Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Screwed before Kindergarten

Found on Reddit, this blog post:
When the child became aggressive at school, the consequence was a trip to the quiet reading room. The educators rewarded him every single time they sent him to that room following an outburst, because he is already passionate about reading. He sneaks books under the covers long past his bedtime.
Also, reading as punishment–what is that about?
My friend was dumbfounded. “Why didn’t they talk to me about this? I could have told them what was happening.”
I responded, “Most of them don’t seem to understand children at all.”

The rest of the blog (which is only two months old) has some interesting bits.

Monday, August 9, 2010


There's a subreddit Daddit, "for geek, nerd and other neuro-atypical dads".

There's this post: So Daddit, what's your parenting style?
How do you see your role as parent? What are your operating principles? What are the house rules or equivalent?
(I have one nearly-4yo boy, for reference)
My role I see very much as custodian, not owner.
I see a lot of people, when questioned on their parenting choices, defending them on the grounds that it's their child and thus their right to act as they see fit.
Now personally, I couldn't disagree more strongly. As I see it, he's my child, so it's my responsibility to ensure the best possible outcome for him - so to hell with what I want, if someone can show me I'm doing it wrong, I'm duty bound to change it.
If I had to sum my parenting style up, I'd say wide latitude but iron boundaries. No micromanagement. No 'rituals', no formalities, no pointless rules. Plenty of room to be silly, to horse around, to take the piss out of his dad (and get tickled for it), to chase round the house for half an hour trying to avoid putting his socks on, etc. But on the other hand, zero tolerance for tantrums, and the Daddy Voice is final. No means no, Enough means enough, and Now means now. No exceptions, no deals, no whining.
No distraction technique. If he wants to play with X, but mustn't, we don't change the subject or hide the X. He is expected to see the X and leave it the hell alone, while doing something else. Similarly, no bribes. If he has to do Y but doesn't want to, we don't promise him Z as a reward - we expect him to not want to, but do it anyway.
No punishment, ever. Discipline aplenty, in the sense of self-control, which is fully expected, and enforced with increasing application of the Daddy Voice. But absolutely no smacking, no grounding, no coercion-by-misery. (which is not to say that conflict doesn't sometimes lead to tears - but they're only ever a side-effect, never the intent)
No grudges, no doghouse, no lasting unpleasantness. If he's stopped doing whatever he got in trouble for (and apologised, if appropriate, and/or agreed not to do it again), then it's water under the bridge, no hard feelings, everything's peachy. There's never a time when he's got no motivation to behave because he'd still be in trouble anyway.
No refusal of or conditions for affection, ever. if he wants a hug, he gets a hug, no matter what - and I make sure to pile it on unasked, too.
I make damn sure to apologise to him if I make mistakes or am a grumpy bastard, and to admit fault - I am never right by definition, or above my own standards, and he never gets in trouble for calling me on my bullshit.
New foods he must try, dinner he must eat more than a token amount - though he's never obliged to finish it all.
TV and computer games are fine by me - he picks up plenty of literacy, vocabulary, cultural literacy, abstractions and skills therefrom. He was reading by 3, so I'm doing something right :)
I think that's most of the main points covered.
So far he's turning out awesome.
There's more discussion of the same style in the comments. Of interest:
Don't be a "helicopter parent" (watching over their every move). Your child will grow up to be neurotic and insecure (there is actually research backing this).
(I'll have to look up that research)

I like this list:
  • Focus on Self-discipline and Grit, as Angela Duckman calls it.
  • Focus on intrinsic rewards, not extrinsic
  • Let him make his own mistakes, and teach him to learn from them
  • focus on what positive things he has in his life
  • Praise him for working hard, not for inherent abilities ("You worked so hard!" not "You're so smart")
  • ALWAYS following through on threats.
That fits very well with what I've read about motivation.

Plenty of interesting discussion about what kinds of rules to have in the comments.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Reddit tips of the day

My almost-two-year-old knows most of his letters, can say many of them, and knows several written words. How, you may ask?
Did we get an infant reading program? Did we use Baby Einstein? How about PBS or other "preschool" shows?
None of them.
We sat down every night since he was 6 months old and read him three board books a night. That's it. Sometimes we ask questions like "Where is the sun?" or whatnot but mainly we just read. We routinely find him sitting in a chair "reading" a book. When he sees us, he demands we read it to him and he turns the pages for us.
So, new parents: read to your kids. Just 10 minutes at night and they'll have a great head start on reading and learn to love it. And then they'll be even more awesome.
In another thread, some related comments:
The most important thing you can do to help your child is reading to them, and reading with them. If they are having trouble with more two out of every ten words, the book is too hard and don't ask them to read it! Read it to them instead. And don't underestimate the value of reading the pictures. That is a valuable reading skill. Start with books with no writing and have your child read the pictures to you.
The second most important thing you can do is play. For example, (not based on any particular age) Battleship teaches coordinate graphing, Guess Who! teaches visual, oral, and verbal discrimination, Operation improves fine motor skills, Connect 4 teaches logic and strategy. Not to mention the patience and social skills. And that's just from a simple board game. Cooking, playing in the mud, putting things together and taking them apart are so immensely valuable.
Kids need to do far more things where there are no right or wrong answers. The problem some of my "super-smart" students have is they are so proud of, and used to, their ability to get the "right" answer that their poor little brains go into divide by zero mode when you have them attempt something with no right answer.
That last bit about right and wrong answers puts the finger on something I didn't know how to forumulate - I suspect too much focus on "finding the right answer" is the cause of a lot of "smart people acting dumb" (I could be wrong - the linked post associates it with over-using analytical intelligence even in domains where it's not at it's best). Also related is Eliezer's Guessing the Teacher's Password.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

This is a very good article.
To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this:  It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult.  In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC).
... there is some interesting stuff in the comments, such as this:
We were at the shallow end of the pool, with him all the time going towards the deep end, and me having to pull him back all the time. It didn't matter that I told him that it is dangerous to go past a certain point (i found a visual reference to let him now that this is the "barrier", that he should not pass that point).

So after around 10 minutes in which our chasing game became tiring for me, I thought of giving him a small lesson. I let him walk into the pool, with me staying not further than half a meter (2 feet) behind him. Of course, he started going into deeper and deeper water, and he didn't stop even when when he was neck-deep in the water. At the point when the water was around above his mouth level , he started panicking, turned towards me and started to give me a blank stare (which I now know might have been the IDR).

Since I know that 5 seconds or more under the water is not a big problem for him (I mentioned before that we are diving together), I didn't immediately reached for him, but I rather left him in that situation for around 2 seconds (3 heart-beats). Enough for him to get really scared. Then I reached out, and pulled him into my arms.

He instantly started crying (not much though), and was holding me very tight. After 3 minutes he "forgot" and continued playing in the shalow water. However, he didn't forget the danger, and subsequently NEVER tried to go back in deep water again for the stay, allowing me to be more relaxed. Of course, I didn't loose him from sight, but I didn't have to stay in the water all the time with him, and I could relax on a lounge-seat next to the pool drinking something while watching him play in the shalow water.
... and later, this:
I have a friend that has been raised by his parents in terror of water (and basically everything else). I was shocked to see that he was literally terrified of entering in a 2-feet deep water (in the exact same spa) when he was 17 years old. I am not exagerating. Literally TERRIFIED TO GET INTO 2 FEET OF CLEAR WATER.

I have another friend that buys airplane tickets only for flights served by certain AIRPLANE MODELS (not airliners), because he checked the crash statistics. I mean he would spend 1000 euros (I live in Europe) for a flight that can be bought for 300 euros in another day (same flight) because he is afraid of dying. I can only imagine the fear he must always have when flying. And he's not necessarily afraid of flying. He's affraid of dying.

In both these cases it was a fear induced by their parents. I mean come on!!! They are so affraid of dying, that they don't live. That is not a life I want my children to have. No matter what might happen.
There are also parents advocating stuff that seems overprotective to me, but finding the right level of protectivness is far from obvious.