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The Hand Licking Incident (raisingfutureadults.blogspot.com)
640 points by DoreenMichele 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 339 comments





This is a great anecdote to describe a formal approach which is called positive discipline.

We assume as adults that children who do things that are not what we want or against our instructions need “discipline” in order to learn they should have made a better choice.

This fails on the most basic point. Young children are, in most cases, not making a conscious choice at all in these cases. They are not thinking in their brains, the same way we adults imagine a conscious decision making process occurs, weighing the concequences and choosing a certain path. They are not deciding to be bad because it is easier/more fun/worth it at that age.

Positive discipline is not actually discipline at all. It is fundamentally a realization that children make “mistakes” because they weren’t actually capable of doing what was asked of them.

The essence of positive discipline is the search for the underlying reason a child is not capable of following your direction at that point in time / for the task at hand.

Barring an exceptional case, (younger in particular) children are straight up desperate for attention and affection of their parents.

Sometimes this is the hardest thing in the world, as a fully functioning adult, when your child is doing something [annoying/destructive/insulting/dangerous/disgusting] after the n-th time you’ve told them not to. Adults respond to punishment / negative reinforcement very differently than [young] children.

In particular keep in mind this is primarily a learning experience for a child to develop coping skills and the ability to regulate their emotions. The skills don’t develop very well from a basis of fear of reprisal in my opinion.

I’m not always able to practice positive discipline with my kids, but I can’t count the number of occasions where I’ve pulled out that tool in response to some stressful situation and watched the sheer relief/release on my kid’s face when they manage to actually communicate outloud to someone that will listen that thing that had them so upset or feeling sad/mad/lousy.


I'm reminded of a time when my sister in law was upset with her daughter. The girl was supposed to have cleaned her bathroom but hadn't swept the floor. To make peace, I offered to help her finish the task. What I learned is that she actually didn't know how to sweep a floor (she was maybe 5 or 6 years old). I helped her and both of us felt like we'd learned something.

She learned to sweep a floor, and I learned that often, when kids aren't meeting your expectations it because they honestly don't understand how to do it. I didn't have a child for a long time after this, but I think of this vignette often.

Even at work with junior colleagues, often they have no earthly idea what the expectations are or how to fulfill them. They need to be taught and just expressing your disapproval isn't going to help.


I just want to note that if this was in fact a case of a transient tic then "positive discipline" could be counterproductive. Obsessive finger/hand licking is a known example of transient tic disorder.

If we define positive discipline as addressing the behavior and trying to compliment them stopping it, or "encouragingly" and "nicely" enforcing some kind of positive or negative punishment, then it's just kind of making the child more self-conscious and stressing them out for something they can't control. This prolongs the tic.

It's really what it sounds like to me here. It's quite common and nothing to worry about, at least for the first few months. Although in some cases it can lead to more serious long term issues and require intervention, in most cases it's temporary and goes away all on its own. The best thing in most cases is to ignore it. Calling attention to it just stresses out the child and makes it worse.[1]

[1] https://www.healthline.com/health/transient-tic-disorder


You're right that you can punish a child (or an adult) into understanding something they can't yet understand, but you can punish a child (or an adult) into refraining from a behavior, unless the person is incapable of understanding cause and effect. Billions of people (and animals) have learned to restrain their impulses out of fear of punishment. It's fundamental to how mammal brains work.

The problem is that teaching people to restrain their impulses using a fear of punishment is totally different from getting them to change their behavior because they understand why the behavior is bad. When you simply punish someone without teaching them to understand you create a system of unwritten rules where the person is unsure whether any particular action will result in a punishment or not.

But if you can create an understanding of why the action was bad then you can give the person a toolset to understand whether their future actions will be bad. And hopefully you can create a society of people whose behavior is determined by their understanding of right and wrong and not by whether or not they think they will be punished for something.

I think you're grossly oversimplifying the way people work if you don't see the difference here.


This. If parents expect their kids to obey for fear of punishment, they’re teaching the lesson that you obey people who are stronger than you.

Out in the real world, when someone tells you to obey because they are stronger, you tell them to stuff it. It is widely agreed that in society, people need better reasons to be obeyed than that (even if the strong do tend to get their way more often...).

I think what you said about understanding future actions and disconnecting them from punishment is spot on.


Often punishment is the result of violating a written or established rule.

At a young age, and I think this extends even into young teenagers, we’re literally talking about under-developed brains. Thought processes don’t actually fully function, and particularly cause/effect, moral judgement, risk aversion, empathy, logical reasoning skills, etc.

Now even a lower mammal can learn instinctively through positive and negative reinforcement. I think the problem is significantly more complex in young humans because the capacity for complex reasoning is there but just not firing on all neurons properly. So your negative reinforcement is more likely at that age to just confound the situation than a simple Skinner box with a rat experiment suggests.

It’s certainly not the case that punishment (or we can say “negative consequences”) are never appropriate. A negative consequence should make sense in the context of the behavior.

Yesterday at the airport, a woman with a young child was waiting in a long line at the airport food court in front of me. She was scolding her child for wandering off. The child had a small backpack of toys which he was dropping on the ground and then was walking off (a few feet) and peering around things playing hide-and-seek. The mother would get angry and scold the child to pick up his bag, and stop wandering off. A few times she chased after the boy and he gleefully ran away from her.

The child was clearly not mentally capable of waiting in the line. The mother was agitated because the line was long, she was afraid of losing her place, and didn’t want to lose sight of her child in a crowded space. So she told the boy if he walked off again she was going to throw away his toys. When he did that, she changed tactics threatening that she would “spank him in front of all these people”. At that point I asked if I could hold her spot for her, and she was able to focus on her child until her turn came.

Now that’s a glaringly obvious example of a child being totally “outmatched” by the difficulty of standing in an airport line. I can barely handle it myself sometimes. But there’s a wide spectrum of misbehavior which ultimately boils down to just being beyond a child’s mental capability, which may be diminished because of lack of sleep, hunger, or something challenging that happened earlier in the day (which could be seemingly insignificant, like a friend wanting to play a different game at recess). Until you stop to ask, it’s just so much so simpler to assume they “just aren’t listening”. It can actually be exhausting sometimes to give the benefit of the doubt. More than once I’ve felt like an ass after jumping to a threat or knee-jerk punishment only to shake my head when my wife steps in and gets to the root cause. Luckily every once in a while the situation is reversed and I get a few of my own saves too.

It never ceases to amaze me how hard parenting is, and how unprepared we go into it. I like to say that kids take an infinite amount of effort to raise.


> Young children are, in most cases, not making a conscious choice at all in these cases

> children are straight up desperate for attention and affection of their parents

Does it mean that children have a motive but don't have the logical aptitude to get to the goal ?


I love this story.

Little kid logic is so foreign to me now it makes me a little sad.

Another example - we have our nephew stay over sometimes. One night, he did not, absolutely NOT want to go into the room he sleeps in.

We couldn't work it out. He slept there a bunch of other times, no problem.

Tried picking him up to carry him in, but no, he screamed like crazy.

After a long, long time, he settled enough to tell us there was a "BIG FROG" (said with wide eyes, mouth turned down) in his room.

Turns out that over the traffic noise he could hear a frog croaking outside his window. It was a noise we'd all just dismissed.

Opened and closed the window to show him it was outside.

Asked him how big he thought the frog was. Held his arms out as far as they would go. I showed him a video of a tiny croaking frog on my phone. Not the same as the outside frog, but close.

He was ok after we showed him the window was locked, and the frog wouldn't be able to get in.


>>"Little kid logic is so foreign to me now it makes me a little sad."

Well, you have to admit that your nephew logic was flawless.

As him, you wouldn't go into your room if you though there is a one meter frog waiting for you.

His priors were weird, but that's to be expected with little experience of the world.


Also these adults ignoring the issue and sending him to the room anyway? Plainly in league with frog and not to be trusted.

Oh my god... I'm many years removed from childhood, but the last scene of the movie "Time Bandits" still chills me. Little Kevin yells, "Mom! Dad! It's evil! Don't touch it!"

...and the adults, thinking themselves smart, reach right in, touch the glowing chunk of pure evil, and evaporate in a puff of smoke.

To this DAY I am so angry at those parents...


Make them believe you accept what they say. After all, how can you trust someone who makes deals with frogs - they can only be infinitely more dangerous, as it is hard to grasp their dire frog-centric motivations.

Big frogs have infiltrated the 1% and are working towards a new world order.

>Little kid logic

My favourite is when you ask a crying child where they hurt them selves, and they point to the table they just walked into.

Edit: Or have a paddy because they can't join the banana they've just cut in half, back together again.


As a non native speaker, I could not understand what was wrong in your child's answer, until I read the replies to your message. Even now, it still sounds a perfectly reasonable answer (and question too - maybe you want to put protections on that table or whatever)

Well, your question is ambiguous. No wonder the child is giving you a weird answer. The proper question is: “Where is it hurting?”

That's what I ask my son. He still points to the table.

It's a fine answer, though. Not to the question I asked, but it's something I can work with.


This last one comes back to bites as adults too... with relationships and lots of other things entropy finally took.

The first one's just ambiguity isn't it? "Where did you hurt yourself? At Timmy's place"

Right, but so is most language. We've just developed more or less conventional disambiguations — there's a lot of humour that comes from subverting those conventions — and small children haven't acquired that cultural baggage yet.

I had this exact situation yesterday with a 3yo child, "where did you bump yourself?" "[points to shelf] there".

After asking twice I reworded and he got it eventually "where on your head did you get hurt" or something.


Yes, but its an example of how small children think

Sometimes adults also think like this, in slightly less obvious ways.

Right, there's that old joke about the radio show that separately asked the husband and wife of a couple "where they had sex" and the second one interprets it as "which orifice" rather than "where were the two of you located when it happened".

Mallrats:

"He wants to have sex in a really uncomfortable place"

"Like in the back of a Volkswagon?"


The first one's just ambiguity isn't it? "Where did you hurt yourself? New York"

I remember, during a thunderstorm, being utterly convinced that a war was being fought outside. I was terrified ...

I had a dream once about a big 18th or 19th century battle with horses, lances and cannons. At the exact same time a cannonball exploded in my dream thunder erupted as I had never heard before. It didn't sound like a rolling drum but like an actual explosion. It's probably 20 years ago but the memory still feels fresh. The memory of the surround sound dream.

I remember my father patiently explaining that the Giants Footsteps I could hear outside, as it lumbered towards me with malice, were in fact my eyelashes rubbing against the pillow as I blinked.

I believe I used to imagine my own heartbeat being the sound of footsteps as I was falling asleep.

Dry thunderstorm. I thought it was a building collapsing.

On a separate incident, I was about 10. TV signal dropped during a thunderstorm, and shortly after a thunder strike right outside the window. Truly terrifying experience. Luckily I knew enough basic science at that point to know that wasn’t some act of god!


Dogs barking when I was 3-4, was convinced it was a pack of wolves.

I saw incoming ICBMs. (Airplanes on approach.)

I don't get why people find it so hard to empathise with a child. I've solved a bunch of my youngish children's problems by taking the time to try to figure out their reasoning and talk to them about it. I've had a huge chip on my shoulder about parenting for years. I'm a single parent of a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old and it's been this way since the youngest was a baby. I've had so many bad experiences, especially when my boy was a baby, where people have treated me poorly because I was a dad with his kids. I've put in so much effort towards parenting because I want to prove the world wrong. I very rarely get angry about anything with them because I realise a lot of their bad behaviours are simply what children do. I correct what they've done wrong but I don't need to be angry about it.

The best analogy I've got is "if there is a dog that's a known chewer and I leave my shoes outside with it and my shoes end up chewed, who is it fault?". I'm the responsible adult with functioning cognitive skills, the dog simply is acting on instinct. Little children don't have developed cognitive skills, and their behaviour reflects what their environment has allowed. If you want to change behaviour you need to consider why it is occurring and work on countering the root cause.


>>To your comment about people not empathizing with a child.

What I have observed is that people just get worn down. They just can't muster up the energy to see the child's perspective. They aren't bad people or parents, but being a parent is much harder than advertised. No one tells you it is an endurance sport.

I am not sure how to give people more energy, but I suspect one of the reasons we organized ourselves in small closely knit families in the past was to help with this very problem. Contrast that with today in most wealthy countries...

Totally agree with your overall point of kids being kids.


> What I have observed is that people just get worn down. They just can't muster up the energy to see the child's perspective. They aren't bad people or parents, but being a parent is much harder than advertised. No one tells you it is an endurance sport.

Along with all the other advice they would receive, if I were giving a new parent advice, I would say, "Be predictable". Have routines that children can follow. Always be telling them the next few things that are about to happen; don't just say, "Let's go, we're getting in the car." Tell them where you're going. Tell them what to expect when you get there. Tell them when they'll be coming home. We foster and once we get the children into routines and once they realize we tell them what's going to happen and when, most tantrums and bad behaviors go away. The rest is easier to handle because there's usually a specific reason for them. Children can't communicate as easily as we do, but they generally aren't that different from us. Routines help us to keep from getting worn down.


>people have treated me poorly because I was a dad with his kids.

That's interesting. Honestly, I've found that I get passes for many mistakes, because the bar to being a good dad is set so low in most peoples' minds. If I'm not hitting them and basically know their initials, I seem to be a success.

What has your experience been? If you don't mind me asking.


I'll give some examples, keep in mind that individually these aren't too bad but they add up over time and wear you down.

* Being asked by a doctor "where's the mum?" as the first question when I've taken to the children to the doctor.

* Getting a lot of offers for help because of an assumption of my incompetence. i.e. during kindergarten induction for my daughter, I was asked if I needed help with some of the jobs like covering books. I was the only man in the room.

* Getting glared at while playing with my kids at the playground. If you're actually playing with your kids and not sitting on your phone then suddenly you'll find ALL the little kids near you wanting to play. Mums don't like adult men playing near their kids, even if it's with their own kids.

* While Christmas shopping with two kids in tow I've received comments like "giving mum a day off huh?".

I feel I'm doing an amazing job as a parent so the constant assumptions just do my head in.


Sounds annoying. However I feel this is a universal problem for anyone who is an anomaly. We all use generalization heuristics, and overall it severs us very well. The "price" is wrong judgement for the rare cases. However it's still a better algorithm than discarding generalizations (if that was even possible) because most things are normal, by definition.

What I learn from your comments is that in your area mums usually take their kids to the doctors, single dads are viewed as more incompetent, mostly women play with kids at the playground, and men Christmas shopping with two kids are more likely to be married than single.

You are the anomaly and therefore are being wrongly categorized. This is not a personal thing at all! Quite the opposite, it's a manifestation of how your peer group is perceived by the general public. I bet that people that get to know you change this perception and adapt it to you, personally.


> We all use generalization heuristics, and overall it severs us very well. The "price" is wrong judgement for the rare cases. However it's still a better algorithm than discarding generalizations (if that was even possible) because most things are normal, by definition. [...] You are the anomaly and therefore are being wrongly categorized. This is not a personal thing at all!

Perhaps it might be interesting to picture instead a female engineer, repeatedly being dismissed as a receptionist. Or a black male engineer, repeatedly assumed a janitor or intruder and getting grief. And then see if you're still happy with those comments?


Not the person you replied to but the one above him. Interestingly enough my experience with this type of judgement has made me much more aware of the challenges of other people in minority situations. I am a white male but in the world of being a primary parent to babies I'm a minority. I understand how minorities in a professional setting might feel the need to be beyond reproach.

> the constant assumptions just do my head in

For whatever it's worth, I'll just share how I made my own peace with something somewhat similar. I think to myself something like "Aaaannnd, welcome yet again to the long fight against prejudice and discrimination. That I once thought <bemused head shake> I was somehow insulated from it burning me, that my participation in the fight was somehow optional, was the obliviousness of male white professional privilege. Thank you person/institution/life for the reminder. And the reminder that so many face so worse." Works for me. As frequency increases, that might need a different form.

I wonder if some occurrences might be teachable moments for some? Leaving people better than you found them.

Sometimes one can dodge prejudice with subgroup membership signalling, as people seem to do a lot of profile matching. I remember baby throw-up stains having that effect. And sometimes "unrelated" prejudices can be leveraged - when doing child care, I tended to button-downs and not T shirts, if only for potentially improving response time in an emergency, as they seem to toggle many between "how may I help you sir; yes sir" and "what'da you want bud; well, let's see". You might find professional-class signalling might alter peoples' male-threat profiling?

I expect there's how-to literature about all this. Both on coping with discrimination in its various forms, and for male primary caregivers in particular.


> Honestly, I've found that I get passes for many mistakes

I'm not gp, but I'm assuming both your experiences are rooted in the same incorrect idea: that dads are lesser/"assistant" parents, real parenting is done by (and expected of) moms.

No doubt gp probably experienced the automatic suspicion heaped on any man with small children without a plausible mother-figure around.


I tend to think that almost every time someone is doing something you don't understand or don't like, you're better off understanding the reason for the behaviour than trying to quash it. Even if you desperately want it to stop, they're clearly doing the thing as a means to address something so if you want to stop them using the current solution you should have a better solution to hand or the problem will once again be unaddressed and the behaviour will resume. You can't offer an alternative unless you know the cause in the first place. This approach makes sense for children (presumably above a certain age) and adults alike.

Seems like a manifestation of Chesterton's Fence! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Chesterton%27s_fence

This is also, as it turns out, one of the most pertinent things a developer should be considering at all times. Sometimes we may get a bit too refactor-happy, not seeing the use behind a certain fix, a line of code or a strange function. Our first instinct isn't to understand it, but to tear it down, gleefully assuming that it's useless.

This reminds me of the infamous comment block:

// // Dear maintainer: //

// Once you are done trying to 'optimize' this routine,

// and have realized what a terrible mistake that was,

// please increment the following counter as a warning

// to the next guy

// total_hours_wasted_here = 42

Edit: to improve legibility


Indent 4 spaces to format as a code block instead of flowing together or separating with blank lines as paragraphs:

    // // Dear maintainer: //
    // Once you are done trying to 'optimize' this routine,
    // and have realized what a terrible mistake that was,
    // please increment the following counter as a warning
    // to the next guy
    // total_hours_wasted_here = 42
Note that on narrow windows or mobile screens this doesn't wrap and needs to scroll sideways for long lines (though these are wrapped to 60 characters), which is annoying

(Increments time wasted counter)

If a viewport cannot handle gracefully lines of 80 characters, it is not the fault of the person writing the 80-character lines. If a code block is the right answer, I would hope that people use it, rather than attempt a workaround just to avoid a flood of gripes from people on mobile who don't want to scroll right. Fix your scrolling issue by fixing your scrolling issue, not by trying to retrain everyone that posts on HN to cater to mobile viewers, in lieu of just marking the text that requires differentiation of newlines from other whitespace.

Also, you only need to indent 2 spaces:

  Everyone- use code blocks whenever you need them.
  Mobile users- don't complain about code blocks.

The viewport can handle lines of 80 characters. The problem is that HN indents so far and even truncates on the right so you’re working with like 40 chars visible.

The trouble comes when the others working on your code are crazy enough that that strange code often is useless, so you have to spend the time trying to work out whether it's tear-out-worthy.

A sign of maturity is to a) recognize when code is crazy, and b) document why it is so in a comment.

Here let me fix that for you: "document why it is so in an executable test".

It's not always possible (or even advisable) to document with a test; to take two trivial examples from recent memory, one was a wrapping bug in IE 11 and the other was a typing issue with TypeScript. These issues required comments, not tests. (Granted, for the IE11 bug the ideal test harness would include a Win/IE virtual machine in a known state along with a good robot control and the ability to check screen geometry, but as of 2019 that's science fiction)

Your second example is a great example of how sometimes it's just not worth it. You're probably right that it makes sense to just write a comment and move along (after you've replicated the bug and filed an issue against the TypeScript compiler). Eventually it will get fixed, your team will upgrade their system, and you can remove the workaround.

I'd argue the first example illustrates my point quite well (but forgive me if this gets too ivory tower). It would seem highly unlikely that the wrapping bug is intimately coupled with whatever else the component is doing. It will likely come up again in some other situation, in this project or another. After all, some users will be on this browser forever.

All this suggests we would like to factor it out, in the name of the single responsibility principle and don't repeat yourself. And the extracted component should then be thoroughly tested to it's own why. That component's why, in particular, is to work around the browser bug, so a test specification that describes precisely which versions of Windows and IE are required to be worked around is actually exactly what you want.

As to good robot control and screen geometry, I don't think that's really science fiction anymore, unless your requirements are more exacting than mine.


Sometimes possible, but not always.

An executable test is good for documenting what a piece of code should do, but not always entirely sufficient for documenting why.


Though I agree that it's not always possible, I would contest your second point, at least for the majority of testing effort.

Sure, a unit test might just document what code is doing, because that's really the only why. But most testing effort should go into describing the why more carefully, which must be done at a higher level, as close as possible to how a user will interact with the thing.

Writing tests at the user's level and not getting bogged down in minutia requires careful factoring of the what and why. The what changes frequently, so if most of your tests are overly focused on the what, you will constantly need to update them as the code changes. The why changes much more slowly, so if your tests are written to exercise the why rather than the how, they will be resilient to changes in the implementation.

Of course, the what has to be somewhere, and when it changes there will need to be corresponding test updates, but these shouldn't require updating each individual test. The what can be kept cleanly factored out into helpers, leaving the why to remain as the essence of each test.


Exactly, and in the pathological case it ends up documenting the why incorrectly and the code is still wrong.

Yes, but this is hardly an argument against using comments.

There will always be a pathological case. The question is what approach will increase your chances of success, what's least likely to lead to problems, what's the cost-risk-benefit tradeoff etc.

Comments detailing the intent of a non-obvious function are valuable for maintainers wanting to figure out what's happening in the code. They are written in human-oriented business-oriented language, so they don't take effort to read. The intent of the code should not change that often. If they diverge from the code, the effort of changing them should be small enough to be worth it. Ideally they should be treated as important and if they are wrong it should be picked up in the code-review.

Comments detailing just the description of what a function does, by contrast, are not valuable, since that information can be deduced from the code itself. Every time the function changes, the comment will change. Reading them is as much effort as reading the code, so if they diverge it won't be picked up as easily.

There are always exceptions to these kinds of guidelines, of course, but this at least gives motivation for why I think comments should be used in this way.


Proper testing procedures will catch it, though.

AKA "Most regulations are written in blood."

Choose curiosity and patience over judgement and commands. Such a simple message, and yet in practice it's so easy to fall for the (illusion of?) control, thinking "there's no time for curiosity or patience here."

With a kid kicking and screaming violently at you, that's kinda hard. You are right though. Letting go of the urge to control my older son often helps more than tighten up.

A kicking and screaming kid should be rare though.

Easier said than done in practice, particularly when dealing with smaller children, who either can't articulate the problem, or don't grasp the causal connections. Even more so when the unwanted behavior isn't just "weird", but also self-harming (and very abnormal behavior is often socially self-harming).

Or harming a sibling!

The biggest hurdle seemed to be to regain enough trust to get a chance to discover the reason of the behaviour.

There was a window in the beginning when she still had the kid's trust and could have dug deeper, but if/once you are not a trusted party, understanding the reason because exponentially difficult.

To your point, it applies to everyone. I remember social courses at the uni about how some classes of workers would obfuscate key parts of their jobs to protect themselves from having client/managers get their nose into it.

In that sense getting to understand the core reason might often be the biggest chalenge. A bit like how finding why a bug occurs is more than half of the solution already.


The same is true even for dogs, to some extent. And, to some extent, some people are just born very slightly sadistic or mean and there's no noble underlying reason in the first place.

why would their reason have to be noble? Human motivations can be complex.

They can also be very primally simple, but confused by layers and layers of rationalization and self-justification. And that's more obvious in children, who haven't learned how to rationalize their behavior very convincingly yet. If a child throws a rock at someone's head, they're not going to come up with the same elaborate justifications for that kind of behavior that, say, a political rioter would, even though the underlying motivations are probably the same.

This should be applied to politics as well.

I thought this was going to turn into an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder story. I use to wash my hands when I was younger .. a lot. I couldn't give an explanation because there wouldn't have been a rational one to give.

Instead I was just put on a bunch of drugs, all of which didn't make the compulsion go away, but did make me not want to wash my hands. Since I felt like I couldn't do certain things without washing my hands, I pretty much just watched more TV and became more lazy and useless.

I still have OCD, I just hide it a lot better these days.


I have no medical qualifications, so take this for what it's worth, but I was told by a psychiatrist specialising in child development disorders that excessive hand-washing is one symptom of Asperger's syndrome.

It is one of the factors that they check for as part of an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) diagnosis, yes. But if it is severe they will strap on the OCD diagnosis as well.

Not the most likely thing though. kids like playing with water and it gives them something they know how to do and control.

It's so easy for parents (and teachers) to misdiagnose strange child behaviors. TFA is a wonderful example. Parents need to watch for things like blood sugar problems, autism (e.g., failure to make eye contact), skin problems, mild food allergies (why does the kid not like _fill in the blank_, maybe it's because it tastes "spicy" to them), and much else.

Young children will not figure these things out by themselves. Parents need to "debug" these problems. Doctors may not be able to help until you have some idea.

It might be interesting to collate a compendium of strange child behaviors with simple explanations, and other problems to watch out for.


> "It might be interesting to collate a compendium of strange child behaviors with simple explanations, and other problems to watch out for."

I couldn't disagree more. This seems like a step in the wrong direction. The last thing we need to do is label even more human behaviors than we already do into the bucket of "strange." Actually, even saying that parents need to "debug" these problems may be going too far. Humans are much more complicated than a machine that must work "just so."


> The last thing we need to do is label even more human behaviors than we already do into the bucket of "strange."

I couldn't disagree more. Having had a proper manual for my human body would have been amazing.

I had a less intense but somewhat similar issue to OP's child. I was licking my lips and therefor got bullied for using "lipstick". Both stopped only after on one of those occasions a kid in their mentioned licking can cause it, while i pretended to ignore them. I'm quite thankful to him and wish i could help others just like that.

Another is being lactose-intolerant. No idea when I became that, must have happened quite late. But it took me embarrassingly long (mid twenties) to figure out, change my diet and thus get rid of those messy bowel movements.

I see little value in not having those kind of knowledge available and instead having to find out yourself. And parenting would hardly be possible without understanding your child's behavior. If you have a problem with calling it "strange" or "debug", I'm fine with calling it something else. But i doub't many here care about (those) labels.


I don't believe you replied to the spirit of the parent comment, since having red lips, and having messy bowel movements are not human behaviors, but are symptoms.

I bet what the parent has in mind is, for example, behaviors such as stimming.


Stimming = self-stimulating.

I didn't know that word (but knew the sorts of [repititive] behaviours -- like rocking, hand waving -- as an indicator for ASD.


Yet, many human behaviors are simple cause and effect. You don’t have to label it and the random things kids do would end up quite extensive. However, there is a definite need for parents to understand and help kids with detrimental behaviors. It is possible to do this without pressuring kids. When you are staring down a behavior like the author was and you have reached your capacity as a parent it can be very demoralizing. So, safe to say, parents need a “debugging” skill and human consciousness, especially at younger ages, while very vivid and complex, is also shockingly simple. Cause, effect, response from kid. Dry air, hands dry;hurt, make them not dry. I could go on, but, I think the spirit of the idea is correct. At times you just need to detach and analyze to help your kids out. Other times being organic and experimenting are great.

I think it's a fallacy that labeling and categorizing automatically implies judgment and condemnation. Some weird child behaviors are harmless and should be ignored; some (like the one in the article!) may indicate actual problems that should be addressed. Either way, it doesn't seem obviously bad to give parents diagnostic information.

I think you misunderstood GP. Knowing the cause of a previously "strange" behavior makes it relatable and discussable. Being able to explain a behavior is beneficial even to kids themselves, because it allows the kid introspection, and, ultimately, a chance to disarm triggers that lead to the behavior. This gives a bit of control back to the kid, as she no longer has to rely on adults to tell her off.

We already apply this technique to medical issues. Currently if we Google around we will find the answer if the symptom is common enough. A "WebMD" for a range children's behavior seems to be what OP is getting yet. Not such a bad idea. However, I agree that labelling them and treating them as a "disease" is going overboard.

Humans are definitely more complex than machines. But that complexity often causes people to jump to incorrect assumptions, or even just shut down in the face of that complexity. Breaking the problem down into what you know and then solving for what you don’t is an incredibly helpful method for addressing issues that can be fraught with emotion.

Who said anything about labeling anything??

To me, the point of the essay was the opposite of what you just said, instead: listen to and trust your child.

I think you're both right. By listening and trusting your child, you'll be able to successfully and properly debug. That's what happened in the blog post.

Exactly.

The point of a compendium would be -more than anything- to teach parents that things are not always what they seem. The hand-licking behavior might seem like misbehavior, but if you stop and think about why it happens, you might understand that there may be a much better explanation.


> Parents need to watch for things like blood sugar problems, autism (e.g., failure to make eye contact), skin problems, mild food allergies (why does the kid not like _fill in the blank_, maybe it's because it tastes "spicy" to them), and much else.

But this attitude is precisely the issue! Most of those problems are mild and fairly benign, and not all that common. We've gotten ourselves into this terrible mindset that allowing children to experience any little discomfort is a sign of bad parenting, while ignoring the damage our overbearing vigilance is causing — both physical, as with auto-immune diseases that seem to be linked to excessive hygiene, and psychological (in all sort of fun and destructive ways).


I think you missed the point.

For example, as a young child I hated meat, and it wasn't until years later that I figured out that it was because my jaw got sore very quickly when having to chew a lot. My parents tried very hard to get me to eat meat back then, but if they had not pushed me, but instead let me be and listened to me, they might have figured it out. This one sounds a lot like the hand-licking case in TFA.

For another example, as a child I sugar-lowed very often. More than once I went to my parents feeling very sick and my dad just took my temperature and said "you're fine" when in fact the temp. was rather low and a sign of sugar lowing. It would have been very nice to have figured this out years earlier than I eventually did. The worst sugar low I remember happened while I was 16 and driving home from a movie theater (where I'd had a huge candy bar and soda), and I had no idea what was up. At one point I was driving on a long, windy, hilly, busy two-way street, with a passenger, and I felt like I was going to die at any moment. I could have killed someone because of something trivial that no one stopped to think about.

Here's another: I used have episodes of losing eyesight for a few seconds. My dad actually took me to an ophtalmologist's office where they did a battery of tests on me and never found the issue. Eventually I figured it out one time when I passed out after a blood draw: I was having low blood pressure episodes. This one is a case where doctors were unable to figure out something rather trivial.

Here's another: as a kid my mom used to be punished for what turned out to be bad eyesight. What the heck!

Books like "What to Expect While Expecting" and "What to Expect the First Year" are fantastic and very useful to parents. Imagine a "Debugging for Parents" book that taught, among other things, not to see every odd behavior as misbehavior. Wouldn't that be fantastic?! I think it would be.


Seems to me that far more often the problem is one that the young child has figured out and even articulates to the adult, but the adults ignore it because they wouldn't find that same issue a problem, and they don't understand why the child does.

I don't understand when will medicine recognize the cause of all health complications instead of trying to individually path each and every problem. People can then start correct precautionary measures. All health issues that we see on rise today were virtually absent in pre-industrial era and are directly result of our newly adopted habits and environment. We are paying so much of cost to live in a "modern" world.

We also have higher life expectancy rates and lower infant mortality. No need to go tin foil hat philosophical about all things scary and ‘modern’, it paints a black and white view of the world, progress, and the general concept of change.

We already know the causes and cures for most common ailments. People aren't exactly queuing up to do more exercise, eat healthily etc, etc.

Yes and no. I think parent has a point in the fact that the predominant idea seems to be to patch a "current ailment" and get on with life (reactive mentality), instead of actually investigating a root cause of whatever causes that "current ailment" (proactive mentality).

For example, I'm having my sixth pharyngitis in less than a year. When I go to the doctor, the doctor only thinks "pharyngitis -> Pills A and B -> here, take these pills".

This will fix the problem. For now. What will happen in less than two months? I'll be back, to repeat the same procedure. Is this how the rest of my life looks?

Shouldn't the doctor try and discover what's the root cause of this? Pollution, some allergy, stress, what would i know...?

This is my personal case and it's becoming frustrating, but the problem is i know about many other similar cases. I really can't complain about the health service in my country (Spain, Barcelona specifically) because you will get the attention you need to not die, whatever happens to you, unlike many other places. But for things that are not critical as a punctured lung? "Take these pills and get out me office."


The pre-industrial era didn't have modern diagnostics & healthcare, so why would you expect to see the same ailments or the same desire to have them treated professionally?

Are you saying dry skin on a child is caused by a modern lifestyle? That sounds a bit far fetched, to say the least.

The world is not that simple.

One thing this reminds me of is how much of a game-changer language development is when you're trying to help your distraught child. There are few things more frustrating than a screaming/crying child that is too young to communicate why they are upset... You feel bad for them and want to help them so much... And once they're able to communicate, 9 times out of 10 it is relatively easy to address (although sometimes the underlying problem might be they're very tired, etc).

Of course, when a child is very upset, they're also often unintelligible, so one of the most important things is to (at very least) remain calm so they have the chance calm down enough to communicate with you.

(One of my children has a speech impediment... it's not easy for everyone, but it is sooo helpful when communication can happen.)


This reminds me of something that happened with our child. She started pulling her hair out at night as she fell asleep. Large clumps were pulled out over a month or two and every night there would be small amounts of hair removed. There was a lot of pressure to go to a psychologist from her GP and medication was suggested too. We were talking about it a lot and her hair was getting thin. One night we gave her a new stuff toy, and suggested to her that if she needed to pull hair or was thinking about it, put the dolls hair. It was a toy penguin. Plucking penguin has many bald patches now and the hair pulling stopped that night.

You might enjoy this similar anecdote from an SSC post.

> The Hair Dryer Incident was probably the biggest dispute I’ve seen in the mental hospital where I work. Most of the time all the psychiatrists get along and have pretty much the same opinion about important things, but people were at each other’s throats about the Hair Dryer Incident.

> Basically, this one obsessive compulsive woman would drive to work every morning and worry she had left the hair dryer on and it was going to burn down her house. So she’d drive back home to check that the hair dryer was off, then drive back to work, then worry that maybe she hadn’t really checked well enough, then drive back, and so on ten or twenty times a day.

> It’s a pretty typical case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it was really interfering with her life. She worked some high-powered job – I think a lawyer – and she was constantly late to everything because of this driving back and forth, to the point where her career was in a downspin and she thought she would have to quit and go on disability. She wasn’t able to go out with friends, she wasn’t even able to go to restaurants because she would keep fretting she left the hair dryer on at home and have to rush back. She’d seen countless psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors, she’d done all sorts of therapy, she’d taken every medication in the book, and none of them had helped.

> So she came to my hospital and was seen by a colleague of mine, who told her “Hey, have you thought about just bringing the hair dryer with you?”

> And it worked.

> She would be driving to work in the morning, and she’d start worrying she’d left the hair dryer on and it was going to burn down her house, and so she’d look at the seat next to her, and there would be the hair dryer, right there. And she only had the one hair dryer, which was now accounted for. So she would let out a sigh of relief and keep driving to work.

It's a great essay overall. Link: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/21/the-categories-were-ma...


This is a great solution! Now I just have to figure out how to disconnect my gas range and put it in my car every day :)

Point an IR-sensitive webcam at the range.

Now I just have to figure out how to remember that I locked the front door when I forget to do the verbal "door locked, check" drill


Do something new each day. A song, a gesture, a phrase. That makes then memory unique.

Or just get a lock that closes itself...


That's a much simpler fix than the one that sprung to my mind: Advise her to get rid of the hair dryer and only wash her hair in the evenings instead.

The techie's fix would be to install a 10-minute timer on the outlet so she can be sure it doesn't keep running.


Somebody should dig out the SCP file about that damned hair dryer.

Parenting is like that. As much as some people don’t want to admit it, operant conditioning is a thing. Humans are still mammals. Parenting gets simple when you can detach and not be caught up with your own ego. Barring abnormal psychology, kids are pretty fun to teach and watch grow. My one key lesson is, especially with younger kids, they aren’t doing whatever they are doing to cause me distress. Most of parenting is that simple. Of course when kids get older they may purposefully push buttons, but taking a step back, it still has those same motivations they had when they were younger. Adults behave in a more sophisticated manner, but some times, often even, there is that inner mammal obviously driving behavior and it all it takes to see it is the ability to detach.

Right, your job is to help the child grow and learn. Whether it looks - to other parents, teachers, etc. - like you are a good parent is very much beside the point, and usually a conflicting goal you need to detach yourself from. In fact, paying attention to that is narcissism. See Preacher's kid syndrome. Similarly, whether their behavior is impeccable today isn't the point, whether they're learning skills for tomorrow is the point.

We are big on Montessori at my house. The philosophy there is basically what you said: kids are adults in the making and parents are just their guides. Ego leads people to think they own their kids and such, but we are just stewards of our kids for small but key part of their life. Many parents struggle with this idea that kids are their own agents and you are just there to help them grow. It seems obvious, but when you really embrace this philosophy it seems to have a huge impact for most people.

This is interesting because it helps explain the American interest in Montessori. But in other parts of the world these ideas are the mainstream consensus view rather than a fringe ideology. Quoting the United Nations website[1]:

"The Convention [on the Rights of the Child] provides a universal set of standards to be adhered to by all countries. It reflects a new vision of the child. Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. The Convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and a member of a family and a community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development. Recognizing children's rights in this way firmly sets a focus on the whole child. Previously seen as negotiable, the child's needs have become legally binding rights. No longer the passive recipient of benefits, the child has become the subject or holder of rights."

[1] https://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30225.html


I would not call Montessori a fringe ideology, but I would also say it is not very mainstream. A lot of non-Montessori parents reach the same conclusions, Montessori just has it baked into the learning system. As a parent you are kind of all in. We have public (charter) Montessori schools here in CO that are top notch. Anyhow, you are right, and, I would guess, this is new for a lot of American parents. Also, just cause UN says, doesn’t mean other first world nations all buy into it :)

I have a nephew who's been at a Montessori school since kindergarten and I'm hugely impressed with it.

Their philosophy has definitely changed my views on management and software process. In my head there's a bar graph for "controlling <-----> supportive", and I evaluate changes on how they affect that position.


Did we read the same article? Conditioning failed. The solution was to respect the child as a complex being with trust and agency and ask him why. The parent specifically regrets her attempts to train the child like an animal.

There was a simple reason for the child’s behavior. Unknown to the parents. It will always be a dichotomy because you do not have perfect information as a parent. I don’t think I am saying to train children like animals, yet to use simple cause an effect to better reason about parenting decisions. If your hypothesis is wrong about the behavior your efforts to change it will fail.

Or, you know, build trust with the kid and ask, as this parent learned to.

From the late Utah Phillips -- "Little Kids are assholes, but they are their own assholes, and you have to respect that."

Some days I think most people are just a floating cloud of ego bashing into other floating clouds of ego. Kids are like pure ego and desire at certain younger ages.

This article is about parenting, but I think it also applies to management. How often have you been dealing with a crisis at work when management is pressuring people to put in a solution, any solution and it ends up just making things worse or causing bigger issues down the line?

One of the best pieces of advice I've received as a sysadmin was "Don't just do something, stand there!" :)

People want to treat the symptom rather than the underlying cause. It's easier but far less effective.

Sometimes we as parents, colleagues, and partners forget that people sometimes have reasons (even if ones we don't understand) for doing things that don't line up with our own. We think people ought to act like us—after all we are the most reasonable people we know. :)

I've found in both my parenting and my professional life that remembering to ask the question "Why are you doing X?" or "What led you to take action X...": "Whether "X" is a commit or a strange habit, or even a destructive action more often leads to productive discussion. Sometimes, the other person's perspective can be interesting and informative.


What's helped me cope with pressure from bosses was the realization that when they're shitting on someone, it's usually because their own boss is shitting on them (and on upwards). Then it's less personal, less an issue of someone in authority judging your performance, and becomes more of a team effort/problem: I will try to fix the issues, so that my boss's issue goes away, so his boss's issue goes away, and then we'll all be happy.

But a good manager is a shit umbrella, keeping the shit off you. I'm supportive of providing solutions so that everyone's lives improve, but one must be careful not to give the impression that the way to make the underlings perform is to let the shit roll downhill.

But most line managers and a lot of executive level managers have literally never had any training in management, so sometimes they're just copying bad behaviours from people above/around them, even when they were things they themselves hated before getting promoted.

A "I'm working as fast as I can. These interruptions are not helping. You can help get it sorted faster by keeping people off my back - I promise to update you as soon as I know anything" can be enough. Carry through, and give them enough to go back to their boss with to keep them away, and show them it actually lets you fix the problem, and thank them for helping afterwards, and they'll soon learn to prefer shielding you.


True, but I'm not saying it's a going thing to roll shit down... I'm saying that it would behoove people to realize that when their manager is angry, it's probably because their manager is angry at them. One can do with that insight what they will. Personally, it helps me cope with stressful situations, to realize I'm not the odd man out, and that everyone struggles to get it right.

I'm afraid you've misunderstood. I'm saying that when you see shit happening and do these things to make improvements, you [unwittingly] train the management stack that this is how they get improvements: by sending the shit downhill.

What's your proposal on how to handle the situation?

When I was almost 11, I started sucking on my knuckles because they were dry and cracking. My mother immediately knew what the problem was and showed me the hand cream. She didn't need to scold me or make a big fuss.

Honestly, this article really isn't about "the hand licking incident." It's about all the drama in the mother's life at the time; the drama in the mother's life was unrelated to the hand licking. In all honesty, this article would be much better if the author got to the point about the dry skin very close to the beginning, and then described why the drama in her family distracted her from understanding her son's problem.

(To re-iterate, the article isn't about hand-licking, it's about the mother's drama.)

As a relatively inexperienced parent of 2, the hardest lesson for me to learn is that it's not about me, it's about them. The second hardest lesson to learn is how to get my kids to explain their various aches and pains.


Structured in the way it is, the reader is lead along the same path of discovery as the author. That path of discovery is one of the main points of the essay, as the author clearly generalizes that experience to broader situations. It's easier for a reader to see more applications if they felt that discovery instead of just being told about it. Guiding readers along a discovery path is an effective rhetorical technique.

(It is also the structure of a lot of comedy and mysteries. Which should indicate that we tend to like the technique in what we read, watch and hear.)


> Structured in the way it is, the reader is lead along the same path of discovery as the author.

I almost stopped reading. To put it quite bluntly, if she had put "the point" one line further, I was going to close the browser. The drama in the author's life was so unrelated to the problem that it really distracted from the point.

Without the preemie and the move, it could have easily been, "the school year ended, my son went to camp, we went on vacation, and sometime during the summer I noticed that my son stopped licking his hands." Or, it could have been, "my son spent the summer in the hospital and stopped licking his hands while he was in treatment."

My point is that the whole incident with the move and the premie is so fundamentally unrelated to the point, that it detracts from the strength of the article itself. Her son didn't stop licking his hands because of the stress of the situation, he stopped licking his hands because it was summer and the heat wasn't running.


> I almost stopped reading.

It seems the article wasn't for you.

> fundamentally unrelated to the point

The point (I got) was that life became overwhelmingly busy in other ways, freeing the author from obsessing over the hand-licking behavior, which sometime during this period went away on its own, almost unnoticed.

Generally, when an author includes a ton of irrelevant details, it's possible that they need advice on writing well, and it's possible that the details are actually relevant to a point which you may have overlooked.


She talks about not feeling respected as a stay at home mom, her sister had a premature baby, they moved to Washington. Who is the target audience for this? The author realized her mistake, uses the article to absolve her guilty feelings, and talk about her own drama. It really is a valuable lesson, but everyone in the comment section here managed to share their "oh, kids are just kids, be more empathetic" epiphanies without the purple prose.

The commenters here aren't bloggers blogging. The author is a semi-profressional writer who likes to write.

The parent may have misdiagnosed their child here. This could be Transient Tic Disorder. It's super common. Kids get random physical/vocal tics, including licking fingers/hands. Usually they just go away with time. Not much you can do and definitely stressing out your child won't help. There's no "reason" for them.

As for why the child said it was because his hands were dry: I hate to say it but maybe the poor kid just wanted to stop their maybe-a-bit-intense parent from "grilling" them about it again.


Sounds like a case of criticism vs feedback. From:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anger-in-the-age-ent...

> Criticism focuses on what’s wrong. Feedback focuses on how to improve.

> Criticism implies the worst about the other’s personality. Feedback is about behavior, not personality.

> Criticism devalues. Feedback encourages.

> Criticism implies blame. Feedback focuses on the future.

> Criticism attempts to control. Feedback respects autonomy.

> Criticism is coercive. Feedback is not at all coercive.


I dunno about this story. When I saw my son lick his hands the very first time, this was the convo:

- Are your hands tasty? No - Are your hands dirty? No - Are your hands dry? Yes!

Problem solved. Plus a quick visual inspection will usually confirm dry hands. It’s not like an insidious disease with no visible symptoms.


Sounds like debugging - sometimes it takes 5 minutes. For other people and other problems, it can take 5 days.

For me it wasn't easy. When I was about 30 I noticed my hand itch like hell.

Visual inspection revealed a lot of small wounds that were cause of the itching.

I tried washing them thoroughly and drying (no effect beyond temporary pleasure of hot water similar to scratching).

I put on them some cream with steroids that supposedly helps with wound healing. This helped for few days. Then the problem reoccured. I applied the cream again. This happened few times.

In about a year the problem came back. I didn't want to abuse steroids so I thought if I just wash hands and seal the wounds with any hand cream they will heal quicker. Worked just as good as steroids stuff. Only then I realized that my skin is probably just cracking because it's dry from vold weather and dry air.

At no point before my skin looked or felt dry. I never had this problem before in my 30 years of life. It was a new problem for me and lacking knowledge it was very hard for me to debug. The fact that I hate to have anything oily on my hands didn't help. Even now I put cream only on the side of hands that crack and only after they crack first time this season.

I would very much like to have a troubleshooting guide for the human body, right from the start.

I got something like that but limited in scope to pains caused by damaged muscles. The book is organized so that you can go from knowing where it hurts to knowing which muscle is damaged and what movement you need to do to gently excercise and stretch this muscle. Both things were surprisingly counterintuitive when my pain was caused by small muscles around the spine.


go to the doctor. Could be athletes hand.

what book was this?

Though, if you don't inspect the first time it happens, it would be easy to assume dry/chapped hands are the result, not the cause, of the licking.

Even if you don't inspect the first time it happens, it's a simple case of a cause+effect reinforcement loop. Many many people (adults!) have the same problem with licking their lips in wintertime instead of using balm.

I second that, the story is interesting and has the value of a general lesson, but on second thought it sounds like other obviously made-up anecdotes, such as "the car that wouldn't start after buying strawberry icecream" or the "emails that didn't go farther than 500km".

There is a little kid obsessively licking his hands in winter? They must have become very red and inflamed after only two or three days. Therefore, first thing a parent does seeing them red, is to put some cream on. End of the story.


Why do you think "emails that didn't go farther than 500miles" is obviously made up?

https://www.ibiblio.org/harris/500milemail-faq.html

How would putting some cream on prevent the licking?

Cream doesn't last forever.


Thank you for replying, at least I have an idea of why those downvotes. As for the 500 miles email, thank you, I didn't know that FAQ page. However, it highlights a number of issues that actually make the story seriously implausible, even if the author swears by it.

Q: If you're not 100% certain of all the details, why did you write the original post so vividly? A: I took license. It made a better story that way. [...] Q: the technical details at the end just don't add up. A: I know.

But especially:

Q:Well, to start with, it can't be three milliseconds, because that would only be for the outgoing packet to arrive at its destination. You have to get a response, too, before the timeout will be aborted. Shouldn't it be six milliseconds? A:Of course. This is one of the details I skipped in the story. It seemed irrelevant, and boring, so I left it out.

Hmmm, that is quite some detail to leave out, as it just makes the story impossible. No further explanation given.

As for this story, the cream wouldn't prevent the licking, but it would solve the root cause, the dryness of the hands. Put the cream on for a few days, until the redness is gone, and that basically solves the dryness issue as well. Then the licking might restart a few days or weeks later, but that should have already shifted the focus to the state of the hand's skin rather than the licking itself.


> He felt we were interfering with his solution to his problem, not helping him. He was too young to understand the cause and effect relationship, and the way the adults around him had handled it just ensured that he would never come to us to ask for help with his real problem.

This passage really resonated with me. I fall into the same cognitive trap as that kid on a fairly regular basis. It happened between me and my parents until well after I left home, and it still happens between me and my wife and close friends. I've been aware of it for a while but have never seen it so clearly articulated. This has motivated me to redouble my efforts to take a more mature approach internally.


I feel like the same phenomenon sometimes happens with adults at the scale of civil society. People start doing strange things like believing silly "alternative" conspiracy theories, withdrawing from society into online alternate realties, etc., and instead of trying to communicate and figure out why we just insult them and call them stupid and crazy.

Humans are not perfectly rational and they are not always able to even understand let alone communicate their problems or motives. This is especially true if they're under stress or suffering from mental illness, addiction, or abuse.


Wen I was in Kindergarten, my teacher called in my parents to tell them that I had learning difficulties. My mother asked why the teacher felt that way, her answer: 'He won't sit on the mat with the other children for story time'. My mother asked the teacher, 'Have you asked him why he won't sit on the mat? he usually loves stories at home.' She called me over in front of my teacher. 'Why won't you sit on the mat with the other children for story time?' 'I don't know how to cross my legs' I replied.

Children are people too, sometimes it's okay to talk to them.


When I was about 5 I was in a gym class and the teacher told us all to "sit on our backsides". I and half the class didn't know the word "backside". I think I ended up assuming my "backside" was the side of my back and lying on the floor on my side. Some of my classmates ended up in similar positions, much to the bafflement of the teacher!

At around the same age, also in a gym class, I had a teacher who would pronounce "sit" as "set". I had no idea what to do when he told us all to "set".

I had the same problem when I was three. I didn't know how to cross my legs so whenever I sat I just had my butt on the ground and my legs sticking out straight in front of me. When the teacher said I had to cross my legs i just crossed them via putting one ankle on top of the other.

I did this for about two weeks before the teacher finally grabbed my legs and shoved them into the cross legged position . From then on I learned how to cross my legs.


A great story which really resonated with me from the operations / reliability engineering perspective. It is very common for junior engineers to jump into an action in case of a big outage before really trying to understand the problem.

One example I've seen multiple times was to deal with a repeatedly crashing process by restarting yet another process. In some cases, this may help, but in others it can make the situation much much worse. Instead, the advice I took to heart is to delay action until you have a mental model of the problem, and how the planned action would resolve it (and if possible, sense check it with another engineer).

In the best case scenario, you would have a trusted (well-tested) mitigation procedure that would provide you with enough time to recreate the issue and test the proposed solution in a staging environment.


I think when something is very uncertain (because it's hard and/or the engineer is inexperienced), it's not possible to develop a mental model that lets you plan a course of action. However, taking a slightly directed, non-destructive action can sometimes reveal more information to you.

The idealization of this is coming up with some hypothesis, and testing it, which I think is covered by your approach. But what if you don't know enough to even know the right questions to ask. You may be dead in the water if you don't allow an unplanned action.


Agreed, there definitely no magic bullet hate. At the end of the day it's all about being pragmatic.

> The hand licking incident strongly reinforced my commitment to just stop and not do things that I knew didn't work. It made me more committed to not "put out the fire with gasoline," even in the face of social pressure to the contrary.

To this effect only, I have started a journal to keep my behavior in check while dealing with kids. Needless to say it has helped me a lot and often times I have caught myself in the act instead of taking things personally just because it's socially unacceptable. Earlier my default mode if thinking was to treat a kid as an adamant adult ready to shoot you down is just a not worth it.


Am I the only one who thinks the parent is to blame for this because she didn't have the common sense to give gloves to her kid in the cold weather... To me that's unacceptable.

I just want to comment in a constructive way on this.

Do you have kids? If so, have you thought about, sorted out and covered all the things that would be unacceptable? What about what other people might think unacceptable, but you don't? If you however don't have kids, imho you are hardly entitled to criticise.

There are many legit reasons that could cause the mother to not necessarily provide gloves. Then again yes, maybe she wasn't paying attention. Who knows. That's not even the point.

It's very easy for us here to voice our opinion and openly criticise. But it would be sad if that's what someone gets for being open about mistakes they made and how they finally worked it out.


> Do you have kids? If so, have you thought about, sorted out and covered all the things that would be unacceptable? What about what other people might think unacceptable, but you don't? If you however don't have kids, imho you are hardly entitled to criticise.

You are overcomplicating things, while I keep them concrete: gloves in cold weather is common sense. I do not have kids (so points for you I guess), but it's a strawman argument: are you saying people cannot comment on situations that are not directly applicable to them? This is too weak. A more robust/practical approach is that I act the way I speak: when I have kids, I will make 100% sure they always wear gloves in cold weather :)

> There are many legit reasons that could cause the mother to not necessarily provide gloves.

There are exactly 0 reasons, especially since she later was telling the kid to wear them. Children need to wear gloves in cold weather otherwise they are cold. It's also recommended for adults.

> Then again yes, maybe she wasn't paying attention.

That's my point.

> That's not even the point.

Agreed: her point is completely different, and <unpopular opinion> to me the gloves are the signal in the story, the rest is noise</unpopular opinion>

> It's very easy for us here to voice our opinion and openly criticise

It is. If you put out your opinion in the public domain, you should expect support and/or criticism. People will attack your ideas, even if they are good. You are criticising me, yet I am not feeling sad at all.


Hey, thanks for the constructive reply. Reading everything a day later I do feel like my comment was maybe a bit too intense in tone, although I still stand a couple points:

> A more robust/practical approach is that I act the way I speak: when I have kids, I will make 100% sure they always wear gloves in cold weather :)

Which is very commendable, but bear in mind you might be forgetting things, or deciding different on things that are obvious for other people and not for you.

> If you put out your opinion in the public domain, you should expect support and/or criticism. People will attack your ideas, even if they are good. You are criticising me, yet I am not feeling sad at all.

Totally agreed. I just think that the tone and the intention behind the criticism is quite important.

Anyway, I understand your point better know, and realise that maybe I did to you exactly the same thing I'm (constructively I hope) criticising you for.


Yup. You're the only one.

Parenting is always a novice’s game, so it’s fairly easy to find fault. Even the article makes it obvious that the “problem” had an obvious and easily corrected solution.

Dry air inside the house can make hands dry.

No, you're not the only one.

My favorite is when non-parents tell parents, "why don't you tell your child to stop doing that?"

If only it were that simple.

Or "explain that it's for their own good". Sure, logic should work.


This reminded me of a book[1] I discovered via a tweet from @codinghorror, and his follow-up article[2] about it.

[1]: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/769016.How_to_Talk_So_Ki... [2]: https://blog.codinghorror.com/how-to-talk-to-human-beings/


Hate to break it to you, but nobody was saying you should pour the alcohol on the fire. They said to put the fire out and you happened to be holding alcohol so you decided to throw alcohol on it.

Nobody said that the hand licking was "Bad Behavior [and] Absolutely Must Stop At Any Cost". They looked at you like you didnt know how to teach your child how to be polite in public, and you chose that you must do whatever it takes to stop yourself appearing that way.

The fact that you were trying to solve a problem without knowing the cause was silly, and I'm genuinely happy for you that you've learned from that experience, but the worst part is that you attribute the blame to outside forces.

Sentences like "They made me make the problem worse by telling me to fix it" and "It's their fault I failed because I didn't know how to solve the problem and guessed" come to mind.

"It might result in worse things happening to my relationship to my child than him being mad at me about this one thing. So I tried to comply with this expectation that my child needed to stop and I needed to be the one to make that happen."

There is more shifting blame in this paragraph. Somewhere you missed the part where "to comply" is to achieve the outcome of your child no longer licking his hands, not to assault him.

Society views parents who hit their kids worse than parents whose kids lick their hands, so I have no idea where you got the idea of compliance being to hit your child.

It's nice that you learned one lesson, maybe you could learn something from how you wrote the article, and if you can remember, how you felt when you wrote it.


My take on this is that sometimes problems are really hard to solve on your own or at all at the time. It seems like if there was money then the behavior was so persistent that it actually warranted outside help from some type of specialist. So instead of just continually putting pressure the husband should have acknowledged that it was not a normal parenting issue and looked for a psychiatrist or something.

The other part of this is that it seemed like the real solution only came when the child was able to communicate better. So this reminds me of many technical problems I have had in a way. Most technical problems cannot talk of course. But they were similar in that the solution only came when the true cause of the problem came to light. Anyway maybe there is some commonality between a pre-speech child with a behavior problem and a thorny technical issue.

I guess I am lucky in a way that I only need to deal with technical issues because systems usually operate on a totally logical basis and it seems much less stressful than dealing with children.


The thing that jumps out at me is that it took months and months to ask the simple question, "why are you doing that?"

Also, in this case the undesirable behaviour had a perfectly benign and easily fixable root cause, but that's not always (or even mostly?) true. In many cases my kids will be misbehaving because they're not getting what they want, eg. icecream for dinner or to not go to bed on time. In cases like these, it's the parents' job to say no. Of course it's very important to understand the child's real motivations but often it's going to come down them just wanting something they can't have.


Small children often can’t articulate the reasons why they do something. If pressed they’ll fabricate an answer that may or may not be nonsense (but isn’t true nonetheless). If you suggest a reason to them they’ll immediately say yes. If you offer a list of reasons they’ll immediately claim it’s the first or last choice offered.

I have no doubt that she asked him repeatedly why he was doing it but either he couldn’t answer or by that point the shame and pressure from himself teacher created a mental block that prevented him from answering.

Taking the pressure off is absolutely the right thing to do.


> Small children often can’t articulate the reasons why they do something. If pressed they’ll fabricate an answer that may or may not be nonsense

This reminded me of a UI Design principle, that users themselves often don't understand why they dislike a user interface, so their complaints and requests need to be explored, rather than taken at face value. Otherwise, when the first request is implemented, it may then replaced by another, and again, until the root cause is uncovered and addressed.

A very fuzzily remembered example was something like puzzling requests for data-entry form tooling, and the root cause turned out to be a multiple-page form lacking a "I can see it all, and see that it's right" confidence property, which was resolved not with tooling, but by simply making the form a single page.


I've seen the same behavior with my kids. Sometimes the reason is clear and correct and sometimes it's clearly not.

One strategy I've found that can sometimes work is to engage with them in problem solving. Asking them what they think would help or if you have a guess, an action that corresponds with that guess. I've found its usually a more reliable source of information.

The internet is a boon for these things too. I know the author didn't have Google 23 years ago, but now there are a lot more resources to get on the right track with many strange kid behaviors, so it's like parenting in easy mode now.


The article mentions that she tried grilling her son about why he was doing this early on, without success.

True, but there's a difference between grilling someone about something, usually after a confrontation about it, and calmly discussing their motivations with them without a build-up of conflict beforehand.

As well, sometimes the difference is months of brain development.

Months, hell sometimes a couple of days makes a marked difference. Kids change so fast, for so long, I think we still don't really appreciate how complex, capable and versatile an average adult human is.

It didn't take months to ask that question, it took months before the kid could answer it. Children often have trouble explaining such things. Can't find the right words, or lack the self-awareness to understand why they do what they do.

The headline made me think of this: https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2012/04/13

Seems like something simple that one could have asked a doctor.. "My kid keeps licking their hands.. any ideas?"

Also even though the article the mother seems to think that they have gotten to root cause.. there may be more of a cause.

Dry hands is often because of the compulsive action of washing ones hands too much. So now there are 2 compulsions washing hands and licking hands to keep them dry.. By replacing licking hands with moisturizer you will still have 2 compulsions.. cleaning hands and moisturizing too much..

A 2 second google search will also bring up thousands of pages about kids licking hands.


A 2 second google search will also bring up thousands of pages about kids licking hands.

Google did not exist 24 years ago when my now 31 year old son was 7 years old. The company was founded Sep 04, 1998, just over 20 years ago.

Note to self: Work on more clearly signalling context and time frame to my readers.

Also even though the article the mother seems to think that they have gotten to root cause.. there may be more of a cause.

The article mentions in brief that he has health issues. He got a proper diagnosis a few years later when he was fourteen. That helped enormously with a long list of complicated issues.

So his hand licking was likely rooted at least in part in the fact that he has a condition that significantly impacts his epithelial tissues, which includes but is not limited to skin.


I took the article as more metaphorical than immediately practical. Not every behavior has an easily-googleable answer.

Medicalising things doesn’t always have the desired outcome. I’m guessing that medication and therapists would have been the result.

The google hits (in a quick skim) are all ADD and autism type stories although adding ‘dry’ gets this HN thread, so that’s good.


or ask the kid why they're licking their hands as the first step, then when they say their hands are dry solve that problem. If this doesn't cause the dry hands to peter out as the vicious cycle is interrupted, then see a doctor about your kid's excessively dry hands.

Like many of you, I wish that more of my peculiar behavior as a kid had been tolerated. I think this is getting better over time. My grandfather got beaten for being left-handed, my dad failed 4th grade for poor penmanship, I got briefly put on ADHD medication for being unable to sit still -- but this trendline is encouraging.

Cnservatives (e.g. Kevin Williamson) sometimes say: "Don't just do something, stand there!" The lesson is that not all problems can be solved quickly or well or through active attention. In general this is an underrated response, IMO.

(Bumi in Avatar season 2 makes the same point: "I'm going to do...nothing!"Neutral jing FTW.)


So the teacher, grandparent, and father never bothered asking why he's licking his hands, and his mother only after a lot of drama, including spanking(!!)

I get that being a parent is hard and try to hold off my judgements on stuff like this over the internet, but ... I am not wildly impressed by this teacher or their parenting.

I'm glad that at least the mother came to her senses later on and decided to treat her child like a human being.


I am skeptical that the child did it strictly because his hands were dry.

It sounds more like an infantile behavior, like thumb-sucking, that persists in some children well into school age much to the disappointment of their parents.

That said, the correct way to handle thumb-sucking is not to make it into a daily battle, just like the author discovered. It goes away by itself with little-to-no intervention required.


> So the teacher, grandparent, and father never bothered asking why he's licking his hands, and his mother only after a lot of drama, including spanking(!!)

No, the mother did ask:

"I tried grilling him about why he was doing this so I could find some solution."

The article doesn't imply that she asked him only after spanking him, and it seems unlikely that she did.

Edit: fixed the quote from the article.


Looks like something went wrong with your copy/paste there, since you copied the same twice. But I assume you meant:

"I tried grilling him about why he was doing this so I could find some solution. He couldn't explain it and the terror in his eyes was disturbing."

That doesn't really sound like asking to me, but more like telling him off while also asking a question somewhere in between.


> Looks like something went wrong with your copy/paste there

Oops, you're right, thanks! Fixed.

> That doesn't really sound like asking to me, but more like telling him off while also asking a question somewhere in between.

After re-reading that part, I'm willing to concede that your interpretation is probably closer to the mark than mine.


That's the point of the article. She realized grilling him about the behavior wasn't productive (and neither was punishment).

The article obviously states that she only asked years after spanking and abusing to get him to stop. Re-read it.

I suggest taking the same sorts of steps recommended in the article, when responding to the article.

Instead of having a judging/shaming/punishing reaction toward the author, read the article generously, and try to understand what may have made the author behave in the way she behaved. She gives plenty of fodder for that. And that is exactly what you think she should have done with her child (and which she eventually did do).

And based on what she wrote in the article and on her comments elsewhere in this thread, I don't think she's saying her actions with her child were justified - she is instead embarassed by her actions, and is giving people very valuable advice for things to look out for in your life that may make you behave in that judging/shaming/punishing manner, even when you don't believe you're the sort of person who might make these mistakes.

Perhaps take some time for self-reflection - you said that you were trying to hold off on judgement of their parenting - so why did you ultimately feel that judgement was necessary? As you note, the author did figure things out - are you saying that writing about a mistake, and the solution to that mistake, is "not wildly impressive" in general? If that's case, would you argue that post-mortems of tech problems are not wildly impressive?


This is really interesting and insightful thanks for sharing.

This made me stop and think about how I've raised my children. I'm glad this was posted.

Eh, this article was a bit "Reader's Digest". Parent tries to solve problem, gives up and lets fate have its way, problem goes away when parent wasn't looking, parent-child have a moment of trust which reveals that the problem was something simple all along. Life lesson learned.

How about when it's not a simple underlying problem ("hands get dry in cold climate")? A speech impediment which is cute in a small kid but weird in middle school and socially+career-limiting in an adult. Or an aggression issue. Or one of the many spectrum issues, which won't go away by moving to a warmer climate.

I agree with the article on not getting angry, but I'm not going to get a new life lesson from "if your kid trusts you they will open up."


> I agree with the article on not getting angry, but I'm not going to get a new life lesson from "if your kid trusts you they will open up."

I think expecting life lessons from everything on HN is counterproductive -- we don't need to get something life-changing from every single thing here for anything to be worthwhile. I think there were a lot of takeaways about communication and relationships -- not just parent-child relationships -- that could be useful to almost anyone here.

For me, "Investing energy into fighting with someone because no one knows the solution is just an exercise in undermining trust." was worth the entire read. Someone could just come out and say that, but it was made more meaningful and memorable to me because of the story. I'd always been aware of this concept but had never seen it verbalized until now, and that was valuable to me.

Shortly after that is another line: "I had caved to pressure because I felt threatened."

This is another concept that I thought was really important in conjunction with the first and it was nice to have them verbalized together; together they probably explain a lot of conflicts within a team.

Just considering them is useful for me, since it brings up related thoughts, like "don't threaten people, they may cave to pressure instead of reacting reasonably."

Sure, these are all simple concepts, but I appreciate the stimulus that made me sit down and recall/consider them. :)


How about when it's not a simple underlying problem ("hands get dry in cold climate")? A speech impediment which is cute in a small kid but weird in middle school and socially+career-limiting in an adult. Or an aggression issue. Or one of the many spectrum issues, which won't go away by moving to a warmer climate.

Author here.

I had all of those issues. Both my sons are Twice Exceptional. One has a bad temper and is prone to violence. They both likely qualify as ASD. One had a serious speech impediment. He still has a speech impediment, but most people don't realize it.

All of those were easier to deal with because my kids trusted me. Trust was absolutely critical for resolving the hardest problems.

It's one post, so it's not going to answer everything. Hopefully, things will get fleshed out over time in a useful way for parents with such concerns, assuming I can get engagement and also find time to do this kind of writing instead of freelance writing to keep the lights on and food on the table.


> Both my sons are Twice Exceptional

I've never heard of this before -- what does it mean?


Gifted plus special needs. Often described as "gifted and learning disabled," but it's really a gifted child with any disability.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twice_exceptional


Thank you! It says that it came around in the mid 90s, which would have been when I was in elementary school, but I've never heard of the term despite fitting in the group. I wonder if it was related to a certain set of schools/philosophies.

I learned the term because I was homeschooling and active in the oldest online gifted community. I kind of was rubbing elbows with some of the luminaries in gifted education circles. So I was kind of in on the ground floor.

I believe public schools were much slower to adopt such concepts.


That makes a lot of sense! Thank you. Do you know if it is (yet/still?) in use in public school systems in the US?

No clue. My youngest is 29 and I have no grandchildren, so I have no current involvement with the school system.

Yes, I heard 2E being recently mentioned in a public elementary school. So, it seems it's still in use.

A nice way of saying two disabilities.

That's not what it means.

You're missing a deep and prevalent problem described in the message of this story. Parents feel pressure to crank on their kids and when they aren't getting to the problem, it can quickly become borderline abusive. This is COMMON, and not every parent eventually figures it out. This is a call to find real solutions and stay humane along the way. I love it.

> How about when it's not a simple underlying problem?

Then applying brute force instead of empathy is still not going to work?

I am not sure exactly what nit you are picking.


I'm not arguing against empathy. I guess I'm just saying it's necessary but very far from sufficient in many cases. In the article, it was basically sufficient.

> A speech impediment which is cute in a small kid but weird in middle school and socially+career-limiting in an adult.

Amusingly enough, I had such a thing in elementary and middle school: I couldn't pronounce "r" or "l", but was convinced I was pronouncing them fine. (No one showed me a recording of my speech.) I was sent to speech therapy and learned some alternate way of pronouncing "r", which I almost never carried out because it wasn't what I'd originally learned and seemed weird and wrong.

Eventually, I had a dental appliance (a "butterfly expander") removed from my mouth, and I resumed correct pronunciation of "r" and "l" sounds immediately (while still in the dentist's office, I think). The expander sat just below the roof of my mouth, blocking a certain range of my tongue's movement that is indeed involved in making "r" and "l" sounds.

I wonder if the speech therapists knew about such things.


Hang on. You had a temporary dental appliance that was interfering with your speaking, but were diagnosed with speech impediment and sent to therapy?

That just sounds like some sort of oversight.


It's not visually obvious like braces; it's on the roof of the mouth and behind the teeth. You'd have to be looking upwards into my open mouth to see it, and if you're an adult—taller than a child—you wouldn't usually be in a position to do so. Here's a reasonable approximation to what I remember it being:

http://www.gregjorgensen.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08...

I'll ask my mom what they were all thinking.

Incidentally, I find one other case on the internet that bears some resemblance: "I had a narrow jaw, and I had a palate expander when I was 11. Basically, my mouth was way too small for my tongue in a way that pulling five teeth and doing spacers couldn't fix (we had to do that too, in addition to the palate expander). I had a pretty severe speech impediment (largely -R and -L sounds), and the expander cleared that up (after four years of speech therapy that did nothing). It was amazing! When they took it out, I could just TALK. I used to come home from speech crying because the teacher would tell me I wasn't practicing and wasn't getting better, and I WAS practicing so, so frequently. I just physically could not make certain sounds." https://community.babycenter.com/post/a51272845/narrow_upper...


According to my mom, I had been mispronouncing R and L as far back as age 2, and there wasn't any period before the expander was removed when I did pronounce it correctly. So my experience exactly matches that of the above internet citation regarding pronunciation, speech therapy, and expander removal.

Ah thanks for clarifying.

I think the main lesson is not to lose your cool or act against your own instinct when others are in crisis or putting pressure on you.

Slightly off topic but would throwing an alcoholic drink on a fire make it worse?

90% of drinks aren't going to be strong enough anyway, but what about neat spirit (<50% alcohol)? My hypothesis is that the alcohol might cause a brief fireball, but the water has a higher boiling point so would smother/absorb most of the energy?

Obviously don't try on electrical fires.

Edit: Clarity


Strong liquor is used to flambe food, so strong drink is definitely flammable in some circumstances. Beer and wine probably aren't.

You need to heat it first though, it isn't exactly easy to ignite, and it doesn't set fire to the food either.

Edit: Spelling


>> The more he licked his hands, the more he needed to lick his hands.

A perfect example for thrashing.


Reminds me of "active listening" in the 7 habits of highly successful people.

It never ceases to amaze me how many authority figures think violence “fixes” a behaviour, rather than simply causing the issue to be hidden and breaking down trust and then later having it resurface many times worse.

Eh... I can count on a shop teacher's hand the number of times I was actually spanked or swatted when I was a kid, but after talking to my Mom about it, I think she made the right choice the times she did.

To give a specific example, once was when I was about five, I had just learned about electromagnets, and was actively trying to shove bare wire into an outlet. Yes, the spanking did make me a little afraid of poking around outlets again. No, it did not make me resentful, and more dedicated to wirepokery than before; my parents were consistently trustworthy, so I took their fear reaction as something I should genuinely respect. And that very small amount of added fear in my life quite possibly saved it. If I got spanked for every little thing, I could easily see that shifting to resentment. But appropriately, rarely applied, I can say with certainty it worked for me.


> But appropriately, rarely applied, I can say with certainty it worked for me.

No, you can't. Maybe it did, but you don't know how you'd acted if they'd just talked to you instead. It's easy to think we can untangle how a given event shaped us, but we really are horribly bad at it.

It ignores that people who never were spanked regularly can tell similar stories about just having been talked to (that's how I learned not to stuff wires in outlets). You can't tell if they are right about how it affected their behaviour either. In either situation we're guessing based on how it made us feel.

I don't think the very occasional spank is likely to be massively damaging, but I also don't think its necessary - I grew up around the time it was outlawed in Norway in the 80's. It was publicised enough that the one time my mother slapped me when I was a child, I threatened to call the police because I'd heard about it on the radio.

People insisted the change in the law would be a disaster and that children needed to be spanked, and it'd be all doom and gloom.

It was largely a non-event, apart from some pastor that made a big point of protesting and telling everyone how he still spanked his children.

Children still learn not to put wires in electrical outlets whether their parents spank them or not (as I'm writing this, I've had flashes of recollection of scary scenarios that feel like they may have been things I was told about as a child, but I really has no way of knowing if that's a real memory or "fabricated"). There was no massive rise in badly behaved children, or sudden surge of people electrocuting themselves. Of course, nor did it make us all magically better adjusted.


> but you don't know how you'd acted if they'd just talked to you instead.

I have an entire childhood of other experiences I could relate to you that tells me that I do, in fact, know how I would have reacted in I had just been talked to. And I am genuinely grateful for the (very few) times I was swatted, because there are things in this world that fear is the appropriate response to.

You appear to have spent your childhood in a safe country. I did not. If what I am saying sounds foreign to your mindset, consider yourself lucky, and I mean that with genuine sincerity.

>It ignores that people who never were spanked regularly can tell similar stories about just having been talked to (that's how I learned not to stuff wires in outlets).

You understand the innate survivorship bias in this example, right? Of course you can talk to the people who never poked wires in to an outlet- they're still here to talk.


Similarly, there's an innate survivorship bias in your case as well. There are people that were spanked as a kid that grew up violent, despising their parents or simply engaging in more dangerous behavior due to the breakdown of trust. I can guarantee you there are kids that decided to poke wires in an outlet solely because their parents decided to spank them.

We also know that hitting your pets does not work either, yet for some reason we seem to believe that hitting children is effective.


>There are people that were spanked as a kid that grew up violent, despising their parents or simply engaging in more dangerous behavior due to the breakdown of trust.

My point is that negative reinforcement has its place, not that it is desirable in and of itself. My parents very seldom used it, but it wasn't completely off the table, and I am confident that I benefited from that approach. That is a fundamentally different situation than one where spankings or other physical punishment are so common as to have children lose trust in their parents. I always trusted my parents.

>We also know that hitting your pets does not work either, yet for some reason we seem to believe that hitting children is effective.

Speaking of pets and pain: the hotwire that I used around the horse corral kept both my dogs and the horses safe, with only an absolute minimum of actual pain. No animal needed more than one or two incidences of contact to learn to not mess with the fence, and there was no more effective solution available. Note that this isn't hitting or striking an animal out of anger- it is a very specifically directed form of negative reinforcement to prevent otherwise dangerous behaviors from spreading. It works very well, and does not cause the affected animals any long-term trauma. The just learn to respect the wire barrier. Just like they know that it will hurt if they touch it, they also know that it won't chase or bother them if they leave it alone, and that's usually how it goes, no stress beyond the first few contacts.


> I have an entire childhood of other experiences I could relate to you that tells me that I do, in fact, know how I would have reacted in I had just been talked to. And I am genuinely grateful for the (very few) times I was swatted, because there are things in this world that fear is the appropriate response to.

Sorry, but with all due respect: You do not. You know that with the accumulated past experience you had, you acted a certain way in a different situation. You do not, for example, know if the reason you acted differently when just talked to was that you'd gotten accustomed to more serious reactions for something serious and therefore interpreted the talking to as less important and dismissed it. You make the point yourself that it was rare, and is something you tie to really important lessons, so it would make sense if you dismiss being talked to as implying something isn't that dangerous.

Of course, again, we can't know.

> You understand the innate survivorship bias in this example, right?

Yes, I do. But you do not seem to have understood that the point of giving that example was that your example is also down to survivorship bias, and to illustrate why that makes anecdotes like this (both of our anecdotes) worthless as a means of determining how well either alternative works.

My point was not to prove that "my" alternative is better, but to illustrate why personal experience is a poor basis for drawing conclusions about this (and again: yes, that applies to my experience too).


The basis of your claim appears to be "people are incredibly complicated, everything ties in to everything, therefore we can make no claims about what works and what doesn't."

To which I respond: if things were truly that un-understandable, we would have been unable as a species to have additive culture that improves over time, because what we think about how people and the world work vs. the actuality of things would be too divorced from one another.

And yet we can positively point to growth of knowledge across all human endeavors, in societies around the globe. I therefore fundamentally disagree with your proposition.

Which is ok. It's fine to agree to disagree. We could both be wrong, after all. :)


I am pretty sure he can say it did work with more certainty than you can say it didn't. It's a personal anecdote that he is intimately familiar with.

He did not say that he was wrong, he said that he cannot know for certain that he is correct.

My point is that none of us can say. Any such anecdote will be affected by biases and post-rationalisations and we even have no reason to assume we remember them correctly.

On the contrary, we have very much every reason to believe things probably happened somewhat like but still different in ways to how we remember them; I have memories of events from that age that I know for a fact can't be real. Why? Because in some of them I remember myself in the third person.

The idea that we can reliably assess how a certain action affected us is a nice fantasy, but that's also all it is. Sometimes we get it right. The problem is we can't be sure when.


My 2 year old announces that the oven is hot, then goes up to touch it to confirm, regardless of me explaining it to him.

I've never spanked him, I wouldn't be confident of him understanding a danger I had explained to him though.


At 2 years old there's only one thing a parent can do to avoid a child touching a hot oven: make it physically impossible for the child to access a hot oven.

As if that is always possible. You would need to build a big enclosure padded out with cotton wool. Many dangers in the real world, you can maybe stop the kid touching an oven, but you won't be always there to stop him/her from dangerous situations.

> As if that is always possible.

Were your responding to 'make it physically impossible for the child to access a hot oven.'?

If yes, then you're wrong: its (99%) always possible. Just buy and install a kid's barrier and park the 2yo in his room during the cooking. Or use a cold door oven. No need for a 'big enclosure padded out with cotton wool'.

> Many dangers in the real world, you can maybe stop the kid touching an oven, but you won't be always there to stop him/her from dangerous situations.

100% agree, unfortunately. My point was that, agreeing with the parent (no pun intended), at 2yo, you don't loose sight on your child if it's environment is not 100% safe, end of the discussion.


While I agree with the comment saying the only thing you can do with a two year old is prevent them from accessing it, your 2 year olds reasoning also demonstrates why spanking them does not work reliably in that kind of instance either.

Kids that age are in some respect smarter than we often think, but in other respects they're totally helpless.

So he's understood that the oven is hot, but not that it being hot means he will hurt himself if touching it and that as a consequence he shouldn't. That's reasonable for him. He needs to make several other connections to determine it's bad: Many other things are hot, but not hot enough to be dangerous. He needs to also realise that too hot equals pain, and this means realising that touching the plate equals pain, not just hot. That's a step or two two long from starting premise to consequence for a 2 year old.

You'll see the same with kids that refuse to dress up when going out when it is cold out. It's hot inside. They've been told it's cold outside. But they also need to realise that this means they will be cold if they go out without dressing up even if it's hot inside.

Sometimes what works with very young children is to help them connect those dots. With my son I'd open the door, step out, so he can feel he's cold, and then tell him we needed to put warm clothes on to stay warm. Or you can be explicit in explanation: "we need to put clothes on so we stay warm when we go out" instead of "we need to put clothes on because it's cold outside".

For things that can be painful, try expressing that: that the oven will hurt. That it is hot, that's a separate thing (for now).

With a two year old you're not getting away from trying to prevent access, but my son certainly responded to just having the causal chains from "do things adults consider dangerous" to "will hurt" shorter.

Another strategy that keeps giving even now that he's 9, is to give constrained choices, and make him decide or decide what he thinks the right answer is: "Do you think the hot oven will hurt a lot or lots and lots?" (or when facing a 9yo that wants to decide everything: "do you want healthy dinner A or [marginally more popular] healthy dinner B?" as opposed to "what do you want for dinner?"). Choosing a specific framing is a scarily effective way of guiding them to where you want them to be (and it works scarily well on adults too; we're not nearly as much smarter than a toddler as we'd like to think).

I certainly can't say if the above works for you, but it's worth a try.


Would you then suggest holding their hand on a hot thing (hot enough to be uncomfortable, not cause injury), so that they know what hot means?

On the one hand it isn't far from smacking, on the other, it isn't a punishment as such.


Not speaking for the person you asked, but another thing my mother did when I was about the same age was to allow me to touch a hot stovetop when she knew it was still painful-hot, but not serious-burn hot.

I think it was the correct choice. My curiosity was sated, no punishment was involved, and she made the (for me, anyway) right choice of letting me experience the direct consequences of my actions when she knew they wouldn't be too bad.


Young children have a very limited ability to understand cause and effect. It simply isn't possible to explain to a toddler that "if you run out in the road then you might get badly hurt", because their brains still have a limited grasp of "if... then" and "badly hurt". I am strongly opposed to corporal punishment in the general case, but I am willing to concede the possibility that it is a necessary option in cases of genuine life-or-death emergency.

Ok so if they don't understand cause and effect why would they be able to relate the spanking with their "wrong" action?

Operant conditioning. Running in the road and getting spanked are both tangible experiences. Being hit by a car is entirely hypothetical until it actually happens. Learning the association "running in the road hurts" or "running in the road makes me sad" requires less much less cognitive development than understanding the hypothetical "if I run in the road then I might get hit by a car, and getting hit by a car will hurt". The latter requires a degree of imagination that many young children have not yet developed.

I'm not saying with any confidence that spanking is necessary in these circumstances, only that it may be justifiable given the risks involved. You need some sort of strong negative stimulus. It's not nice, but neither is being hit by a car.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning


The grandparent didn't say young children don't understand cause and effect, they said they have a limited understanding. A limited grasp on communication as well. Saying they shouldn't do something does not land as well as an immediate pain response to doing something bad. "No that is bad" has no meaning if it's not associated with something bad.

How can corporal punishment be a necessity in a life or death situation? I think you mean in preventing the recurrence of that situation. Screams and tears of fear and other emotions will suffice. One day my 3 yr old decided to bike away in a park near a pond. I cried when helpful bystanders found him about 1km away. (Don't search in concentric circles! Go for the playground.) We all share that memory even though a lot of other memories of preschoolers fade. No corporal punishment necessary.

Are screams and tears of fear any less traumatising than a smack?

Honest try to respond. I guess a child needs to associate the right emotion with a situation. Violence is a bad example as a resolution and fits with the emotion of anger. A scream or tears can be a result of fear. In case of danger fear for a childs life is a more fitting emotion imho than anger.

There are plug covers you can buy for < $0.10 each that solve that problem.

Hell, my parents also told me when I was ~4 not to stick anything in the electrical outlets. No spankings were involved. I listened because why wouldn't I?

(Well, at least until senior year in college, when I was like "What happens if I strip an Ethernet cord and stick it in an electrical outlet?" I'd missed the exploding-wires demonstration in my physics course, y'see. Did not get electrocuted, though I did get a spectacular pyrotechnics show.)


Plug covers are easily and rapidly removed by curious children, and are potentially a choking hazard.

Tamper-resistant receptacles, however, do seem to provide a real increase in safety. FWIW.

https://www.esfi.org/resource/how-protected-are-children-fro...

(These did not exist when I was a child, but had they been available, I'm sure my parents would have used them.)

>I listened because why wouldn't I?

So did I, about a vast majority of things, until I didn't, because I thought electromagnets were cooler than verbal warnings were deterring. I think you will be hard-pressed to find a child anywhere in the world that doesn't push boundaries.


> Plug covers are easily and rapidly removed by curious children, and are potentially a choking hazard.

Ultimately that comes down to the plug design. Schuko sockets (used in most of Europe) are typically indented into the outlet enclosure. This enables IKEA[1] (and others) to make covers that basically can't be removed without tools.

[1]: https://www.ikea.com/se/sv/catalog/products/20098963/


I do think sockets should be fundamentally redesigned from the ones we have here in the US. There are so many, better examples in use around the world. One small plus is that most of our outlets are only 110v, which is somewhat safer to deal with.

You are arguing that the spanking AFTER you tampered with a wire saved you.

First, you could have died before the spanking. Punishment after the fact never rights a done wrong.

Second, at the age of 4, if your parents had just sat down with you and told you that you can die from electric shock, don't you think that would have made a lasting impression either?


Which is riskier? Playing Russian Roulette once? Or a dozen times?

My mother gave me a spanking to impress upon me that playing with household electricity at my level of understanding was not a joke, period.

4 or 5 year olds, even precocious ones, do not have the cognitive machinery to be able to assess this kind of risk, and if they are unusually curious (which I was), well... Sorry, mom, about all the gray hairs I probably gave you over the years. (She seemed to have loved me well enough regardless. :D)

My parents sat me down and calmly explained everything they could. Which, as I mentioned before, worked great, until the appeal of something else overwhelmed verbal warnings, which was also not uncommon. Sometimes it was electricity, sometimes it was fire. I can think of another time maybe a year or so later when I discovered a box of strike-anywhere matches, and proceeded to light them one after another to wow at the sparkles, and watch the changes in the match as it burned. My mother took a different approach this time, and as 'punishment', gave me an entire box of matches, of which I was supposed to light them one at a time, let them burn down, then drop them in a bucket of water and repeat until the box was empty.

I suppose she was trying to allow me to explore my fascination with fire in a safe way so that I would get bored with it. Honestly, I can see some merit in that line of thought. ...but instead of getting bored, once I was done, I went and asked for another box. (it turns out fire is fascinating.)

I did get good at learning just how long I could hold a match before I risked burning myself, and how to strike them properly. So that was a plus. I also learned that the embers of the spent match can be kicked back up in to flame again for a surprisingly long time, too. So I'd say it was a good lesson, no spanking involved. But electricity is not nearly as forgiving, and I genuinely do think a swat in that kind of situation can be a useful thing.


I did not spanked children and they knew not to play around electric outlets well before 4 years old. 4-5 years old are actually capable of these things. You have to repeat the instruction to them consistently and they will learn.

I wouldn't trust a four year old to understand what death means.

My kids are six and four, and explaining to them that something could seriously injure or kill them is definitely enough to prevent them from ever doing it. I can't imagine spanking them to try to make a point, but if anything I expect that would influence them to trust my warnings of potential injury less.

As a complete anecdote - I remember when my parents told me when I was very little that eating rotten/mouldy food could get you seriously ill, I think I even asked if you could die from it - to which they said that yes, you could.

And after that, I had a complete phobia of everything that seemed even slightly off. I became incredibly picky, because that one spot on the slice of cheese could be mould or because the ham smelled not how my 8 year old brain thought it should smell like.

No spanking involved, but the psychological damage was much greater I think.


Yeah, that's true, you definitely do have to be careful with that kind of thing. Kids really can take things to heart and believe them so strongly that it's difficult, even when they know you're the one who originally gave them the information, to moderate it. I usually try not to speak in terms of absolutes, but let them know what _can_ be dangerous, especially for kids who don't yet have enough experience to know which situations are dangerous and which aren't—so if they want to use/touch/whatever it, please ask an adult first. So it's not the thing itself that's inherently dangerous, but rather using it before you have enough experience. (Still do have to emphasize the potential danger though, lest they one day decide they do in fact have enough experience now.) This seems to work well for my kids, but of course ymmv.

Yeah, one time I told my 3 year old not to touch a wild mushroom. Mostly because I'm grossed out by it. But now she's got this crazy attitude towards mushrooms, the weirdest plants in the world that people eat but are dangerous. I have no idea how it's going to shake out. If I could do it again I would have let her touch the freaking mushroom.

Oh dear, do you have kids? Well I do, and they understand death since at least age 3.

> I think you will be hard-pressed to find a child anywhere in the world that doesn't push boundaries.

Hell, isn't a lot of childhood precisely about learning the boundaries by pushing against them to check what the actual limits are?


Exactly so.

> I listened because why wouldn't I?

This is the typical-mind fallacy. Not every kid is reasonable or easily biddable.


I shorted an electrical outlet when I was five. I had the whole exploding wires show, the fuse blew out, my parents thought it was just a defect in the installation. Learned my fear of electricity first hand. Fortunately the wire I was using was isolated in the middle portion and only sparked at the ends. Even today I dread making repairs on the power circuits of the house and call in a specialist, even though I understand electricity. It's just that I imagine the possible shock too vividly.

These are not recommended in the UK; UK sockets have internal safety features which plastic plug covers are actually more likely to compromise (by a child e.g. inserting one upside down. The plug cover will usually be thing enough to bend and make this possible, and then the shutter will be up and the contacts exposed.)

Wouldn't is a choice; couldn't because your mental faculties were not developed well enough to e.g. suppress the impulse to stick things into outlets is another matter.

> But appropriately, rarely applied, I can say with certainty it worked for me.

For me it was "appropriately, rarely applied", and it was still awful and the negative consequences are still with me. Yes, it's harmless in some cases; so is falling out of an aeroplane.


> Yes, the spanking did make me a little afraid of poking around outlets again. No, it did not make me resentful, and more dedicated to wirepokery than before; my parents were consistently trustworthy, so I took their fear reaction as something I should genuinely respect.

Wait, so was the thing that underlined the message the physical punishment or your parent’s fear reaction? You seem to be equating them, but it's quite common for parents to demonstrate fear without physical punishment, and to administer physical punishment without showing fear. They are essentially orthogonal concerns.


I should clarify. I did not know my mother (the one who caught me performing my well-designed science experiment with the wall outlet) was scared at the time; I only learned that when we spoke about the experience when I was older.

Chinese kids are beaten all the time if they get a A- instead of an A+ on their report card. Maybe that's why the Chinese economy is on track to overtake the United States.

If violence worked, the drug war would be over because people would not take drugs.

.. and there would be no crime and police would have only one encounter with each person.

Clearly this isn’t true, so it suggests there was an alternative to violence that could have been applied in your youth.


Drugs are much more expensive and more difficult to procure than they would be if they were legal, so reducing consumption. On that basis the drug war clearly works.

If violence is unnecessary and there’s always an alternative why are all states fundamentally enforced and maintained by violence?


So do you think that if from today all the crimes were depenalised there would be no whatsoever increase in thefts, assaults, murders and all the other crimes? I think that instead we would see a massive increase.

I don't think there would be a very big increase.

Most people just don't want to steal, assault, murder, etc. because of their own morality, not because of the law.


> Most people just don't want to steal, assault, murder, etc. because of their own morality, not because of the law.

I strongly disagree. Many (but not all!) people would be more likely to steal – given an opportunity – if they were absolutely sure they wouldn't face any negative consequences. Similarly, a lot more people would punch someone in the face if they insulted them or cut in line, when they would be absolutely sure that the other person wouldn't punch back.

That doesn't mean that most people are inherently evil, just that they're non-perfect, flawed human beings. Social pressure and the justice system keeps them in line, not their morality.


That only means there wouldn't be a massive increase in the number of perpetrators. I expect that the set of people who aren't morally against it would be willing to do it more often if the risks went down.

> > > I think that instead we would see a massive increase.

> > I don't think there would be a very big increase.

> That only means there wouldn't be a massive increase [...]

Agreed.


Just because something causes pain does not mean it is violent. Violence requires significantly elevated risk of injury or damage.

You receive the special hacker news award for shittiest extrapolation - 2019.

And it's only January!

If violence worked as a strategy, then it would work better the more of it was applied. Instead, what we see is that the more violence applied, the worse the outcome in the long run.

This indicates it’s not a solution.


If taking Tylenol worked as a strategy to reduce pain, it would work better the more of it was applied. Instead, what we see is the more Tylenol taken, the worse the outcome in the long run (taking the whole bottle will destroy your liver...)

Just yesterday I was reading a list of logical fallacies, and between this comment and your previous one I think you've hit at least 3 or 4 of them.

That logical fallacy list is required reading here, it's practically a holy text.

This is astonishingly illogical.

> If violence worked as a strategy, then it would work better the more of it was applied.

This does not follow at all. This whole argument is total bullshit. It may end up being the right answer for parenting (don't use violence against your kids) but the reasoning is astonishing. Every single one of the statements is false and only the conclusion is true. What a masterpiece!


Ok, you’re right.

(I’m reminded how difficult it is to make full arguments over text.

Rather than flog a dead horse, I’ll just accept that I’m not able to make my point clearly enough.)


> If violence worked as a strategy, then it would work better the more of it was applied.

I am generally opposed to violence, but...that really doesn't make sense. It's not generally true that, if <foo> fixes something, 10*<foo> fixes it 10 times better.


Clearly, you are no mathematician.

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” —Asimov

The united states was built on violence. Violence is a valid option to get things done. Yes, it's socially frowned upon. However if you look at history, entire empires are built off of violence. If you can get what you want via violence instead of diplomacy logically you've succeeded in getting what you want. Violence along with diplomacy is a logical means to an end

Did violence invent the Apollo guidance computer or the Saturn V? Did violence build the SR-71? Did violence design Teller’s hydrogen bomb? Did violence build Apple or Google or Facebook or Amazon?

I think if that is the answer you want, you will be able to find enough examples (slavery, et c) to support that conclusion. But many countries had slavery; only a few could build planes to outrun SAMs, land on the moon, index the entire internet, or create the modern smartphone/tablet.

Creativity is much more important than violence. Violence can only be used to perpetuate the status quo; you cannot beat someone into invention or value creation


No but if I have a strong desire to kill an enemy I could invent something to make me better at killing.

All modern military technology and the technology that spawned from it such as the Saturn V or the hydrogen bomb were invented because of the desire to inflict violence on an enemy. Creativity is a tool; violence, hatred and competition is a driving force.

That is not to discount empathy and altruism as driving forces but to ignore hatred and violence as things that have human shaped progress (and improved society technologically) is to ignore reality.


Defensive weapons are not developed out of a desire to inflict violence, but out of a desire to have the ability to inflict violence. It is a tremendously important but subtle distinction. One is a desire for violence and the other is a desire to avoid violence.

Thats what everyone says nowadays. Both sides of a conflict build weapons for "defense." Sort of like how my gun nut dad owns 4 different types of guns for "defense."

I own a lot more than 4 different types of guns and I have a strong desire to avoid shooting any living thing. Your example doesn’t hold up.

People are contradictory. And you are not an exception. You don't buy guns to kill. But you wouldn't buy those guns if those guns were incapable of killing. You don't buy bb guns.

Words to live, and die, by.

Were you given any courses on parenting in school?

Our modern increased individualism and focus on mono-nuclear families should require that. In tribal societies everybody knows how to do that since they have been doing it since they were old enough to care for their younger siblings or generally the younger kids of the village.

Families form tribes

Tribes form society

Society forms the state

State destroys the tribes

State destroys the families

State controls all.


Violence?

> It never ceases to amaze me how many authority figures think violence “fixes” a behaviour

I think it's safe to assume that most humans currently alive were spanked as children and most parents alive today spank their children. If that assumption is true, than it's not amazing... it's just the norm.


In the UK it is actually illegal to smack your kid... so it's not like corporal punishment is still the norm now.

There is also a large portion of parents who have rejected corporal punishment and opted for 'peaceful parenting' techniques from a moralistic perspective based on the non-aggression principle.

Even if you don't agree on moral grounds there have been loads of research papers written on this topic. The papers I have read have helped me make my mind up as I was once in the "spare the rod, spoil the child" camp.

For example, spanking by parents can significantly damage a child’s mental abilities and results in a lower IQ later in life (study by researchers at the University of New Hampshire).

Additionally researchers have found that harsh physical punishment was associated with increased odds of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse/dependence, and several personality disorders after adjusting for sociodemographic variables and family dysfunction, and that if harsh physical punishment did not occur, the prevalence of certain mental disorders might have been reduced by ~2% to 7%.

There are tons more studies on this.

So, if you consider your role as a parent to include giving your child the best chance at life you need to seriously evaluate the body of evidence against using corporal punishment.


> In the UK it is actually illegal to smack your kid... so it's not like corporal punishment is still the norm now in the UK.

FTFY. That's 66 million people. Add Europe and USA and you have about a billion people who consider spanking a no-no. Since spanking is culturally accepted in most of the developing world, I'd say spanking is the norm rather than the exception on planet earth.

> There is also a large portion of parents who have rejected corporal punishment and opted for 'peaceful parenting' techniques from a moralistic perspective based on the non-aggression principle.

Myself included.

> Even if you don't agree on moral grounds

You may be responding to the wrong comment, since I didn't state a position in that comment.

> So, if you consider your role as a parent to include giving your child the best chance at life you need to seriously evaluate the body of evidence against using corporal punishment.

Again, you've probably responded to the wrong person. I've not supported corporal punishment anywhere in this discussion.


Hitting children is also illegal in New Zealand.

Something to consider - is hitting the child caring for them or venting frustration?


>Something to consider - is hitting the child caring for them or venting frustration?

A very important consideration. A parent who smacks out of frustration or malice will do harm. Yet a neglectful parent who never smacks a child will do more harm than an engaged parent who does.


Smacking (not hitting) is legal in England but not Wales or Scotland.

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families...


Modern usage of "never ceases to amaze" permits reference to things that are common. For instance, one could say "it never ceases to amaze me that people believe in God". A few billion people believe in God, so one could say it's not particularly amazing but that's not the point. The point is that, in the opinion of the speaker, it is so outlandish as to be unbelievable that anyone could feel that way.

It's a rhetorical exaggeration.


Fair enough.

Arguing from tradition on a tech forum? I’m not sure I see the logic here, unless you’re the type who thinks that we made a mistake trading flint for bronze. Extremes aside, your argument could be applied equally well to bleeding people for “medicine” without changing more than the word “spanked” to “bled”. That should probably give you pause.

Your critique isn't much better, my friend. You are exaggerating his argument terribly ("bleeding people" like old times?) rather than looking at his actual point. He is saying that spanking was, and he claims is, still common. I don't personally have data, but I was certainly spanked, and I never thought it unusual. I hated it and vowed not to spank my own, which I never have. But I have no data on the rest of the world... and don't much feel like researching it anyway.

I’m saying that “it’s normal” in the satatistical sense isn’t even an argument, it’s just an observation devoid of insight or a position. It also misses the entire point of the article, best summed up as:

The hand licking incident brought it home to me in a big way that, yea, verily, it's better to stand there dumbly and just watch it burn while trying to think of something better to do, even though that is extraordinarily stressful and can feel like the worst possible solution. When there is a crisis, it often feels like you should do Something! Anything!

Maybe. But sometimes you should do Anything -- except that. Anything but that. So it reinforced my resolve to stand my ground when adults around me were haranguing me to do things I knew would not work and would, in fact, be counterproductive.

The response that lots of people don’t see a problem with it is hard to interpret charitably in that context.


Right. markdown was obviously not saying "children ought to be spanked because it's traditional and currently common," but rather, "you should not be 'amazed' that people feel that way because it is common."

I think you understood the comment to be endorsing spanking, where I read it as just an explanation of why people might assume violence is the answer.

> Arguing from tradition on a tech forum?

I've not yet argued a position here; only pointed out that spanking is the norm on planet earth.

For what it's worth, I was spanked (IMO responsibly, not abusively) as a child but I do not spank my own child.

Parenting is hard. People try their best. I'm grateful to my parents for raising me the best way they knew how.


For what it's worth, I think that assumption very well might not be true. But I also suspect it would be very hard to find out real numbers for that.

Spanking is culturally accepted in most of the developing world. Statistically speaking, the western nations where spanking has gone out of fashion don't add up to much.

I doubt you have data to back that claim up. We should not be too quick to assume things about "the developing world" (whatever we think that means, and I'm sure we won't even agree on that) unless we have solid real information.
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