Should Your Family Try This?
May 13, 2009 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Consensual Living is an experiment in family democracy, where all family members are equally worthy of respect and participate equally in every decision. "When your child is unwilling to share her toy, instead of forcing, choose to listen and understand her point of view. Facilitate her need for playing with that toy, while helping the other child find something just as interesting. When your child skips dinner but is hungry before bed, instead of being frustrated, you can choose to share a quiet bowl of cereal and chat about the day. In each situation and the other unlimited examples out there, you always have the ability to choose joy and connection." Some are not impressed.
posted by Xurando (161 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
loldoesnothaveanyrealchildren
posted by DU at 6:09 AM on May 13, 2009 [33 favorites]


'Some' being anyone with kids.
posted by mazola at 6:13 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't have children. But I have met children, and even I know this is crazy.
posted by jb at 6:14 AM on May 13, 2009 [17 favorites]


They all have kids. And maybe their kids are great - good tempered, cooperative, naturally not self-centred. But if they are anything like I was, they'll grow up to be selfish terrors.
posted by jb at 6:16 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Watch out for the auto playing music on that 1st link, btw.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:17 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I tried playing a game of consensual blob tag once. We all started as the blob and chased our inner demons. Man, my scoutmaster was way ahead of these people.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:22 AM on May 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Gooses! Geeses! / I want my geese to lay gold eggs for Easter
It will, sweetheart
At least a hundred a day
Anything you say
And by the way
What?
I want a feast.
You ate before you came to the factory
I want a bean feast!
Oh, one of those
Cream buns and doughnuts and fruitcake with no nuts / So good you could go nuts
You can have all those things when you get home
No, now!! / I want a ball / I want a party
Pink macaroons and a million balloons / And performing baboons and ...
Give it to me / Rrhh rhhh / Now!

I want the world / I want the whole world
I want to lock it all up in my pocket / It's my bar of chocolate
Give it to me now!

I want today / I want tomorrow
I want to wear 'em like braids in my hair / And I don't want to share 'em

I want a party with room fulls of laughter / Ten thousand tons of ice cream
And if I don't get the things I am after / I'm going to scream!

I want the works / I want the whole works
Presents and prizes and sweets and surprises / Of all shapes and sizes
And now / Don't care how / I want it now / Don't care how / I want it now
posted by billysumday at 6:24 AM on May 13, 2009 [34 favorites]


The central conceit here seems to be that all of a child's opinions and actions deserve a degree of respect and consideration, but that's not something I'd concede to a fully-formed adult, much less a fussy, willful proto-person. No, I think that I will not be taking this advice.
posted by mhoye at 6:24 AM on May 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


If those kids ever get into a public school they'll be eaten alive. The horror!
posted by RussHy at 6:24 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm really afraid that soon I'll start dealing with kids/young adults who were raised in this method and are self-entitled schmucks. One of the most important lessons we learn as children is that there are some things that happen regardless of our wants or needs and there's nothing to to but accept it and adapt to the situation.
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:24 AM on May 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I agree with the second link.

Some of what these people are saying, the 'Consensual Living' people, is great and an admirable goal and often is the best way to approach conflicts with children. But some conflicts are not negotiable - you can not drink the laundry detergent, you can not run across the street, you can not hang out the fourth story window, you can not hit your bother with the hammer: there is no discussion on these issues. Enforce them as gently or forcefully as you like, but there are some things that are beneath discussion.

As it says in the second link, there are many responsibilities kids can't handle - to force them to and to have them then fail at it, is often counter-productive.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:26 AM on May 13, 2009 [20 favorites]


I foresee a child raised in this way flaming out in MeTa really badly around the time of the 20th anniversary meetups.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:28 AM on May 13, 2009 [12 favorites]


I don't think I'm going to be alone in thinking that this is a bit crazy. Maybe it could be made to work, with kids with excellent inborn temperment and adults who are highly intelligent and mature. Personally, I can say that I didn't meet those qualifications as a kid, nor do I think I'm quite mature nor patient enough as an adult. I have been persuaded over the years that not all kids require physical discipline (perhaps none? I have no kids), but this is just no.
posted by Edgewise at 6:29 AM on May 13, 2009


...all family members are equally worthy of respect and participate equally in every decision.

Um, there is a baby in this bathwater, though. 'Every' decision? I think we can all agree that's mental. But, you know, working together on non-serious projects like, say, if you're all building a sandcastle together or helping to make someone's birthday cake - this sounds like a really nice, apt approach, that can help to build communication skills and moral reasoning and bond family members.

If thinking about this approach gives a parent a few extra options, that's to be welcomed.

Sometimes stopping to address the biological need is all that is required to get us back on track.

Empathy doesn't mean kowtowing to a child's every whim. I agree that this approach is too simplistic overall, and there's a danger of taking on an unrealistic ideal that becomes yet another rod for parents to beat themselves with. But having additional ways to think about situations from children's perspectives can give you some useful insights, and also help you to bond with them a bit more.

Having said that, I think all the aspects of it that I've mentioned as being useful are strategies that most parents adopt naturally anyway, so it's mostly just restating the obvious.
posted by RokkitNite at 6:32 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The central conceit here seems to be that all of a child's opinions and actions deserve a degree of respect and consideration
Emphasis on degree. The degree should vary based on the circumstances. Sure, my daughter gets a say in her life--her preferences and desires are, of course, important, and I'm not going to physically force brussels sprouts down her throat at mealtime, but, no, her vote doesn't count the same as me or her mother's.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:32 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is a joke, right? A joke set up some some hard-right wingnut to make lefty-granola types look bad, right? Because no-one in their right mind could possibly think this is a good idea...right?
posted by you just lost the game at 6:34 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love it when things that most sane people know inherently are given buzzworthy new names and are branded as new movements.

Listen to my child's opinion? Yes, thanks "Consensual Living" people, you are brilliant scientists. Try to compromise? Oh thanks again, I didn't think of that!
posted by poppo at 6:37 AM on May 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


No, you are not a unique butterfly, but if you think you are maybe you'll fly around anyway and make something pretty. Until the sparrows come and eat your motherfucking ass because you were too special to know when to be that bright pretty someone, and when to STFU and lay hands on the rope of society to pull like almost everyone else.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:37 AM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Children should not be subject to long-term social 'experiments'. If the results are unexpectedly negative, you've fucked up an entire life.
posted by rocket88 at 6:40 AM on May 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


children can be trusted to know their own minds and bodies

Wow. That's amazing... and wrong. Children are in the process of learning that, and this style of parenting basically abdicates responsibility for teaching these basic things to children.

I have a very intelligent 8 yr old. He often makes good decisions, but often he argues to make decisions he wants rather than the ones he knows he should make. Children live in the moment, and they need to be taught responsibility and priorities. The latter is particularly hard for children.
posted by e40 at 6:42 AM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


there is no discussion on these issues.

I know that you mean there's no debate as to whether or not the kid can hit his brother. And I agree. But taking you literally for a second, I'd say that -- if you're a good parent -- there's always room for discussion. The correct answer is "No, you may not hit your brother" not "No, you may not hit your brother and we're not going to discuss it."

In America, it's against the law to rob a bank. The End. And that's good. But it's not against the law to talk about robbing banks, to ask why we can't rob banks, to write novels about robbing banks, etc. I believe the same system should be followed at home. ALL speech should be free and encouraged. Some actions should be forbidden. Kids need to learn the difference between speech and action.

Parents also need to be 100% honest about why they are forbidding an action. Kids may not like being constrained, but they respect honesty. They don't respect bullshit (and they shouldn't). The don't respect "because I say so" and they shouldn't. WHY do you say so? What's your REASON for the rule?

(Sometimes "because I say so" IS the only answer. Parents need to be honest about that, too. If you can't stand your kid wearing those green pants, be honest about why you're forbidding it. The reason why you're forbidding it is because you don't like them and you have the power.)

I spent years working with kids, and I saw a lot of kids who came from strict households and an equal number who came from lenient ones. As someone who had liberal parents, at first I felt sorry for the kids who grew up with conservative ones. But after a while, I noticed that liberal or conservative didn't matter much. What mattered was consistency. Kids who grew up in well-defined, structured homes (where the rules -- or lack thereof -- were clear) were fine. Children who lived with daily inconsistency were messes. Children spend most of their time trying to figure out the logic of the world. If you raise them in an environment without logic, they go haywire.
posted by grumblebee at 6:42 AM on May 13, 2009 [66 favorites]


Children are not machines. Any unilateral approach to situation X or blanket technique for dealing with conflict Y isn't going to work. You've got to keep things mixed up, take a balanced approach to everything, be adaptable. That's why parenting is a demanding job - and like any demanding job, is invigorating when you are on top of your game, and impossible and frustrating when you're exhausted.
posted by bokeh at 6:44 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Reasoning is difficult with people who have limited capacity for reasoning.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:46 AM on May 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


share a quiet bowl of cereal

Rice Krispies is out then?
posted by biffa at 6:48 AM on May 13, 2009 [32 favorites]


One of the (many) problems with this approach (as the "some" link points out) is that small children are not always, no matter how much people might want to believe otherwise, rational beings acting in good faith. My parents tried a couple of things like this when I was a kid and my brother and I were continually at each others' throats. First came the reverse psychology; "Go ahead, we don't care if you fight." That only lasted as long as it took my parents to realize that my brother and I merely interpreted that as a license to fight without them getting in the way. Then came the empathy; "Why don't we sit down and talk about why you're fighting?" "Because ---- stole my Hot Wheels and I hate him!" "----, why did you steal ----'s Hot Wheels?" "Because he stole my Star Wars figure and I hate him!," etc. ad nauseum.

Not long after that it was back to the tried-and-true method of groundings and other non-physical (except in a half-dozen or so extreme situations, like the time I pushed my brother through the glass part of the back door*) punishments, which may not have been perfect but had the benefit of keeping us somewhat in line and periodically separated so my parents could enjoy a moments' peace here and there.

* he was wearing a full set of hockey equipment and escaped any serious injury, for which I am eternally grateful. But man, did I ever get my ass tanned over that.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:49 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Having said that, I think all the aspects of it that I've mentioned as being useful are strategies that most parents adopt naturally anyway, so it's mostly just restating the obvious.

I'm not sure about that. I think empathy for children is difficult to maintain through irritation at their methods. Good parenting is not very instinctive; it's more instinctive to try to directly control them by saying no and criticizing when you don't like what they're doing. It's also common to ignore good behavior (because when they're behaving well, your involvement is not necessary) than to praise it. It's hard to remember that they're little and that what they're doing is developmentally appropriate when it's also deeply annoying.

We all see a lot of unfortunate parenting, but I personally think it's equally divided between the "how do you think it makes your baby sister feel when you smack her in the face?" and the yanking the 2-year-olds around Target by the arm, scolding incessantly as they go.
posted by palliser at 6:49 AM on May 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Dad, it's OK, I just like playing Halo a lot more than doing homework. Homework really isn't that important, and don't worry, I'll replace all the beer that I and my friends drank last Saturday while you and mom were out."

"OK son, just remember that was Heineken that you guys drank, not PBR."
posted by caddis at 6:51 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, also, to clarify my comment, you absolutely have to say no sometimes, but it's best to say yes when you can, if you want them to heed the no's.
posted by palliser at 6:51 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Making kids responsible for their decisions is a big winner in our house. For example, we have a bonus allowance scheme where if they do certain things without having to be asked or reminded (get up, get dressed, clean teeth, go to bed at a reasonable time etc) they can get extra allowance. However if they want to stay up and read late so that I have to tell them to switch the light off, that's completely fine, but they know they then can't be too lazy about getting up in the morning.

It works really well. The other thing that engages them is having a complicated 'bonus multiplier' system which is familiar to them from video games. They really liked having that.

Anyway, the point is, they helped to design the system which is why it works.

On another note, our food problems have all but disappeared since we started emphasising design-your-own-dinner (eg homemade pizza, homemade kebabs). It turns out they are much more adventurous when it's them putting stuff on the plate, not you.
posted by unSane at 6:53 AM on May 13, 2009 [7 favorites]



Nuh uh.

I'm having kids for the expressed purpose of smacking the shit out of 'em whenever the wife isn't putting out. No, I can't get a dog, 'cause my wife is allergic to pet dander, and no, I can't get a goldfish because they dodge everytime my hand hits the water.

But in all seriousness, I think this will be a problem because part of the family dynamic is preparing children for the social sphere. I realize this has been said before, but it is worth repeating. If I were to blow off my titrations today because I felt like goofing off here on the blue, nobody would calmly sit me down and try to understand my current ...

You know what? Maybe I should get back to those titrations.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:56 AM on May 13, 2009


Yes, grumblebee, and especially, Children spend most of their time trying to figure out the logic of the world. If you raise them in an environment without logic, they go haywire. I think this is the hardest part, consistency.

cf: (anecdotal): It is time now to talk about the wheel.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:57 AM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am not impressed. If there is one thing I've learned raising 4 fairly successful children is that its very difficult to identify cause and effect as kids have different personalities and responses to feedback. Empathy good, formulaic approaches to parenting bad. Its what you do that counts and not what you say. Also, kids have learned almost everything they are going to from you by the time they are 10, then peers and media rise to the fore.
posted by sfts2 at 6:58 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is an absurd line of thinking. My 3-year-old lies to me about things every day. It's not because he's a bad kid, nor am I a bad parent. He's playing with concepts of truth, reality and communication. I can't take seriously everything, or even most things, he says. I mean, this is a person with imaginary friends. He can't be part of all, or even most, decision-making.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:58 AM on May 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


It works really well. The other thing that engages them is having a complicated 'bonus multiplier' system which is familiar to them from video games. They really liked having that.

Heh. When one of them gets a letter sent home from one of their teachers, complaining about their behaviour, do you get to shout: 'C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!'

Because I totally would. Which is why I should never be allowed kids.
posted by RokkitNite at 6:59 AM on May 13, 2009 [18 favorites]


The future of MetaFilter. Beware.
posted by ColdChef at 7:01 AM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I wish I had been raised with a little more consensual living and a little less BECAUSE I SAID SO.

My childhood and adolescence consisted of things like being grounded to my room, only allowed out for meals, church, and school, with no television, telephone, or non-school-related books for 6-8 weeks at a time. I was allowed to read the Bible or my sunday school literature, do my homework, and stare at the fucking wall. If I was writing anything, it was subject to examination at any moment to make sure it was homework related and not for my own entertainment. This kind of punishment was for infractions like a B on my report card, or getting a note sent home for talking too much in class, or hiding the cordless phone in my room at bedtime so I could talk to a boy I liked late into the night.

I spent two years without a bedroom door (and I wasn't even allowed a curtain, I had to change clothes in the bathroom down the hall) after I slammed said door one too many times when I was about 13. I only got the door back because some family friends with a teenage son were coming to stay for the weekend, my parents were planning to take the door back the moment the visitors left but luckily never got around to it.

I was never abused physically and everything I've described above was implemented with great calm and logic and many sighs and sad smiles and 'one day you'll understand'. All I understand is that I'm still furious about it to this day, and anyone who chooses to raise their children with respect and gentleness instead of an iron fist of I KNOW WHAT'S BEST AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA is A-OK in my book. I especially think the bit about having some cereal and a chat before bed if your kid didn't feel like eating at dinner is incredibly sweet and sensible.

Also, I think the parents who decide to try this consensual living thing out are smart enough to know that behavior like juggling butcher knives and punching your brother in the throat is unacceptable. It's just that rather than freaking out and screaming and bringing out the Great Parental Hammer of Justice, they choose to have a conversation about why the juggling/punching is unacceptable and maybe figure out the reasons behind the behavior and maybe even some alternate activities to channel the energy that led to the unacceptable behavior. Maybe get some plastic juggling knives and hang a punching bag in the garage. Maybe have a chat with the brother to figure out why he's being such a collossal dick, so maybe his siblings will stop WANTING to punch him in the throat.

And keep in mind that these kids aren't just learning 'I get to do whatever I want', they are learning that the best way to deal with other people in any situation is by open, two-way communication. I know my childhood is an extreme case, but that was absolutely one of the most difficult lessons I've ever learned.
posted by Wroksie at 7:09 AM on May 13, 2009 [38 favorites]


Hmm. Sounds like it follows on from the Reggio Emillia and Montessori, which is to say not entirely crazy. That said if we let our daughter set er own bedtime it would be "never" and she'd freak out completely as she got tireder and tireder. Which is what happens a lot anyway, TBH, us being terrible at enforcing any kind of bedtime routine.
posted by Artw at 7:14 AM on May 13, 2009


I missed that story about the wheel first time around; it made what would normally be a mildly interesting parenting thread totally worthwhile. I wonder how that computerized parenting matrix is coming.
posted by TedW at 7:21 AM on May 13, 2009


This is why people grew to hate hippies.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:22 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


If those kids ever get into a public school they'll be eaten alive. The horror!

Not to worry. They won't want to go to school.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:23 AM on May 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also it's worth pointing out that the first "do not agree" link comes with a link back to points on which the writer does agree.
posted by Artw at 7:24 AM on May 13, 2009


In theory I think this system sounds awesome, but maybe that's because everything I did as a kid resulted in my getting whacked with a wooden spoon.
posted by The Straightener at 7:25 AM on May 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


share a quiet bowl of cereal

I'll have my own bowl thanks. Ever share any food with a kid? It has 150% of the RDA of slobber and snot.
posted by The Deej at 7:28 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


(The second link anti link, the reformer post, is shouty ranty kneewjerk garbage though. Any one of you lot could do better)
posted by Artw at 7:28 AM on May 13, 2009


The Straightener: Yeah, I think there's a slightly better balance to be struck between those extremes.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:29 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It works really well. The other thing that engages them is having a complicated 'bonus multiplier' system which is familiar to them from video games. They really liked having that.

I would really like to hear more about this bonus multiplier system. Do they 'level'? Can they use this cash to buy new equipment? Is there some sort of analog for experience points? It sounds like I'm making fun of you, but I'm really curious.
posted by a bad enough dude at 7:37 AM on May 13, 2009


Yesterday afternoon I was on the train and saw a little girl who appeared to have smeared her hair with an awful lot of blue paint. She was very vocally whinging about "all these dumb people" who were on the train with her and kept hitting the little button to request assistance. Her father just said "I'm not going to tell you what you can and can't do." I was going to tell her about Metafilter, but I think she's already here.
posted by milkrate at 7:38 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kids are entitled to their opinions. Doesn't mean we base all decisions by them. But part of what's being said here is that parents need to understand what a child is communicating, though they don't have to act on the child's whim. A bad situation can be turned around by dealing with what's going on rather than just brushing the kid aside. There is no need to cater to the child, however. Parents still have to be authoritative.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:39 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


...everything I did as a kid resulted in my getting whacked with a wooden spoon.

For us it was the wire end of a fly swatter. I don't think consensus is the right way to train very young children, but it might be OK for some teens. The casual violence I was raised with is really toxic.
posted by RussHy at 7:48 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder if anyone advocating this approach to children would really want to associate with a grown adult who had been brought up in this manner. I mean, you'd be talking to someone who probably believes that there is always some leeway, always something that they could say to get what they wanted.

There are times in life where, unfortunately, we don't get to discuss things, we don't get to argue and plead our cases. Being able to understand and accept that is crucial to getting through life. Yeah, it sucks as a kid being told that what you want isn't going to happen, even if you create a powerpoint arguing all of the finer points. That's pretty much how life is, sometimes, and at least it'll be your parent breaking (hopefully in a gentle manner) your cherished illusions, rather than a boss who's had enough of your shit, or a significant other who's tired of you trying to rationalize why it's okay for you to do things they can't stand.

What kids these days need is Leon. When life beats them about the head, they can look up to him from the stairway and say, "Is life always this bad, or is it just when you're a kid?"

Leon will pause a moment, look down, and say, "Always like this."

(Of course, we should leave out all the Lolita stuff that comes later)
posted by Ghidorah at 7:49 AM on May 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


We raise our kids more or less like this, we just don't make funky websites about it and gush about it so much. I suppose we probably don't apply it in its purest form, in that we *do* give orders sometimes, or insist on our own way over our kids', but we only do that when there's no obvious other way to do things.

We don't punish behavior anymore. Gave up on it when they were toddlers, after reading Alfie Kohn's _Unconditional Parenting_ and a few other things. We don't reward behavior either. Turns out that kids don't actually behave very differently without reward/punishment structures than they do with them, in the long run.

We do insist on things like them going to school in the morning, because honestly I don't know how we'd swing it in terms of child care and getting along with the educational institution, if we didn't. But if I knew a way to make that more a matter of consensus and less of compulsion, I'd be open to it.

By some standards our kids are irresponsible -- they're terrible with keeping the house clean, for example, and tend to go to bed too late. But *we're* terrible with keeping the house clean, and tend to go to bed too late, so condemning them for that would be holding them to a standard we don't consistently hold ourselves to, which isn't very fair.

Our kids go to public school and get along well. Their teachers like them, they seem to have a normal amount of happiness and trouble there. Their grades are good. They deal just fine with the fact that there are rewards and punishments at school, despite the fact that there aren't any at home, and behavior is much more strictly controlled than it is at home. It's just a different place, where things work differently.

We don't punish them for failing to do their homework or reward them for doing it; we seldom even remind them of it. They do it diligently anyway, because they don't want to show up at school without their homework done. (I wouldn't care if they didn't do it, honestly, because there are a lot of studies that show that homework is basically useless for learning...)

We get a lot of compliments on our kids' behavior and attitude; we enjoy their company and they enjoy ours; they get along well with other kids and parents.

This stuff isn't crazy, and you don't have to make gushing websites about it. You just do it, it works fine, and then when somebody *does* make a gushing website about it, places like MetaFilter freak out because it contradicts a lot of people's preconceived ideas about human nature.
posted by edheil at 7:49 AM on May 13, 2009 [20 favorites]


We did this. We also included the dog in our family decisions. My typical childhood day consisted of eight hours of watching tv cartoons, three hours of eating candy, and at least an hour of chasing squirrels. and I am no the worser becuz of ti.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:53 AM on May 13, 2009 [13 favorites]


I'm all for anything that tries to make improvements in child raising. We've got enough people who don't seem to give it any real thought, so why not give these people the benefit of the doubt? They seem to be coming at it from a loving perspective at least.
posted by orme at 7:54 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is a prime example of taking something good and reasonable (the idea that children are people worthy of listening to and understanding) and pushing it down the tracks into crazytown.
posted by padraigin at 7:58 AM on May 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


When your child is unwilling to share her toy, instead of forcing, choose to listen and understand her point of view. Facilitate her need for playing with that toy, while helping the other child find something just as interesting.

What happens when I have to simultaneously facilitate one child's need to hoard everything with another child's need to take everything? Can I just give them both money instead?
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 7:59 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


As I see it, the biggest and most crucial part of a parent's job is to guide the development of their child's empathetic, decision-making and critical thinking skills so that eventually they grow adept enough at using those skills and exercising sound judgment to participate in the kind of relationship of mutual-equality this approach seems to assume you can start having from the get-go.

At two and a half, my wife and I try to engage our son in making as many choices as he's capable of making, but they have to be relatively simple, carefully framed choices, or else he can end up feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.

I find the notion that kids come equipped from birth with the emotional and intellectual resources they need to participate in healthy relationships even with their same-age peers, much less their parents, bordering on insane. Kids count on their parents to help them develop the emotional coping mechanisms, social sensitivities and good judgment they'll need to form healthy relationships. If the parents don't accept and fulfill those responsibilities, these skills never develop properly. Kids don't just magically develop into mature adults without that guidance.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:00 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


My father's mutually agreed upon philosophy was "Don't do as I do do as I say."
posted by pianomover at 8:00 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


When your child is unwilling to share her toy, instead of forcing, choose to listen and understand her point of view. Facilitate her need for playing with that toy, while helping the other child find something just as interesting.

What happens when I have to simultaneously facilitate one child's need to hoard everything with another child's need to take everything? Can I just give them both money instead?


Most toddler toy freakouts are more about exerting will, and the toy becomes a symbol of that, but as soon as the conflict goes away they kind of lose interest in the toy itself (which is a pretty common pattern in todler freakouts). The preschool my daughter has just started going to, which is run very much along Reggio Emilia lines, has an interesting approach to this, basically sitting down with the kids and saying "X is playing with this toy right now, but I'm sure she would share it with you - X, would you give Y the toy in 5 minutes" - kids often engage in some negotiation here ("No, two minutes!") and then quite often both just forget about the toy completely after coming to an agreement.

It's kind of fascinating to watch, not least because these kids are souting out these time periods to each other in a very adults-negotiating type way, though TBH I am not sure they know the actual difference between two minuters and five minutes.
posted by Artw at 8:09 AM on May 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Man, am I glad for every time I was sent to my room, grounded, or spanked.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:13 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


We don't punish behavior anymore. Gave up on it when they were toddlers, after reading Alfie Kohn's _Unconditional Parenting_ and a few other things. We don't reward behavior either.

Oh yeah? I find that hard to believe. It's simply a feature of normal human social behavior to reward behavior we approve of and withhold approval for behaviors we don't. A simple smile and a fond word even counts as a reward.

You might not consciously reward or withhold reward, but I'll bet you do it on some more immediate, interpersonal level. If you didn't, you'd have to go deliberately out of your way to remain an emotional cipher at all times, cultivating some bizarre, artificially sterile and emotionally disengaged form of relationship with your kids.

As a conscientious parent, a big part of the job IMO is just being more conscious about what behaviors and attitudes you promote through these otherwise very ordinary mechanisms of social interaction. And sometimes you have to get a little tougher, with suspending privileges and similar punitive steps, but that's pretty rare if you handle these other parts well enough.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:14 AM on May 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Three things come to mind:

1. children will take pretty much whatever they can get; sharing, empathy, respect for others are all learned behaviors.

2. freedom cannot be given, only taken

3. a riff on #1: a ten year old is way further along the sharing-empathy-respect-for-others learning curve than a four year old.
posted by philip-random at 8:16 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


We do something along these lines, as you would expect it drives most of our extended family insane.

When I say "something along these lines" I mean we talk to our child and ask for her opinion and mostly when she does something wrong we ask why rather than dole out punishment. Sometimes she gets the punishment as well, but she knows why. She has her own computer, and consumes media which perhaps she shouldn't but it is with a discussion about fantasy vs reality and even then the limits are clearly defined. (I don't care what she says Se7en does not refer to the the age of the viewer). If she really really doesn't want to go to [after-school activity] she doesn't have to. But she is shown how this affects her friends and the organisers and sometimes she changes her mind.

"Just because" does have a place in our house. But it's "Just because daddy had a shocker of a day in work and needs to decompress before he plays Hannah Montana with you." Steadfast rules do exist and sometimes there's no decent explanation. But then the explanation is, "there's no decent explanation yet, but if we figure it out, you'll be the first to know"

Honesty is the overriding rule of our house, and that extends to interactions with our daughter too.

You know what drives our family mad the most? Our daughter is an angel. Ridiculously well-behaved, smart, confident, mature and even cute as a button. They can't make the connection between the shambolic excuses for parents that we all assumed we'd be, and the little Buddha that follows us around.

Perhaps she'll be a nightmare teenager, perhaps she'll have a rough 20s when our bizarreness comes home to roost. Whatever happens we'll be able to examine, discuss and maybe even rectify the situation because we've spent a decade or more laying the foundations for a family built on honesty, fairness and reality.
posted by fullerine at 8:18 AM on May 13, 2009 [16 favorites]


I wonder if anyone advocating this approach to children would really want to associate with a grown adult who had been brought up in this manner. I mean, you'd be talking to someone who probably believes that there is always some leeway, always something that they could say to get what they wanted.

I don't think it's fair to assume that the way kids are raised will directly affect their adult personality in an obvious way. I know people who were raised in racist, abusive, dysfunctional households that grew up to be progressive, non-violent people. On the other hand, I know people who grew up in conservative religious households that grew up to be crazy outspoken risk-takers. And even identical twins who grow up in the exact same environment can end up having very different personalities. I don't know whether this parenting style is better or worse than any other in the long term, but I very much doubt that it will always result in any given type of adult personality.

There are times in life where, unfortunately, we don't get to discuss things, we don't get to argue and plead our cases. Being able to understand and accept that is crucial to getting through life.

Although I agree that completely protecting kids from everything bad is not helpful or necessary, I do think that the home environment should be more loving and respectful than the outside world rather than an exact copy of it. Odds are that your child will end up being the victim of a robbery or physical attack at some point in their lives, for example, but purposely exposing your kids to those sorts of things early on is probably not going to do much good. In my opinion, parents shouldn't worry about teaching their kids that life isn't fair, because they will get plenty of lessons throughout their lives to teach them that. But if parents don't show their kids love and respect, they might have a hard time finding them somewhere else, and the people and things they use to get them might end up doing more harm than good over the course of their lives.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:18 AM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Science (developmental psychology) also backs up the snark in this thread: according to Piaget's theory of childhood development, children between the ages of 7 and, say, 12 or 13 (although a surprisingly large number of adults never leave this stage) enter the concrete operational stage of development. Kids in this stage understand rules rather than reason. Every teacher knows this. First thing a new teacher does with a new class is lay down the rules and then, if the kids can handle the rules, relaxes and experiments with democracy.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:20 AM on May 13, 2009


I'm wondering if the people freaking out at this expousing some ridiculous return to victorian birching are the real people who do not have/understand kids.
posted by Artw at 8:22 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Do what I say or I will punish you with an agonizingly long and boring conversation.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:23 AM on May 13, 2009 [20 favorites]


Do what I say or I will punish you with an agonizingly long and boring conversation.

Heh. Now that might have some truth to it.
posted by Artw at 8:24 AM on May 13, 2009


I am assuming my response of mild rage to the Consensual Living site comes from the fact its authors display no absolutely sense of humor & sound like crashing bores for all their Department of the Bleeding Obvious child-rearing advice?

It's either that, or I have some appalling personal issues!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:27 AM on May 13, 2009


"Do as I say, not as I do," can be much more usefully rephrased as "You don't want to turn out like me, do you?" This is the core of my parenting philosophy.
posted by rusty at 8:28 AM on May 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


TheophileEscargot: Do what I say or I will punish you with an agonizingly long and boring conversation.

I actually do this as well, on purpose. It seems to work, more than you might expect.
posted by rusty at 8:34 AM on May 13, 2009


I think my wife actually uses this on me.
posted by Artw at 8:37 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


On thinking it over further, I like this idea. I don't have any kids, but if I did, I would certainly want everyone's feelings treated as equally valid and worthy of being conceded too. Just think of all that are currently supressed in families:

"I don't want to clean mush off the walls."
"I don't want to spend my money on toys, strollers and clothing that will be outgrown in 6 months."
"I don't want to go to the park when I'm tired."
"I don't want to come home from the bar before 3am and I don't want to pay for a sitter."
"I don't want to driver to soccer and gymnastics."
"I want to sleep til 2pm."
"I want to go the the mall, alone, right now."
"I don't want to share a bowl of cereal at 10pm with someone who wouldn't eat dinner."
"I don't want to waste my time mediating negotations over an unshared toy or finding something to entertain a kid."
"I don't want to remember how to do grade three homework and I sure as hell don't want to figure out where to buy a science fair board."

Really, it goes on and on. There's no reason for anyone in a family to have to do things they don't want to do. I think using this system would make having a kids a lot more enjoyable.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:37 AM on May 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


A lot of the folks here seem to be reading "Everyone’s wants and needs are equally valid, regardless of age," but interpreting it as "the childs wants and needs are the only one that are valid."

Giving consideration to what a kid wants is not the same thing as giving a kid everything s/he wants. "Everyone" in that first statement included the parents, extended family members, friends, classmates, and so on, doesn't it?
posted by Karmakaze at 8:41 AM on May 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


"Oh yeah? I find that hard to believe. It's simply a feature of normal human social behavior to reward behavior we approve of and withhold approval for behaviors we don't. A simple smile and a fond word even counts as a reward."

If you count anything that they like as being rewarding and anything they dislike as being punishing, then yeah, we could hardly help "rewarding" or "punishing" them in that sense. I'm saying we don't have a policy of "do this, and you'll get that."

There's a difference between "Hey, that really bothers me, stop it!" and "Hey, that really bothers me, so now you shall suffer these consequences."

In a loose sense our kids are "rewarded" for "good" behavior with our appreciation of their behavior, in the same way that somebody can be "rewarded" for solving a math problem by the satisfaction of having done so. But that's different from getting candy for solving the math problem.

Again, our kids are "punished" for "bad" behavior by knowing that we don't like it, in the same way that it could be "punishing" to try to solve a math problem and fail. But that's different from failing to solve the math problem and then having to stay in for recess...

So yeah, whether or not we reward and punish our kids depends on how strictly you are using the words.
posted by edheil at 8:44 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Consensus = yes, sweetie, anything you say! = playing with knives and trashing the house"

I'm sorry. This is really dumb.

What's really powerful about consensus is that it's about communication --- which involves taking risks and trusting people. It also means assuming that people (yes, children) are smart enough to learn from the consequences of their actions -- like being tired, alienating other people, or living in a dirty house. If they don't like it, they'll decide to change their behavior.

Lots of people say it's a good idea to treat children with dignity and respect, and then go ahead and list all the reasons why they're not smart enough / old enough / experienced enough to make decisions for themselves. If your kid doesn't pay attention when you warn them the knife is sharp, they're gonna cut their finger. If your kids leave dishes in the sink, they have to deal with you being irritated and guilting them into cleaning them. If your kid decides to drop out of school, they have to deal with finding employment, "failing," and dealing with your disappointment.

The point is to communicate, give people full information, and let them make their own choices. It's not a free pass. It's informed decision-making. I think Wroksie's comment really hits the mark here, anyway, in the "why passive authoritarianism is bad" camp. Because it is bad, and lots of good, progressive-minded people do it without thinking about it-- because "that's what parenting is" and "that's how it's always been done" and "you don't know because you don't have kids."
posted by puckish at 8:45 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]



Spoken as someone who doesn't have kids, but who doesn't buy for a second that my parents always knew what was best.
posted by puckish at 8:46 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do what I say or I will punish you with an agonizingly long and boring conversation.
Sounds like another staff meeting.
posted by pianomover at 8:46 AM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


From the third link:

Years ago I remember reading in a parenting magazine about a mother who avoided those “getting dressed” struggles because her daughter insisted on wearing only purple. The mother bought her little sweety a completely purple wardrobe and all tension of getting dressed in the morning ceased. I remember being amazed that such poorly thought out advice ever managed to be published… but there it was. How did a mother ever managed to get herself into such a loosing position that she would have to be arguing with a small child about what to wear?

I'm asking this seriously, as a non-parent. Would you get upset if your child decided to wear all purple? Let's assume that they've outgrown their old clothes anyway, and it's time to buy new ones, so you're not laying out any more money than you normally would. I can think of a couple of reasons to deny this request. One, they may get sick of purple and ask for new clothes. Two, you're afraid they'll get picked on. Does that sound about right, or is there some other reason?
posted by Evangeline at 8:49 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


In my opinion, all this discussion about child development is almost a red herring. I don't think Consensual Living is a good idea for adults, either. Sorry, but not all ideas are of equal value, and stupid or destructive ideas are not worthy of equal time and respect. I think it's quite possible to raise kids with a strong sense of love and self-respect without bullshitting them that every desire or thought that flits through their heads is worth everybody else's time and attention. There is quite the false dichotomy being set up here. Somewhere between systemic battery and negotiating every single decision lies the overwhelming majority of all normal human interaction. Now show me how the piggies eat.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:53 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


For us it was the wire end of a fly swatter.

Yeah, the wooden spoon is an Italian thing. It seems like a lot of different ethnic cultures have their specified whack-the-child-with-it object. A wooden spoon was tucked in my grandmother's apron strings at all times, like a holstered gun.
posted by The Straightener at 8:54 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oddly the childcare philosophies that revolve around respect for the child all appear to be Italian.
posted by Artw at 8:56 AM on May 13, 2009


Kids should be treated with empathy, because that is how we treat those that we know and love (and hopefully those we don't know and love too, when we can). That said:

I feel like the fundamental thing that these methods aren't addressing is that kids are not fundamentally good. They have to LEARN not to lie, LEARN not to be selfish, LEARN that they don't always get what they want. The "solutions" in this consensual living operate from the premise that such anti-social behaviors are okay because they have a a biological basis (stem from our development or the body's reaction to stimulus like food or the lack thereof).

No, no, no.

Have you spent time with any three year olds? 4 year olds? They love to negotiate EVERYTHING because they have realized they are their own person and are therefore trying to manipulate you to do everything their way. Rational arguments work SOMETIMES. But MOST OF THE TIME it is a matter of them needing to learn that this is not a "their way or the highway" situation.

Also, I second all the comments that noted this type of child raising MIGHT work for relatively calm, thoughtful kids. There are such kids. They come into the world with amazing powers of self-control and are unbelievably easy to raise.

Then there are the other kids. The ones that come into the world kicking and throwing tantrums and biting and running all over the other kids, unless their parents use a lot of patience and a mix of techniques to help them learn to cope with the world and become productive members of society.

My mom? I swear she used a combination of Dr. Spock, B.F. Skinner, and the Holy Book. I didn't realize until much later (when I took lots of psychology and religion classes) how much behavioral conditioning she had used on us, and how many Bible verses she had quoted at us verbatim on a daily basis. Example (because it is still running around my head): "To whom much is given much is required." Luke 12:48 [Also made an appearance in the Spiderman comics]

Doesn't matter that I'm an atheist now. My head is chockablock-full of these aphorisms.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:56 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Children should not be subject to long-term social 'experiments'. If the results are unexpectedly negative, you've fucked up an entire life.

Yes, childrearing should always be done the way it's always been done and no advances or new ideas should ever enter into it. *eyeroll*

This stuff's pretty ovcious nonsense, but the idea that childrearing should never change and that things should always be as they were is absurd.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:00 AM on May 13, 2009


You know what drives our family mad the most? Our daughter is an angel. Ridiculously well-behaved, smart, confident, mature and even cute as a button. They can't make the connection between the shambolic excuses for parents that we all assumed we'd be, and the little Buddha that follows us around.

Fullerine,
Not jumping on you - because you sound like a lovely parent - but chances are your "angel" may indeed go though an, um, interesting phase as a teenager/in her twenties! That's when your wider family can be a fantastic, unexpected support (rather than acting affronted by how well you're apparently doing now!).

I'm old enough to laugh at the profound, if secret, confidence we had as parents when our children were young. I thought both my husband and I were making an excellent job of correcting the deficiencies we sourly recalled from our own upbringings plus heaping all sorts of sound stuff on top. And we had the ideal kids to prove it!

Nowadays, in common with all of our friends, we've negotiated so many unexpected turns with our former angels. Wild horses wouldn't drag an admission to my own mother that, just maybe, she didn't do so badly the way she raised me after all! (That's my problem). But it's what I think - sometimes!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:03 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then there are the other kids. The ones that come into the world kicking and throwing tantrums and biting and running all over the other kids, unless their parents use a lot of patience and a mix of techniques to help them learn to cope with the world and become productive members of society.

Nah. We medicate the bad ones.
posted by puckish at 9:03 AM on May 13, 2009


Oh dear, it's spreading! When I lived out on a hippie commune, a handful of families swore by this method, "Taking Children Seriously" or TCS for short. The kids were rather well adjusted, but had some serious issues with entitlement and smugness. A lot of people thought these families were batshitinsane, not so much from how the kids behaved as but how the PARENTS acted. If anyone criticized the kids (for example, frequently mobbing the snack table and sweets at community parties) the parents were completely unreasonable and defensive. I know a lot of parents cannot deal with their kids getting criticized, but this group took it farther than most.

The major issues seemed to revolve around the total inconsistency of how the methods were applied: kids were treated as adults in some cases, and given all the privileges/immunity of childhood in others. They could choose whether to attend school or not, where and when to play loudly in public, cut in the dinner line... whatever. They did not have any chores assigned, were not expected to contribute in any way, and basically answered to no one when they acted shitty. The prevailing anti-TCS sentiment was 'if you want to treat your kids as adults, they should have some responsibilities, consequences for when they act out, and be open to receiving criticism fro their behavior.' From the parents' reaction, you have thought we asked to send their kids to the mines. There was a lot of mutual resentment, and much of it unfairly heaped on the children, who just didn't know any better or had no role in deciding what their folks did on their behalf.

I realize this is a very different living situation from most families, but the results are predictable. Treating the kids as equals or adults doesn't really seem to advantage them in becoming mature, respectful citizens. Or that is what I've observed. YMMV.

IDNHKADITHA
i do not have kids and don't intend to have any
posted by wowbobwow at 9:08 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Would you get upset if your child decided to wear all purple? "

The vast majority of my daughter's clothes were presents from family and friends. There is absolutely no way, that I would inform everyone that they are not to give us hand-me-downs or birthday presents, etc. that are not purple.

When we buy clothes she often gets to pick which she likes best amongst a set of options that we've selected for her. If she consistently picked the all purple choices, that wouldn't bother me. However, if she needed a jacket and there were no purple ones around, she'd getting one of a different color and that's that.

Furthermore, we wouldn't do extra laundry just so that her purple favorites were always clean.
posted by oddman at 9:08 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nah. We medicate the bad ones.

But at least we negotiate the dosage!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:08 AM on May 13, 2009


Children spend most of their time trying to figure out the logic of the world. If you raise them in an environment without logic, they go haywire.

I don't have kids, but based on the world that I've been living in the past decade or so I would say that being raised in an environment without logic would be an advantage.
posted by brevator at 9:11 AM on May 13, 2009


rusty: ""Do as I say, not as I do," can be much more usefully rephrased as "You don't want to turn out like me, do you?" This is the core of my parenting philosophy."

Ha! I tell my friends that in order for me to be the best father ever, all I have to do is the exact opposite of what my parents did. So far, so good,
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:23 AM on May 13, 2009


I wish to God it was as easy as a formula. ANY formula. If I thought it'd get my firstborn out of diapers, I'd slap my own face three times while jumping on one leg, every time I said the word "and." And hell yes I'd be consistent about it.

That line about the inestimable influence you have on your kids? Yeah it's true but not in any predictable or practical way. Our words and actions -- however consistent -- play only a part in who our kids will become or how fast. Trying to find a strategy to it, in my experience so far, is just not something that gives results that are anywhere near consistent. I'm one who waited a long time to have kids because I (rightly) viewed it as a parent's highest responsibility and more difficult than one can prepare for; and even so, I feel like my ability to influence them is less (oh, crazy less -- far, far less) than I'd hoped. It's a fight; it is hard as hell, even though (or maybe because?) we adore them. Not saying I have bad kids; they are good kids. It just daily floors me how randomly things play out, confounding any expectations that might reveal a usable logic to it. Raising kids is not even a "controlled crash" scenario, it is chaos. YMMV
posted by rahnefan at 9:25 AM on May 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


It seems like a lot of different ethnic cultures have their specified whack-the-child-with-it object.

My personal fave was, akin to forcing someone to dig their own grave, my friend's mother, who instructed her children to go outside, find a stick and bring it back so you could be beaten with it. And you had better not bring something back thinner than Mom's thumb, or else she would go outside and chose a beating stick for you. And who the fuck knows what she'd choose to bring back. I envisioned her coming back with a 2x4, complete with rusty nails.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:28 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


For us it was the wire end of a fly swatter.

Yeah, the wooden spoon is an Italian thing.


In the south, when I was growing up, it was either a willow switch or a leather belt (depending on whether my grandmother or grandfather was doing the disciplining). Luckily, these were used only very rarely in my case. My Oma in Germany preferred the slap in the face, and my dad preferred the back of his hand. But then, he didn't use that as a form of punishment so much as a way to let me know I was getting on his nerves (luckily, I wasn't around my dad often enough to get more than one black eye and one split lip in the bargain). We don't do that stuff.

I'm saying we don't have a policy of "do this, and you'll get that."

And I'm saying, you do, it's just not explicit, and what they get is your approval or disapproval in return for behaviors you either like or don't like. You just aren't reflecting consciously on how you use these more subtle forms of punishment/reward. It sounds like in your case that's working out just fine so far, and that's great for you. But there's nothing wrong with taking the extra step as a parent and thinking consciously about what you're doing both when you use this kind of soft power and when you model behaviors for your children, which is all most conventional parenting approaches (Searle, etc.) really concern themselves with these days anyway.

Lots of people say it's a good idea to treat children with dignity and respect, and then go ahead and list all the reasons why they're not smart enough / old enough / experienced enough to make decisions for themselves.

When my preschooler is standing up on the very edge of the chair in the kitchen, reaching for a big kitchen knife just as the chair starts to wobble under him, should I stop him and explain why his behavior isn't a good idea, or should I humbly accept that I'm not really so all-knowing and wise either, and ask him for his opinion about what he thinks we should do next?

When he was only a few weeks old and couldn't even roll over onto his side or burp for himself, should we have consulted with him about whether he wanted his diaper changed or not? For that matter, should we just let him go without a diaper change and leave him in a diaper full of his own shit for a few hours now, on those rare occasions when he stubbornly resists being changed?

Of course he gets to have a say on matters impacting him that he's capable of understanding. But it's usually pretty obvious what the limits of a young child's capabilities are to anyone who isn't just another Department of Children and Family services case in-waiting. You don't have to know and understand everything yourself to recognize that you know and understand a lot more than your children do.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:31 AM on May 13, 2009


Our household is run as a capitalist democracy, in the sense that every dollar contributed to maintaining the household equals one share in the decision-making for the household. It may not be a perfect system, but it does teach the children that The Man will always be keeping them down.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:32 AM on May 13, 2009 [31 favorites]


my friend's mother, who instructed her children to go outside, find a stick and bring it back so you could be beaten with it.

Yep. That's how it was with the willow switches my grandmother used. She'd send me out to the yard to "get a switch." Half the time, I'd just climb up into the tree as high as I could and sit there until she finally lost interest in doling out punishment.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:34 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yep..."here's my knife, go cut me a switch." Post-punishment that switch would have a prominent display area for a few days to serve as a visual reminder.
posted by rahnefan at 9:38 AM on May 13, 2009


Kudos to Wroksie, fullerine, and edheil for speaking far more eloquently about the merits of a consensual approach than the authors of the primary links. I'm still skeptical, but I appreciated hearing your reasoning as to why it works for you (or has appeal to you).
posted by brain_drain at 9:40 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Riiiigghhht. And when my four year-old daughter points out that she should not have to pick up a toy, because I asked her to stop playing with it for whatever reason (dinner, bath) and that it's really me that needs to pick it up, I'm supposed to let that stand as reasonable logic and pick up the toy? Nuh-uh.

I try not to engage in shaming behavior. I do my best to let her know that I understand how she's feeling. But, she's four. She has to follow the rules, and I don't make too many rules for her to follow that I don't follow myself. I take a bath when I'm supposed to. I share my stuff even when I don't want to, primarily with her. I put my dirty dishes on the counter by the sink. I don't kick the cat. I don't throw things in the car. Beyond that, it's all whistling in the dark.
posted by PuppyCat at 9:40 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It seems blatantly obvious to me that the people who developed this (anti-)parenting method and who follow it are lacking in understanding of the developmental process. Children are not born knowing everything they need to know to function well in their society and culture. In fact, that, along with providing food, safety, and belonging, is largely what parenting is about.

With my own kids (now 16 and 18), I've made a point of treating them with respect and taking their wants and needs into consideration for virtually every decision, from what to buy at the grocery store to where to live and work. I remembered the frequent frustrations of my childhood, like "because I said so" (so I was willing to explain the reasoning behind my decisions), my brother's always being believed over my sister and me (so I try to be fair and a decent detective), dictated chores and routines that made no sense to me and I had no input in (so we discuss what needs doing and work out a balanced plan where everyone contributes).

I am all for respect, compassion, empathy, listening, sharing rationales, and otherwise treating kids as human beings rather than beasts in training, but they thrive with boundaries, expectations, and an understanding of where they are developmentally and what it's fair to expect from them. They also need to learn, along the way, that they are not the only ones whose needs, wants, and feelings matter. Compassion and empathy, the primary facets of this approach, will not be taught through the approach.

Expecting children to be able to make good solo decisions about every thing they do in their lives from the get-go is like asking a 3-year-old to clean Grandma's attic. They might make some good choices, might have fun playing in Grandma's old clothes, might get the landing swept clean, but they also might fall through to the kitchen, get fiberglass in their eyes, tear up the valuable stock certificates, or set the house on fire. They need guidance.
posted by notashroom at 9:47 AM on May 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm going to raise my kids like some sort of MMORPG. They will have to farm chores to get their allowance lucre. If they want something, they'll have to go to another room where a notecard will say that they have to pick up 10 toys before they can have juice. I will let the fast travel to visit grandma via powerful narcotics. Siblings will be PvP okay and will drop the best loot.

And if they complain, I'll fucking nerf Christmas.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:47 AM on May 13, 2009 [25 favorites]


Mother (Italian/Ukrainian): Flyswatter, wooden spoon
Father (WASP): Belt

There's mine. *snif*
posted by grubi at 9:47 AM on May 13, 2009


Do what I say or I will punish you with an agonizingly long and boring conversation.

Sounds like another staff meeting.

Hey, they might as well learn why mommy and daddy are so freaking tired and annoyed at the end of a day full of pointless meetings early on!

For what it's worth, my mother (and her mother before her) had one stock response if the child hit the parent: "Your hand will stick out of the grave."

I think I'm still a little scarred from that imagery. There's my data point of Swedish childrearing...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:50 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think it is worth to give it a try. If you can talk to a kid in her language, she will understand.
posted by JohnnyL at 9:58 AM on May 13, 2009


Just a quick thank you to everyone contributing to this thread. I just moved in with my girlfriend and her three brilliant and wickedly weird kids. They are all fucking awesome and I love 'em to death, but I am totally freestylin' at the 'parenting' thing. There is so much to consider in this thread. Beautiful. Thanks again.
posted by barrett caulk at 10:14 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


For us it was the wire end of a fly swatter.

Fly swatters hurt like a mo-fo. Whatever parenting method everyone chooses - it shouldn't involve beating your kids with wire.

Post-punishment that switch would have a prominent display area for a few days to serve as a visual reminder.

My mom didn't trust us enough to cut our own switch - but she was definitely of the "switch in the corner as a reminder" type. The irony of all of this is that I don't think she was ever spanked as a child.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:15 AM on May 13, 2009


My six-year-old son hits me (I the dad) all the time when he's angry. It's no big deal, because he has never fought with other kids (sometimes we wish he would fight back a little more, but he seems to be one of those kids who is neither a bully nor gets picked on).

The one thing I don't allow is for our son to hit/kick/etc his mother. That's a serious problem.

However, in our social circle (Canadian man marries Japanese woman and they raise their kids in Canada), little boys punching Mom is quite normal. It's can be a sign of intimacy, which is why I let my son hit/slap me (kicking is discouraged).

I was thinking that the Japanese method of raising kids is much like the philosophy outlined in the FPP links. Parents let kids do whatever they want. There isn't a lot of emphasis on rules, and (generally speaking) kids get what they want. And kids turn out fine.

What's missing in the equation in N America are teachers and grandparents. My sister-in-law and her husband get to take it easy with their kids because grandma lives with them and lays down the law - grandma runs the household.

My own wife says her grandfather used to lock her in the utility shed (home to things like cave crickets) when she was naughty.

And kids are given the chance to be kids until they enter junior high school, when the teachers take over. Teachers can come to your house in Japan and check to see if you are cleaning your bathroom properly.

The big thing is, in Japan at least, kids are allowed to be selfish and childlike for a period of time, but then societal expectations are laid out and enforced at about the age of twelve.

In North America we can continue to possess likes and dislikes (a childish concept) well into adulthood...
posted by KokuRyu at 10:18 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


It offers an opinion or it gets the hose. (if it wants the hose. or maybe a popsicle)
posted by blue_beetle at 10:26 AM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


My sister raised her kids like that. This one time, we couldn't get out of the house as planned because my niece was having a full-on screaming tantrum. I was all for dragging her to the car, but my sister persisted with understanding and communicating. After a short while it came out that my niece was so upset because there was a bubble in her Popsicle. The bubble was removed with a knife and some running water, and we were all merrily on our way.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:26 AM on May 13, 2009


My family is Unitarian Universalist, and my wife and I once took a multi-part UUA approved parenting course that reminds me of many of these Consensual Living concepts. In the end, we ended up not agreeing with much of it. In many situations I am very much a "Because I Said So" parent. I think it can be a real time saver, especially when used early and paired with a nice "SHUT UP and GO AWAY" (tm). For instance, in both of the following scenarioes it is well known by both parties that there is just no way in hell that the kid is going to have a friend stay over on a school night. So the first scenario uses the attempts at reasoning and logic to achieve consensus recommended by my church's program, and the second uses my patented BISS/SU/GA technique.

"Can I have a sleepover tonight?"
"Do you think that's the right thing to do?"
"Yes"
"But are you sure? You have school tomorrow, you know"
"So?"
"Don't you think that you'll get more sleep and be better prepared for school tomorrow if you save a sleepover for the weekend?"
"No."
"But you need to be well rested for school."
"I don't care about school. I don't want to go to school. I want Connor to sleep over and we can play Nintendo"
"Do you think dropping out of school to play video games is the right thing to do?"
"Yes."
"Really?"
"Yes. School is boring."
"Well, I know school can be not so much fun sometimes, but don't you at least want to go and see your other friends?"
"No. I want to play MEGA-BLAM with Connor all night."
"Well, I don't think that's going to happen."
"Why?"
"Because I Said So"
/kid goes off sulking.

vs:

"Can I have a sleepover tonight?"
"No"
"Why?"
"Because I said so. Now SHUT UP and GO AWAY."
/kid goes off sulking.

Of course, the kid will surely resent me for years for being such an illogical, fascist authoritarian. But, I think that's par for the course, parenting-wise. And knowing now after trying both techniques repeatedly how much time BISS/SU/GA saves to get much the same effect (no goddamn sleepovers on schoolnights. DO YOU HEAR ME?) even the kid realizes that his time is more productively spent going into his room and preemptively sulking while he flips through Soldier of Fortune and listens to My Chemical Romance on his iPod, than it would be asking for a weeknight sleepover ONE MORE GODDAMN TIME. Mission Accomplished!
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:29 AM on May 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


This kind of punishment was for infractions like a B on my report card, or getting a note sent home for talking too much in class, or hiding the cordless phone in my room at bedtime so I could talk to a boy I liked late into the night.
Rochelle? Is that you?
posted by verb at 10:35 AM on May 13, 2009


"Can I have a sleepover tonight?"
"Do you think that's the right thing to do?"
"Yes"
"But are you sure? You have school tomorrow, you know"
"So?"
"Don't you think that you'll get more sleep and be better prepared for school tomorrow if you save a sleepover for the weekend?"
"No."

This isn't actually consensus. It's being condescending, under the guise of being "reasonable" -- which isn't really the point.
posted by puckish at 10:47 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Can I have a sleepover tonight?"
"No."

That seems to work much better.
posted by JeffK at 10:53 AM on May 13, 2009


Oh, and This Is Crap.
posted by JeffK at 10:53 AM on May 13, 2009


" ... where all family members are equally worthy of respect and participate equally in every decision."

Yeah? Let me tell you about my brother ...
posted by Relay at 10:57 AM on May 13, 2009


JeffK, I'm glad for you and your family that a single "no" works much better with your kids. Parenting is very much a YMMV situation, though, and my kids don't usually stop at the first "no".
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:03 AM on May 13, 2009


Awe, petulant screaming narcissists. My favorite.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for communicating and discussing. It's probably my favorite part about my job.

I'll share a story that's kind of related.

I used to run an afterschool program with about 150 kids. The only person above me was the ED of the organization who, while being awesome, had her hands full enough that we only went to her with three issues: violence, sex, and racial issues. Generally she joined the conversation, but the big thing was The Trip Up The Stairs Means It's Serious. I was lucky enough to have really fantastic relationships with a lot of the kids, especially the ones for whom "traditional" school really wasn't working out.

We had one young lady who was very sarcastic, very angry, and sometimes difficult. Her home situation was that she lived with her parents and her sister, a 6 year old who was the product of her father and his mentally challenged sister having sex. Anyway, K. was quite a kid.

One day, she got into a screaming match with another young lady, who happened to be multi-racial, and K dropped the "N" word. It had an F in front of it too. Anyway, I took K upstairs to talk with her about her usage of the word. I should mention that K was about 11 at this time.

Not to yell, not to scream, just to talk. See, I look at life as an educational process. If I want to make something better, I feel like I need to understand it. I knew that this young lady had been raised to believe that it was possible to carve people into categories by race or gender or whatever, and I really wanted to get inside her head and learn about her.

So we started to talk about what the N word means. And we talked about grouping people. And we talked about making assumptions. I told her it was an open forum, that she could say anything she wanted to, be as clear and direct as she wanted, but she had to expect that I would do the same.

My "heritage" is pretty interesting, but the result is that I have reddish-brown skin (like a perpetual awesome tan), sometimes people think I'm off-the-boat Italian or Puerto Rican. I have jet black curly hair. Anyway, back to the story...

We're discussing whether or not its possible to make generalizations about people based on their color. So I asked her, very plainly, "What's the real difference? Do we want different things, do we have different dreams, do we feel the same love and anger and frustration?" And she agreed that yes, we all do. I really wish I had a transcript, because it was an awesome conversation. So I asked her to describe myself, my boss, and herself, any way she wanted to, just for me to hear. Anything she wanted to say, she could call me a fat headed jerk and it wouldn't matter.

For herself, she was "white, a girl, smart, gets angry too fast." For my boss it was "white, hard working, cares a lot about other people." For me it was "really nice, understanding, hard working." So I asked her...

"K, I noticed you said white for yourself and S, right?" "Yes..." "But you didn't say a color for me?" "No..." "Why is that? Am I a different color than you?" "...yes..." "Am I different than you?" "...yes" "I'm not white?" "...no."

And see, it was the first time it had ever been put to me like that. It was the first time that I realized that, to her, there was an obvious disconnect. No *wonder* she didn't like it when I talked to her parents, it was because she respected me but they didn't. She couldn't really wrap her head around it. The two of us that day, our heads kind of exploded. She realized she liked someone and cared for someone who she felt was beneath her---and she didn't know why she felt that way. I realized how very confusing and challenging and terrifying it would have to be to realize that those artifical strata were arbitrary.

Anyway, we talked for a little while, and I thanked her. I asked her if she knew that I was always available to talk to her, no matter what, and she knew that she was.

So I went home that night and couldn't decide whether to be mad or sad...I was mad at her parents for burying her in a culture of hate and distrust. I was sad that I didn't better know how to communicate with her. It was crazy.

And then, the next day, she walked in. I believe that every day is a new day, and we don't revisit the mistakes of yesterday once we've addressed them. She kind of avoided me, skirted around me. Later that afternoon, when nobody was there but other adults, she came up to me and gave me a super timid, but really strong hug. She was kind of crying. She told me, in her own words, that she really appreciated me and was glad we had talked.

Total mindfuck for me.

Anyway, we went on with our lives, and she grew up and has lots of friends now of different colors and persuasions, and I don't take any credit for any of that. All I did for her, in that instance, was listen to her and let her know that I took her for who she was, and didn't make any valuations of her based on where she came from.

That was a good conversation to have. Good rationalizations and discussions. Really, really, awesome.

Now, my friend has a nephew who has been allowed to argue his point since he was able to talk. He thinks he is smarter, runs faster, jumps higher, and knows better than everyone, at all times. It's reinforced by people like his aunt (my friend) who are amazed by his ability to use "reason" to discuss...anything. Putting on shoes, taking a bath, getting a haircut, whatever. He's a nice kid, but I find him insufferable when he's around his parents and relatives. Interestingly, I've taken him on hikes without them...where there are concrete rules and not so much discussion over my directions, and he sticks to me like glue...then and with his family. We have great fun, but he knows what I expect of him.

Yea, I write too much. I'm sorry.
posted by TomMelee at 11:14 AM on May 13, 2009 [26 favorites]


Cookiebastard:
I once went to a lecture on behavior modification and structure, and the lead in was this:
"What if you walked up to a slot machine and knew that even if you wouldn't win the first time, it would definitely pay out 1 out of 4 times. If you knew that you just pressed the issue 3 or 4 times, you'd get your prize. When you let your children pester you, or you allow multiple warnings to occur, you're that slot machine. Of COURSE it's only going to get worse, because eventually, you always pay out."

Not being critical of you at all. Just a story.
posted by TomMelee at 11:19 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Children aren't fully cognizant people. They don't have actual knowledge of the daily actions of a family. This is coming from the same viewpoint of those who feel that any child who can reach up to the button is eligible to vote. Utter irrationality. But, all things considered, I feel that the only bad point of this whole thing is that *I* would be charged with a crime if I clubbed (like a baby seal) those who think that this is a good thing to do.
posted by CountSpatula at 11:20 AM on May 13, 2009


"Because I said so. Now SHUT UP and GO AWAY."

Was this exaggeration for humor? I'm surprised anyone is advocating this as a way to deal with children. If my dad told me to shut up when I was a kid, because I'd asked for something he didn't think I should have, it would have been a memorably hurtful thing. (And I did get spanked and yelled at by my parents; it's just that a phrase like that seems super-harsh to me, and not called for by the circumstances.)
posted by palliser at 11:39 AM on May 13, 2009


I'm getting the feeling that the people advocating Consensual Living spend a lot of time at home with their kids. Reaching consensus is time consuming - because every person has to agree to the solution. I don't think that this is necessarily a bad way to raise children, at least in theory. It doesn't guarantee that the kid gets what they want every time, but it does teach them to advocate for what they want and put their desires into words - something I never learned. It also teaches them to prioritize what they want, because the more outrageous the request, the longer the discussion. In a perfect world, this is great, but I don't think it's feasible to make all decisions by consensus and get anything done.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:52 AM on May 13, 2009


Well, it was a slight exageration. I do not usually literally tell my kids "Shut Up and Go Away", but Lord knows I'm thinking it sometimes. Usually it takes the form of "shh" with sort of a "waving away" hand motion. That actually does mean "Shut Up and Go Away" but it's a kinder, gentler way of saying it. Of course, if I'm really hungover/still drunk and the little monster is still pestering me about something then there may be some shouting. Even Marcel Marceau yelled at his kids sometimes.

DISCLAIMER: I Was Not Advocating My Parenting Techniques To Anyone Else And You Will Just Have To Work It Out With Your Own Family. I Am A Terrible Parent Whose Kids Will Surely Need Expensive Therapy And Their Therapists Will Probably Recommend Weekly Sessions Of Urinating On My Grave To Supplement The Antidepressants. Do Not Try My Methods. I Get Upset About Wire Hangers.
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:03 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


My opinion is that most people are only seeing the extremes and are building straw man arguments in their mind. Maybe I'm wrong and misinterpreting this.

Discussing with children is not the same as giving them everything they want. Take the example where a child refuses dinner and was given cereal later. If they child has their way, they would have had peanut butter cups for dinner or perhaps Mom would have made them a special dinner of their favorite food.

In the case when a toddler decides they don't want to eat, I see a few options available to the parent:
1. Lay down the law, and refuse to excuse the child until the eat their food.
2. negotiate with the child (eat 2 more spoonfuls and you can have ice cream).
3. give in and feed your child anything they will eat, either now or later, just to get something into the system.
4. Excuse your child, but when they're hungry later, feed them something nutritious (preferably easy to prepare, like cereal) and discuss with them the importance of a balanced diet.
5. Excuse your child, but refuse to give them anything else, now or later.

I guess there's a few more options, but these are the ones I think are most often used. And just about every piece of advice I've found (with the exception of some in this thread) agrees #4 is the best strategy in the long run.

I have a child, and although I think the word no is fine to use, I hope I never utter the phrase "because I said so" to the question of why. Why a certain action should or should not be carried out seems as important as the answer to me. The more outrageous the request, the easier it is to refute it. If I can explain why something shouldn't be carried out, and my child's only answer is they want to do it anyway, the answer is no. if I don't have a good reason for why my child can't do something, then maybe I need to reevaluate why I'm telling them no.
posted by ShadowCrash at 12:17 PM on May 13, 2009


Maybe they don't follow true consensual living practices but I can tell you that trying to shop in the grocery store in a notoriously liberal east coast city when all of these free thinking parents are there with their equally free children is a effing nightmare. Little Josiah is running around expressing his personhood by doing things like laying in the aisle, knocking stuff off shelves, taking stuff from other carts, and running into other shoppers, while mom or dad are completely content with it as they pick up their bulk quinoa.

Glad I don't live there anymore.
posted by WickedPissah at 12:18 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Parent of a two year-old here, and my take away from this is that while I agree you need to listen to your kids and take into account their wishes, somebody's got to be the adult in the relationship — and I prefer it be me and/or my wife.
posted by papercake at 12:29 PM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


WickePissah,
That doesn't sound like consensual living practices, that sounds like abdicating parental responsibilities. But perhaps the parent and child already discussed this, and deciding that letting little Johnny run into other shoppers and take stuff from the carts was a good idea (it could really cut down on shopping time).
posted by ShadowCrash at 12:33 PM on May 13, 2009


The auto playing music on that page makes me reject all of their ideas out of hand.
posted by mazola at 12:38 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu, this: The big thing is, in Japan at least, kids are allowed to be selfish and childlike for a period of time, but then societal expectations are laid out and enforced at about the age of twelve.

reminds me of this. Mishima, that crazy bastard
posted by FuManchu at 12:44 PM on May 13, 2009


My only addition to this already verbose thread is from Tom Tomorrow:
What's up with these children anyway? Tehy're three feet tall and spend half their time playing with imaginary friends!

They're like insane dwarves! I can't relate to that!
And if you can't relate to them, how do you reason with them?
posted by filthy light thief at 1:01 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The auto playing music on that page makes me reject all of their ideas out of hand.

Hotly agree, mazola.

My first thought was -"well, your music's not frigging consensual!"
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:07 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


This could be good in moderation but if you give a mouse a cookie....
posted by debbie_ann at 1:09 PM on May 13, 2009


And if you can't relate to them, how do you reason with them?

And if you can't reason with them, annihilate them!
posted by mazola at 1:12 PM on May 13, 2009


"What if you walked up to a slot machine and knew that even if you wouldn't win the first time, it would definitely pay out 1 out of 4 times. If you knew that you just pressed the issue 3 or 4 times, you'd get your prize. When you let your children pester you, or you allow multiple warnings to occur, you're that slot machine. Of COURSE it's only going to get worse, because eventually, you always pay out."

Yes. This is true. And it's very useful for parents to know, as long as you also imagine that the slot machine "pays out" in punches. My kids, I think, know that Daddy is a slot machine that can be pestered at most three times before it pays out a punishment they really didn't want. (Not punches, of course. What do you take me for?)

One other truly useful thing to keep in mind when parenting is that you should absolutely never threaten a punishment you are not fully prepared to enforce. This is helpful on both sides -- over time, your kids will know that when you say "if X then Y" that Y will always happen if X and will never happen if not X. And also, it makes you really think about how seriously you are going to take whatever it is that they're doing. It's tempting to threaten massively disproportionate punishment for a minor infraction sometimes, unless you have to really stick to it.

And I'm sort of ashamed to admit this, but the above principle is pretty much directly adapted from the idea that you should never point a gun at someone you are not prepared to shoot right this minute. We gets our philosophy where we finds it.
posted by rusty at 1:23 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dunno, man. The last time I tried consensual living, I ended up washing a lot of my roommates' dishes.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:28 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not jumping on you - because you sound like a lovely parent - but chances are your "angel" may indeed go though an, um, interesting phase as a teenager/in her twenties! That's when your wider family can be a fantastic, unexpected support (rather than acting affronted by how well you're apparently doing now!).

I believe you are right :) A battle of wills is brewing which will leave scars on the landscape. Obviously I'll win, I taught her everything she knows.

If I gave the impression that I think the way I raise my daughter is correct, then I apologise.

Parenting is spectacularly hard and other than a few very very wise owls, anyone who doesn't admit that they are operating in fingers crossed mode is as deluded as those who know 9-11 was in inside job.

I was hoping to give an idea of how respect for your child and treating them like an equal does not necessarily equate to a sugared-up little nightmare who expects their own way at all times. We do use "because I said so" mostly in jest, but sometimes because time, energy or the situation determines that an explanation is not in everyone's best interest. These occurrences are rare and my daughter knows that invoking the parental decree means the situation is one where she just has to trust us.

She is aware that she is a child and sometimes we simply do know best, but mostly we try to reason and explain what we as people have learned which gives us this knowledge.

Do I indulge my daughter and am I too lenient? Of course! I love her beyond measure and it breaks my heart to say no. But that's why parenting is spectacularly hard.
posted by fullerine at 1:52 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


On (lack-of preview)

"One other truly useful thing to keep in mind when parenting is that you should absolutely never threaten a punishment you are not fully prepared to enforce."

This is one thing I believe to be crucial.

I learned it the hard way. It cost me a fucking fortune to buy her back from the circus.
posted by fullerine at 1:57 PM on May 13, 2009 [11 favorites]


A consistent NO works for me and my son. He still acts up, he still resists from time to time, he asserts himself plenty. But 90% of the time, when I say NO, he gets it. He doesn't like it, but he gets it. The reason? I've made him aware that NO is the dead-end for his childish manipulation. His mother (my ex-wife) doesn't get it, and she plays the NO RULES hippie attitude. That never works; he's an utter brat when he's with her -- because she doesn't assert any structure until it's too late. That leads to her taking a swing at him. That leads to her being nasty to him. He is a happy, easygoing young man of 13 when he's around me, because Dad's NO has become an internal NO, so he can get a rough idea of what he should and shouldn't do.

Luckily, he's turning out to be a class-act. I have no doubt it has more to do with NO than NO RULES. And I sure as shit don't negotiate. The older he gets, the more I give him areas of trust (where he's free to make the decisions), but until he's no longer my responsibility, there is no negotiation.
posted by grubi at 2:38 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have a six year old son, and a five year old goddaughter that spends a lot of time at our house. Our son has been raised with both fairly firm guidelines for acceptable behavior, but has also been a part in the discussions about *why* we have those rules. As a minor example; his bedtime is 8:30. It may go over a few minutes here and there, if storytime runs long, but as a rule, he's tucked in, lights out at 8:30.

My goddaughter has almost no rules in either of her parent's houses. She's allowed to go to bed when she wants, she's allowed to get up when she wants, she's allowed to ask for, but then refuse the food she requested, and her father will let her eat fast food for the entire weekend/week that he has her. Both parents have said "Well, she's just picky' or "We can't *make* her go to bed".

Ridiculous. And I will not have it in my house. When she's here, she's perfectly well behaved, she follows the established house rules, she goes to bed on time, she eats what I cook, she picks up toys when she's done playing with them, and other than the standard "He said, she said" sibling-type conflicts that happen with any kids who spend a lot of time together, we have no issues. I told her what the rules were, I explained why we had the rules, and I have no issue putting her in the time-out chair, just like I would my son, if she breaks the rules.

She, and my son, realize that there are boundaries, and those boundaries are enforced. I'm not capricious in my enforcement, the rules are *always* enforced. If either one of them things a rule is unfair, they can come to me and tell me why they think the rules should be changed. On some occasions, like moving bedtime from 8:00 to 8:30, I thought the request was reasonable, and the rule was changed. On other occasions: "We want to be able to leave the fence and go down to the lake by ourselves", the rule was not changed, and I was able to make them see that the rule was for their safety.

Point being; girl child is a holy terror everywhere where there are no boundaries. She is not when she's here. Ergo, with absolutely nothing but anecdotal evidence, I can say that children not only need boundaries, but are actually better enabled to develop within them than without them.
posted by dejah420 at 2:42 PM on May 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


I think it is important to have some sort of balance between consensus and being authoritarian. With smaller children, more "Because I Said So" is necessary. But you have to be willing to migrate that over to the "I'll explain my feelings on the subject and hear you out" as the child gets older or you're going to encounter a lot of resentment.

I'm 24, and my mom still thinks "Because I'm the mom and you're the kid" is an acceptable conclusion to our disagreements. Twenty-four! Obviously, I do not get along well with my mom. This is obviously an extreme example, but as your kid starts taking an adult-ish traits and levels of reasoning, you have to accept that they exist and work with them.
posted by schroedinger at 2:56 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's great until things fall apart.
posted by mazola at 3:25 PM on May 13, 2009


while i'm not a huge fan of how the ideas in the original link are presented, there are some core commonalities there with our kid-raisin' philosophy. in fact, it resonates quite a bit with a mother's day present i made for my mom a few days back, which was a facebook post entitled "what i learned about kid-raisin' from my mom." for the edification, entertainment, and infuriation of anyone who's made it this far down in the thread, i present it herewith:

what i learned about kid-raisin' from my mom:

1. people will tell you you're not supposed to be your kids' friend. screw those people! who needs a friend more than a kid? also, with that attitude, a parent misses out on some of the greatest joy possible in this life.

2. avoid conflict of interest whenever possible. work to find ways that parent and child can both get what they want from a situation. compromise, and teach compromise.

3. be open with your kids, as they're ready to understand, about the family finances -- also detailed. *painfully* open and detailed. make it clear you're all in it together.

4. get 'em in the kitchen and cooking *young*.

5. laugh with your kids, every day.

6. be human with your kids -- let them see you that way, as a person with your own needs and flaws and strengths. require and reinforce empathy from them toward you, just as you strive to empathize with them.

7. positive reward-based motivation works a lot better (and is a lot more pleasant for everyone involved) than punishment-based motivation. (this is also one of the key findings of behavioral psychology.)

8. read, read, read. read to your kids nonstop until they can read themselves, and then make sure they have the opportunity and time and books they need to read as much as they want to. read a lot yourself to set the example. have lots of books in the house, about all kinds of things.

9. before going traveling (and by the way -- take your kids traveling!) make sure the house is in good shape, so you can come back to a clean and welcoming home.

10. confide in your kids -- let them know what you're going through. be their confidant -- take what they're going through seriously. listen and support without judging. it's the best way to make sure you really know what's going on with them.

11. it's OK to apologize to your kids, when you regret something you've done. it's OK to think about something you've told them, change your mind, and come back and let them know you were wrong before. in fact, it's awesome. making your words into some absolute authority only traps everyone.

12. if you put your kids in school, make sure you know what's going on in that school, and be your kids' advocate there. raise holy hell if they're being mistreated or not getting what they need.

13. you don't need to lay down a bunch of rules to be a good parent -- quite the contrary. rule-based kid-raisin' is lazy, hurtful, tightass kid-raisin'. be flexible, and adapt to the needs of the situation you're in. which is not to say that you shouldn't provide moral guidance -- in fact, that may be your #1 job as a parent. but do it through conversation and example, not legislation.

14. raise a garden, and make your kids help out. along with the work, though, let them taste the reward -- fresh peas, strawberries, mint picked right from the plant perfectly ripe and popped into your mouth on the spot. tomatoes you pick and eat like an apple, juice dripping down your chin back into the soil. even if they hate the work (and i sure did), on some level it will get into their brain and hands and blood and later in life, when they're settled enough to be ready, gardening can become a great source of fulfillment for them too.

15. encourage your kids to passionately pursue their own interests, by being interested in what they're doing and supportive in both emotional and material senses; also, by setting the example through passionately pursuing your own interests, and sharing them with your kids.


that's all i can think of for now, but as i raise my own daughter new examples of how to do it right come to me from my own childhood all the time (as well as some examples of what not to do, but no reason to go into that today...) :)

so, for all the above, just let me say: THANKS, MA!!! happy mother's day!
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 3:39 PM on May 13, 2009 [14 favorites]


Data point: My mother married a man who had an adopted son. This man (my step-father) has some territorial issues and viewed the children as "property" - his son belonged to him, I belonged to my mother.

I was raised with boundaries and rules. Nothing too strict, but nothing too lenient either. Fairly normal middle-of-the-road parenting. I went to prep school and did well, went to college, graduated, moved out of the nest fairly successfully without incident.

My brother was raised with the ideology that *he* was the best person to make his decisions. He never brushed his teeth or wore underpants. Or slept at night, for that matter. He was expelled from many schools for violent behavior. He ended up "running away" from home for a while and yet managed, somehow, to go to college. His college days were mostly a drug-addled haze. He had started abusing prescription drugs and huffing air freshener when he was nine, started drinking (including parties where his father was in attendance and allowed him to drink) at twelve. Started smoking pot (again, with his father's "help") at fourteen. After flunking out of college, he became homeless and traveled around the country on the basis of "favors" given to truckers. He ended up in Oregon, wherein he became a resident of the state by stabbing a man (non-fatally) during an attempt to steal car stereos. While drunk. He spent his 21st birthday in jail. He is now out on probation gainfully employed as a telemarketer.

There is absolutely nothing that could ever convince me that "child knows best" or "equal footing" parenting works.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:43 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu, about the Japanese method of rearing kids, I think we have very different views on it. Yes, from junior high through high school they are forced to be miniature versions of the drones they are expected to be throughout life. Although there are some exceptions, in junior-senior high school, the nail that sticks up does indeed get pounded down (with the exceptions of some of the public schools my friends teach at, which sound vaguely like a Japanese remake of The Warriors just waiting to happen).

On the other hand, I get to deal with them as first and second year university students. By and large, it's a nightmare. Without someone, be it their high school homeroom teacher or a parent telling them what to do and how to do it, most of them have no idea of how to act, how to be part of a group, or, even more fun, how to accept that there is some shit you just have to get through in life, even if you don't like it.

The outcome of the Japanese system is that the kids who've been repressed from 12-18 rebel like crazy from 18-22. Then, at a lot of larger companies (when they used to hire), new employees spend between 6 months and a full year just learning how to be a worker. No actual job tasks. Just classes explaining how to do their jobs, because a large number of them didn't learn a thing in their four year vacation at university.

Japan does a lot of things right, but producing 23 year olds that don't really understand the concept of personal responsibility, that isn't one of them.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:02 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Japan does a lot of things right, but producing 23 year olds that don't really understand the concept of personal responsibility, that isn't one of them.

I hate to say it, but having hired and worked with 23-year-olds right out of college, North America doesn't do much better.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:36 PM on May 13, 2009


I'm chiming in way too far down on this; but I know a family where they are raising their "child as an object and equal" this way. The little monster is a nightmare at gatherings and has to be followed like a king around any particular location they unload him at.

Dinner: "His Majesty" decides that instead of food, he is interested in the "other rooms" in the building and his mother (or father) abandon their food to silently follow the child around the building. They say nothing and do not attempt to bring him back, they simply let him explore and eventually, when the meal is over one or both of the parents have failed to finish the food and instead leave it on their plate uneaten. The bounty that was purchased for His Majesty was never even gazed upon by the precious one.

Visiting Dad at work: "His Majesty" wanders the office while his mother hovers a few feet behind cooing and making "that's right honey" noises as the little bastard grabs random things from tables while people with strained smiles attempt to retrieve them. To the child's credit, he doesn't scream so loud as to pierce ear drums when this is attempted. Long minutes of negotiation and promises of rewards evntually coax expensive electronics from his hands, but there is no punishment (implied or even applied) for his behavior, as he was exploring his space.

It seems that to these parents they had instilled the idea that while the world was occupied with people and animals and hot firey things; his majesty should walk through it like it was his own special room within which he was free to do as he pleased.

I swear, watching two adults silently follow their child like that, as if he was royalty made a bit of my soul die.

The bit that respected them.
posted by NiteMayr at 4:54 PM on May 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I just finished a book about aristocratic classes who basically let nannies and tutors raise their kids while they essentially indulge the kids every whim - this forces the nannies and tutors to negotiate with children to accomplish anything because you piss the kid off you get fired. And. This is how you raise self-entitled little assholes.

I see little difference except now there is less child rearing by proxy and more direct to consumer asshole creation. Good luck with that.
posted by tkchrist at 5:40 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


NiteMayr, how old is the child you're talking about? Because realistically, until 5 years old or so (or even later, especially for boys), expecting a child to sit quietly and eat in a strange place, or to behave office-appropriately, is a stretch. Some very well-controlled children (inner control, not parental) would manage it, but in most instances, when you have a small child in an environment that's not conducive to age-appropriate behavior(playing, touching things, wandering around), the best you can do is follow them around and make sure they're not hurting themselves or damaging anything. And following them around with a string of "don't touch that! sit down!"s is useless and crazy-making. I doubt so much supervision is necessary when he's at home, or in any place where he has toys and space.
posted by palliser at 6:36 PM on May 13, 2009


What slappy_pinchbottom's mom said. good stuff.

the ideas in the main links are good, but kids still need limits. without them they will likely struggle with responsibility. in theory you could talk and guilt them into it using the methods in the links. most people are not that skilled or patient at parenting. i am a firm believer in giving kids a lot of responsibility and freedom very early, but you need to back that up with some firm limits and guidance. sometimes they abuse these privileges and need some firm assistance to get back onto a healthy track. sometimes they need to talk about the relative odds of even really quite superior, well actually quite amazing, at least locally, athletes and their realistic chances of making it into Major League Baseball and perhaps what kind of back-up options they might want to prepare themselves for, or even what courses might help them make that transition from All-Star pitcher to successful post-pro athlete businessman. You know, the Lenny Dykstra course. Whatever works.
posted by caddis at 7:43 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


If those kids ever get into a public school they'll be eaten alive. The horror!

Hmm. My daughter already has problems with this at 2. She's got excellent verbal skills, and is very convinced (by adults, including us) of the power of words, so if other kids try to shover he around or suchlike, she tells them off. Of course, kids with poor impulse control (which is, let's face it, all two year olds) or bad socialisation she gets shoved around. She's so convinced that it's not the way to behave she doesn't tend to respond in kind.

Once she's a bit older I suspect I'm going to have to try and help her understand when it's OK to give up on words and push back. I don't think a two year old's judgement is up to that, though.

But having additional ways to think about situations from children's perspectives can give you some useful insights, and also help you to bond with them a bit more.

That's certainly true, but I notice whenever we give my wee one too much freedom and too many options she gets really, really upset. She wants some boundaries, some borders, and she finds too much responsibility confusing and upsetting.

We don't punish them for failing to do their homework or reward them for doing it; we seldom even remind them of it. They do it diligently anyway, because they don't want to show up at school without their homework done. (I wouldn't care if they didn't do it, honestly, because there are a lot of studies that show that homework is basically useless for learning...)

I'm gonna get in so much trouble for this when she's older because, yeah, seven and eight years olds do not need a half hour of fucking homework every night. Which is apparently the norm in most schools these days. Who can get bent.

"I don't want to clean mush off the walls."
"I want to sleep til 2pm."


These do get used in our household. Turns out a 2 year old does understand, "It's Saturday, and Mama won't be having breakfast with us this morning because she's having a rest. We'll go into town on our own."

I'm asking this seriously, as a non-parent. Would you get upset if your child decided to wear all purple? Let's assume that they've outgrown their old clothes anyway, and it's time to buy new ones, so you're not laying out any more money than you normally would. I can think of a couple of reasons to deny this request. One, they may get sick of purple and ask for new clothes. Two, you're afraid they'll get picked on. Does that sound about right, or is there some other reason?

Well, personally I'm delighted my daughter's favourite colour is yellow, not the pink-pink-pink-hints-of-purple that seems to be de rigeur for little girls. I'd like my daughter to avoid internalising some of the stupider gender stereotyping out there, and, yes, we've been angling for that result.

I was thinking that the Japanese method of raising kids is much like the philosophy outlined in the FPP links. Parents let kids do whatever they want. There isn't a lot of emphasis on rules, and (generally speaking) kids get what they want. And kids turn out fine.

Yeah, let's not look at youth suicides too closely, huh?

(Not that my home country can talk too much on that front...)

Point being; girl child is a holy terror everywhere where there are no boundaries. She is not when she's here. Ergo, with absolutely nothing but anecdotal evidence, I can say that children not only need boundaries, but are actually better enabled to develop within them than without them.

I've witnessed that one; except kid is a holy terror/bully in training/all-around little shit with his mother, who ignores him unless he's hitting people (on one memorable occasion, leaving an adult with a bleeding nose after hurling a metal tory into her face), but fine with his father or at his creche, because they are competant with children.
posted by rodgerd at 7:49 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do what I say or I will punish you with an agonizingly long and boring conversation.

That was my Dad's parenting method. He still thinks it was brilliantly successful and the reason that we all turned into gainfully employed adults. In reality we regarded it as unbearable and inhuman torture. Our mother was well aware of this and was able to control all of us with the simple threat of ... telling your father. Sometimes she gave us a choice: I spank you with this wooden spoon, you apologize sincerely and we forget about it or I tell your father and you discuss it with him. We always chose the spanking, always.

We've never had the heart to tell him.
posted by fshgrl at 8:58 PM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Because realistically, until 5 years old or so (or even later, especially for boys), expecting a child to sit quietly and eat in a strange place, or to behave office-appropriately, is a stretch.

This is a common misconception. I nanny for a two year old and she has always been able to sit quietly and play with her toys or eat her snacks when I bring her along to waiting rooms, museums, etc. As for behaving office-appropriately, as long as she has her own toys or books to play with, she can be trusted to follow whatever rules have been established. If you establish consistent boundaries with kids, they WILL follow them even if the environment changes. Yes, it's tough, but it can be done. To suggest that kids are untamable in the wild is to let parents/caregivers off too easily.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:30 AM on May 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


To suggest that kids are untamable in the wild is to let parents/caregivers off too easily.

Hear, hear. My son doesn't sit with his hands folded staring forward when he behaves himself. He plays quietly and simply doesn't get into trouble. He's free to roam the house and do pretty much what he chooses. It's habit (and not just a little rearing) that makes him choose video games or books.

And once in a while, we RAWK OUT.
posted by grubi at 6:13 AM on May 14, 2009


The author of the first link talks about how the concept of limits on video games, television, phones, and computers is incomprehensible, and expects that children will eventually realize wasting too much time on these activities has negative consequences. What I think this argument ignores is the scores of adults actively trying to persuade the children to over-consume these options. Between the use of test groups, child psychologists employed by the entertainment industry, ad executives, etc..., it's not really a fair fight. Children need an adult on their side to have a chance. Just look at how many adults get hooked on slot machines to understand what your child is up against.

That doesn't mean I necessarily agree with laying down laws without explanations, but the complete lack of boundaries under the assumption that the child will realize what's best seems a bit naive.
posted by ShadowCrash at 6:44 AM on May 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


rodgerd said: I'm gonna get in so much trouble for this when she's older because, yeah, seven and eight years olds do not need a half hour of fucking homework every night. Which is apparently the norm in most schools these days. Who can get bent.

Yeah, I pulled Igor, (not his real name, obviously), out of a private kindergarten (Primrose Schools...all marketing, no benefits, huge waste of money) because the teacher was sending home ridiculous, ridiculous homework for 5 and 6 year old kids. The straw that broke the camel's back was when they were supposed to make a "safety" poster with the safety tips they'd been learning. So, Igor and I went to the craft store and bought posterboard, opened up the craft cabinet of doom, and I let him go nuts. He did a fabulous poster, for a kid his age. (5 at the time). Everything was spelled correctly, he did a groovy thing with cutouts from magazines and construction paper. He even figured out on his own how to make something stand away from the board to be 3d. I sat on the floor with him while he did it, but I did not do anything but hand him paints and glue and glitter and whatnot.

We show up at his class the following Monday, and every other kid there had a poster that looked like it had been done by a graphic designer. Seriously. I've worked with graphic designers that didn't do work this good. They were beautiful, but they had NOT been done by kids. The text was in hand drawn elaborate fonts, the shapes were perfect, the spacing was amazing, good use of white space...it was professional level work.

The teacher turned to me and Igor and said, and I'm quoting here: "Well, obviously you didn't try hard enough, I'm afraid he's going to fail this assignment." To which I said; "You are out of your mind. So, the lesson you're teaching here is that children shouldn't do their own work? I think we're done here."

I pulled him out of that school and we've done homeschooling for kindergarten. He reads at the 5th grade level, from cooking with me, he can do basic fraction level math, he gets to help me do lab stuff and writes down formulas when I'm testing something, he plays outside when it's nice, he gets to go the science museum and nature walks, and generally be a kid exploring his own world, without the insane strictures of being forced to sit in a desk for 8 hours, and then come home and sit doing homework for an hour. That's an absurd thing to make little kids do. No wonder so many kids end up medicated. Good god, I'd have to be tranquilized to sit still for that long too.

He wants to go to "regular" school with all his neighborhood friends next year. I'd rather homeschool, but in this instance, I'm willing to let him choose. But I have a feeling that like rogered, I'm going to be the parent that teachers dread.
posted by dejah420 at 8:27 AM on May 14, 2009 [10 favorites]


Oh man. Very strange way to raise kids, considering they haven't fully developed conscience or empathy for others yet.
posted by agregoli at 4:30 PM on May 14, 2009


This is a common misconception. I nanny for a two year old and she has always been able to sit quietly and play with her toys or eat her snacks when I bring her along to waiting rooms, museums, etc. As for behaving office-appropriately, as long as she has her own toys or books to play with, she can be trusted to follow whatever rules have been established. If you establish consistent boundaries with kids, they WILL follow them even if the environment changes. Yes, it's tough, but it can be done. To suggest that kids are untamable in the wild is to let parents/caregivers off too easily.

So this is your argument: One little girl is well-behaved in situations like these, and that makes it normal and expected for all children.

My 2-year-old, incidentally, would probably do fine in these situations. He's introspective and loves his toys and books. And I plan ahead and around his schedule, making the situations easier.

I would never, NEVER judge another parent whose child had trouble sitting still and needed to be followed around while he exercised his legs a bit. I think that gives me way too much credit as a parent, for what is my good fortune in my child's temperament.
posted by palliser at 12:24 PM on May 17, 2009


No, I'm not saying that one kid makes it normal. My argument is that it can be done and people who expect kids to misbehave are misunderstanding the relationship between child and caregiver.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:34 PM on May 17, 2009


My point is not that we should expect kids to misbehave. My point is that it is inappropriate to judge parents whose child wandered around after a dinner in an adult-focused place, or touched stuff in an office. (Certainly inappropriate to say that any respect for them "died" after seeing that.) I'm glad your one little girl behaves herself in public. I'm sure you're careful to bring toys and books along, and to guide her behavior; that's absolutely the job of a caregiver, as you say. That said, there are restless kids out there (especially four-year-olds; they get really rowdy at that age) whose restlessness is not their parents' fault. And in those cases, it's often better parenting to let the child wander a bit, following behind to direct behavior, than to force the child to sit down.
posted by palliser at 1:43 PM on May 17, 2009


My argument is that it can be done

Or more briefly: I don't think this is true, if what you mean is that every child can be made to sit quietly in any situation.
posted by palliser at 1:45 PM on May 17, 2009


Or more briefly: I don't think this is true, if what you mean is that every child can be made to sit quietly in any situation.

I suppose if you want to tease it apart, what I'm saying is that every child can be made to respect boundaries set by their caregivers and can behave properly on the whole - barring of course lack of sleep, lack of food, general irritability, any number of planets in retrograde, etc.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:52 PM on May 17, 2009


Jumping back in, now that this thread has cooled off a little: I have no kids. I don't spend much time around kids, but I do spend a lot of time around people who are big into homeschooling, unschooling, and unconventional child care, and who are really interested in trying to make this kind of system work.

What they don't say a lot (but which is clear, from talking to them) is that these practices take a LOT of work. Even when you just "let kids run around" and "do whatever you like" -- there's a huge amount of time that goes into coming up with creative and interesting stuff for kids to do, and giving them reasons to participate. This is obviously a lot harder when "getting bored, wandering off, and doing something else" is a viable part of the agenda.

This is in the context of summer camp, incidentally -- so not talking about kids who are still learning to walk, read, feed themselves, and avoid walking into traffic. (But kids who are old enough to be curious about electricity, and who might burn themselves on soldering irons, which is sometimes an issue) Anyway -- things like "Do we teach them how to use Scratch, or do we let them play World of Warcraft" are questions that come up. "What if they don't actually WANT to [make LED lights / make robots / take apart printers], and want to play Magic instead?" comes up.

The answer to these questions is invariably, "That's OK," because nobody is going to like to do things they're forced to do....but that also means being OK with the fact that kids might miss out on awesome and (arguably) more "educational" things that they could be doing. Which is legitimately scary, if your business is childhood education and you're accountable to parents who want their children to learn something about circuitry.

On the flipside, it makes the question of how to teach much more complicated (and arguably, more interesting) than if you just say, "OK, we're all gonna do this thing now, everybody get out your crayons."

I guess my point is that it's not really an issue of "too many rules" or "too few rules" -- or that rather, this is a debate, but less interesting than figuring out what you do one you take the rules away. But it's also a problem worth thinking seriously about?

As grapefruitmoon, palliser, and LOTS of others on this thread have illustrated, this is a much more complicated proposition than just saying "Yeah, that's right!" or "oh my god, what freaks!" or "oh, that would NEVER work for me."
posted by puckish at 4:30 PM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I suppose if you want to tease it apart, what I'm saying is that every child can be made to respect boundaries set by their caregivers and can behave properly on the whole - barring of course lack of sleep, lack of food, general irritability, any number of planets in retrograde, etc.

The boundaries have to be reasonable, though, as well as the situations you put the child in, considering developmental stages generally and the temperament of the particular child. You couldn't, for example, expect any child under 5 to sit through a three-hour classical music concert, and no matter how consistent you were with your boundary-setting, and no matter many snacks and toys you brought, at some point, she would eventually start demanding to get up, then whining, and then screaming and thrashing if you tried to force her to stay in her seat. No child should be forced into a situation where it's so impossible for her to behave appropriately.

And then in between, you have different situations, and different temperaments, which will result in different levels of strain and thus require different levels of flexibility. For example, I've seen some children sit through an hour-and-a-half meal at a restaurant, and some who have to be walked outside the restaurant while the other adults finish eating. Often they are in the same family.

Nitemayr's description of the two settings he saw the child in -- a work-related dinner and a take-your-child-to-work day -- certainly could present challenges to many, even most, small children. And thus demand greater flexibility from the parents -- the willingness to let the child walk around a little, with the parents making sure he stayed out of trouble.

Really, it's important to be flexible as well as consistent, and when you're a parent, and need to integrate a child into your life, those situations come up far more often than they do when you're an outside caregiver.
posted by palliser at 7:24 PM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


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