dweck since then and found it very interesting (and applicable to some parts of my life and behaviour).

>> Have you tried reading or learning?

Lol. When I was at basic training (Canadian military) we of course didn't have cellphones or computers, but were allowed books. The image burned into my mind is of my platoon on a rainy day in the woods. Everyone is in camo/weapons, huddled together to keep warm while waiting for a truck … reading game of thrones. Those novels were better protected from rain/mud than any weapon.

I have a dozen projects that I could be working on. But it is a Sunday. Canada day. Tomorrow is also a holiday. The bosses aren’t here. Other than us and the guards, the building is empty. Nobody is in the mood for the never-ending stream of online courses we are supposed to work on in our free time. It is Xbox and the web until quitting time.

Is this really so hard to figure out? Very few people would do things which are useful to keep civilization running if they have a choice. Look at what people do with their leisure time - watch commercial TV, play video games, look at nonsense on Facebook. It wouldn't be pretty.

> watch commercial TV, play video games, look at nonsense on Facebook. It wouldn't be pretty

Because that's all most people can do after 8-10 hours (+ commute) of soul-draining work, and then some household chores. Let's not assume that this is the default of human leisure just because it's all people have energy for after hard day of work.

NEETs might provide a strong example that this is the default of human leisure. In my experience most NEETs lament their lack of motivation. It's possible that their depression is a result of adverse societal pressure, but I posit that most humans lack the ability to structure their time without an external motivator.

It's often said that pain is the best teacher, but it is also common to refer to "the carrot or the stick". Pleasure provides motivation just as great as pain. Lately on Hacker News people have discussed addiction to smart-phones, referring to the dopamine hit resulting from notifications. We also see this with television series, where people will spend hours of free time binge-watching a show. It may well be that we can no longer control ourselves.

A recent science-fiction piece[1] references this phenomena: "I read pdfs of outlandish philosophers, but I do it while frantically checking for notifications" and "Normally I just fulfill my smart contracts and go back to reading Deleuze and Guattari, by which I mean I play first person shooters while the pdf is up on my other monitor".

Hikikomori provide another interesting example, perhaps without the social pressure; although I admit that I'm not very knowledgeable about Japanese society. It's been too long since I've read them; but the books "Hikikomori: Adolescence Without End" and "Welcome to the NHK" may provide some insight.

While I would like to think that humans are intrinsically motivated to _do_, experience shows me that most people are content to merely consume. Technology engineered to keep us scrolling only seems to exasperate the issue.

[1] https://zerohplovecraft.wordpress.com/2018/05/11/the-gig-eco...

> While I would like to think that humans are intrinsically motivated to _do_, experience shows me that most people are content to merely consume. Technology engineered to keep us scrolling only seems to exasperate the issue.

Reminds me of the concept of interpassivity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpassivity. We maybe be intrinsically motivated to _do_, but we have developed technology that can satiate this desire, e.g. watching someone else play video games on twitch.tv.

I hadn't heard of interpassivity before. It's an interesting concept and I think that it fits my own experience. Interpassivity is truthy.

But how come that's what most of jobless people do, too?

First off, that sounds like baseless speculation. Second, there might be a causal relation between lacking motivation/interests and being jobless. It's not a representative sample of the population at large.

Jobless people are often stressed.

Jobless people aren't often just jobless. They're stay-at-home moms. They're people on disability. They're people with medical or mental conditions. They're people stuck in welfare trap - they get just enough money to make it not profitable to work (they'd lose it if they went to work, but no entry-level job will pay them more than the amount they get from welfare), but not enough to support any creative hobby. Or they have jobs - on the grey/black market, so that they can get both benefits and some shit untaxed pay.

Absolutely, and there is also a perceived risk by many people that if they become to active or vested in a non-work activity that it will negatively impact their source of income.

I don't think it would be as bad as you think.

If you wanted to remain living in your ideal world, you would make adjustments to your life for the sole purpose of maintaining your lifestyle instead of just thinking "meh, someone else will do it".

I have to think if this were built into how we lived for hundreds of generations, then your mindset would even change from "maintaining my lifestyle" to "this is what we do to keep everyone happy".

I'm not a hardcore socialist either. I'm almost the opposite. I like the idea that if someone puts in a lot of effort, they should have a lot of success. I have no sympathy for people who want to just watch TV and expect to be carried by society. But, at the same time, I would much rather live in a world where everyone was happy doing what they love, and everything just worked out without the concept of money.

a) Why is that a bad thing? It's bad for the people themselves but arguably it's not terrible for society as a whole. Better than those people going out and getting into trouble, for instance.

b) I imagine that in a world without meaningful work, having meaningful hobbies might be seen as trendy. Just like eating poorly and being unfit signal low social status today, being a media-consuming couch potato would be considered low-class.

Well, if the world we're considering is one where magic provides all our necessities plus a bountiful UBI, then I agree with you. But I didn't think that that was the world we were discussing.

Yeah, I'd spend all day every day just reading.

>I often wonder what civilization would be like if adults asked the same question to themselves and then lead a life where they focused on that instead of being pressured into "making a living".


As much as I'd love to follow my heart, I also know that the things I find personally interesting aren't the same ones I'm good at. Alas, it's also in a field where only the very best make any money at all.

There was this old zenn diagram of the four factors to life that comes to mind.


Did you mean to write "Venn diagram", or this was the joke?

I agree. What the invisible hand of the market and society at large value rarely align with what an individual values (and enjoys) -- a cosmic joke of the human condition imo.

As in asking the question to other adults or to asking it of one's self?

If the first: I agree, it would be interesting to see the changes. Would we see more of Google's 20% time?

If of one's self: I think many do. I don't think the change would be as large. I already see many people spend their time on projects they are interested in. And I've seen that work be discouraged in favor of the assigned tasks/priorities. That discouragement can lead to a negative feedback loop of discouraging others.

There wouldn’t be civilization, we’d all die pretty quickly at the hunter/gatherer stage.

People will move on from what they want now and want to impress people. What better way than give meat to the village. That may lead to a marriage with the elder's daughter.

Eh, that’s why we work on what we don’t want to for money now.

You should look at GORE as an organization. [0] They work closely to this idea of contributions to their organization.

[0] https://medium.com/swlh/get-3-billion-big-by-staying-small-p... (There are a few articles linked throughout with a significant source list at the bottom of the article.)

> What would you do if you didn't have to do anything else?'

Marshall Brain's "Manna" is an interesting exploration of this question.


It's very hard to compare a hunter gatherer / traditional village society to the modern urban & educated society and have meaningful takeaways.

The crux of the matter is the requirement for responsibility. Rather than have this goofy teenagehood that runs from 13-25, forcing the matter of responsibility at an earlier age and accepting the failures is a critical difference.

Protecting children and ensuring they are not morally damaged runs exactly counter this reality. There's a good deal of cognitive dissonance and parental self-delusion going on here as well.

I have generally grown to have a dislike of child labor laws that prohibit or limit working after 14. It's doing a great disservice to the young adults who could be doing something constructive in character.

Same goes for chores: children should be doing a full set of chores in household rota as soon as they are physically able. Vacuuming, dishes, pet litter, etc.

> Same goes for chores: children should be doing a full set of chores in household rota as soon as they are physically able. Vacuuming, dishes, pet litter, etc.

It is insane that some parents I know would like to reply to this part of your answer like this: "Kids should be kids you shouldn't force them to be adults too soon or you might steal their childhood". I've literally heard that.

You might steal from their adulthood if you refuse to teach them life skills, maybe something to reply with.

Adulting is not evil; it is a consequence of discharging your responsibility and functioning as a human being. Kids will be kids, that has nothing to do with responsibility. I could ask my child to go to work - he'll be completely inept at it. He would be, truly and genuinely, childish.

I view my kid as a roommate - one I have responsibility for. As they become capable, they obtain agency and will be asked to deliver on that agency, within the limits of their capacity. Sometime around 16, I will expect them to execute the full tasks of an adult, barring rent. In turn, I will operate as a counselor and guide at that point, giving them a cushion when their attempts fail; the cushion will be mostly removed when are 18.

Childhood in the WEIRD view is a recent innovation, dreamt up by the middle & upper middle class in the 1800s, much like teenagers in the 1900s.

These ideas of what constitutes normative behavior for specific ages are contingent on our cultural matrix and are not hardcoded.

Well, maybe they feel that someone stole their childhood, and don't want the same to happen to their children.

What about corporate policies that refuse to do business with minors ? You can’t even use Uber as a 16 year old.

I consider that spectacularly dumb, but it's a second order problem caused by the lack of legal recognizance of contacts signed by minors.

So let them pay cash upfront. Brick and mortar stores have been doing business with minors forever.

I have 6 kids, and I've found it's pretty simple to get kids to pay attention (or anything else). Be consistent, and willing to discipline if necessary. Here's the order I follow:

1. Polite request

2. Polite command

3. Stern command

4. Warning

5. Push-ups

6. Spanking

They know I love them and because of that love obedience is required. Situations rarely escalate past step 2, and step 6 is memorable.

ETA: for anything past the polite stages, I try to always follow-up with gentle counseling after they've had a couple minutes to think about it. "Do you know why you got into trouble? How could you have handled the situation better?". Complete amnesty is the rule during counseling, i.e., no matter what they confess, they will NOT receive punishment. I want them to learn by reflection.

Obedience is not the same as paying attention. My son can make coffee and an omelette not because I told him but because he thinks it’s fun.

Sure it is. "Son, pay attention please."

Kids are capable of much more than we give them credit for. Often people "can't" pay attention because they don't want to. Obvious exceptions apply (mental handicap, fatigue, etc).

Or because you shouldn't have to pay attention, if you don't want to.

For adults (or maybe just the nature of internet conversations), it can seem like a power dynamic. I demand you reflect me back to me, speak my language, concepts, awareness - not your own, etc.

That's what it can feel like, being required to pay attention at all times, like one person is the programmer, and the other is the computer.

It's nice to have a mind that sucks up everything but it's also nice to have a mind that is self directed.

As we age, we get stuck in ways of thinking, knowing, understanding just because we accumulate personal identity. These things are much more fluid if one allows them to be, that's what paying attention can mean. The idea of obedience, eek. Mental handicap, mental fatigue - without concrete proof, I think it's wise to not apply labels to individuals one must interact with.

People sometimes have difficulty paying attention because they need to come to their own understanding independently, and if you are always trying to shove information in - making sure they can output that information in the correct format, one isn't letting them get there as an individual.

Capable, sure they are. Sometimes they can be much more aware than they appear to be too, and the only difference that capacity doesn't manifest itself is because in a system where the only options are - reflect information in these correct formats, otherwise adult observation implies 'no attention paid', I mean... Can you be capable and feel as though you got there as an individual if those are the rules of the system?

Simplified, give people time, have patience. The reasons why they aren't 'getting it' is because you are trying to give the whole thing to them. Sometimes people want to get there independently, and once that gets boring, they probably can develop a greater desire to get there with others.

I guess obedience implies literally anything insofar as you can instruct it.

I've never been past step 3 with my kids. A stern request will often invoke tears, but is usually effective. If not, I'll modify the environment, either by removing the thing that's the focus of the problem or by removing the child to another location. When my oldest was very young she used to unfurl the toilet paper in all the bathrooms, so we kept it on a shelf she couldn't reach. When she started potty training we put it back and the unfurling started happening again. Someone would always stop her pretty quickly, but it was frustrating having to be constantly vigilant. I understand how satisfying it must be to watch the paper fly off the roll at speed and pile up on the floor and after all, you only live once, so one day I made a deal with her: I'd let her unfurl an entire brand new roll all the way down to the cardboard and then we'd never do it again. After that the rolls lived happily ever after on their dispensers.

I'm also hyper conscious about the media they consume. The girl began consistently saying please and thank you after watching The Busy World of Richard Scarry and we never prompted her or even explicitly taught her those words.

Just for the sake of all parents reading this and comparing it with their own experience, we need to remember that kids are all very different. And also that other parents usually don't tell the full story and try to show themselves and their kids in the best light (all us humans do that). One might be a great parent, or might just got lucky to have very cooperative kid. And the vice versa, if your kid is hard to handle you might be a bad parent, but it's also quite likely that your kid just has more stubborn personality. So don't be too hard on yourself as a parent - if you care enough to worry about being a bad parent, you're probably doing just fine.

I definitely didn't tell the whole story, but the anecdotes I picked are representative of my parenting technique, which is why I picked them. I think the most important trait when parenting is empathy--reconstructing the scenario in your mind from the child's perspective. I think a lot of people do this with other adults, but forget to do it with children, and especially small children. Perhaps because they assume the child's mind works radically differently from an adult's?

I've also noticed that my kids are "easy" compared to many other children I've observed, but I've also wondered how much of this is luck of the draw and how much is a reflection of their environment.

I also had almost a decade of experience interacting with small children in my job before I ever had any of my own and I still find parenting and maintaining patience to be the hardest thing I've ever done. No parent should ever be hard on themselves for the decisions they've made. The struggle is real and no parenting decision is "wrong." Without a diversity of parenting styles we would not have a diversity of people, which I consider integral to the survival of our species.

Downvoters: can you be more specific? Usually it's obvious on a reread when I've failed to contribute to the conversation and I'll take the downvotes gladly, but this one has me stumped. Do you just not agree with my opinions, or have I come off as too sanctimonious?

Does it really matter ? (I didn't downvote, but votes don't matter).

No, the votes don't matter. Ironically, in fact, I think I got pity upvotes for the plea, which are not really helpful. What does matter is that I'm expressing myself effectively and the votes usually operate as feedback to that effect.

I'm still curious about the motivations of those downvoters.

Also, I apologize for the meta discussion in this already off-topic thread.

Wow you may have completley missed the point of this article.

Ok, but in the Mayan method, the kids figure out for themselves what needs to be done, so you rarely have to do even step 1. The fact that you don't seem to have gotten that makes me think you didn't actually read the article.

I really hope you're just trolling.

Just curious, who does the push-ups? Do you do them yourself in an attempt to manage your anger? Or is it some kind of punishment?

Don't spank your kids. It has no benefit, and many negative effects.

Yeah, the research is pretty clear on this. From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3447048/:

> Although some studies have found no relation between physical punishment and negative outcomes, and others have found the relation to be moderated by other factors, no study has found physical punishment to have a long-term positive effect, and most studies have found negative effects.

The research is pretty poor. The main problem is that all physical punishment is landed into a single pot, but there is clearly a world of difference slapping a fifteen year old in the face and slapping the bottom of a four year old.

See here for a useful meta-analysis: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10567-005-2340-z

Many people who hit kids aren't making fine distinctions like that. The whole point of the research is to address the general practice.

If the general practice can be effective depending on fine distinctions, and if such fine distinctions exist, then they matter. General advice like given above is then just bad advice.

It's incredible that we still have to discuss this in 2018.

Not really. Thousands (tends/hundreds of thousands?) of years of human society isn't going to just evaporate from a couple studies, even if they're incontrovertible.

Do you understand the post hoc fallacy?

I am not arguing that corporal punishment is effective because society has progressed. I'm saying that people are inflexible and even irrefutable science is unlikely to cause an immediate societal shift.

So your argument is that humans are feral? I don't think that's supported by the evidence either.

His argument is that culture is slow to change.

How in the world did you get "feral" from anything I'm saying?

Indeed. I was spanked as a child (I was very stubborn and looking back it's clear that nothing else really worked with me). As a result, I suffer from a condition known as respect for others. It's a terrible affliction to have in this day and age.

Strange, I was also spanked as a child and somehow I still ended up with several flaws. I feel like the experience retarded the age at which I was able to achieve self actualization by many years and seriously impacted my ability to have a healthy adult relationship with my father who has himself changed and grown tremendously as an individual since the years he spanked me as a child.

How did spanking lead to respect for others? Are you afraid other people might physically hurt you if you don't "respect" them? Or does adverse interactions bring up the childhood memories of being spanked? In genuinely curious how this works? (I grew up in a country where spanking and all other physical abuse of children is illegal)

Alas, "others" most likely do not include kids.

I am so glad that in my country physical abuse of the child is a punishable offense.

Not spanking also has no benefits and many negative effects.

> no matter what they confess, they will NOT receive punishment. I want them to learn by reflection.

this is interesting, i will try this.

As a child there were many times were I'd rather my dad give me a good spanking than to talk with my mom. It's brutal when parents ask you in a soft voice to explain why you did a bad/stupid thing, and most of the time you are just a dumb kid, there was no real reason or thinking behind it :D

Spanking is child abuse, there's a ton of evidence backing that up, stop doing it.

While I don't practice it, and think it backfires, calling spanking abuse in order to shame its practitioners is an exaggeration that helps neither the abused, nor the parents you wish to stop the practice.

Actually the evidence is extremely poor, largely because 'spanking' seems to cover anything from a slap on the bottom to beating around the face with your fists.

If you have evidence to the contrary, please provide it.

I and my wife discuss programming matters in front of our kids. And my kids listen to the discussions and want to be part of it.

Then I start teaching the basics, they are a bit more willing to hear.

Here the incentive for them is to be part of the club where interesting things are happening.

We laugh at coding jokes which kids don't appear to understand which leaves them confused.

So, it seems they are aware they lack some understanding because of which they are unable to understand us.

The same idea has worked for math, playing musical instruments like keyboard/ukelele, physical exercises like skipping ropes or air pushups.

If I simply give them a computer or ukelele, they won't be interested as they don't know how to hold a ukulele or have no one to tell them how to hold it right and how to fuse a chord progression with the strumming pattern. These things are not obvious by just watching or hits and trials on a guitar/ukelele.

Thanks for an idea. As part of developing a rough-quantitative feel for physical properties, I like associating measures with real-life adult-world examples. Eg, a Newton-meter torque is reopening a 2L plastic soda bottle.[1] But my mindset was 'make the associations transparent and low-barrier', and do 'number->example, to allow easily exploring the measure space"'. But what if there was more mystery, struggle, challenge, tease? An adaptively tuned barrier.

Instead of 'touching a thermometer scale at some temperature instantly yields a video about making chocolate', or a video clip of a tv news weather report, what if instead a video had temperatures bleeped/blurred out, and required an act of effort - "give me the temperature, d*mnit! it should be around here somewhere...". Then maybe related videos (of similar temperature or topic) aren't just more surfing, but payoff? An unlocking. "Ohhh, change the temperature of that step and you get a different kind of chocolate!"

Maybe a little animated critter that watches videos with you, and cheers for temperatures, or jumps on them, and sometimes makes it so you cant hear/see them, unless you shush the critter, or move it.

Anyway, random brainstorming - I'm exploring maybe doing a temperature education app. Thanks for your comment.

[1] http://www.clarifyscience.info/part/ZoomB?v=A&p=CK6Ji&m=torq...

> For starters, he says, ask your kid this question: 'What would you do if you didn't have to do anything else?'

In the western world the answer to that question is often some addictive activity such as playing video games, or watching videos on youtube.

> In the western world the answer to that question is often some addictive activity such as playing video games, watching videos on youtube or something similar.

I was a relatively free-range child. I had a bike, I had a pocket full of quarters to call home if I needed to, and if I wanted to I could stay home and play video games (we had an NES, followed by a SNES, but not that many games).

What did I do? I rode my bike to the library and took out books from the programming section. The first ones were video-game inspired. You could get the source code of a game in a book and type it into the Vic-20. I was obsessive with it. Once I'd gone through all of the game-books they had, I started making my own. And then we got a used XT and it. was. on. Quickly went from QBasic to a C compiler (PowerC, if I recall). Around '97 or so we got a Pentium 1 and I heard about this thing called "gcc" which was apparently a better C compiler, so I ended up installing Linux.

And here we are, 20 years later and I've turned all of that into a great career. At the time, my parents were pretty dismayed that I wasn't into baseball, or soccer, or basketball, or whatever... But they did a great job at keeping things balanced. Don't want to play sports? That's ok, but we've got to go take the dog for a walk.

I fully accept that a lot of the computer-related activities are significantly more addictive now (and passive) than they were back then. If I wanted a new game, I had to ride my bike to the library! But... I'm always leery of people who suggest heavily restricting screen time just because it's screen time. If that's the direction someone's going, they might just need a little nudge to make it a more productive learning experience.

There's a big difference in active and passive screen time. I got into computers in the early 90s and back then there was always a certain hands on aspect to it. From installing RAM to clearing drive space or making custom boot disks... Games actually thought me a lot!

Now... Not so much. Much of the hardware is locked, nevermind the software. So kids get to thinking they can't make anything, that it's a primarily passive experience.

To me, that's the big problem, to become passionate about passiveness.

For the record my 5 year old runs KDE on a fanless laptop. It's been great for him to learn letters at school

I agree except for the idea that hardware and software being locked somehow prevents creative activities.

If you want to do programming, you can do a huge amount just using browser APIs (and that is kind of nice because it is very easy to share what you do by sending people a link). You can do graphics (canvas, svg, webgl), audio, and so many other things.

But to use a computer creatively you don't have to be a programmer. You can use paint programs, 3d modeling programs, music programs such as DAWs, word processors/text editors for writing, and a huge number of other kinds of software that allow non-passive, creative activities.

The problem, as I see it, is that so many passive things are available too, and many are very attractive to kids.

Three problem with locked-down software and hardware is that it is the environment. An immutable environment leaves no room for creativity.

Sure, you can go find an open environment, but when I was growing up, I was already there; and that made all the difference. I didn't need a mentor to introduce me. I was free to stumble into the world of software via my own interests.

That's just not true. Plenty of creativity is available in immutable environments. Working around limitations is a key factor of creativity in my opinion.

Sure, but it's a different kind of creativity.

The limitations are arbitrary and nearly impossible to get around. Computers, especially smart phones, tablets, etc. are being treated less as property of the buyer and more as property of the seller/manufacturer.

For example: When it is very difficult to unlock a bootloader, then most people do not find it interesting to try other operating systems. Very few are more creative, and the rest are just prevented from exploring/learning/creating just because they have the wrong device.

The kinds of creativity that are allowed are far more relevant to the question of kids and attention and the effect of electronic devices. My four year old has a chromebook, which she uses for a lot of things (of which watching inane videos on YouTube would be her default if I didn't intervene regularly to point her to better stuff).

She'll probably be coding by the time she is 8, but she mostly does graphics and music now (for instance, she uses piano-karaoke software I developed that runs in Chrome on most any device). The "unlocking the bootloader" issue hasn't cropped up yet, but maybe I would be more frustrated if we had an iOS instead of chromeOS, Android and MacOS devices.

These limitations aren't constrained to toddlers. I have met plenty of teenagers who are stuck with similar devices.

This is a problem that has been somewhat avoided in the Android ecosystem, but the trend is definitely negative.

Maybe it was different back then. Most games were simpler and many of us did not have endless collection of games. It was much easier to get bored playing with computer. Now the app stores are filled with free, addictive stuff. And that’s just games.

The screens of your past aren't close to the ones of today.

The question confuses me right away because most Americans are not keeping their kids' schedules full all the time. "Go play, I have to work/cook/shop/whatever." Kids are doing "what they would do if they don't have to do anything else," because they don't have to do anything else.

Maybe the question is more about the behavior of the adult than the child? Parents need to enable their children's interests. Maybe your child really wants to roller skate but can't do it unless you enable them by watching them, because it's a dangerous neighborhood. It's your responsibility to foster their interest by making the time to help them.

Or maybe the idea is that parents sometimes don't actually know the interests of their children? So the point of the question is not to open time in the kid's schedule for their activity (because they're doing that activity already). It's to make the parent more aware of what the activity is?

It was my understanding purposely filling your child's schedule is a mixed bag. It could help a child or hurt them significantly. That kind of filled schedule adds stress and removes exploration time.

I never would have been a programmer if my parents filled my schedule with football, like they wanted to.

I would second this. Enabling your child's interests takes observation and work.

One of the more surprising things I've discovered as a recent parent is how prominent tablets are as a distraction or learning tool.

I'm no exception. We bought our son a cheap, bulletproof Amazon Fire tablet, ratcheted the parental controls to the roof, and let him watch videos or play with it when he requests it (and use it as a helpful distraction when he gets bored in restaurants.)

I'm split on how to approach this. On one hand, I would have done anything to have this magical infinite learning device when I found myself bored as a child, but I also recognize that the content on it is more often than not designed for addiction. Our son is not yet old enough to understand even rough warnings of addictive behaviors, so we're kind of watch-and-waiting. We limit screen time per day, but as he gets older, and gets access to a web browser, I'm not sure how I feel about those limits in relation to traditional information sources.

Do we have to call it an addiction?

A video game is an immersive experience that allows an individual to effectively sync into a state of flow detached from reality.

If reality is chaotic and stressful and reinforces that sentiment from all directions to yield those internal feelings of agony, it seems obvious that anything that can alleviate such agony would be immediately ran to.

Better to be addicted to video games than heroin, right? At least video games can teach modular reasoning. And yes, extreme cases of video game addiction have led to death, but a kid having a daily hobby of playing video games after school is not the same thing.

   > Better to be addicted to video games than heroin, right?
Only in terms of your physical health. Otherwise iirc addiction is defined as having negative effect on your life (work, social, personal) so it is as bad.

  > At least video games can teach modular reasoning.
Which will be used only for games, because you are not interested in anything else?

> Which will be used only for games, because you are not interested in anything else?

Or programming, having a job you have passion for and are good at, being able to produce work people see value in, sustaining yourself, you know, not living in a gutter and stuff dying of a heroin overdose?

> Only in terms of your physical health. Otherwise iirc addiction is defined as having negative effect on your life (work, social, personal) so it is as bad.

Well, if you love video games and everyone around you hates video games, and thinks video games are as bad as heroin, I could see how that could have a negative effect on your work, social, and personal life.

I am not talking about liking games and gaming. I am talking about addiction.

Addiction is very difficult to diagnose and should be left to professionals who are fundamentally bound to a Hippocratic oath.

Even without screens, if you asked me as a kid it would be to play with toys, draw or maybe go play baseball with my friends. Conversely, my daughter has unfettered screen time on multiple devices with an A+ selection of games and videos, but she proactively started folding laundry this morning for no reason and then asked to practice coding with me. Why? Same reason as the Mayan kids. Genetics.

And, just to be pedantic because I hate the term, the Yucatan is in the Western World.

You mean, the things parents allow their kids to do in lieu of being able to actually go outside and do things on their own, without having to ask a parent to taxi them around or something?

My father was short tempered, very loud, and an unusually large man in stature and presence. Additionally he worked nights, got a couple hours of sleep, and then woke up and took care of my brother and I for breakfast / school before sleeping more. He was not someone to mess with in general, let alone at 630am on a Tuesday.

I think the threat of being screamed at and intimidated made my brother and I two of the most well behaved kids I knew. I would see my friends going bananas and think, “are you guys out of your minds?”

I’m not advocating this style of parenting, and I won’t replicate it, but I can’t deny that the old school mechanism of raising kids was basically “sit down, shut up, or else!” and it made kids much more likely to listen. And the view of children as mini adults who could be useful, if properly trained, has been the default parenting style for thousands of years.

> And the view of children as mini adults who could be useful, if properly trained, has been the default parenting style for thousands of years.

I remember reading a theory, long ago, that the absence of this is the entire source of teenage rebellion. Like the children from Guatemala in this article, it also said that this phenomenon pretty much only exists in "westernized" countries.

Basically, the theory is that puberty is when our bodies start telling us we're adults and need to take more responsibility/control, but society doesn't let us. So to find ways to take control, teenagers start doing things they're typically not allowed to do.

I'm in your camp: I never really understood why others did what they did, but fitting the theory, my parents did steadily treat my and my brothers more like adults as we grew up, instead of like kids most of the time.

One suggestion from their parenting style, that's apparently rare based on what my friends said:

Never give your kids an allowance. Once we were old enough, they started paying us for more chores/responsibilities; I got $5 for vacuuming the house once a week, my brothers each got $5 for mowing the lawn (usually split between inside and outside the backyard). Additional $1 for loading/unloading the dishwasher. Stuff like that. It doubled as giving us an inherent understanding of money long before we needed to work, rather than just giving us more responsibilities as suggested in the article.

Well, my parents gave me lots of freedom but I acted out like an angsty fuck anyway. Seriously, I had what you guys are talking about here: from the age of 3, I had a large area to explore filled with cobras, scorpions, and animals. Play with my friends (who I had to find in the neighbourhood - hard enough since houses were half a km away from each other) was self-directed.

Then we moved to the city at 11, and I was still allowed autonomy, and most of my activities were self-directed so long as my scores were good in school.

Well, my life has given me evidence that you get no guarantees no matter how much autonomy or independence you get. Sometimes it's just sheer luck.

I hear you, but there's a distinction between open-ended autonomy and being provided with structure in which adult behaviour is incentivised. They're different things each of which are beneficial in different ways.

Old-style parenting gives the child responsibility but definitely not control.

Teenagers rebel because they are biologically motivated to experiment, and they get more conservative as they age, no parenting required.

Another anecdote people might not like: Sunday school was an amazing form of early-childhood education for me. Some of my first experiences with music, art, and reading were in Sunday school. It taught me to love drawing and singing which I still like to this day. We were taught to obey our parents or go to Hell, to pay attention or go to Hell, to share and be kind and to empathize... or go to Hell... Which everyone of course realizes the implications of, even at very young ages.

I once had a very interesting conversation with a high school teacher of mine who taught very high-level math. Speaking only of his students who were in honors courses, he said that there was a clear divide between students from religious homes and students from secular ones. The religious ones were much more diligent and willing to learn. The non-religious ones may have been smart but were sometimes unmotivated or couldn't handle the rigorous pace of work. The religion itself didn't matter - we had Hindu, Christian, and Jewish kids in the class, maybe one Muslim but I don't remember. He himself was a Christian so maybe he was biased, but I believe it.

Interesting theory, I think there's something to it.

There's probably some selection bias going on with the religious homes thing. Like the hidden variable that both religious adherence AND discipline/work ethic are caused by: a belief in a meta-order that one should conform to and operate within.

i.e. It's reasonable to assume that more traditionally religious parents are people that tend to prefer (a) explicit order and structure, and (b) conformity or deference to authority. If you value those things, you will likely place a higher degree of value on discipline and work ethic in your own life and in your children's lives.

On a more subtle level -- and this will likely be unpopular on here -- I believe that sincerely religious people are also more likely to have a certain "default stance" towards life / the universe... that their actions matter, that they want to be "morally good", that they must take into account a perspective other than their own (either God's perspective, their priest's, their parents', etc). That combined with a kind of earnestness... seems like a good plan for success in life.

Obviously not saying those are exclusively or even principally religious attributes.

Also not saying that that stance is absolutely the best one. You can likely index too far that way too.

Essentially everyone where I grew up was nominally Christian (we were highly unusual as an atheist family), and it was the churchiest pillar-of-the-community families whose kids acted out the worst.

People who take part in organized religion are probably have a more authoritarian personality.

A religion-based anecdote like this sounds very odd to my Western European/Australian ears.

I simply can't imagine anyone here in the UK or in Australia (where I went to school and university) making such statements relating students' diligence to religious background.

(For what it's worth, I went to a Church of England-run high school, where the top students were overwhelmingly non-religious.)

In so many ways, the USA is a very different country...

There's a lot of range of behavior when it comes to strict parents, but just for the sake of tossing out my own anecdote the friends I had growing up with what I thought were ultra strict parents, all ended up acting out in later years. These were smart, disciplined kids that I grew up with, but when finally out from under their parents things changed as they went through university and eventually early life away from their parents.

To me it seemed they were just kept in a bottle for years and then other development started as soon as it could away from mom and dad.

Granted, what you and I think of as strict parenting could be very different things, and a few had a sibling who actually stuck with a very straight and narrow path through life.

Yes, kids and young adults now commit less violent crime and less likely go into bloody fights. I mean, for all the "kids behaved better for thousands years", I actually went out of way to check how people in the past acted and it was not so rosy.

On average, the kids raised like this tend to do what autority tell them when autority is present. It is different when autority is not present and they are in presence of weaker kids.

"On average, the kids raised like this tend to do what autority tell them when autority is present. It is different when autority is not present and they are in presence of weaker kids."

It is still the same today, I can watch with some alpha parents who act like that. The result is bow to the top, kick below. Disgusting.

Out of curiosity, what were your feelings like towards your dad at this time? Was there a lot of fear around him? Did you "like" him?

As someone who grew up in a working class environment in which mostly everyone had "flawed"(lol) fathers, I've found that there's a big distinction in the structure of the discipline.

The parents for whom crossing a line resulted in verbal/physical abuse but were otherwise fine tend to have good relationships with their kids. While the punishment is much more severe than it would be in other families, there's a clear logical structure that a child can understand. When I was younger I would say stuff like "My dad hit us sometimes when we were being dumb, but otherwise he was great". However, I've long learned that people that grew up in the middle/upper class don't want to hear statements like that and get extremely uncomfortable, so I now leave it at "my childhood was good".

On the other hand, the people I knew growing up that had a father that was arbitrary with their anger tend to have non-existing/bad relationships with their fathers. I'd see situations where the father would tell their son to do X, son would respond that they've finished X already, father would lose their temper and scream at them to do X again, which made no sense. When you do that, you're not teaching a lesson or imposing any structure, you're just teaching your son that you're an asshole. Unsurprisingly, these children grow up with extreme resentment towards their fathers that has lasted into adulthood.

The last time I read some studies on the subject of physical discipline, the conclusion was closely aligned with what you observed. Children who were physically disciplined but understood their parents loved them and had a consistent approach to the discipline had no negative long-term effects from the discipline, whereas those who were arbitrarily "disciplined" (really, just abuse if it's arbitrary) or didn't have an understanding of their parents' love for them had significant negative effects from the abuse.

My dad hit us sometimes when we were being dumb, but otherwise he was great

People possibly react strangely to that for a few additional reasons?

- Culturally now, "hit" can refer to anything all the way up to criminal domestic violence, blunt weapons, and hospital visits.

- Kids routinely cover for their parents, even when they are the second kind- the kind that just lose their temper, beat their children unconscious, etc.

Less vague terms like "spanked", "slapped", etc might cause milder reactions...

Raising a child and being liked are two different agendas and at times are at odds.

Best advice don't be your child's friend be parent plenty of peers who can be friends but none that can be parents.

I have an 8 year old son, and I think I do a pretty good job of being stern / enforcing rules while also ensuring him that he is liked and loved.. There is definitely a balance in there, "not being his friend" I think is too far to one side... I just don't let being his friend prevent me from holding him to a certain expectation.

To me, a friend is an equal, and someone you can count on. My sons are not my equals, and I'm not their friend. This doesn't mean I don't show love or affection, just that I don't expect the same kind of support from them as I do my friends. I also don't order my friends around from time to time ;-)

However I hope in the future we be friends, when I don't need to wipe their ass or provide food and shelter.

I would agree on the wiping ass part, it's hard to be friends until then.. but I have a 40 year old brother who still barely provides his own food and shelter so good luck with that part =)

I think of "friend" as someone you enjoy spending free time with and are willing/open to confiding in

Thanks for the warning. This is why we made 2 ;-)

This is a good sentiment to have. My dad was my dad until I left home for university - he loved us and provided for us but also was the authority and disciplinarian when necessary. Now that I've got my independence and my own household, my relationship with my dad is far more like one of friendship, alongside my trust in him as a mentor or life advisor, if I feel like I need that kind of advice. I feel like it's been integral for my development as a person and value our relationship immensely.

One of the best things you can do for your children is to teach them to behave in such a way that you will like them. Because if you will like them other adults are also likely to like them. When you and other adults like your children it opens up huge opportunities for growth and positive experience both inside the family and out.

I don't know exactly how that fits within the definition of being their "friend" exactly. It sounds a little adjacent to friendship to me.

My parents divorced when I was 10, and now my dad is married to his third wife. Age has mellowed him and his third wife has whipped him into a more submissive role, which was a good change in his personality.

I don’t hate my dad, he is a flawed man but I love him. We both like NFL, boxing, and movies so we talk a lot about that.

My brother is mostly estranged from my dad and they talk rarely, but we all do get together most thanksgivings.

This reminds me a lot of my dad growing up. He was very stern, the disciplinarian, he divorced my mom when I was 11.. We have the best relationship we've ever had now, but as a child I was thankful he moved away.

So his methods worked, but it damaged his relationships with his kids. Seems too high a price to pay.

Seems too snap a judgment to make.

> the threat of being screamed at and intimidated made my brother and I two of the most well behaved kids I knew

I can't speak about your experiences, of course. In general, my understanding from experts is that being yelled at trains children to simply avoid being yelled at; they don't learn good behavior.

> And the view of children as mini adults who could be useful, if properly trained, has been the default parenting style for thousands of years.

I don't see that as a positive. The world was a horrible place for thousands of years; it was only in the last century that we started figuring things out, got children out of coal mines, learned germ theory, democracy and human rights became the norm, etc. etc. I like our modern ideas much better.


Correction without direction doesn't explain the problem. I figured out what you meant, however it doesn't help the author correct their mistake.

It’s also not a “real” grammatical rule. Just a bunch of prescriptive nonsense

"He took care of my brother and I." "He took care of my brother and me."

Which is correct? Remove the non-self part.

"He took care of I." "He took care of me."

"Me" is correct because it's the object.


"My brother and I climbed a hill." "My brother and me climbed a hill."

Which is correct? Remove the non-self part.

"I climbed a hill." "Me climbed a hill."

"I" is correct because it's the subject.


This is a real grammatical rule. It is prescriptive, that's what grammar means.

You can keep not believing it, but that does not make it any less true.

Removing the non-self part is a made up rule. That's my point. I am very familiar with the rule and can apply it myself quite easily. However, the rule is total bullshit.

Text-only link because NPR couldn't be bothered to make their GDPR compliance page link to the correct page: https://text.npr.org/s.php?sId=621752789

How did you find this? I looked all over but was unable to find it after declining and going the the plaintext site.

I would love the text-only site... if it worked.

You can copy the story ID from the original URL. It's the "long" number just after the date — e.g. in the following URL:


it's 621752789. I would then click any random story on the default "plain text site" (https://text.npr.org/), to quickly get a base URL for a story, and then replace the sId in the URL with the copied number. Thus:


It's amazing how so many in our society wonder why kids naturally don't want to be forced to sit down, shut up, and passively consume arbitrary, impractical, and obsolete information. Our teaching and testing methods are stuck in the 19th century. Children who don't fit the mold of a cog in the industrial machine are drugged into submission.

>We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

-Buckminster Fuller

As someone who has spent a bit of time traveling in the Mayan parts of Guatemala and Mexico, it seems difficult to me to compare parenting styles without also considering the fact that quite a few of the Maya in general are living in abject poverty with very little social mobility and with often 3+ generations of family living in close proximity, and I suspect as their financial situation improves and they have better access to distractions like tv or internet, the differences will fade away. I’d be very surprised if it even survived one generation of living in Guatemala City, let alone after moving to the US.

It’s one thing to let your kids free roam in a village that has a single dirt road going through it and almost everyone around you is a cousin or has known your family for generations. It’s quite another in the suburbs where you have only had a 5 minute chat with one neighbor in 3 months.

I’m also sort of skeptical of applying a value judgement to one or the other — I’m not sure that it would be beneficial to raise your kids that way in the developed world, although it sounds nice in the abstract.

I have so many problems with these kind of articles / studies. For starters, does any of this matter? There seems to be a moral assumption that more motivated kids are somehow better.

I also dislike the ‘more autonomy’ argument - somewhere in the article it says something like ‘ we can’t give kids that much autonomy because it would be dangerous’. So it’s setting up a morally superior scenario and parenting approach and then discounting it as inapplicable in the modern context. What does that tell you about kids? Nothing. But it tells you a lot about society’s priorities.

I’ve got a counter conclusion; the American kids have seen the toys before and they’re just not that interesting. The Mayan kids have fewer toys so are interested in playing with them.


  What would you do if you didn't have to do anything else?
  Then create space in their schedule for this activity
and the time to focus on their interests.

I'm curious if their measurement of paying attention to an unrelated task performed by someone else is a measurement of attention or curiosity.

I am so grateful my parents didn't need to "create space in my schedule" for anything. I created my own schedule (outside of school). That is autonomy, not your parents creating spaces in your schedule.

Can you explain the difference? to me both statements appear the same with the difference a matter of perspective. Your parents scheduled some of your time as your time outside of your schedule for school. You scheduled that time and your parents respected that.

Well, I think first you need autonomy without direction before you can figure out what you want to do. Without space to be bored, it's hard to find the time to be creative, IMO.

I'm disappointed to see this article trot out the "unsafe" trope, especially after, earlier in the article, citing the Maya mother stating her child knows how to avoid traffic.

> Now, many parents in the U.S. can't go full-on Maya to motivate kids. It's often not practical — or safe — to give kids that much autonomy in many places, for instance.

I'm not asserting that traffic is the only US safety concern (or that it's even comparable for that example), but I would have hoped the authors would at least put in a link to an article regarding safety concerns or the controversy, without implicitly taking sides.

Traffic safety is the main reason that US kids aren't out there playing. Because we're "rich" we've created a car-choked hellscape where nobody can be outside. We're so much more "rich" than those backwards people who have to walk to the store or ride a filthy bus.

This is not supported by, at least, this chart, comparing the US and Guatemala:


Now, it may still be true that pedestrians or child pedestrians are killed at a higher rate (per capita, per car, and/or per mile driven) in the US than in Guatemala (or other countries that are not "rich"). However, for that possibility to be plausible, there would need to be at least a credible, substantive explanation.

It's more about the perception than the reality. People won't let their kids out because it appears to be rather dangerous. They drive them everywhere instead.

The dig at Americans' self image as "rich" is a reference to the famous line by Enrique Peñalosa: a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars; it's a place where the wealthy ride the bus. I live part-time in Switzerland where the traffic violence rate is a small fraction of what it is here in the US. I let my kids roam the city because it's safe. I won't let them roam around in Oakland where we don't even have sidewalks. My neighbors consider themselves to be very rich compared to my neighbors in Zurich. They have a huge tacky mansion and two Porsche SUVs, and their kids are stupid and fat and have diabetes.

> It's more about the perception than the reality.

What's the "it" here? The article's statement? If so, that's my disappointment. They could easily have added the adjective "perceived" or ommitted the part about practicality.

> The dig

A dig is not, in general, substantive, and I fear that your use of words like "hellscape", "backward", "filthy", "tacky", "stupid", and maybe even "fat" have a tendency to inflame and thereby distract from whatever on-topic point you may have.

For what it's worth, what the Maya families are doing is a version of the central principle of Montessori early education (and what my company is trying to scale). That is, build a capacity for deep concentration in early childhood using (1) high autonomy pedagogical practices and (2) an environment with a structure that makes it possible for children to contribute to practical life.

Text version for EU users https://text.npr.org/s.php?sId=621752789 , since declining tracking does not redirect to the correct article. It should work well with your browser's reading mode.

Thanks, now I understand what reading mode is for :-)

"The parents intentionally give their children this autonomy and freedom because they believe it's the best way to motivate kids." This is basically the philosophy behind self-directed learning: unschooling as well as learning communities like Sudbury schools, liberated learners centers, and agile learning centers.

I work at one of these schools, and our kids are really good at paying attention. ADD is a real thing and still affects some of them, but we also have a lot of kids who were diagnosed with ADD and it turns out when they are interested in what they're doing, their attention span is completely normal.

"diagnosed with ADD and it turns out when they are interested in what they're doing, their attention span is completely normal."

Of course the problem is that, even when something is interesting to the person at a high level, there may be subsets of that activity which are dead boring.

So it comes down to the choice of the kids. Apparently, making an origami jumping mouse is interesting for mayan kids, but not for american ones. The article doesn't even try to convince me that autonomy is the critical factor.

When a professor starts a sentence with "It may be the case that" it is clearly just personal opinion and not published scientific fact. The professor intentionally makes the disclaimer that she has no proof for the hypothesis.

Yeah the reason is that they can’t afford to buy talking Paw patrol toys.

I’ve handed a bunch of Mayan kids my iPad and they didn’t give it back to me for hours. They totally forgot their beautiful handmade toys in an instant.

> "Of course she can go shopping," Tun Burgos says. "She can buy some eggs or tomatoes for us. She knows the way and how to stay out of traffic."

I wonder how much this has to do with the value of child life.

What are the statistics of Mayan children being run over / kidnapped?

I can't imagine it's somehow safer in Mexico, just somehow parents are more willing / less informed to take this risk.

If people believed in statistics they would let their kids roam free like their parents and grandparents did. It's much safer than it used to be. Alas, US parents are overly protective.

I believe it's because parents and grandparents never looked at statistics and so because in communities where there wasn't a story of children getting kidnapped or being killed on the road then they just never thought about the chance happening.

> I can't imagine it's somehow safer in Mexico

It's far less safe in Mexico than in the US, though it's probably still safer in Mexico than Americans perceive it to be in the US.

> just somehow parents are more willing / less informed to take this risk.

You seem to presume Americans are well informed here; they are not. They consistently vastly overestimate the current risk and incorrectly perceive it as increasing when statistics does it is decreasing. Mexicans could be more willing to let their kids out because they are better informed (at least, have a more accurate perception of the risks) rather than less informed.

I don't have the stats you're looking for, but I would guess the prior probability of accidents and foul play in smaller communities is also going to be lower than it is for large urban communities, because these communities are more tightly-knit, and people drive less rashly to begin with, etc. Or maybe they drive more rashly - I don't know. The point is, there are a lot of factors to consider. So it's going to be hard to draw conclusions from stats.

In other words, how much of those numbers is explained by said lower probability, and how much by parents' willingness to trust their kids?

I guess my follow up is: which is better? Is it better not to pay attention to tasks and imagine other stuff or is it better to focus on the task no matter how trivial?

In other words, should the Maya kids be learning from the Americans?

I had the same question. I’ve always been able to focus to the point of obsessiveness on things that interest me and I see the same qualities in my son now. For him it’s Bey Blades and Pokémon right now.

Career wise, the trick has always been learning to aim my obsession at the problem.

That highlights an interesting aspect of American culture.

Whenever America is different from the rest of the world, most americans' default position is to assume it is worse.

The only exceptions are behaviors with some kind of cultural identity behind them.

Interesting question. I certainly have had many great ideas while not paying attention and being bored out of my mind in school.

I agree. Personally, I don't remember what boredom is. I stop paying attention whenever I can get away with it, happy that I just reclaimed some time from a bullshit situation - time which I can use to think about problems that interest me.

The way my step sons live strikes me as having much less autonomy than I had at their age. I’m still boggles that young kids aren’t allowed to walk to school by themselves.

Most of the time, I tend to think as long as good basic care is taken of kids, they can work out all sorts of weird child rearing environments just fine.

Something that has given me pause though is the astonishing addictive power of the various “screen” which occupy so much attention. Unibiquitous telecommunication is something new in human history, and it really grabs hold of people, the young as much as anyone. My concern is that our highly tuned psycho-physiology has not evolved to handle the type of activity, and it’s distorting our consciousnesses, and ability to pay attention, in ways that are unhealthy.

(Similarly to how humans have a hard time with too much access to processed food with high calorie amounts.)

> "If you do better on the task, it would end sooner," Esterman says. "And you can get out of the lab sooner."

My boss never tells me this :(

I have a friend (a programmer) whose employer decided to try shortening the work day to 6 hours as long as the work still got done at the same pace. The owner was under the assumption that work will expand to take the time allotted. The experiment worked, and they still have 6 hour work days a couple years later.

I think the theory that work will expand to take the time allotted is true, and I bet the motivation of getting done early is a big contributor as well.

Maybe you can pitch it to your boss :)

The problem is really that I'm the one making the time-estimations. So if I can get the work done faster, I could (in theory) go home earlier, but if it takes more time than expected, then to be fair I'd have to do night-work.

Honestly if you get your work done faster, you will probably just get more work until your schedule is full again.


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