Re: Growing Up

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My experience is that you don't. You just start telling yourself lies about how it's good for kids to know that they can't expect the same thing from everyone. A real lesson in social nuance.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:47 AM
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I'll add to Sybil's wise observation that, in general, you need to defer to the parent with stronger convictions, and especially to the parent with more contact with the child, if there is one. Before I had my kids, I had the benefit of watching the wildly different child-rearing practices of my siblings, who altogether parented 13 kids. I also saw friends with their kids.

What I learned is that as long as you give kids a loving, stable environment, and communicate with them reasonably well, they turn out ok. Or they don't, but it's not because of anything you did.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:56 AM
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I'll be bookmarking this thread and coming back often to check on good advice for when Little Baby NCP gets here in April.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:59 AM
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Although I'm not sure what possible discipline strategies there are for an infant. But advise away!


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:01 AM
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What Sybil said. Also, if there's potential for conflict, you wait until the spouse isn't home to introduce the kids to Pee Wee's Playhouse. Giant underpants!.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:05 AM
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2 is probably right. My view is that, within some reasonable range of variation between the standards of parent A and parent B, it may be more important for the child for each parent to be consistent with respect to their own standards. Knowing that Mom is tougher than Dad is easy enough to learn, but kids get much more unhappy if Dad on Wednesday has completely different rules from Dad on Monday.

I'd also say it's worth at least coming to some kind of explicit compromise on some ground rules, because kids figure out fast whether it's possible to play one parent off against the other, and this can be a source of tremendous stress --- especially given that it can be quite tempting to play along if you're being cast regularly as the favorite parent and the other one has to be (and hates being) the enforcer or whatever.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:06 AM
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Congrats, NCP.

I'm not after parenting advice here, but marriage advice.

Maybe both. Parenting also needs to be consistent without one parent undermining the other. This could lead to even bigger resentments in time. Better psych counseling at this stage than legal at a later stage.


Posted by: swampcracker | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:10 AM
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Learning to play authority figures off of each other is an important life lesson. Consider the child blessed that will learn this from their parents early on....


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:11 AM
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I can't recommend my parents' methods of absent-minded neglect and shrieking, hysterical abuse, respectively.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:11 AM
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especially given that it can be quite tempting to play along if you're being cast regularly as the favorite parent and the other one has to be (and hates being) the enforcer or whatever.

But what if you know you're right and the enforcer is wrong?!?!?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:12 AM
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I'd also say it's worth at least coming to some kind of explicit compromise on some ground rules, because kids figure out fast whether it's possible to play one parent off against the other, and this can be a source of tremendous stress --- especially given that it can be quite tempting to play along if you're being cast regularly as the favorite parent and the other one has to be (and hates being) the enforcer or whatever.

This should be in bold as well as in italics. My parents had the good cop/bad cop thing going, which worked reasonably well until my dad started working out of town about seven years ago, and the ground rules they had negotiated didn't work without him being the bad cop. Youngest calasis figured out pretty quick which of the various parental buttons should be pushed.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:13 AM
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As a childless uncoupled person, I'm obviously in a good position to give advice here. So everyone here seems to be assuming that this is just an area where people will reasonably disagree in a way which avoids resolution, but isn't it possible that one of them is right about what will be better for their kid, and they should try to figure out who?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:15 AM
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In my childhood (and in many, I think), mom was 9's "shrieking, hysterical abuse" and dad was "absent-minded neglect," in part because my mom resented how out-of-it my dad was, and my dad resented how my mom took over the family control when the kids were born. It was a sexism thing, but also a class thing; mom thought dad's laissez-faire upbringing was a product of his poverty.

Basically, all these marriage issues arose for them bc of how they parented, and because they weren't resolved, we got fucked up in the end. The post asked for marriage advice, but my parents ended up reasonably fine together by eventually just allowing each other to fuck with us in whatever fashion they saw fit. It's the couples that try to change each other's parenting style who end up divorced.

That said, sometimes divorce is a good thing.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:17 AM
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Gonerill's 6.2 is sage advice. Enforcement and consistency are essential, but it sucks to be the heavy.

Good parenting advice is not necessarily good marriage advice. When the two are in conflict, of course, the former takes precedence.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:18 AM
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Also, the kid is 18 months old; what do "strict" and "lenient" modify?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:18 AM
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I'm with 2 and 6. Generally the one of us spotting the offense dealt with it and the other of us backed that up. I don't know how that would work if the standards differed greatly though.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:19 AM
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isn't it possible that one of them is right about what will be better for their kid, and they should try to figure out who?

w/d, you're killing me.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:19 AM
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My best advice would be to spend some serious time together reading up on and seriously weighing parenting approaches. Alot of the time, I think, our parenting instincts a reaction to our own upbringing as much as or more than a conscious, considered decision about what's really best. When fighting over things that are so tied to the minefield that is one's own childhood, emotions can run high and the ability to be reasonable can be inhibited. If you are talking about parenting outside of the heat of the moment -- how hard to push the spinach sometime other than in the middle of dinner -- it can take some of the heat off.

Then again, it is quite possible I am not the most appropriate person to be offering marital advice.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:19 AM
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My mom was the softy, and this lead to all four of us going through a period where we really didn't respect her. My dad was the hardass, and this lead to all four of us going through a period where we hated him. My mother I think is the more reasonable parent; my dad seems still to react mostly out of fear that if he doesn't do his parenting job properly, his kids will die.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:22 AM
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We never had very deep conflicts and didn't always play the same role, always being the more or less lenient one. I think each of us made an effort to back up the other, even when we'd have done it differently, and maybe talk about it later or sometimes, when they were little enough, right in the moment.

But we seem to have been on the same page to a degree that can't be taken for granted, so it was easier.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:25 AM
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Stability and love seem more important than whether more or less nagging happens about cleanup or table manners or whining. Also, perhaps extra challenging for this crowd, don't pick fights. If bad cop insists on some little thing, don't make it an issue; you likely care a lot more than than the kid does.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:26 AM
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I mostly just berate my wife for not doing a better job with "her kids" and then go spend the night at my mistress's place.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:27 AM
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the more thoughtful version of my initial comment is probably to just not take parenting difference too terribly seriously. the really dangerous ones seem to me to have more to do with a disparity in attention/investment/engagement levels, and less a disparity in approach. the more informing attitudes for parenting probably come from ones own parents and cannot be much changed, despite lots of talky-talk. these are good conversations to have, why do you do A while I do B, because they are illuminating of much larger issues in the marriage. But you just can't overdetermine them with the importance of making or breaking your kid, because they won't.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:34 AM
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Alot gets said about backing the other parent up, even when you disagree. As a kid and as a parent, I always hated this idea. As a kid, there were times that my dad was a real jackass (as a grown graduate of therapy, I would now phrase that as "had unresolved anger issues") and I knew that my mom knew he was being a jackass and yet she always backed him up and no one ever backed me up and I resented it. With Rory and UNG, when I felt like he was being a jackass and that she needed me to back her up, I always did. As Jesus said, good parenting takes precedence over good marriage.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:37 AM
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"strict" with an eighteen month old baby? Count me on the team which says that whoever is trying to be strict with a baby is just wrong. Otherwise SPike at #8 is entirely correct.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:37 AM
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15: Also, the kid is 18 months old; what do "strict" and "lenient" modify?

I guess "strict" could be along the lines of "it puts the lotion on its skin or else it get the hose again." But hopefully the difference is more that the response of "lenient" to "I want sweet candy now SCREEEEEAAAAM!!!!!!1111!!!111!!11!!" is to appease, while the response of "strict" is to deny and perhaps to scold. (Having seen the public results of "lenient" on many occasions, I'm firmly in sympathy with the "strict" camp, but it would suck to be automatically cast in that role all the time.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:44 AM
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As a kid, there were times that my dad was a real jackass (as a grown graduate of therapy, I would now phrase that as "had unresolved anger issues") and I knew that my mom knew he was being a jackass and yet she always backed him up and no one ever backed me up and I resented it.

I think that's right. On the few occasions when one or the other of us was adamant about something the other disagreed with, we had it out, just like you did. And then talked about it later, and resolved and I don't remember anything recurring, on either side. I think that's a good practice even in a very cooperative marriage, and vital when things are not right between you.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:45 AM
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I assume "lenient" means "giving the kid what it shouldn't have but is screaming for," & vice-versa, or something like that.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:46 AM
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w/d, you're killing me.

Because I didn't use "whom"?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:47 AM
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I also agree that presenting a unified front is overrated and hard on a marriage. one wants to avoid providing fodder for the good-cop bad-cop manipulation, but one doesn't want to be making a practice is caving on one's instincts all the time.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:49 AM
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My observations: In almost all cases it is the unintentional aspects of your personality that will have the strongest impact on your children. That said there are benefits to making some attempt at consistency and not ratfucking undermining your spouse - but you will ultimately operate within some relatively small delta of your "natural" self, or else come across as a big fat phony, which is probably worse.

Let me know if any one figures it out. I have 3 kids mostly through the "youth" stage, though hardly launched, and I want to know the precise nature of the retroactive guilt I should inflict upon myself.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:54 AM
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Whoever believes in being "strict" with an 18-month old is wrong and should listen to their more reasonable spouse.

Okay, that said, how you do this is indeed a tough one, and you need two things to make it work. First, you need both adults to trust one another, even where they disagree--you need to believe that your spouse is consistent and loving, regardless of their personal technique. Second, you both need to be willing to be a little flexible about some things. If Daddy is strict about, say, not wanting the baby to play with the cds on the shelf, then Mama needs to be willing to enforce that, even if her *method* of doing so isn't to yell no or spank but rather to just move/distract the baby. If Mama is really opposed to spanking, Daddy needs to learn new ways to "discipline" the baby, like simply saying "no" and then moving her before she does whatever-it-is he objects to.

Also, *the* best parenting book for parents of young kids, hands down, is called "Becoming the Parent You Want to Be." Instead of offering a list of "how tos," it mostly focuses on the importance of figuring out what your own family values are and how to express those as a parent. Seriously, it's great, and it doesn't assume that all parents are white upper middle class liberal Americans, either. Recommend it to your friend. (Though if the issue is spanking, you should know that it is anti-corporal punishment, though in a low-key way.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:55 AM
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Boarding school.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:56 AM
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29: No, 'who' is correct. It's just that you introduced the possibility of someone confronting their beliefs concerning one of the most profound of life's tasks and concluding, "I was wrong. You were right." Not that that aren't people capable of this, but married people typically can't reach that sort of agreement over how to do the laundry or use the clutch.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:57 AM
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If Mama is really opposed to spanking, Daddy needs to learn new ways to "discipline" the baby

If Daddy wants to beat a bloody eighteen month old baby[1], Daddy needs shooting.

Hahaha, by the way, I just said "Napoleon, make Lucretia wash her face. I don't care how you do it, but she needs to wash her face or mummy will be cross". Feel the parenting.

[1] For values of "eighteen month old" meaning "any" age of a child. For christ's sake.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:59 AM
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24: Alot gets said about backing the other parent up, even when you disagree. As a kid and as a parent, I always hated this idea.

I hated it as a kid because despite my mom being the more lenient half of the parental equation, she consistently backed up my dad (who had me pretty much figured out even at my most devious), and this made things way harder to get away with. As an adult, I'm glad of it, and also for the fact that this basic rule of thumb probably prevented their different parenting styles from spawning deeper, marriage-threatening resentments. The whole family is better off for the fact that that marriage endured IMO.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:00 AM
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My best advice would be to spend some serious time together reading up on and seriously weighing parenting approaches. Alot of the time, I think, our parenting instincts a reaction to our own upbringing as much as or more than a conscious, considered decision about what's really best. When fighting over things that are so tied to the minefield that is one's own childhood, emotions can run high and the ability to be reasonable can be inhibited. If you are talking about parenting outside of the heat of the moment -- how hard to push the spinach sometime other than in the middle of dinner -- it can take some of the heat off.

Di's advice is excellent. Many couples do not spend sufficient time discussing their marriage or their parenting. They fall back on how they were raised (even if doing the opposite.)


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:00 AM
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Also, hysterical rhetoric that conflates spanking with beating should be abolished.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:01 AM
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I knew that my mom knew he was being a jackass and yet she always backed him up and no one ever backed me up and I resented it

Yeah, I agree with this; children need to know that their parents have *their* backs, just as much as spouses need to know that their husband/wife does.

That said, it's a question of how you do it, isn't it? It's one thing to say, "Mr. B., don't call PK a lazy little asshole. PK, stop dawdling and go brush your teeth like your father asked you to" and quite another to say "Mr. B., stop being mean! PK, come to Mama....."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:02 AM
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34: use the clutch

The clutch is properly used as an ancillary tool to gain points against your spouse when you are in the middle of an unrelated argument.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:03 AM
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Spanking isn't the issue. I'm trying to avoid getting into how to parent, since that will take us pretty far afield.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:03 AM
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spend some serious time together reading up on and seriously weighing parenting approaches

I'd go for this as well: while the child is young, before the disparity in parenting approaches becomes a more serious issue for her, take the time available to chip away at the problem one step at a time. Read, discuss, try to come to some understanding on basics, so that the parents aren't surprised by each other's responses, hence don't feel the immediate need to argue.

Unless your friend and his wife have already done this and are simply at loggerheads over the question. I could easily see, for example, one party feeling that it (whatever the issue is) will work itself out of its own accord as the child grows, and the other feeling: No, it will not, you're going to screw our child up!

Depends on whether the disagreement over discipline vs. lenience is a *general* child-raising approach; or whether it's something the approach to which can be worked out on an issue by issue basis (the child's eating and sleeping patterns, potty-training). If the former, I'm not sure what advice there is for reducing marital conflict.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:03 AM
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38: Most importantly, it leads to dodging the question of what behavior requires a mere spanking and what warrants an outright beating.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:04 AM
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Also, hysterical rhetoric that conflates spanking with beating should be abolished

It is not hysterical, it is not rhetoric, and you cannot "conflate" two things which are actually the same, one being a euphemism for the other.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:04 AM
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31: If you don't take all of the credit for the good stuff you don't have to take all the blame for the bad stuff.

I told both my kids to keep a notebook of the things they hated about their parents so they could save time and money in their therapy. IMO forget the retroactive guilt thing entirely, they're lucky they're not on the veldt trying to out-run a pack of hyenas.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:04 AM
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Also, hysterical rhetoric that conflates spanking with beating should be abolished.

The difference is one of degree, not of kind.


Posted by: dob | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:05 AM
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38: No, spanking children, especially children that age, is wrong and abusive. Sorry, but it is true.

That said, Daddy may not need shooting, but he may need help figuring out how to deal with anger or frustration, recognizing when he's getting angry/frustrated before he gets to the point of wanting to beat the child (which we all do, sometimes, want to I mean), learning how to get the kid to do what he wants it to do short of beating, etc.

Of course, in the meantime, the kid does need backing up on the issue that it is Not Okay to hit people, especially people who are smaller than you. Mama may simply need to step up and handle conflict-prone situations, whether by teaching the child to do what he's told rather than arguing, by being the one to handle bedtime, or whatever.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:06 AM
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44: It is not hysterical, it is not rhetoric, and you cannot "conflate" two things which are actually the same, one being a euphemism for the other.

Then you've been doing it wrong.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:06 AM
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I want to know the precise nature of the retroactive guilt I should inflict upon myself.

My father argues that all kids blame their parents for messing them up, and he therefore dismisses these complaints as irrelevant. I think that all kids are screwed up by their parents, and I'm deeply sympathetic to my own poor children, who will no doubt be no exception.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:07 AM
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By the way:

Having seen the public results of "lenient" on many occasions, I'm firmly in sympathy with the "strict" camp

I think it's quite admirable of you to have followed complete strangers home in order to monitor their actual lives in order to form an informed judgement about what their parenting approach is before blaming them for inconveniencing you with an outburst of their children's temper - so often, remarks like yours are no more than judgemental bullshit.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:08 AM
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I wonder how long it'll be until we read a story of a parent waterboarding their young child. Now that I think of it, it's a little surprising that there hasn't already been such a story.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:09 AM
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I think "strict" can be interpreted more positively, as "holds boundaries". I don't think strict vs lenient automatically translate to a good/bad split.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:09 AM
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How do you arrive at a workable compromise where parenting is the issue?

God you people can overthink things. The man wins by virtue of greater physical strength and proper Biblical authority. It's like y'all have no sense of tradition whatsoever.

I've been surprised to be the stricter parent in both of my parenting pairings. It doesn't really square with my self-image.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:10 AM
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I asked about what "strict" and "lenient" in terms of discipline meant because I wondered if the dispute was not about responses to the child's behavior (like spanking) as much as it was about what rules there needed to be (like whether the kid needs a strict bedtime.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:10 AM
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Give over. What "boundaries" can you have for an eighteen month old baba?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:10 AM
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50: how do you know he wasn't talking about his own kids?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:10 AM
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All right, since Ogged's question isn't about spanking, let's drop that topic and argue about it another time.

If the issue isn't that one parent is actually *harming* the child, then both adults need to *be* adults. This might mean that the lenient parent has to pay attention to what needs *of hers* are being met by being the child's "favorite," and whether or not she's really being lenient for the kid's sake or for her own.

But really it boils down to both parents having trust in the other's judgment and consistency, as Gonerill said in 6, and to them being able/willing to modify some things a little bit in order to both deal with the kid and acknowledge their partner's feelings.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:10 AM
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44: Sorry, a kid that gets a few taps on the bottom at the age of six is not having a "euphemistic" version of the experience of a kid whose parents are breaking broom handles over their back and burning them with cigarettes. The latter is what "beating" usually connotes, and to conflate it with the former is to trivialize it. They're on a continuum in the same way that after-school detention and Folsom Prison are on a continuum.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:11 AM
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I'm trying to avoid getting into how to parent, since that will take us pretty far afield.

I bet if I ask Becks, she'll give me permission to comment about parenting.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:12 AM
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51: What about church groups including waterboarding in their Bible day-camp curriculum? "Nearer to death is closer to Jesus."

Or corporate retreats using waterboarding as a trust-building exercise?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:12 AM
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Why does Cala always know what I mean, and why did she marry a big Canadian who plays with dynamite?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:13 AM
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Give over. What "boundaries" can you have for an eighteen month old baba?

You can have boundaries like: you stay in your high chair for the duration of a meal. (Especially if one has several children to mind.) Or: one dessert per day. Try it, you can make up your own!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:13 AM
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55: To be fair, I *do* wish that we'd enforced more boundaries with 18-month old PK. Things like "no, don't touch that, it's mommy/daddy's." We didn't, because "aww, cute! so what if he's breaking that, we can always replace it and he's only a baby!" (this was both of us, btw), and the kid still isn't so great at not keeping his hands off of my stuff, dammit.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:14 AM
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What "boundaries" can you have for an eighteen month old baba?

Those invisible electric fences.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:14 AM
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There are certainly a variety of approaches to take with an 18mth old. There's the 'baby should be able to explore uninhibited and pull shit off the shelves and muck about in things' approach and there's the 'baby needs to learn to not touch things that aren't intended for her because it might be dangerous, or at least not to muck about with my shit' approach. This was a disparity for us with an 18mth old. There's the 'baby should try to food she is offered and not get a smorgasboard of options if she doesn't like it' vs 'baby should get to try to eat whatever she wants at this stage.' There are certainly a raneg of well-documented position of baby sleep that could be interpreted as either lenient or strict at this point.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:15 AM
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58: arguments which involve saying "ahh but this unacceptable violent act is much less serious than this other unacceptable violent act, and hey, to say that they're both unacceptable trivialises the real bad thing" are always bullshit and I do not make an exception in this case.

Seriously, "strict" doesn't mean anything here; I suspect it's doing duty for "structured" - as in routines, things happening at specific times. People can get very hung up on them, but frankly, the approach of "he or she who does the work, sets the schedule" is hard to beat.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:16 AM
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Speaking of retroactive - here is a practice that I friend of mine followed quite closely (and we did it very loosely) and which both parents and children enjoyed greatly in later years.

Once a year for each child he would write a page or so about the past year, challenges, thoughts and observations - nothing too long or introspective. The more ambitious can shoot for classic forms of poetry.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:17 AM
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positions ON baby sleep, that is. positions OF baby sleep are usually less contentious by 18mths, if slightly so.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:17 AM
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How do you think it would affect my future marriage if I started reading up on parenting right now? (For the sake of argument, let's say I won't be getting married until five years from now at the earliest.)

OT: You know what I hate? When I don't get "real-time response" while typing. Maybe it's time for a new computer.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:17 AM
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If Daddy wants to beat a bloody eighteen month old baby[1], Daddy needs shooting

This is true, but DS and Anderson are right about strictness. In our experience, setting boundaries about things like hitting and demanding around this age, however gently, both lays a foundation for later discipline and provides parents the opportunity to coordinate their approaches to discipline before the going gets rough (especially if they didn't have the foresight to discuss this before having children).

On preview, this: I've been surprised to be the stricter parent in both of my parenting pairings. It doesn't really square with my self-image

OMG yes.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:18 AM
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Count me in the shooting party when anyone is beating young children.

As for boarding school, certain people to whom I am related seem to have taken being sent to boarding school as a very clear message that their parents didn't love them very much.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:19 AM
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I think it's quite admirable of you to have followed complete strangers home in order to monitor their actual lives in order to form an informed judgement about what their parenting approach is before blaming them for inconveniencing you with an outburst of their children's temper - so often, remarks like yours are no more than judgemental bullshit.

I am with dsquared, except for the part about using an "e" in judgment.

Screw you if you think you know how I parent my children. (Directly generally, not at DS)

My daughter throws huge hissy fits. Now you can tell she is autistic. Before you could not.

Until you have had more than one child, you should keep your mouth shut because you just do not know the randomness of parenting.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:19 AM
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My first son has, all his life, observed any boundaries laid down, to the point that he sets them himself without any prompting. Easiest child to parent ever, leading to a wildly inflated sense of my sterling parenting skills.

Then came Noah, who almost makes me believe in a vengeful trickster god who has me at #1 on his shit list. The biggest battle right now (of many) is not throwing everything he picks up, including food and anything breakable. If he doesn't make some progress soon, I'm seriously considering having his arms amputated.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:19 AM
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Oh, the baby sleep position thing. A friend has a baby who was born with an extra floppy esophageal flap, which is mostly harmless and will go away as the baby gets older, but means for now she has problems sleeping because it isn't as easy for her to breathe. So my friend worries about having to put the baby in the non-authorized sleep position just so the baby can get some rest, until she realizes that 30 years ago, that was the Medically Recommended Sleep position.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:19 AM
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62, 63: ah, I see, "boundaries" means "more or less arbitrary rules" (and taking up your time forcing the baban to stay in his highchair rather than picking him up seems like a funny way to deal with a chaotic mealtime IMO). God I wish parents wouldn't proliferate these - it is simply makework. An eighteen month old kid can't understand the difference between "mine" "not mine", "dangerous", "safe" etc, which is why the distinction between what he can touch and what he can't needs to be made with physical safeguards, not Skinnerian conditioning (which is all that you can possibly do in the name of "discipline" at that age). This is why highchairs have straps on them to hold the baby in.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:20 AM
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Here is the marriage advice.

Stay away from things like "the baby needs. . ." or "it's not good for the baby to. . ." All that's gonna do is get your partner's back up, because you're implicitly saying that they don't know what the baby needs, what's best for the baby, blah blah. Don't make the disagreement into a fight about parenting.

Just express it as a preference (which it is, after all). "I really want her to be in bed by 7:30, so I can relax with you, please?" "Please don't let her play with my stuff, I have a hangup about that." "OMG if she throws banana at the wall one more time I am going to lose my mind! Can't you feed her, rather than letting her feed herself, to save my sanity?" Be humorous and slightly self-deprecating about the preferences your partner thinks are "irrational," and it will help a LOT.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:22 AM
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Every parent should read and absorb Apo's message in 73.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:22 AM
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I think a really good parenting skill is the skill to be able to take reasonable commenters and push their buttons by escalating conflict with low-lying insults.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:22 AM
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When I was small, my parents bought a book called something like "How raise the strong-willed child." Next calasis was very compliant. Next calasis was even more compliant. Youngest calasis has been described as a "[cala]-rerun, except with the advantage of training in sarcasm."

I don't have any advice on how to deal with the difference in parenting issues except to cite my young wise doctor friend, who has observed that above a minimum threshold of being well-fed, secure, and loved, you're really not going to break the baby, so you might as well calm the hell down.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:23 AM
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78 yo 75, to be transparently combative. (I like boundaries.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:23 AM
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78:

Screw you Heebie!!! Screw you!!


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:24 AM
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30 years ago, that was the Medically Recommended Sleep position

My mother says that if anybody had made her put me to sleep on my back as a baby, I'd have died of exhaustion. I would just cry until I was flipped over. To this day, I still can't fall asleep on my back unless I'm passing out drunk on a couch.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:24 AM
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56: Nope, no kids, I spend too much time following people (since it is of course never possible to divine anything meaningful about any other person's behaviour, in any circumstance whatsoever, without monitoring their entire life 24/7 for a period of at least six months).

66: arguments which involve saying "ahh but this unacceptable violent act is much less serious than this other unacceptable violent act, and hey, to say that they're both unacceptable trivialises the real bad thing" are always bullshit and I do not make an exception in this case.

Arguments which skip the step where you actually demonstrate that the former act is "unacceptable violence" are always bullshit and I do not make an exception in this case.

But fine, fuck it, we can drop the spanking thing if it's threadjacking. Spanking is the Quiet Genocide, and parents who do it are torturers and war criminals. String up the lot of 'em.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:24 AM
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80: I suspect you may be more than eighteen months old.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:24 AM
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12, 17: w/d, the spanking/abuse section of this thread has been arranged as an object lesson in why 17 is the proper response to 12.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:26 AM
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I think a really good parenting skill is the skill to be able to take reasonable commenters and push their buttons by escalating conflict with low-lying insults.

An underrated skill. It directs the conflict outward and strengthens the family bond.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:26 AM
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Spanking was the least of my problems as a kid. I resent it, but way less than everything else.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:26 AM
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Until you have had more than one child, you should keep your mouth shut because you just do not know the randomness of parenting

I bet we all agree with this. The distinctness of their personalities from the youngest age, and how what worked with one won't with another, so that you have to start over, is amazing.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:27 AM
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84: I'm timeless!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:27 AM
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(I like boundaries.)

How are you on spanking?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:28 AM
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82: I still have to fall asleep on my stomach. According to someone, as soon as I'm asleep I flip over on to my side, or back, or onto his side of the bed, but whenever I wake up, I'm back on my stomach. The recommended sleep position for us is apparently on opposite sides of the apartment.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:28 AM
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My advice -
1. parents have to support each other not undercut each other. Whatever one says the other cannot contradict or countermand. If parent one says go play on the highway, then parent two can talk to parent one about how advisable that is but to the child parent two supports parent one. Parent one is the one who has to be convinced playing on the highway is a bad idea. Do not make the conflict involving the child, if there has to be conflict have it between the parents.
2. Decide in advance. Lots of things can be anticipated - bedtime, eating, etc. Make joint decision and then carry through. As much as possible don't make decisions in the heat of the moment and on the fly.
My 1.5 cents.


Posted by: Paul | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:28 AM
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How are you on spanking?

Spanking monkeys?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:29 AM
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93: heebie comes out in favour of cruelty to animals! More news at 11!


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:31 AM
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The distinctness of their personalities from the youngest age, and how what worked with one won't with another

This aspect of raising twins has made me want to kill myself on several occasions been very interesting.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:31 AM
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Corporal punishment was rare in my house. I remember distinctly the shock when my mouth was washed out with soap after I told my sister to "shut up" (or maybe I responded to a statement of hers with "who gives a crap?").

Apparently my grandma had washed out my mom's mouth with liquid soap. And my mom frequently came home to find the drawers of her dresser emptied onto the lawn if her room was too messy. I always pictured my grandma throwing stuff out of the window, though I'm not sure if that's really how it went down.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:31 AM
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B's marriage advice in 76 is very good. Including as much transparency as possible while making your parenting preference request is crucial. I would add that the primary care giver should make a conscious effort to watch the partner administer childcare from time to time, instead of just letting it happen when he/she is unavailable, so that he/she gets a better sense of how the partner works as a parent when not in negotiations with the spouse. My husband's parenting instincts made a lot more sense to me once I wanted him handle a series of crises on his own, and didn't just hear about then after the fact.

The key to all of this is believing that your partner is neither malicious nor stupid.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:32 AM
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95: it does seem like that would be especially difficult, since you need to use a different approach with each but there's no way to tell them apart from one another.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:34 AM
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Don't just tell your partner that they're wrong, tell them why they're wrong.


Posted by: froz gobo | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:34 AM
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The key to all of this is believing that your partner is neither malicious nor stupid.

This is where I need advice. What do you do if you don't believe this?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:35 AM
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99: Don't just tell your partner that they're wrong, tell them why they're wrong.

You're only wrong dear because you are malicious and stupid.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:36 AM
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tell them why they're wrong

With eye-rolling, to focus their attention.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:37 AM
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100, right, me too.

I tentatively believe that the more I see of my partner parenting, the less stupid some of his instincts start to seem. At the very least, one can see them as part of a pattern which may be annoying, but not strictly stupid so much as ingrained.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:37 AM
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Oh, wait, I have very important parenting advice:

Do not marry a Narcissistic asshole.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:37 AM
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100: Time machine. Go back and kill their grandparents.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:38 AM
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JP Stormcrow is very wise.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:38 AM
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the drawers of her dresser emptied onto the lawn if her room was too messy.

This is making me laugh. What another world it would be now if we adults could behave in this way.

A friend who's the perpetual devil on my shoulder frequently advises that I do similar things: your roommate doesn't do his dishes? Pile the dirty dishes on his bed!

That won't work, I reply sadly and in a grown-up, considered manner.

Oh? You sure?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:39 AM
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Don't just tell your partner that they're wrong, tell them why they're wrong.

I don't have to explain why she's wrong. All she needs to know is the Bible says I'm right.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:39 AM
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100, your wife better never figure out your pseud, man. Knecht^10.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:40 AM
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109: Maybe Brock was asking on his wife's behalf.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:41 AM
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I'm thinking there's a lot of stuff that doesn't come up in relationships between adults when kids aren't around, and knowing how your bad old instincts are going to kick in when the kids show up is sometimes near to impossible. Some people end up being shockingly good with their kids, and others end up shockingly bad, in ways they'd have never been able to predict if you'd asked them about their "parenting philosophy" or whatever.

I wonder if it helps for people to spend time as a couple around other people's kids before you have your own. I know it's not the same, but it would be good to see how you naturally react when a kid throws a tantrum or whatever. Women tend to have spent a lot of time around other people's kids by the time we're grown-ups (babysitting, etc.), but I think parenting ends up being either a good or a bad surprise for a lot of guys.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:44 AM
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107: Passive-aggressive attempts to get roommates to clean up when they're not so inclined do not work. Nor does anything. If you want the apartment to be clean, clean it yourself.

Similarly, if you want the children to be raised, do it yourself.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:45 AM
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Parsimon, I know you're not asking for advice, but is it possible that you could trade off some other chore with him? My old Cleveland roommates and I figured out that some of us were just really averse to certain chores, but liked others, and by taking them over entirely, there was no duty to "share" like dish-doing. (E.g., I cooked anything, at any time of day or night, for any reason, organized all the household shopping, and kept the bathroom clean. They did dishes, managed the budget, tidied, and cleaned the litter box. We all thought we were getting away with murder.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:48 AM
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111:

I think the difference is that women are conditioned to expect to last through a tantrum. Men are not raised that way very often.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:48 AM
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111: It is fairly commonly reported that spending time with other people's children doesn't help, because there's a good chance that your reaction to your own children will be completely different. (Eg. many people who hate other people's children discover that they're doting dads and mums; many people who love other people's children discover that this was because they didn't have to be around them all the time.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:48 AM
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My son and I have practiced speaking calmly and ignoring my daughter as she attempts to beat on us. I think I am giving him valuable life skills.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:49 AM
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114: I'll never forget how one of my exes reacted when I told her I always kept a plastic bag on hand to silence children who were having public temper tantrums. I guess it's for the best in the long run -- she was one of these touchy-feely hippy types like dsquared, and she clearly wouldn't have felt comfortable bailing me out on those rare occasions when the parents objected.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:50 AM
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I know it's not the same, but it would be good to see how you naturally react when a kid throws a tantrum or whatever. Women tend to have spent a lot of time around other people's kids by the time we're grown-ups (babysitting, etc.), but I think parenting ends up being either a good or a bad surprise for a lot of guys.

Good point.

I respond to children the same way I respond to strange dogs or schizophrenic people. I sort of smile and ignore them.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:50 AM
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115: That's what I'd fear, and it's what my ex reported, that he despises kids as a group, but he had his own and suddenly thought of them as "little gods." However, when he's really stressed, he does completely flip out on them, and I think it's really shocking to him when he does. Consciously, he'd never do it, but, man, getting his seven-year-old to put on a coat when he's being grumpy often turned into a scary screaming match.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:52 AM
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111.2 This is related to my JP's Program to End Overpopulation and Profit Financially From Your Young Children. Turn your home in to a modified B&B (though the guests make the beds and breakfast). People contemplating having children come stay at your house for a weekend, week, whatever. You leave*, they stay. The charge is either your entire income or their entire income (if yours is higher) pro-rated for the period. You make $$$, they ultimately save $$$ and Mother Earth gets a break. It's all good.

*After explaining what is in the sealed envelope you left at the Child Services Bureau.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:53 AM
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What do you do if you don't believe this?

If they're malicious, there's not much you can do and you probably should file for divorce and custody.

If they're just stupid, you approach the disagreement sympathetically. Explain why you prefer X to Y--it makes it easier to get the kid up in the morning if he has a reasonable bedtime, there's less mess to clean up if the baby isn't allowed to pour his own milk, etc.

And again, appeal to your partner's love for you, rather than to what's "best."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:54 AM
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To clarify, my wife is neither malicious nor stupid--just terribly lazy. She does nothing but lay around vomiting all the time.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:56 AM
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Add to 115 that it's often a lot easier to be indifferent (thus indulgent) towards other people's kids' behavior than it is to your own. For some reason your own kids really push your buttons about all the unresolved crap and identity issues you've got. E.g., if my kid makes a mess at the table, then I'm in deep shit for having bad table manners!!1/111!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:57 AM
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122: Cut back on your work hours and help out around the house?

Alternately, increase your work hours and hire a housekeeper/nanny.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:58 AM
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122
is she pregnant, blame yourself, #$%%^!


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 10:59 AM
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Holy shit is 123 ever true. I can put up with anything from my kid at my own house, but tantrums in public make me want to beat him to death. (Even tantrums in places like a noisy mall, where it's obviously not going to be bothering anyone else too much.) And I know it's totally my issue.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:00 AM
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I never really resented not being backed up when one parent was being a jackass, but it definantely gives one a strong sense of powerless.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:00 AM
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shivbunny's pretty good with his cousin's kids. Not terribly tolerant of the little monsters running around breaking his stuff, but good at reigning it in without raising his voice.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:00 AM
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reigning it in

:-(


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:02 AM
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124: We have a nanny. I've been pushing for a housekeeper for months, but for some reason she's resistent. (I really don't know the reason--she's agreeable in principle whenever we discuss it, but it's literally been since about September that I've been pushing to get one and we still don't have one.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:02 AM
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112: Passive-aggressive attempts to get roommates to clean up when they're not so inclined do not work. Nor does anything. If you want the apartment to be clean, clean it yourself.

Kotsko! I was joking. Devil on my shoulder, as I said.

113: Parsimon, I know you're not asking for advice, but is it possible that you could trade off some other chore with him?

I've lived with roommates forever -- I know. Compromise, trade off, always. It's a rare situation in which both parties have the household they'd ideally like. I may hate some of the artwork he wants on the walls; he hates the dust on my plants and at least once suggested throwing them away. (Good lord - what?)

It's still fun to consider being a martinet around the house on occasion. Like Kotsko's Grandma.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:03 AM
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Gosh this reminds me of my most recent foray into the world of streetfighting a week ago! Following from "Davies vs Homeless Crackhead: The Enslappening", this bout was "Davies vs Serbian Gypsies: Judgement Night".

Basically there are always one or two Roma women begging on the Tube with a baby on their hip - they're the subject of all sorts of urban myths about where the kiddies come from. This one had about a two year old with her. She'd sat down to count her coins, and the kid was crying, so she slapped it (an amazingly fucking-for-virginity level of stupid, a tactic that has never worked in history). Anyway, this particular parenting behaviour pisses me the hell off and I often decide to say something, and this was one of those occasions. So I just kind of pointed at her and said, loudly "NO".

Next thing I knew, about three swarthy-looking fuckers had jumped out of the woodwork and were getting up in my face, looking alarmingly like I was about to get stabbed. It all turned into a shouting match between me, the gypsies and the rest of the Tube carriage, which continued onto the platform at Euston until a guard stepped in to push them off on their way and I shrugged and got on my other train. I declared it a draw (unlike DD vs HC, which was quite simply a victory for me).

The funny thing was that a whole load of people who were going to let a helpless little kid get repeatedly slapped, immediately sprung to the defence of me.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:04 AM
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THE ANSWER TO ALL THESE QUESTIONS IS DISCIPLINE

DISCIPLINE AND ADHERENCE TO REVOLUTIONARY PRINCIPLES

To clarify, my wife is neither malicious nor stupid--just terribly lazy. She does nothing but lay around vomiting all the time.

HAVE YOU CONSIDERED ABORTION?


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:04 AM
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130: Oh, if it's just that the house is messy, relax and learn to live with it. You're going to have two kids soon anyway.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:06 AM
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And ogged already has the right answer to his marriage question--talk (not in times of crisis but before and after), read parenting books and discuss the ideas, try to agree on what you want or at least understand where your disagreements lay. Talk about how to navigate or compromise on the disagreements. Blah blah. At the end of the day if you can't work things out the man should have the final say.

Now, how can I make my kid walk? He's nearly 17 months old and still crawls everywhere. Will spanking him help?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:06 AM
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134: well, it's not "just". But I'm mostly being facetious anyway. Or at least sort of.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:09 AM
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Tie his food to string, and hang it just out of reach.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:09 AM
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I'll never forget how one of my exes reacted when I told her I always kept a plastic bag on hand to silence children who were having public temper tantrums. I guess it's for the best in the long run -- she was one of these touchy-feely hippy types like dsquared, and she clearly wouldn't have felt comfortable bailing me out on those rare occasions when the parents objected.

Yea, I imagine this could be funny as a joke, but scary if you were seriously that naive about parenting.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:09 AM
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Was 137 to 135? He stands up just fine. Just starts crawling again when he wants to go anywhere.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:11 AM
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He needs training wheels.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:12 AM
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Well how the hell do you stop kids from tantruming in public? Do you just hope you end up with a kid who doesn't?

Christ, I could never raise a kid that isn't like I was. Too much screaming in public and I'd be pushing for dropping them off with Child Services.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:13 AM
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I'm humbled by the people who point out how different kids are from one another. I now suspect our 16 month old is highly self-monitoring; he mostly reminds himself not to touch things that we've said are off limits. (he mutters 'nonononono' to himself.)

My partner can say 'no' very convincingly. I dislike saying it unless I really need to, and I'm on my own all day, so I modify the environment a lot and redirect son's attention. Is there anything Ogged's friends could change in their home setup that would remove the source of some of the conflict? Might take some of the pressure off if they had fewer areas to argue about.


The key to all of this is believing that your partner is neither malicious nor stupid.

This is where I need advice. What do you do if you don't believe this?

Seriously? Marshall Rosenberg has written some good things about this question.


Posted by: Penny | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:14 AM
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129: Wow, I don't usually do that.

135: With my youngest sister, who got around to walking around eighteen months, what worked was a directive to the older sisters not to pick up the cute baby and carry her everywhere.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:14 AM
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I really don't understand the spanking=Evil crowd

all punishment is meant to be unpleasant

that doesn't mean spanking is internal bleeding and a week in the hospital, or that a 10 minutes 'timeout' is weeks of sensory and sleep deprivation or one of htose social isolation boxes you put monkeys in when you want them to go crazy.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:14 AM
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144:

You shouldnt teach your children to resolve things with violence.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:15 AM
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135: Will spanking him help?

Yes. Early and often. Also, The Box.

132 brings to mind an incident on public transit a couple of years ago, wherein a crowd of commuters were silently fuming as a kid threw a particularly hairy tantrum that involved (among other things) throwing her toys at fellow travellers, and the mother blissfully chatted away on her cell. Eventually, one fellow spoke up and said, "Excuse me, ma'am, please do something about your baby," and got a unanimous Menacing Glare from everyone around him... me included. Thing was, I was feeling just as judgmental and basically agreed with the sentiment, but there are lines you don't cross. We didn't chase dude down the car in a shouting mob, though, which in retrospect is too bad.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:16 AM
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As for boarding school, certain people to whom I am related seem to have taken being sent to boarding school as a very clear message that their parents didn't love them very much.

yeah, but you just have to be more involved than the average boarding school parent

that should be a low bar


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:16 AM
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Well how the hell do you stop kids from tantruming in public? Do you just hope you end up with a kid who doesn't?

Christ, I could never raise a kid that isn't like I was. Too much screaming in public and I'd be pushing for dropping them off with Child Services.

My situation is not normal. I try to talk with her calmly first. If that doesnt work, I throw her over my shoulder and carry her out.

Since she is 15, I get some looks.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:17 AM
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145: What about negative reinforcement?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:17 AM
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Oh, and if she tried to take her clothes off, I skip the calm talking part.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:18 AM
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all punishment is meant to be unpleasant

Which is why all punishment is cruel and counterproductive.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:18 AM
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What about negative reinforcement?

It is all in your perspective.

I find that the most effective method with my son is to say "Wow, you are acting just like your mother!"


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:18 AM
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145: Its probably not a bad lesson that if you're a real jackass it has physical consequences.

And adult-adult relationships only involve mental punishment because its easier and more effective. (no boss needs to waterboard someone for coming in late)

i don't think adults who are physically violent are so because they think "violence resolves issues" its an anger problem.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:19 AM
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One way I've found that works well with dealing with screaming babies on airplanes is to try to help the parent distract the kid.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:22 AM
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Stop worrying about the late walkers. It makes your life easier, enjoy the lack of mobility while you still can.

Tantrums in public, you either take a deep breath, get down on the kid's level, ignore your surroundings, and deal with it the same way you would at home, or else you pick the child up and leave, either temporarily or permanently.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:22 AM
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I haven't had time to read the thread yet but my parents used the following method on all of us from an early age: we'd be sent to our rooms for a "time out" and then when we came back we'd have to say (1) what it was that we did wrong, (2) why it was wrong, and (3) our plan for behaving differently next time. When I was older, if I was really bad, I'd have to write it up as an essay.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:24 AM
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Stop worrying about the late walkers.

Right. Considering that literally none of the billions of able-bodied adults on earth crawl when they can walk, I'd say you probably don't have to stress over this one.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:24 AM
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146b: This is something I don't know how to deal with very well. I live in a neighborhood full of little kids with extremely permissive parents who maintain entire websites listing local restaurants who don't mind if your kid runs around and screams while you do nothing, as well as a blacklist of restaurants where people give you the stinkeye if your kid repeatedly throws their food and toys at them. Several times, I've desperately wanted to say, "Listen, I know you're out having a good time, but your child has spent your entire dinner running around hitting all the other patrons and screaming at them. Has it occurred to you that this is sort of unreasonable?" But then I'd go on the "Residents to Be Shunned" List.

One of my friends' nannies got put on that list because she sternly addressed the badly-behaved child in a playground. What's even creepier was she was labeled on the list as "a possibly Mexican nanny." She's Moroccan, actually, but who are these fucking racist assholes who are all up in everyone's business?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:24 AM
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156: "Time outs" are just a euphemism for forcible confinement.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:26 AM
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"Excuse me, ma'am, please do something about your baby,"

Cala gets it exactly right in 154. I will never understand why people who are bothered by "misbehaving" children don't engage the child rather than trying to correct the mother.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:26 AM
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she was labeled on the list as

Holy shit, there is an actual list??


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:27 AM
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156 is further evidence that Becks's parents are insane. Becks, how'd you turn out so well?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:27 AM
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156 is further evidence that Becks's parents are insane. Becks, how'd you turn out so well?

Assumes facts not in evidence.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:28 AM
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I will never understand why people who are bothered by "misbehaving" children don't engage the child rather than trying to correct the mother.

Personally, I have no idea how to engage a strange child. I guess I would be polite enough to sit there doing nothing while simultaneously empathizing with the mother and seething in annoyance instead of saying "Hey lady, check out what your kid's doing".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:28 AM
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"Possible Mexican nanny" is hilarious and deeply sad.

Yeah, unless the kid is actually attacking you there really isn't much you can do. My solution is usually to stick to licensed and unsavoury establishments.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:28 AM
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161: You're familiar with this? My neighborhood.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:29 AM
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I will never understand why people who are bothered by "misbehaving" children don't engage the child rather than trying to correct the mother.

Taking this literally: Depending on age, they either think the parent will more easily be able to understand their objection and feel worse about it than the child will, think it's actually the parent who's doing something wrong and not, or at least not exclusively, the child because they don't ascribe full agency and responsibility to children, or both.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:30 AM
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I don't think that strategy was insane. If anything, I think it teaches problem solving skills. They wouldn't accept any bullshit like:

- What did you do wrong?
- I hit Suzy.
- What did you do next time?
- Not hit Suzy.

You had to develop a plan for how you would better handle a situation the next time you encountered it (like, in the above example, resolving a conflict using only words).

And, really, what else would you expect from two psychologists?


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:31 AM
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You try to entertain or distract the kid, or if the mother is trying you say something like, "young man, listen to your mama" (which will scare almost any misbehaving child into quieting down, with the added benefit of not putting the parent on the defensive).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:31 AM
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My neighborhood too, AWB. I didn't know they maintained an actual list, though. Christ.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:31 AM
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168 sounds right to me.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:31 AM
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Ooh, something my dad used to say (I disagree with most of his parenting, but this one is good) was "You have to be smarter than the baby." Meaning that a lot of discussions about rules and structure and things can be headed off by controlling the environment. Worried about the baby knocking over your CDs or breaking your vases? Put them on a higher shelf. Worried that the kid will cry if she only gets half a cookie when her sister gets a whole one? Make smaller cookies. (Big sister getting two is okay because she's bigger, but getting half a cookie is deprivation. People are wired funny.)

You can't eliminate all of the disagreements, but some of them can be headed off by stacking the deck in your favor.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:31 AM
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Marriage advice? You remember every day of your life that your marriage is the dominant relationship in that household, and that your children are painfully beautiful, heart-captivating little ingrates who are going to leave you in twenty years anyway after they smash up your cars.

Your partner is the one you are going to spend the last twenty years of your life with, and you better still have something with that person once the kids are gone. You put your partner first over children again and again and you have a decent shot of not resenting your children when they mention that they really can't come home for the holidays this year. Again.

(Yes, yes, this requires that you want to be with your partner. But if you do, you remember that intensely raising kids is two decades out of the five you might have together and you think accordingly.)

(Yes, my parents did this. No, it didn't save their marriage. But I never saw them argue over parenting. Yes, we all spend holidays together.)

(Also, I knew that spanking was an irresistable topic.)

(I do want kids desperately, but I am still not a fan of all-consuming child-centrism. I do, truly, know how kids take over your life. I think that should be resisted, not glorified. No, I am not saying that anyone here is glorifying it.)

(Good thing parentheses are free, 'cause I'm throwing them around like confetti.)


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:31 AM
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AWB's first name is Lisa or Helene?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:32 AM
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think it's actually the parent who's doing something wrong

Right, and telling strange adults that you disapprove of them is always such a successful method of getting them to do what you want.

two psychologists

Ah. Say no more.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:34 AM
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160: I will never understand why people who are bothered by "misbehaving" children don't engage the child rather than trying to correct the mother.

May be regarded as presumption, or creepy, or both.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:34 AM
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I like the approach taken by Becks' parents. As she said, it teaches children how to think critically.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:34 AM
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173 is great.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:35 AM
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176: As opposed to saying "ma'am, will you do something about your child"? Yeah, right.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:36 AM
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164: Most of the time I just don't let it bother me, but I seem to get little kids next to me on airplanes a lot and I've found just saying something to the kid usually surprises them enough that they stop screaming. It's more the tone of voice than what you say. "Does your Elmo like the airplane?" worked once. Sometimes asking the mom if you can shake the rattle or read the board book helps because the kid tries to figure out who the hell this new person is.

Beats the hell out of listening to the kid shriek, at least.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:37 AM
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"Wow, you are acting just like your mother!"

Uh, I'd watch out for this one as your son gets older. I see how it could work to put on the brakes and get some thinking going, but put it this way: eventually one realizes that "You sound like / are being just like so-and-so" is manipulative, to say the least. It tends to make me see red -- but I'm not a kid, of course.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:37 AM
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When I said taking it literally, I was referring to your "I don't understand." I wasn't saying those are right and true beliefs about the world.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:37 AM
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177: Mmmm, if anyone ever "made" me give a little speech about what I did wrong, why it was wrong, and what I'd do differently next time, I'd be far more focused on resenting them for trying to humiliate me than on anything else. PK's the same way.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:38 AM
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Parsimon, I guess you would like me telling my son that I love my daughter more either?

I was kidding.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:38 AM
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179: At least "m,wydsayc", although never helpful, won't get the mother responding as if you're trying to kidnap the child.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:38 AM
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183: What if they weren't trying to humiliate you?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:38 AM
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My father's method was actually pretty effective. He parented us straight out of the One-Minute Manager, disciplining us by explaining for 15 seconds what we did wrong, 15 seconds of why it was wrong, 15 seconds of how it has affected our relationship, and 15 seconds of suggestions of how to go about repairing that relationship. It was extremely manipulative and cold, and always worked. My mom would scream for hours until all I could think was that she was insane and controlling (she was), but my dad's one minute always left me with bitter tears of contrition running down my face. Very intense.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:39 AM
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Again 180 gets it exactly right. Little kids are very focused on their parents, and they're smart enough to intuit that mom or dad is a little more restrained about correcting shitty behavior in public than in private. Simply saying something in a friendly I-like-kids tone of voice shocks the hell out of them.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:40 AM
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trying to humiliate me

How is this humiliation? It all depends on how it is carried out.

How do you punish PK?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:40 AM
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186: Expecting someone to actually answer a rhetorical question is always a power play. IMHO.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:41 AM
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Oh i had to do that 168 too.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:41 AM
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I will never understand why people who are bothered by "misbehaving" children don't engage the child rather than trying to correct the mother.

Because "parenting" anyone else's kid, especially a stranger's kid, is seen as very rude? Because you assume the parent would address the situation if they knoew there was a problem? Because you don't know how the parent would like the situation to be addressed, and don't want to step over any lines? Because the kid doesn't know you and probably isn't used to talking to strange adults?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:41 AM
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My son and I have practiced speaking calmly and ignoring my daughter as she attempts to beat on us. I think I am giving him valuable life skills.

All kidding aside, Will, I'm always impressed by your low-key and chill take on parenting your two kids.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:42 AM
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179: Not necessarily "as opposed to." For example, had the dude in 146 said "kid, smarten up" or tried to make googly faces at him, he would probably have gotten much the same reaction.

I don't disagree that engaging the child can work better, though, but it depends a lot on who is doing the engaging and how skillful they are. I don't know that it's a very viable strategy for a lot of adult men, for instance.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:42 AM
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185: This is one area where being a woman helps, probably. I'm pretty non-threatening. But thinking of it as trying to help the parent, rather than correcting them or their child, might help. Even well-disciplined young kids can lose their shit for no reason now and then.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:42 AM
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I'm with Cala. I've been the desperate parent. I've always really appreciate the person who tries to help distract my child.

I try to repay that favor when I travel without kids by being kind to other people's children. Plus, it is fun.

(Even better if it is a cute, young woman)


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:43 AM
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189: I either turn whatever it is into a game between us--"PK! What a horrible loud noise you're making!"--which flips his switch from pissy to laughing, or else I get his attention (which might mean literally holding his face and telling him to look at me with his eyes) and say, very seriously, that I do not like what he is doing and I want him to stop it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:43 AM
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And yeah, 192.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:43 AM
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Can we avoid a nasty discussion of parenting strategies?

Alternatively, if that's what y'all want, knock yourselves out.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:43 AM
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181: My parents always, still, accuse me of acting like my brother. It still sends me into a rage. My brother is two years older, and was (and is) a compulsive liar, so every time I did anything "bad" (including "allowing" people to write bad words in my yearbook, etc.), I got a disdainful glare and, "Every two years, AWB. Every two years." GAH!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:43 AM
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Expecting someone to actually answer a rhetorical question is always a power play. IMHO.

Asking them what they plan to do differently next time is not a rhetorical question.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:44 AM
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Our six week old daughter is unusually fussy at night. We're thinking of encouraging her to enlist in the Marines. Is that the right thing to do?


Posted by: unf | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:44 AM
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194, 195: translation:

Breasts make the world happy.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:44 AM
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ok, Brock Landers seems not a complete #$%%^^
but rather a concerned spouse and parent
those training wheels are really good, my niece walks in them backwards and sideways, really funny to watch through skype
what if your wife is suffering some kind of postpartum depression and need some medical help? but probably her condition is just pregnancy related and will improve after the first difficult trimester


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:44 AM
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192: if you have a kid out in public fucking with other people, you dn't have some exclusive monopoly on interacting with it anymore


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:46 AM
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197: My gentle-tempered sister used to holler only when she fell down. If she wasn't injured, just annoyed at gravity, my dad used to ask her "did you put a hole in the floor?"


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:46 AM
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who are going to leave you in twenty years anyway after they smash up your cars.

Hmm... better hedge your bets here, I say. It could easily be your spouse who does this and your kids who look after you in old age, you know.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:47 AM
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I either turn whatever it is into a game between us--"PK! What a horrible loud noise you're making!"--which flips his switch from pissy to laughing, or else I get his attention (which might mean literally holding his face and telling him to look at me with his eyes) and say, very seriously, that I do not like what he is doing and I want him to stop it.

Do you recognize that what works on PK might not work on any other children that you might have?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:47 AM
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195: I have been -- on 3 separate flights no less -- put in charge of young children by the airline. It's sort of weird. On the one hand, I'm annoyed because I'm clearly being chosen (chosen="We have an unaccompanied child on this flight, would you mind sitting next to him/her?") because I track with "babysitter" (young, reasonably well-groomed, affable seeming woman). On the other, eh, I don't mind.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:47 AM
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176:

May be regarded as presumption, or creepy, or both.

The last time I encountered this, a cute little boy fussing on an airplane, on the verge of a tantrum, I offered him a Tic-Tac. Quietly extended my hand, tic-tac in palm, gazed into his eyes with an eye-smile, said after a moment, "Tic-Tac?"

He was unnerved, stared, shook his head solemnly, glanced left and right, and finally giggled.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:48 AM
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209:

I'd pick a kid over an adult any day of the week.

(HELLO!?!?!?!? DS games, etc!)


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:49 AM
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When I see a kid misbehaving in public, I walk right over and show them my genitals. Shocks them straight into silence. But I tell you what, I've discovered that most other parents are a bunch of fucking ingrates.

Also, I can only shop online now.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:50 AM
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ok, Brock Landers seems not a complete #$%%^^
but rather a concerned spouse and parent

Why can't I be both?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:50 AM
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Thank you Heebie. But, I do not do anything different from 85 percent of other parents who are in the same situation.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:50 AM
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DS games, etc!

My sort of games should only be played with adults. At least that's what the courts say.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:51 AM
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212:

made me laugh out loud.

I should go work.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:51 AM
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211: Also, extra snacks. (Really!)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:51 AM
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On the men-interacting-with-strange-kids front, people can get really pissed off, even if, as 205 says, they're out wandering around in public. My ex was often berated for talking to the kids his kids played with on the playground. Admittedly, he's a pretty scary-looking guy, but he was very nice to kids in public.

If we were all out together, people would come up to me, always, to ask about the kids, never him, even though they were clearly his and not mine. Even after I explained that they weren't mine, they'd compliment me for helping to raise such great kids. I was totally annoyed by this. Dads often get way too much credit for doing basic parenting stuff, but the assumption is that any woman who is near them must be the main contributor to their personality.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:52 AM
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146: re 132: I once used the hard and irresistible command voice across the luggage carousel area of Burbank airport to get a kid to stop kicking all suitcases as they went around.

It shocked the hell out of everyone except the kid's father, who continued to chat on his fuckin' cellphone. The line is movable, and needs to be moved back some.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:52 AM
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Hmm... better hedge your bets here, I say. It could easily be your spouse who does this and your kids who look after you in old age, you know.

Dilemma (genuinely). But, in the west at least, if you raise your kids right, they are supposed to leave home and cleave to their new families. The intent and vow of marriage is to last.

I absolutely know that things work out a million ways in between, but if you are squaring yourself to our cultural norms, you go with the partner.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:53 AM
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thinking of it as trying to help the parent, rather than correcting them or their child, might help

Bingo.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:55 AM
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we'd be sent to our rooms for a "time out" and then when we came back we'd have to say (1) what it was that we did wrong, (2) why it was wrong, and (3) our plan for behaving differently next time.

(3) is a fantastic strategy.

But, I do not do anything different from 85 percent of other parents who are in the same situation.

I believe it - people are amazing at rising to meet a challenge. Nevertheless, hey, way to be great.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:55 AM
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184: I was kidding.

will, I had my 'kidding' radar on, and it was beeping, but I couldn't help myself.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:57 AM
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if you are squaring yourself to our cultural norms, you go with the partner

Yeah, but any culture that has old-folks' homes is horribly fucked up. (Sorry, gringos.) No sense squaring to it. And you take a marriage vow because no sane person would put up with someone else for all time; kids are the ones who are really forever.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:57 AM
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any woman who is near them

When I was between marriages and dating the crazy blonde, she and Keegan (then ~4 yo) and I went out at a restaurant and when I was up from the table, the guy at the next table leaned over to her and said, "You don't look nearly old enough to have a kid that age." (she did actually look very young)
"Thanks, but I'm 29."
"Oh, well, that's a good-looking son you have there."
"Who, him? That's not my kid."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:57 AM
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I once used the hard and irresistible command voice across the luggage carousel area of Burbank airport to get a kid to stop kicking all suitcases as they went around.

Good man, you people do a public service.

I'm with Brock, DS and someone else whose name evades me when it comes to talking to other people's kids. I've done it on occasion, when a kid is being pretty annoying, but parents don't tend to like it that much (or don't even notice) while other folks seem aghast that you've even dared to talk to a kid.

Also, single guys seems to be mistrusted with kids to a very annoying extent. My talking to little kids seems to be much better recieved if I have a female friend or girlfriend with me at the time than if I'm out on my own.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:59 AM
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208: Of course I do. You asked what I do with PK, and I answered. I'm not saying this works universally.

And I do recognize that one can, of course, talk to a kid about "do you know why I'm mad? Do you think maybe there are things you can do besides hitting?" that aren't a shaming power-trip. Also I recognize that I'm being a bitch to Becks, which I shouldn't be and I apologize. All I meant is that, to me, requiring a kid to recite some kind of self-criticism is manipulative and, for the kid I personally know, far more likely to get him to resent the dominance game than to actually get him to change his behavior.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:01 PM
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I tried to explain that I was just carrying that little kid away for time out because he was misbehaving, but nobody believed me.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:02 PM
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224 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:03 PM
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227: My vague impression from reading about PK is that he'd respond pretty well to the strategy if you just asked him the questions after he cooled down rather than send him off to write the answers out.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:03 PM
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kids are the ones who are really forever.

Why? They didn't choose you. And their repayment for your years of bringing them up is the years they spend bringing up the next generation, not years of doting on the people they once saw as all-powerful as they physically fall apart. And if you're not physically falling apart, why would you want to live with your kids or in an old-folks home anyway?

Of the older generations in my family, only my maternal grandparents and my great-grandfather went to "retirement communities", but for all of them it seemed to provide a far better social life than they would have experienced isolated in the kid-centered suburban lives of their kids.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:05 PM
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Ogged's 224 is the truth, every part of it.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:05 PM
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One's views on 224 vs 231 is *so* much dependent on one's experiences with one's parents that there's no point in continuing without acknowledging such.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:09 PM
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Yeah, but any culture that has old-folks' homes is horribly fucked up.

Clearly posted by someone who's never been involved in a hard case of elder care.


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:09 PM
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234: I'm helping take care of my aunt, who has MS, cannot walk, is incontinent and yes, lives in a nursing home. I still agree with Ogged. Yes, there are situations where people need more care than a family can provide; ideally, one would be able to have nurses come in and help you at home, and sure, sometimes those people will need to be in institutions. Nonetheless, as a general rule, Ogged is 100% correct.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:12 PM
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Clearly posted by someone who's never been involved in a hard case of elder care.

Fair enough, but the phenomenon of old-folks' homes has causes besides hard cases, and I'd say that a culture that boxes up the elderly in institutions away from their families is...troubled.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:13 PM
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The flip side is that we're also a culture that has bumper stickers that say things like "I'm spending my children's inheritance!" Which is also fucked up.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:15 PM
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Look, it is really American and go-west-young-man and all that to think that you do right by your parents by striking out and then taking selfless care of your kids. Wealth and time flow down the generations here and that can be miserable at the end of life. (In that case, you hope you have a good partner.)

It is super extended-family culture to think that the obligations flow up the generations, from child to adult. In that system, family may well be a higher priority than spouse. (Cause that is where your duty will be now, and future support will come from.)

Lots of arguments for either, and it will all be mushy in real life anyway. In that case, pick your preference and that will decide how you want to handle marital conflict over parenting.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:16 PM
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236
ditto


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:17 PM
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238: A lot of that problem could be solved if they'd let people marry their kids.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:18 PM
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any culture that has old-folks' homes is horribly fucked up. (Sorry, gringos.) No sense squaring to it. And you take a marriage vow because no sane person would put up with someone else for all time; kids are the ones who are really forever.

This is true, sad, but only partial. I've heard some truly remarkable things written by a friend about his daughter, that he cannot say how much he loves her, she comes first, always, all bets are off. I understand.

The sadness of old-folks' homes isn't just about divisions between parents and children, though: it's about wider connections, extended family in not just the biological but also the, for lack of a better term, spiritual sense. True family. Something we don't really recognize in our culture. In other words, it's not the case, or shouldn't be, that only a madman would put up with someone else for all time. You might just call this friendship.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:19 PM
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I'd say that a culture that boxes up the elderly in institutions away from their families is...troubled.

You mean a culture that encourages people to live in smaller communities based on townhomes, apartments, and walkable neighborhoods instead of busy urban and suburban areas where distances preclude leaving the house (especially after driving becomes difficult); to live in a community where you're likely to form new friendships instead of being stuck around kids who have full-time jobs and grandkids who are from a completely different time and culture; to perhaps live somewhere with a more agreeable climate and cost of living than wherever your kids found their best jobs/lives during their prime working years?

Yeah. It's pretty fucked up, isn't it?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:19 PM
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The flip side

Not really the flip side; the same thing, in fact: the belief that each individual is responsible primarily for himself, and that autonomy is the highest personal good.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:19 PM
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"Toddler training wheels" is turning up nothing but tricycles on google, folks.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:20 PM
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Keep in mind, I watched my Asian-Am friends take jobs in middle school and high school so they could support their fathers' gambling habits. It'll be nice when they can extort their children, but for them, a system of "young take care of the old" just put the burden early in life.

"Old take care of the young" means a sweet selfish childhood and being boxed away at the end.

For flawed and selfish versions of those systems, you are simply choosing which years you want to suck.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:22 PM
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244: You forgot to include "grafts".


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:22 PM
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243: Yeah, I know. I meant something like "the other side of the coin" or some such. And yes, it's heinous.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:23 PM
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Yeah. It's pretty fucked up, isn't it?

If you take all the priors you enumerate: the alienation of kids from grandparents, long work hours, etc., then you can see how elder communities make sense; but it's precisely what they presuppose that makes them a sign of a fucked up culture. Seriously, I'm not saying that any individual who has a parent in one of these communities is a bad person, but that a society that needs communities like that isn't meeting some basic human needs in a satisfactory way.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:23 PM
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235, 236, 242: Yay, assistance for people who need it; boo, warehousing people who are inconvenient; yay, being healthy and active enough in your older years to choose where and how you live. Three separate situations, really. Comity!


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:24 PM
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231: It's up to the kids and parents, no? My mother took care of my grandmother until she (grandmother) died at 100. She was out of it for about the last 10 years or so.

OTOH, I've tried my damnedest to get across to my kids that a cheap inflatable raft from Kmart and a couple of gallons of gas will do for a Viking funeral and won't seriously harm Santa Monica bay.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:24 PM
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Of course, in America we're all healthy 20-30 year olds without any family obligations of any kind that aren't our own "choice," and the libertarian ideal completely makes sense.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:25 PM
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healthy 20-30 year olds without any family obligations of any kind that aren't our own "choice,"

Hey, I resemble that remark


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:29 PM
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245: And similarly, I've seen my friends who have grandparents living with them. The grandparents have typically seemed pretty miserable. I mean, sure, it can be nice when the grandparents are on the younger side and can watch the super-young grandkids, but that only requires the family living near each other.

Once the grandkids are in middle school/high school and want nothing to do with the grandparents, and the parents are in their hard-working 40s or 50s, and the grandkids have constant activities and the such taking up the rest of their time... The grandparents are just left kicking around a big house with nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one they know anywhere nearby. The older generations of my family, who stayed in their old homes and stayed around their old friends, or who moved to an old-folks home where they kept their own condo and made new friends, they've seemed much happier overall.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:29 PM
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My mother is much happier now that she has moved into an condo complex full of other retirees (not exactly an "old-folks home", but not far off) than she ever was living in her house in the suburbs by herself where I never visited her.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:32 PM
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any culture that has old-folks' homes is horribly fucked up. (Sorry, gringos.)

There are old folks' homes in Latin America, and they look a lot grimmer than the one I used to volunteer in in the US.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:36 PM
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254 is non-responsive to ogged's claim. X is the best option in a (per ogged) poorly structured society doesn't tell you that society should be structured so that x is available.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:38 PM
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any culture that has old-folks' homes is horribly fucked up. long-lived.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:39 PM
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254: Thanks, Brock. That's exactly what I'm talking about.

a society that needs communities like that isn't meeting some basic human needs in a satisfactory way.

Why? Most societies that work will have parents who work 40 hours a week. Kids go to school for comparable periods, or have homework. Then there's social lives for each of those family members. What are the grandparents supposed to do? Just wait patiently until the lives of their relatives have a break? Wouldn't it be better if they had their own friends in the immediate neighborhood?

That leads to a choice: either no one ever moves, so they can grow old in a single neighborhood and keep all their old friends nearby (what the sort of traditional culture you're talking about does), or, once people move, they can move again to somewhere they're likely to run into other like-minded and like-aged folks (i.e. a retirement community). Is it really so hard to imagine that this could be a happy solution for all generations?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:39 PM
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252: Yes, but you don't pretend that anyone who isn't you simply isn't working hard enough.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:41 PM
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My parents did the essay punishment thing, and I hated it much more than I hated being spanked. Mainly because I often genuinely thought that I was in the right, and found explaining why I was wrong to be dishonest.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:42 PM
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any culture that has old-folks' homes is horribly fucked up. encourages women working outside the home.

any culture that has old-folks' homes is horribly fucked up. the product of a non-agricultural economy.

any culture that has old-folks' homes is horribly fucked up. realizes the value of ready access to medical care.

&c. &c. Of course there are bad and depressing places for the elderly to be, but it's hardly all or even most of them, and anyhow, should childless people really have to suffer alone and friendless as they age? Sux 2 b u, gay geezer! Shoulda adopted.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:45 PM
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P-M P, under good conditions (health, activity, wealth) individualism and extended-family cultures can both work fine and have (different) attractive benefits.

Under bad conditions, (bad health, strained resources, alienation, overwork) the two systems will have strongly different bad outcomes. Ogged, good son that he is, is very alert to the bad outcome of poor elder care in individualistic societies. There are lots of other bad outcomes as well. There are bad outcomes in extended-family cultures too.

This is gonna come down to personal preferences, which will likely align with whichever system you were brought up in. But showing how it can go right in good conditions won't convince people who are worried about bad conditions.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:48 PM
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Sifu gets it.

What's fucked up is not a breakdown of the traditional (extended) family, but a failure of alternative support networks -- not necessarily government-sponsored, merely spontaneous -- to supplent it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:51 PM
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it's hardly all or even most of them
Do you want to end up in an old folks' home? I've visited even some very nice ones, and they're institutional as hell. Forget it. We're not talking "retirement communities" (which such for different reasons, like forbidding children).

should childless people really have to suffer alone and friendless as they age?

See, if we didn't believe so adamantly in individualism, we wouldn't think that people without children will have no family ties. Hello, siblings? Hello, nieces and nephews?

That said, yes, even in a society that actually valued the elderly, there would be old people who would be isolated and lonely. But our presumption that once you become sick or incapacitated you're no longer a prt of society is fucked up.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:53 PM
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Tweety would move into a home right now if it would let him keep his DJ equipment.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:55 PM
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When I was little, my mom took my brother and I to nursing homes to hug old people. It was a way to spend a day. Nowadays, I understand they use puppies and kitties for this purpose.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 12:55 PM
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My mom used to work at a convalescent home when I was a kid. She would make me and my sister volunteer there after school. We would make up stupid baton and dance routines and perform them, to much acclaim.

We also had to go around and talk to everyone, give them hugs. The grateful affection that they would lavish upon us -- two reluctant, sulky, bratty strangers -- was pretty awful. God, what a depresing place.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:00 PM
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261: A little misleading to say that old folks' homes are some kind of essential package with women in the workforce & c., isn't it? "Ready access to medical care" catches my eye, particularly -- where the elderly lack this, why isn't that a sign of a broken health-care system instead of the need for old age homes?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:01 PM
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See, if we didn't believe so adamantly in individualism, we wouldn't think that people without children will have no family ties. Hello, siblings? Hello, nieces and nephews?

That still leaves us only children screwed.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:01 PM
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But showing how it can go right in good conditions won't convince people who are worried about bad conditions.

That's true, and I definitely admit that my adamance on this issue has to deal with upbringing.

In bad conditions for the elderly, such as decrepitude or chronic illness, I'm not really sure how living with the family instead of a place with full-time nurses and medical really helps. In fact, for my family, the sheer shame and anxiety of being in such a state and being such a burden on family would make things even worse. Plus, you're still isolated from anyone your own age with shared cultural touchstones!

My family is hard-core on the independence and autonomy standpoints. We'd pretty much rather die than face decrepitude or unresolvable chronic illness.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:02 PM
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269: I did say that of course there are always going to be isolated people. That said, have you no cousins? No friends whose children might actually like you?

You see my point. We segregate kids and old people--and really, anyone who isn't a Fully Functioning Working Adult--from society at large. It shouldn't be surprising that we then have arguments about whether "healthy people" should pay for the needs of the sick/old/children, etc., because having defined Society as the province of Unencumbered Healthy Full-Time Workers, we've all internalized the idea that that temporary condition of most people's lives is permanent, and that the sick/old/children are aberrant problems to be solved, rather than part of the world we live in.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:05 PM
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269: indeed.

268: a little inexact, maybe, but in the industrialized society where the elderly generally live in the home (whichever one that might be) I'd wager it's not the dutiful sons staying home with the elderly parents.

264: the one my grandfather was in was quite nice. Individual little apartments, grounds, so on. Nursing homes are often gnarly, but there's a whole continuum of elderly housing that isn't nursing homes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:05 PM
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A lot of these problems with old people might be solved if people lived in dense urban environments rather than suburbs. You get around the problem of the (toxic) child-orientation of suburban communities, for instance. Old people can go to some kind of coffee shop or bar or something that caters to them -- play backgammon, whatever.

My neighborhood has a lot of old Eastern European and German people, and they seem to do fine, even in the (apparent) absense of their children.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:07 PM
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You see my point.

Incorrect.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:07 PM
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We'd pretty much rather die

Right. Death before decrepitude. Really.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:08 PM
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270: In bad conditions for the elderly, such as decrepitude or chronic illness, I'm not really sure how living with the family instead of a place with full-time nurses and medical really helps.

Simple really, being humiliated impersonally by uncaring strangers is worse for a lot of people that being humiliated in the presence of family. Decrepitude and chronic illness are going to suck any way you slice it, but except in extreme cases full-time nurses and medical aren't a substitute for family that actually gives a shit about you in a way even the nicest of nurses can't.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:09 PM
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Okay, well, everything's fine and nursing homes are great and I look forward to living in one myself.

Comity?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:09 PM
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PK: "Comity!"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:10 PM
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272: I'd wager it's not the dutiful sons staying home with the elderly parents.

You'd wager? How much?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:10 PM
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Death before decrepitude.

Sincerely, don't you guys think that this (very common) attitude is a sign of something being wrong with our society? And a causal factor in the social lack of compassion for people in dependent positions?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:11 PM
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We segregate kids and old people--and really, anyone who isn't a Fully Functioning Working Adult--from society at large.

Whaddya mean? Kids have school. Older, retired people have the communities they live in, whether they're retirement communities or just normal neighborhoods. Just because people aren't going out of their way to befriend the elderly and the enjuvenated doesn't mean society doesn't care about them. It's just assumed that people tend to stick to their own age range, for a number of reasons ranging from common interests and cultural melieus to having more similar ideas of how to do things. I don't have many 60 or 6 year old friends, but I don't have any 40 year old friends either.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:11 PM
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253: "supplent" s/b "supplant"

The culture of youth contributes to an alienation from the old; the dying out of a barter economy contributes to a distortion of time (time equals money, you get what you pay for -- but actually, no, insidiously false); the rush to satisfaction by the time you're 35 means life is shorter rather than longer.

I really hate stating the obvious.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:11 PM
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278: Actually, so far PK has made it very clear that he wants me to live with or near him when he has kids so that I can help out with them. I hope very much that he doesn't change his mind on this.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:12 PM
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I don't have any 40 year old friends either.

Huh. I don't know how old you are, but I've always had friends that were my parents' ages.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:13 PM
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279: if I win, B lives with you when she's elderly. If you win, you get to pick the nursing home.

Sincerely, don't you guys think that this (very common) attitude is a sign of something being wrong with our society?

Like that people live a really long time?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:13 PM
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For the record, my grandmother lives in the "independent living" portion of a fantastic retirement home with stages of assistance, depending on whether one needs Depends.

They have a large auditorium, and many of the musical/theatre groups that come to the local state university use the auditorium as a rehearsal space, which the retirees are invited to attend.

There's a great workout facility, and classes offered. Grandma has made a bunch of friends, and they live in the same building instead of scattered around town.

It's possible to have a great retirement home. We joke that Grandma is at summer camp.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:13 PM
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A lot of these problems with old people might be solved if people lived in dense urban environments rather than suburbs.

Really? Having grandparents living with their children and grandchildren sounds much less appealing in a dense urban environment.

The problem is that we've tied urban social organization—each individual couple living by themselves—with a suburban environment. The suburbs would work just fine, if multiple-family homes were popular.

(I'm thinking, here, of the article in the Times magazine once about Hispanics moving into a small town in Indiana. The resident whites were angry at the Hispanic families for, of all things, putting more than four people in their homes.)


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:14 PM
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So here's a thought that's actually sort of an unclear question:

My parents have told me that I am to put them in an old folks' home when they need full-time care, but I don't think they mean it. They're in their early sixties and my mother is in declining health. Their financial situation is so-so--my mother took an unexpected early retirement for health reasons and she was always the big earner; they have absolutely crap health insurance and there's no guarantee that they'll have even that in about a year. If neither gets seriously ill before they're sixty-five, they'll have enough to retire on; a serious illness would almost certainly wipe all that out. (I try not to think about this because it scares the hell out of me.)

So when they need care, do I actually do what they say, or do I persuade them to come live with me and take care of them plus pay for nurses while I work? I feel like I should care for them myself, but I also know that this will be sheer, unadulterated hell. We're not a close family, at all, and--for a variety of reasons--touching them or being touched by them really freaks me out. It would almost certainly mean moving to a part of town and kind of apartment that I wouldn't like and couldn't easily afford.

So what do you think? Do I do the selfish thing and listen to what they say, or do the unpleasant thing and listen to what they mean?


Posted by: Indira Gandhi | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:14 PM
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273: This is true, for mostly-healthy, functioning older people, at least. My grandmother is 85 and lives in her own apartment, in downtown L.A. She never really got the knack of speaking English, so it's much better for her to live where she does than out in the 'burbs with my parents. She tried the latter for a while and it bored her to death.

Where she's at, she's got public transit, home care workers who speak her language, and lots of stuff to do and people to talk to. Eventually, as she gets older, she'll probably have to come home to live with my parents in dreaded whitetown, but so far it's worked out pretty well for everyone.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:15 PM
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DS and B are right, FFS. The "old-folks' homes" comment was obviously about the system of institutionalized care of the elderly, which is horrifying however many individual counterexamples you care to cite.

the problem of the (toxic) child-orientation of suburban communities

The design of suburban communities is ultimately as toxic to children as it is to everyone else.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:16 PM
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280: It's a sign that society and technology can prolong decrepitude for far too long. It's true that people are staying physically younger longer but they're also staying in nursing homes/rehab units/ICUs at the end much longer too.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:17 PM
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I don't know how old you are, but I've always had friends that were my parents' ages.

I'm 22 and my parents are just passing 50. I get along with their friends, and some are a lot of fun at dinners, etc., but they're not the first people I call when I'm headed out for a night on the town.


so far PK has made it very clear that he wants me to live with or near him when he has kids so that I can help out with them.

It's definitely not a bad thing. My parents live very close to me right now, and we watch each other's places if the other is out of town. But living near one another and having separate lives is totally different than living with one another. More importantly, my parents live in the same area they've worked and lived in for the past couple decades, so they're near their friends.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:19 PM
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290: which is horrifying however many individual counterexamples you care to cite

Nonsense. It can be many things, from horrifying to perfect, depending on the situation.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:20 PM
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This is true, for mostly-healthy, functioning older people, at least. My grandmother is 85 and lives in her own apartment, in downtown L.A. She never really got the knack of speaking English, so it's much better for her to live where she does than out in the 'burbs with my parents. She tried the latter for a while and it bored her to death.

Meanwhile my fiancee's grandmother lives in the house she's lived in for about 50 years, in a dense part of Queens. Since she doesn't speak Spanish she doesn't talk to anyone who's moved into the neighborhood in the last twenty years, which is virtually everyone who lives there now (most are renters). It seems like she wouldn't be able to move into a more fitting urban place...although why not? Her house is worth a whole lot more than it was when they paid for it way back then.

One of the risks of homeownership.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:22 PM
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I'll add to Sybil's wise observation that, in general, you need to defer to the parent with stronger convictions, and especially to the parent with more contact with the child, if there is one. Before I had my kids, I had the benefit of watching the wildly different child-rearing practices of my siblings, who altogether parented 13 kids. I also saw friends with their kids.
What I learned is that as long as you give kids a loving, stable environment, and communicate with them reasonably well, they turn out ok. Or they don't, but it's not because of anything you did.

politicalfootball nails this in 2. If you aren't the parent with the most contact with the kid you should just defer to the other parent because it really doesn't make much difference anyway. Philip Larkin is talking out of his ass.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:23 PM
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Indira, if these were my circumstances, I would not invite them to live with me. I would hope against hope that they stay healthy for the next year, and maybe there are solutions that allow them to stay in their own house as long as possible.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:23 PM
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but I don't have any 40 year old friends either.

Thanks Po-Mo. Thanks.

For the record, I am an excellent host who always has a bunch of adult-sized pull-ups for any overnight guests.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:27 PM
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As to what is better, I've seen so many variations that have worked or have been sad that it's hard to say. My extended family all lives in the Pittsburgh area, and the grandparents all have lived in their own home until they died or they're still living in those homes. There are some honestly nice retirement communities that are sort of like nice little apartments with medical staff in addition to a building super.

And then there were the older people in their homes that I used to deliver medication to when I was a sixteen-year-old clerk at the local pharmacy, where the pharmacist would tell me to take my time because Mrs. So-and-So had no one to talk to and I should have some tea with her.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:28 PM
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Death before decrepitude.
Sincerely, don't you guys think that this (very common) attitude is a sign of something being wrong with our society?

It's funny-- my dad has gone through caring for his mom as she lost her mind. She was evil before, but became actually demonaic, though she never quite managed to levitate and induce tumors in passers-by. He's now caring for his father, whose decline is more gentle. I hope that I'll be able to do the same for him, and plan to spare my kid the rollercoaster by either taking up mountain climbing or revisiting drunken motorcycling at maybe 70, but certainly at the first sign of Alzheimers.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:28 PM
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Indira, I know it's easy for me to say, but I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about it, because so much is unforeseeable and out of your control. I *would* try to get a clear handle on what benefits they have and are eligible for -- can they afford long-term care insurance, for example? Probably not, but worth checking into.

There are a lot of things that can happen in the last third of life. Years of relative health and happiness, sudden death, sudden incapacitation followed by long years of nursing care, slow decline...IME it's pretty hard to predict who is going to fall into which category.

This thread is making sense regarding the way our society is (not) set up to accommodate family care for people with disabilities/elderly people. However, I agree with Magpie in 234 and 249. Until you've been there, it's hard to imagine both how comforting and loving it can be to care for someone you love at home, and how absolutely exhausting, expensive, and literally logistically impossible it can be.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:29 PM
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290: I agree that it's bad for children in fact, though "officially" designed in order to help children.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:29 PM
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285: Women are likelier to care for their parents than men, so you win and I won't whip out a list of men I know who fit this profile. However, since this means that family care is in fact perfectly compatible with women being in the workforce, I think we can it a draw and just agree to send B over to ogged's doorstep when the time comes.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:33 PM
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Indira, if your parents can get better insurance now, it would be worth it. It's a lot easier to switch coverage when you're covered than when you're over 60 and lack any kind of coverage.

Beyond that, it's hard to say. Would there be a need to move them from where they live now, or could they manage there with the assistance of a nurse?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:35 PM
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This thread is making sense regarding the way our society is (not) set up to accommodate family care for people with disabilities/elderly people. However, I agree with Magpie in 234 and 249. Until you've been there, it's hard to imagine both how comforting and loving it can be to care for someone you love at home, and how absolutely exhausting, expensive, and literally logistically impossible it can be.

This topic scares the crap out of me. I want my daughter cared for. Dying before her would be my worst nightmare. It is also really difficult to try to push my son away from the idea that he will care for her when he gets older. He and I both know that he will have a huge role in her life for the rest of her life, but I want to protect him from that as much as possible.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:35 PM
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I suppose it's too late to bring up Alice Miller, if I haven't been pwned already.

And one more waterboarder is raised to carry on, I spose.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:38 PM
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300:

Until you've been there, it's hard to imagine both how comforting and loving it can be to care for someone you love at home, and how absolutely exhausting, expensive, and literally logistically impossible it can be.

This sounds like child-raising, doesn't it? We -- individually and societally -- are prepared to do it at the early stage of life, not so much at the end. A deficit, indeed.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:40 PM
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It can be many things, from horrifying to perfect, depending on the situation.

This is why I mentioned counterexamples. Some situations work very well. The system overall is horrible, by allowing an abundance of gruesome institutions, by providing the incentive for many operators to pass off substandard facilities as luxury accommodations, and by normalizing the abandonment of the elderly, all in the name of profit.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:43 PM
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303: My mother is pretty much uninsurable due to health problems; my father's health is fairly good and he could probably get some (expensive, mediocre) coverage. Part of the problem is that they live in a different state and I'm not too familiar with what state programs are available there--here in redacted-land, for example, we have an expensive-but-tolerable-but-very-secret state insurance program for people who have been rejected for private coverage, but I only know about it because I know some social workers. I don't know anything about where my parents live, and they're very resistant to getting a social worker or other outside help. (For example, there's a wonderful, easy to use service which provides books-on-tape for the vision impaired. Will they use it for my mother? No; it's much better to talk about how you can't buy good books on tape.) They would be perfectly happy to move in with me (and I can see from the puppy-dog eyes when we've talked about this that they're really hoping that I'll ask) because martyrdom is good for the soul and would improve my (deficient) character; for the same reason, they would rather martyr themselves than ask for (non-family) help.

I really need to talk to some kind of social worker in their state, I guess. How does one go about finding someone like that?


Posted by: Indira Gandhi | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:44 PM
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But what "system" do you mean? The system that allows the creation of retirement communities at all? The system of licensing that operates on a state level? The system of allowing people to charge for care?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:44 PM
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308: uninsurable due to health problems

The immoral insanity of the HMO system summed up perfectly in five words.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:47 PM
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It's not the "HMO system". It's the very concept of health insurance that needs to be eradicated.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:48 PM
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I haven't had time to read the thread, but it just seems like a good place to mention my mother's 83-year-old friend, who has just had to put her 104 year-old mother-in-law in a home because she can't care for her any more.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:48 PM
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311: "The HMO system" = "private health insurance" in my mind. As in, the kind that's more motivated to deny care the more it's needed because it might eat into profits.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:51 PM
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311: do you mean private health insurance or all health insurance? If you mean private, do you actually favor a system in which people aren't allowed to purchase their own insurance on top of a government policy? If you mean all, are you insane?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:53 PM
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314: I think he means we should kill all the doctors.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:54 PM
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280: I don't know, maybe not. Sometimes 285 and 291 are more applicable.

I almost posted this before but didn't because it wasn't relevant enough to be worth how depressing it seemed, but it seems pretty relevant now. When I was a kid -- maybe 10 or younger, definitely no older than 12 -- my dad told me more than once that when he could no longer take care of himself, he was going to take a bottle of whiskey or something up the hill on a cold winter night (we lived in a rural part of Vermont at the time) and just not come down. Like an Eskimo on an ice floe or something. My father's opinion was influenced by the fact that his own father was in the later stages of Alzheimer's at the time. My grandfather died at 72, when I was about 13 or so. He had been in a nursing home for at least five years before, wheelchair-bound and unable to recognize his children for most of that time.

Anecdote != data and every family is different and all that, but still. I think death would be considered better than some extreme types of decrepitude in any sane society.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:55 PM
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My dad would not be happy in a home, were it to come to that, but he'd be more miserable and humiliated were I forced to quit my career to care for him. My mom does not want to be in a home, ever. Debilitating illness sucks. We have no family history of anything requiring long-term care, but it's a little terrifying.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:57 PM
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I want my daughter cared for. Dying before her would be my worst nightmare.

Will, you probably know this far better than I do, but a number of community-based organization (the Arcs in particular) have done a lot of work in the last 10-15 years on the mechanics of this. How to set up estate plans, trusts, etc. It doesn't address the emotions, of course, but there is a big difference in knowing your child can continue to get both SSDI and inherit your estate (such as it may be), *and* perhaps even have the autonomy to pick their own care providers. The independent living wing of the disability movement is making progress, however uneven.

Bob, I don't know anyone younger than you who reads Alice Miller, although IMO they should.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 1:59 PM
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318: Amongst sensitive hippie types my age and younger, Alice Miller seems to be viewed as self-indulgent and/or discredited, like "ooh, you think you're so special with your little child dramas". At least I've only ever heard people mention her to make fun of her, and I specify that this is amongst the hippies.

I have not myself read any of her books.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:04 PM
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309: "Old-folks' homes," to my mind, aren't the same as retirement communities; the former are single institutions covering the housing and care of numerous clients, while the latter may be apartments, condos or houses in a community of otherwise independent owners or tenants. I'm all for the system of licensing and allowing people to charge for care, but not the widespread gaming of the system that disadvantages both clients and caregivers alike.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:05 PM
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308: Yikes, Indira, the combination of pride + unwillingness to come up with creative solutions can really put an adult child in a miserable position. Yes, I definitely think it would be helpful to talk to a social work professional.

Depending on the state your parents are in, one of the federal Area Agencies on Aging may be helpful. Some states have advice available through telephone counselors -- Washington state has a helpline of trained retirees who counsel other senior citizens about their health insurance options.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:05 PM
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320: well, sure, neither am I. Terrible nursing homes: boo! But I say again, there can be "old folks homes" qua "old folks homes" that are nice, and old folks that can appropriately find a place at them.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:11 PM
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The funny thing was that a whole load of people who were going to let a helpless little kid get repeatedly slapped, immediately sprung to the defence of me.

Oh, I can see where they were coming from. You see, I'm against violence in general, and against child abuse in particular, but I'm all in favor of beating up gypsies, so the latter principle obtains in this case.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:13 PM
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322: Comity. Basically, I just hate capitalism.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:14 PM
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319: Anyone who claims to have a monocausal explanation of society's ills should attract suspicion; Miller's obsession with putting child abuse at the root of all evils reminds me uncomfortably of Freud's obsession with repression, or Lacan's with alienation. I also tend to distrust contemporary society's sometimes voyeuristic preoccupation with child abuse, which has led to overdue recognition of problems in some cases but to destructive psychoanalytic fads in others. (Miller can't be held directly responsible for the fads esp. given her disenchantment with psychoanalysis, but in some ways her writing is perhaps symptomatic.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:14 PM
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324: well, sure. Fair enough. Commie-ty!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:15 PM
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Thanks Po-Mo. Thanks.

Aww Will, you're awesome. But, as B has pointed out here in the past, I'm ageist. Most importantly, my activities up to this point haven't exactly been the sort where you meet a lot of 40-year-olds. And the 40-somethings I do know have more important things occupying their time, like families and responsibility.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:16 PM
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321: Hey, thanks, Witt--that actually looks extremely helpful.


Posted by: Indira Gandhi | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:17 PM
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323: Also, it's well known that Roma are just unreasonable. Who wouldn't be delighted to have someone point and squawk at them as though trying to communicate with a macaque*? I can't see that pushing any buttons.

(* Meaning no disrespect to the noble and arithmetically-accomplished macaque, of course.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:17 PM
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Indira, here's a collection of links, one of which is Area Agencies on Aging by zip. I wish I had something helpful to suggest about the stubborness and reluctance to accept help. When I have something I want my mother to hear, I often try getting her friends to tell her also. Not sure if that'll help with the books-on-tape. Audiobooks are popular with lots of folks with a hellish commute; perhaps it would be possible arrange to have such a person sing the praises of listening?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:20 PM
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319, 324: Monocausal explanations are dumb, to be sure. I put Miller in the category of "usefully reframing a discussion" rather than "is clearly right in all of her preoccupations."

Also, I have the sense that she's been writing the same book over and over again, so maybe it was only useful the first time.

(328: Good, I'm glad.)


Posted by: Wittt | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:21 PM
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Also, it's well known that Roma are just unreasonable.

I was only half joking about 323. In an honest moment I have to acknowledge harboring racist sentiments about Sinti/Roma. And I have actually employed violence against them. One kid tried to pick my pocket in front of my office Paris, and I gave him a double handed shove to the ground, whereupon his brothers/cousins/buddies appeared out of nowhere and gave chase until I escaped inside.

Another time (also in Paris), a Roma kid started squeegying my windshield at an intersection. When I told him I didn't want it refused to give him any money, he grabbed my windshield wiper and tried to wrench it off. I mashed the gas pedal and popped the clutch, and the side view mirror knocked him to the ground. Fleur was aghast.

Not long after that, a group of Roma children tried to steal her purse in broad daylight. Since then, she has reluctantly signed on to my beating up gypsies policy.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:36 PM
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I was mostly kidding about Miller, she retains too much of the umm, aura of psychoanalysis. Traumatic events rather than traumatic conditions, for instance. No sympathetic listener can quite balance off the chains & lash.

But since I pretty firmly believe that authoritarian heirarchical family structures are the largest contributor to auth. heir. social structures, and that as long as there are little second-class citizens there will be adult second-class citizens, and when asked "Just how crazy are you about this kid-lib stuff" I answer:"The kid can express her preferences, those preferences need be respected by society over any conflicting preferences of her parents."

...kidding is bout all I will do in this thread. Carry on. Ignore the crazy person.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:46 PM
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332: It's not racist to fight off pickpockets or beggars, Knecht. (I have a more tolerant attitude toward panhandlers, but that's a personal thing and at any rate I don't have a car.) If you believed on those grounds that "Roma are dishonest and shifty" that would be racist, but that's different.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:47 PM
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I ask myself stupid questions like:

At what age does a child realize the parent is physically able to seriously hurt or even kill her, that is, the child? Very early, I think

At what age does the child realize that the parent does not have the moral or legal right to hurt or kill the child? Have we completely figured this out yet, as a society? In any case, for the child, it is at a much later age.

What are the emotional consequences of living under such uncertainty for a decade or so?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:55 PM
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Bob, I think that most kids assume from the start that their parents don't want to harm or hurt them.* My parents were strict disciplinarians and had a little touch of the crazies, but even I never thought they wanted to harm me.

*Assuming, of course, that they don't. I'm not considering abusive or unstable parents here.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:59 PM
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335: We told the kids we could retroactively abort them up to the age of eighteen. They had no uncertainty.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 2:59 PM
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So jms is a female?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:01 PM
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Are boys wont to suspect that their parents wish to harm them?


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:05 PM
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Boys arent as likely to have a baton routine.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:06 PM
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336:but even I never thought they wanted to harm me.

If woman-beating was street & home-legal, probably most men would not beat the women too badly. Women would, however, have a clear understanding of their societal position.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:08 PM
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I think most infants start from an attitude of trust toward their caretakers, and then learn about hate and harm as they learn about law and morals. Women don't start in that same attitude w/r/t men.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:10 PM
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Boys arent as likely to have a baton routine.

Oh I don't know. I like a boy with a nice baton...routine.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:13 PM
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bob, are you basing your child-parent relationship ideas on this movie?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:16 PM
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attitude of trust toward their caretakers

I think you are wrong, but I think they learn very early that their interests are in acting as if. The suspicious and hostile little brats will get prodded into line quickly enough.

They don't have much choice but to trust, do they?

There are enough societies around that oppress women that we should be able to guess at the dynamics. Kiss the whip, little one. It's named love.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:18 PM
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341: Also, child-beating is not street or home-legal. (Except if you recognize no difference between spanking and assault / abuse, of course, but that's stupid extremely debatable.)

If you're interested in the preconditions for authoritarian social structures, Altemeyer is interesting.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:18 PM
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Boys arent as likely to have a baton routine.

culturally specific - in Ulster, yes they are.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:19 PM
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Brock Landers, have you found the walkers?
the walkers


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:19 PM
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You're off-base on this one, bob. Little ones aren't good at fibbing yet, watching them learn to lie more and more convincingly and yet choosing not to is one of the nice parts of parenting.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:21 PM
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Kiss the whip, little one. It's named love.

You've just redeemed your existence, Bob. I'm also convinced that you're having sex with your dogs, but I'm ok with that.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:21 PM
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345: And that's an admirably non-disprovable thesis there, bob. Everyone who disagrees must be repressing the truth from themselves or outwardly lying to save their skins from the Tyrant.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:21 PM
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"But but but that's different. It just is."

I'll go away.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:21 PM
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I'll go away put words in your mouth and passive-aggressively declare victory

Dammit, that was just getting good!

Ah, well, I have to go anyway.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:23 PM
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Everyone who disagrees must be repressing the truth from themselves or outwardly lying to save their skins from the Tyrant.

This is what "false consciousness" means, right?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:25 PM
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Yeah. The thing is, sometimes people are lying to themselves or to appease the Tyrant. But blanket declarations that it must be so don't make it so.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:28 PM
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I don't think babies have a concept of trust but I think that's because babies are pretty dopey. Dopey with a lot of potential, maybe, but it seems like a lot of the time their brains are in stand-by mode.

But this Great Pumpkin/invisible gardener argument bob is running seems a little bit crazy.

In BC, it is not legal to spank your child. In Alberta, the neighboring province, it is. shivbunny muses that parents in BC keep their kids in line by threatening to drive to Alberta.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:41 PM
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shivbunny muses that parents in BC keep their kids in line by threatening to drive to Alberta.

International waters are much closer if you're in Vancouver.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:44 PM
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This is what "false consciousness" means, right?

What is this? You have the moral & legal right to command your ten-yr-old to go to bed. Because you own the house, pay the bills, are older, smarter, wiser, bigger, know what is best for her, have tradition & the law on your side. No false consciousness required.

Try "commanding" your thirty-yr-old wife to bed.

356: My point really isn't the extreme end of child abuse, but the constant superior position. In any case, what is important to me about child abuse in the dynamic I am describing is when the child understands it is immoral or illegal. I am not so certain the 5-yr-old understands the clear legal limits on corporal punishment, and exactly how far the parent may go. I am not sure the child feels protected.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 3:48 PM
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I will never understand why people who are bothered by "misbehaving" children don't engage the child rather than trying to correct the mother.

Presumptuous and creepy nails it. The often overlooked part of "Don't talk to strangers" is, "Strangers, stay the fuck away from don't talk to my kids. No, seriously, who the hell are you?"


Posted by: rapoli | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 4:01 PM
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Bob has a point; it simply isn't true that children start from trust and learn to fear later. Surely you guys know about the wire/electrified monkey experiments. Then you've got stranger anxiety, which often hits before they can speak.

The facts are that small children are very aware of their dependence, that they both fear parental anger (which they start to experience pretty damn early, you know) *and* trust their parents--even if their parents are terribly abusive assholes. Because kids *have* to trust their parents to survive. I think Miller's got a point that a lot of the ways that people think are basically post-hoc rationalizations; survival tools, if you will, that we came up with in order to negotiate our dependence/fear and that we hang onto because they're pretty deeply ingrained by the time we're adults.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 4:34 PM
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335

What are the emotional consequences of living under such uncertainty for a decade or so?

Bob is right to the extent that child-raising is socialization. That's about it.

(Haven't read Miller, no idea.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 5:43 PM
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329, 332: you might be surprised how many upstanding citizens, including Guardian website journalists and minor weblog celebrities, are part Romani, so you might want to watch what you say about them.

elsewise

For example, there's a wonderful, easy to use service which provides books-on-tape for the vision impaired

yes there's one of those over here. The one criticism that its users made of it was that it lacked a particularly good selection of pornographic literature, until a friend of mine lost a bet with me.

elsewise, Bob is right. Hitting children is just full fucking stop wrong. It's not trivial at all, any more that "real" domestic violence is "trivialised" because some men only hit their wives a little bit. It is, in my not very humble opinion, one of the wrongest things in the world, and the absolute total counterexample to relativism, in that it's something which nearly all cultures except our current one have been agreed upon, and they are all wrong.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 5:47 PM
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I'm not an advocate of hitting children, but I'm curious how the claim that it's always and everywhere wrong plays out. What were Aristotle's examples of things that were always and everywhere wrong? Rape, and something else I've forgotten. Anyway, what are the practical consequences for a society that doesn't hit kids, or for one that does? (I'm not saying that practical consequences are all that matter, I'm just curious.)


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 5:55 PM
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One that does ends up with a lot of spanking porn. Thanks, Victorian England!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 5:57 PM
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What were Aristotle's examples of things that were always and everywhere wrong? Rape, and something else I've forgotten

Dog fighting?

Just kidding, it was old folks homes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:01 PM
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Even Aristotle hadn't contemplated the horror of old folks' homes.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:07 PM
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hitting one's children has all of the wrongness of hitting one's wife, minus the elementary fairness of her being able to murder you as you sleep.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:08 PM
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Children can murder you in your sleep. What do you think the point of bedtimes is?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:11 PM
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Don't cop out on me now, dd, I'm genuinely curious and there are some obvious disanalogies, which I'm not going to enumerate, so as not to give you shiny and distracting targets. You first, in other words.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:13 PM
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Anyway, what are the practical consequences for a society that doesn't hit kids, or for one that does?

For the former, less support for violence as an appropriate solution to problems. For the latter, the terrorists win.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:13 PM
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so i'll continue to popularize our folk songs
and it's on topic
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMZ2Sx1f2-o


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:15 PM
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You know I bet if ogged hadn't been beaten as a child he would have shipped his poor mother off to some dingy elder warehouse by now so as to spend more of his time frolicking with lifeguards.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:15 PM
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369: no, I think this is just unbelievably cut and dried. The fact that children are small, largely helpless and don't fully understand what's going on can't be dressed up as a reason to hit them. The loophole in the law on assault ought to be closed. No bad consequences would ensue, because we already know that there are plenty of people (in the developed world, even a majority) who don't beat their children and it turns out OK. Seriously, anyone wanting to claim that children who aren't beaten turn out badly has got a hell of a lot more difficult task than the death penalty deterrence crowd.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:20 PM
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Read Vicki Hearne's "How to Say Fetch", from her Adam's Task, where the suggestion is that teaching (a child) is not unlike training (a dog, or a horse), and often requires what might be called just "correction" -- the success of which is dependent on a relationship not of trust, exactly, between trainer and trainee, but of ... entering into a joint project.

Here I am the master and you are the pupil; but I am also responsive to you, the pupil. You may not like the joint project I propose, but I will convince you it's worth pursuing together. And it's a sign of my respect for you that I pursue it with you, so that we can do things together later.

There is nothing unnatural about this. It's not advocacy of hitting children by any means, but it does argue against the notion that parental (teaching) relations can be anything but hierarchical.

I see Hearne's essay is available via Google books here. The entire book is outstanding.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:22 PM
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I suspect that the practical consequences would depend on the rest of the society's reaction to it, and I'm suspicious of a strong correlation between pacifism and being raised without corporal punishment as I am between hitting kids and "good discipline like we had back in my day..."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:22 PM
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373: I don't think anybody's suggesting the death penalty for very young children.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:25 PM
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The loophole in the law on assault ought to be closed.

A lot of other laws have loopholes in them under the theory that parent-child relationships are different from other relationships.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:27 PM
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I'm suspicious of a strong correlation between pacifism and being raised without corporal punishmen

You can be suspicious of that correlation but still believe that a child who grows up in a household where parents model other ways of expressing anger to people learn those ways.

They may not always be good ways, and they will be varied -- out-loud problem-solving, passive-aggressive insults, stalking off somewhere to cool down, kicking inanimate objects, forced essay-writing, sarcasm. And the child may not actually grow up to use those particular coping mechanisms him/herself.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:28 PM
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whatever the correlations with what goes on in the rest of society, simply not hitting the children is a benefit that ought not to be overlooked.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:30 PM
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I think most people who hit their kids would agree that it teaches them how to respond with violence. That's one of the points of doing it, I thought. Certainly, this is true of my parents.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:34 PM
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I've never come across anything remotely like a coherent rationale for corporal punishment. Everyone I've ever heard argue in favor of it neglects to mention that whatever discipline children are supposed to learn from it they could just as easily learn without it, because self-control and socialization are just part of growing up.

You can teach violence, or you can teach against violence.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:34 PM
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378: Sure, and I do believe that kids will learn from their parents' model; I'm just skeptical that "less support for violence is the answer" will be a noticeable result given the rest of society.

I don't know. I know that growing up, we were hit entirely too often, mostly out of fear and frustration, and so I won't hit my kids should I have any.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:36 PM
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Teach against violence with violence. Seems straightforward to me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:37 PM
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Tweety, I'm going to kick your fucking ass. For peace.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:39 PM
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That's the spirit! Beating the elderly is still okay, right?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:43 PM
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read, can you translate the song linked in 371?

And now, off to dinner on this longest night of the year.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:44 PM
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If we don't beat our children, how can we be expected to win teh war on terror?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:44 PM
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dsquared is correct.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:44 PM
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Beating the elderly is still okay, right?

As long as you give them an opening to murder you in your sleep!


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:45 PM
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Murder... with love!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:46 PM
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Violence is a part of marriage. In fact, the main part.


Posted by: Andrea Dworkin | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:48 PM
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I remember when the Menendez brothers stuff went down, my dad told us about it at dinner, and my brother and I quickly sneaked a simultaneous glance. Perhaps not surprisingly, that was really about the time that the corporal punishment came to an end in our household.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:49 PM
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Listen to the Dworkster!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:49 PM
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I am not so certain the 5-yr-old understands the clear legal limits on corporal punishment, and exactly how far the parent may go. I am not sure the child feels protected.

I explained to my kids that the law is that it must be done with an open hand, and it can't leave a bruise. They gleefully realized that a strategically placed karate chop will adhere to the law.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:50 PM
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Murder... with love!

I don't think there's any other kind of murder, Sifu. For that matter, I don't think there's any kind of love.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:52 PM
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I wouldn't personally do it (on "be smarter than the baby" principles"), but like DS I am loathe to equate a swat on the back of a kid's hand to keep him from pulling a pan of boiling soup on his face (after repeated warnings) with hitting your child in the head for not answering quickly enough, or hitting them with paint stirrers, or throwing them into the wall because they got in a fight with their friends.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:55 PM
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396: that's a straw man. If I were to hit an adult on the back of the hand to stop them from touching something dangerous, that wouldn't be called an assault. If on the other hand I were to hit an adult on the buttocks in order to cause them pain, to teach them to obey me in future, that would.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 6:57 PM
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392 made me laugh, though maybe I shouldn't have. And I agree entirely with dsquared.

374 - I could read only a bit of the article, the rest was blocked. But I feel uneasy comparing taking care of a child to training a dog or a horse, because dogs and horses as having been bred for thousands of years to desire to please. A kid that wants to please that much worries me, because there should be stronger drives than that at work, like curiosity or wanting to contribute, or their own drive to master a skill, and those are drives that are built in, unless something interferes with them.


Posted by: Penny | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:00 PM
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If on the other hand I were to hit an adult on the buttocks in order to cause them pain, to teach them to obey me in future, that would.

Unless they were consenting, of course. So the real problem is that children can't meaningfully consent to being hit.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:01 PM
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I am not at all sure that bringing sexual fetishism into the argument is going to help save the spankers from my lynch mob.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:03 PM
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The real question, dsquared, is why you would deny children the right to their sexual fetishes just because they happen to be underage.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:05 PM
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I'm with you. We should close this loophole in the pedophilia laws post-haste.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:06 PM
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397: It's not a strawman according to what you said earlier. You said all corporal punishment was on a continuum, and as wrong as, a beating.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:06 PM
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look man, once you've raised a mob with pitchforks and flaming torches, you kind of stop doing nuance.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:06 PM
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It's all nuance! Those aren't even pitchforks. I see a rake.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:09 PM
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403: yes it is. in the tiny minority of cases in which the only way to stop someone hurting themselves is to hit them, the law on assault (from which the "reasonable chastisement" exception is a loophole) recognises an exception, particularly given that tapping someone on the back of the hand is a trivial gesture which does not cause any real pain. If someone (for example, Marco Pierre White according to a lot of anecdotes from people who worked in his kitchen) was in the habit of always sadistically hitting people who went near his stove, even when it wasn't really necessary to do so, he'd quickly be recognised for what he was.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:10 PM
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Now that we are agreeably opposed to child abuse, we can start determining the mechanisms and institutions that will actually protect children, and help provide them with some agency. Sawed-off shotguns.

No. I seriously suggest a safe house/dormitory on every block, staffed by local parents + a teacher/social worker in rotating shifts...where a child of any age can gain temporary refuge no questions asked. Not enough chocolate? Not our business. No questions. No parental arguments with staff or rights to withdraw the child. Parents & child can negotiate behind glass windows, without supervision.

As soon as a child can possibly understand, she should be made aware the safe house is always an option.

This would avoid many of the problems of our current social services. No child wants daddy to go to jail.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:14 PM
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399: When my brother was a baby, he begged for it. Loved it up until age eight or something. I paid the price, though, because they then assumed every child loves getting hit.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:14 PM
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So if somebody's about to say something that'll get them punched in the face, it's okay to punch them in the face to prevent them from saying it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:14 PM
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Yeh. (this is not legal advice).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:15 PM
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407:"without supervision" s/b "without mediation or listening" or something

Of course, preventing a child access to the safe house would be a jailable offense.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:16 PM
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408: When my brother was a baby, he begged for it.

Don't they all.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:18 PM
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Penny at 398:

374 - I could read only a bit of the article, the rest was blocked.

That's odd, because I've just been rereading the entire thing, available. Perhaps you have to have a google account (free)?

But I feel uneasy comparing taking care of a child to training a dog or a horse, because dogs and horses as having been bred for thousands of years to desire to please. A kid that wants to please that much worries me, because there should be stronger drives than that at work, like curiosity or wanting to contribute, or their own drive to master a skill, and those are drives that are built in, unless something interferes with them.

The article addresses exactly this, which is what makes it excellent. The dignity and autonomy of the child (or dog or horse) is just what's at stake.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:34 PM
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The dignity and autonomy of the child (or dog or horse) is just what's at stake.

A problem cats neatly solve by being untrainable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:38 PM
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Huh. I'm with all the spanking opponents, although with less vehemence than dsquared. But there is not all that bright a line between spanking and non-physical forms of discipline, depending on the kid. Just this evening (did I mention I'm on vacation until New Years? Woohoo!) Newt tore up part of the instructions for an electronics kit of Sally's (new at last week's Christmas party. I bought it as educational, and it turned out to be an unexpectedly great toy. Newt was frustrated that she wouldn't go away and let him play with it by himself) just to be mean.

And I picked him up and moved him into another room where I spoke harshly to him for a while. If we're talking legalities, picking someone up and moving them is assault, if it's not your kid. And chewing them out like I did is really very unpleasant, or at least it was for me when I was a kid.

But for most kids (not all of them. Sounds like Apo's Keegan is one who doesn't need this sort of thing. But most.) you have to find some way of stopping them from doing things they very much want to keep doing, like destroying their big sister's stuff out of pique, or they'll be unbearable to live with. And it's worse for a kid to be disliked by the people they live with then to suffer some unpleasant disciplinary moments.

(I don't think anyone's arguing that kids don't need unpleasant consequences at all -- I'm not meaning to attribute that position to anyone. But from the kid's point of view, I don't think mild spanking is all that different an experience from being physically restrained and shouted at. While I still think even mild spanking is a bad idea, it's more for prudential reasons -- you need to draw a line somewhere, and it's a lot easier to draw it between spanking and not spanking, than it is to draw it between spanking and damaging abuse.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:46 PM
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LB's right, of course. When you hit a kid (and I have spanked PK, I'm sorry to say), you're mostly doing it out of terrible frustration and/or anger. Which yeah, kids can be frustrating, anger-inducing little shits. But that doesn't make it okay to hit them.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:50 PM
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Nobody has argued that you should hit kids, have they? Well, your kids should hit other people's kids, but that's a different story.

But I think I disagree with this:

from the kid's point of view, I don't think mild spanking is all that different an experience from being physically restrained and shouted at

Hitting seems to be a pretty instinctive angry reaction, and it's a good bet that kids do it that way and feel it that way. Restraining and shouting is more rational; it usually has a point, even if it's unpleasant.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:54 PM
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I am with my brother from another mother Ogged on this one - I've been physically restrained and shouted at by the Metropolitan Police in the last five years and although it wasn't nice and I do bear a grudge, I would bear them a qualitatively different grudge if the fuckers had actually hurt me.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:56 PM
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And on that note, I'm off. Look out elderly.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 7:58 PM
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When my parents spanked me it wasn't out of frustration or anger. It was much too ritualized to feel like hitting. There's no reason spanking can't be done calmly. I'd gladly trade one essay for a dozen spankings. That having been said, I find the consistent nonviolence argument appealing.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:01 PM
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Yeah, mostly what I wanted to react to was 'loophole in the assault laws'. Unless you have an unusually persuadable kid, there's an awful lot of necessary parenting that's involves either physical compulsion, or (much more often) the implicit or explicit threat thereof, something that's really not okay in normal relations between adults.

I've been physically restrained and shouted at by the Metropolitan Police in the last five years

I do lead such an unadventurous life.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:01 PM
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421: in all of these difficult cases, the Gordian solution is to get rid of the assumption that one has always done the right thing oneself.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:03 PM
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Consistency is violence.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:03 PM
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423: ooh, look who bought the Zen christmas crackers.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:04 PM
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Me 'n the Dworkster.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:05 PM
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IANAL, but isn't there a reason that assualt or battery in state criminal law are usually defined as unwanted touch?

It doesn't have to be painful, it doesn have to be violent, it just has to be unwanted laying-on of hands. That's another piece of what's going on here -- you're violating the integrity of somebody else's personal space, in a qualitatively different way (not wiping a nose, buttoning a coat, tying a shoelace or anything else a parent does for a child).


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:06 PM
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for Jesus McQueen
unfortunately i can't, it's very difficult to translate from mongolian into english, i know for example russian as good as my native language, but still can't translate from mongolian into russian too
otoh, from russian to english it seems not that hard, but i'm of course just being too bold :)
so the song is about a little camel calf who is waiting for his mother to come from pasture
and the video is like an analogy to the song, a little orphan boy with a granddad in the middle of nowhere
he is waiting for his mom and had mistaken the desert mirage fo her

what is all about this strange discussion
the whip and love for children - objectively incompatible
surely child abuse is wrong morally etc and that's it, haven't you all read Dostoevsky


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:07 PM
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what is all about this strange discussion / the whip and love for children

Lovely.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:09 PM
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You know how some parents will say, "This hurts me more than it does you"? For some of us, it's true - and I'm such a slacker as a parent that I refuse to hurt myself in this fashion.

The Missus, on the other hand, declines to spank because the only times she's inclined to are when she's really angry - and she wisely judges this as an inappropriate time to strike a child.

Neither of us started out being ideologically opposed to spanking, but I think I'm coming around to that view. My 5-year-old boy took a very circuitous route to learning how to hit people, and he still doesn't do it with any enthusiasm. I feel quite certain it would be different if he had been hit.

For instance, he threatens people with "punishment" in a loud voice, and has tried on many occasions to send me to my room.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:13 PM
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Look, humans ain't that complicated, especially the small ones. Watch Cesar. Humans are pack animals like dogs or horses, and will follow & please the Alpha with joy. Watch kids in groups without adults. We have lost or weakened the pack knowledge & skills somewhere.

If I have to say "bad dog" once a week I feel I have failed. 2 "no's" a week is a failure. I use massive communication & positive reinforcement and try to avoid any feelings of anger or frustration, let alone expressions of a & f. "This way" in a very calm voice is my most frequent command. These are the best behaved, calmest, most safely independent dogs in two counties. Watch Cesar walk the alley.

How does Obama get devoted followers? Believe you are in charge & in control to such an extent you don't even need to express it, and they will follow. Anger is beneath you. Assume authority. You are Alpha.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:22 PM
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It's worth saying that loads and loads of dog people think Cesar is a shithead, and there are regular allegations that he's hurt dogs. I have no opinion personally.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:25 PM
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Humans are pack animals like dogs or horses, and will follow & please the Alpha with joy. Watch kids in groups without adults. We have lost or weakened the pack knowledge & skills somewhere.

Bob, animals establish who gets to be Alpha with physical violence.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:34 PM
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Humans are pack animals like dogs or horses, and will follow & please the Alpha with joy. Watch kids in groups without adults.

You should see a bunch of little kids take down an elk. It's thrilling.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:38 PM
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How many five-year-olds does it take to take down an elk?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:48 PM
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Bob, animals establish who gets to be Alpha with physical violence.

Yes. But it is certainly more complicated than that, even within a wolfpack. Alpha takes off in a direction, he doesn't need to bite or threaten the pack to get it follow. He provides security.

Why did everyone follow Ghandi to the sea? Why follow MLK to Selma?

The best tools of group control are internal.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:49 PM
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Why did everyone follow Ghandi to the sea? Why follow MLK to Selma?

On the other hand, why did everyone follow Sherman to the sea?



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:51 PM
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Why follow MLK to Selma?

To see George Romney, obviously.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 8:51 PM
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Twice a boy has hit our five-year-old daughter in her kindergarten class. Her teacher's assistant told me a story about her own daughter being bullied, and how she counseled her to "kick him in shins." We have spent five years teaching her not to hit, and never hitting or spanking her. That this option was even presented to me as a solution for dealing with the abusive boy is beyond frustrating...on the other hand I am tempted to sign her up for Karate classes.

To give my response to Ogged's original question:
Parenting is an issue because it is so important. There are many points of contention in a marriage where one of the partners is willing to back off because they would just rather suck it up then start a major argument. For many people, child rearing is perhaps the only issue to which they would really challenge their partner, and even put their marital relationship in jeopardy by doing so. In being able to successfully navigate these disagreements in child rearing, a couple will also be able to get through other major differences of opinion more easily. There is a lot of good advice on this thread as to how to communicate about preferences and beliefs. Therapy is also very helpful if the therapist is good.

173: Ahhh, I remember the days.... The bliss, the romance, the intimate conversations, the sex. That is exactly how I felt about children before I had them. The problem is that the younger they are, the more they are dependent on you (as Bob has so skillfully pointed out). Their needs take precident over your spouses because your spouse is an adult and while the connection one has with ones partner is still very important, they can feed themselves and sit on toilet with out falling in. I think you are right on to feel the importance of honoring your relationship, but child-centrism happens.


Posted by: fleur | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:01 PM
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406: I'm going to disagree because it wasn't like self-defense (as the child reaches...), it's more like "the kid is not getting it through his head that the stove is dangerous" and the swat on the hand gets his attention. I think that gets swept up in your 'loophole in the assault laws' as generally it's not advisable to smack people for being stubborn and stupid.

426: Yup. Theoretically, at least.

417: I think I'd take a swat on the ass to "you lying sack of shit, any husband you ever have will leave you" or similar insults we can imagine any day. Hitting someone is probably more immediate but you're kidding yourself if you think shouting will only convey your rational anger. Either can be done to excess, it's just that the bar is so low for physical punishments that it's best to avoid them all together.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 9:15 PM
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144: Not all discipline is intended to be "punishment."

173: Disagree strongly. And a little put off that the discussion on this point has focused on who's going to take care of you when you get old -- so Machiavellian. Kids are a priority because they can't take care if themselves and to not grow up resentful and insecure, they need their parents to make them feel that they are a priority, not secondary. (Or, what fleur said in 438.)

297: I don't think that's what the Mineshaft concluded a good host is supposed to stock.

439c: Indeed.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-21-07 11:56 PM
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420's experience with spanking more or less matches mine. I was spanked very rarely, and always, so far as I can remember, by my mother in a very ritualized and usually non-angry way. I'm fairly certain that my mom was not abusive to me in doing this, and fairly certain that I was not traumatized. My mom, in describing the experience of spanking me when I was a young child, claims that my normal response was to start laughing.

At any rate, I don't think I'd be big on spanking my own children, if I had them, but I don't go much with the idea that it is inherently abusive. I would suggest that spanking can be borderline abusive, but it can also be relatively harmless, and that it depends on the context.


Posted by: John | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 1:20 AM
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362: you might be surprised how many upstanding citizens. . . are part Romani

Actually, I might not. If you can't scan the sarcasm in my comment, get a fucking clue.

It's not trivial at all, any more that "real" domestic violence is "trivialised" because some men only hit their wives a little bit.

And no. Sorry, but fuck off, full stop. A person who was swatted on the buttocks as a child does not get to claim they were beaten. You can try to shrug off the trivialization charge, but I'm quite serious about it, as are (I have reason to strongly suspect) many victims of actual, serious abuse.

I'm not wildly in favour of spanking by any means, but at a certain point the wild flailing gets actually offensive.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 3:50 AM
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Italics off.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 3:50 AM
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and italics you, asshole.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:43 AM
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You got me.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:50 AM
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In fact, since it is the WInter Solstice, I will make a quick journey to the analogy cupboard, fish around in the drawer marked "quite unpleasant" and note that a number of other crimes of the abuse of power by strong people over weak also come in "real" and "you can't call that the same thing, it trivializes the suffering of the real victims" varieties, and the distinction is usually reactionary rubbish.

People need to face up to the fact that this is actually morally not OK, and allowing them to dress what they do up with different names from what the bad people do is part of the enabling process. Being unwillingly cajoled into sleeping with a former boyfriend while drunk isn't a very similar experience to the victims of the Janjawiid in Sudan, but part of the whole problem is getting people to understand that they are the same sort of thing.

Also this "lump of sympathy fallacy" is a fallacy - it doesn't trivialise anything at all.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 5:05 AM
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In the blinding light of sobriety, 442 is over-harsh. Sorry about that.

However, 159 to 446, as an illustration of why I'm unconvinced and find the whole business a bit overwrought.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:23 AM
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