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.

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