Saturday, August 05, 2017

On Parenting

The proponents of authoritarian upbringing claim that “indulgent” upbringing breeds monsters, and the proponents of “indulgent” upbringing claim that authoritarian upbringing creates violent people who cannot think.

Both are demonstrably wrong. The authoritarian households of the World War II generation created a generation of rebels. And the “indulgent” households of the baby boom generation created gen-Xers of whom many were responsible, humble, industrious citizens.

One of the most successful parents I know was a baby boomer who when he was young was part of a bike gang. Then he cleaned up his act and became vice-president of catering for Hilton. Whenever his children wanted to do something, he was able to inform them about its consequences. When I knew him, his children were in university, getting straight A's and in no kind of trouble.

In my own upbringing, probably the most influential person was my uncle Lev. When I was 4 or 5 or suchlike, my grandmother, practicing the traditional authoritarian Russian upbringing, was punishing me for something or another. He intervened and said, “No, that's not how you do it with him.” He then proceeded to explain to me why what I was doing was wrong. This left a huge impression on me, and in my own parenting I practiced the similar methodology. When my daughter does something wrong I explain to her why it is wrong, and she does not do it any more.

Are children, as John Locke claimed, “tabula rasa”? Anyone who has been a parent knows that that is not the case. When I was a child I was very unhappy and very unfriendly. Whereas my daughter has always been a sweetheart. Her first social interaction, at age 1, was coming up to another little girl and giving her a hug. I tell her about “yuckie people” and she says, “there are no yuckie people.” I did not teach her such things. She figured them out for herself.

I was raised in a nuclear family arrangement in which the parents could not agree on just about anything and were constantly fighting with one another. My younger brother was raised in a joint custody arrangement in which both parents were a lot more competent and both had learned from experience. My younger brother has a PhD from Stanford and is working for Google. The people who claim that all children should be raised in nuclear families are refuted by this situation. The people who claim that all children should be raised with authoritarianism are refuted by this situation. My younger brother was raised without any form of abuse, and he has become an all-around-admirable citizen.

Both the proponents of the authoritarian upbringing and the proponents of “indulgent” upbringing are therefore obviously in the wrong. The correct way to bring up children is with neither of the above but with intelligence. If a child does something wrong, explain to the child why it is wrong. At the same time inform the child truthfully about the world. The result will be children that both love you and are effective citizens. And that does more toward that effect than raising the child with either indulgence or the whip.


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