A few short thoughts about… Hah! Nope. Couldn’t do it.
A huge jumbled ramble (Nearly fourty minutes worth) about training children.
[Strangely Baseline Intro, ends at 3:10]
Welcome back to the Paul Spooner Podcast!
Today I want to talk about something a little more personal. Children! Specifically, my children.
I have had, in the past, a lot of ideas about how to treat children, being, myself, a child in the past. How people should interact with children. How adults should train children. How parents should treat children. And of course, as I’ve grown older, I’ve discarded some of those ideas as foolish speculations on the part of someone who was just unhappy with the world as it currently was, and wasn’t really thinking ahead.
But, there have been, also, a great number of ideas and impressions that I’ve… not discarded? That I’ve kind of held on to and decided to try out! So far, in general, it’s going really well.
So, I’ll just, kind of, outline it for you. (Editors note. I’m pretty sure this is a bald faced lie. There is no outlining. There is only rambling.)
We are very strong on personal ownership and personal responsibility.
There we go! That was a summary! Hey, man, I should have just said that in the beginning! Maybe I’ll move this… Okay, I’m gonna move this to the beginning. Here, you’ll get a taste of editing.
My main principle…
Well, okay, I’ll go back to my Dad’s stated principle.
When he was raising us I remember him saying on multiple occasions (and I don’t know if he still believes this or not, but at the time, he said) his idea was that you should treat a child, from when they’re born to when they’re about two years old… just give them anything they want. If they’re hungry, you just feed them, as much food as they want. If they want you to hold ’em, you just hold ’em as long as they want! If they want to touch something you just let ’em pick it up! I mean, you don’t want to let them hurt themselves. And I think that was the idea, was you wouldn’t let ’em hurt themselves. But you give them anything they want until their, maybe, about two years old.
And by the time they’re about two years old you can start training them. Being, “Okay, well, you can have this, but you can’t have that.” or “This thing is within reach, but you’re not allowed to touch it.” And so we had child safety locks on all the cabinets. Because, of course, if you’re going to let your child do anything they want, by the time they’re two they can get up and walk around, they can open cabinets, they can get into stuff.
And I think this kind of philosophy is not uncommon. I don’t know how common it is, but I think it’s not uncommon, where people are like “Well, it’s a baby. You can’t really train them. You can’t really teach them anything. They’re still learning how to think. They’re still learning how ta look and breathe and move! They don’t know how to respond to training, so, you just let them do whatever they want until they’re about two years old.” And then when they’re two, around there, you start cracking down on them and be like, “Hey… Look… Okay, I know when you were one and a half, this kind of behavior was fine… but now you’re two years old and you’re going to have to start shaping up your act and getting things in order and, you know, listening to when we tell you things, and behaving… and generally acting more like a responsible person instead of, just an irresponsible and completely incapable infant.”
So, I have some problems with this philosophy, the main one being that it treats an infant as if it is not a person.
It treats an infant, not even like an animal! Because, if you have a dog, you will train the dog to, say, not pee on the carpet. You will train the dog to not chew on particular things. You will train the dog to behave in a way that makes it more pleasant to be around the dog. So, if you refuse to train your child… here I’m making accusations all of a sudden…
If you refuse to train your child, you are treating that child as less human than an animal.
And I think that that’s not okay. I think we should treat people like people.
The second thing is that it, kind of, produces this false threshold for behavior where it’s like, “Well, I don’t know if the child is capable of doing this or not, so I’m just going to assume that they’re not capable.” But then when they reach a certain arbitrary age limit, usually it’s around two years old, when people are like, “Well, you know, I think it’s time ta really start giving this child some direction in life.” You’ve created this arbitrary limit of “two years old” or whatever it is for you. When they start walking. When they start… whatever it is. It’s this arbitrary period, and so the child is like “Well, what’s… What happened?” Because a child IS a person. A child DOES think. Even before they’re born they have thoughts, they have ideas, they learn things. They learn, for instance, to recognize people’s voices.
So, you’re giving this child this weird lesson where you say, “Okay… you can do whatever you want until you reach some arbitrary threshold, which I’m not going to tell you about beforehand, after which you’re held to this much higher standard, for no reason.” I mean, it’s just completely arbitrary! Most people are basing it off of, at the very best, “social standards.”
Thirdly, it creates the “terrible twos”. I’ve had two children, now, go through the two-year-old period, and I’ll have to say that there is a increased willfulness around this period because they’re learning to walk and they’re learning to speak and they’re learning that they can affect the world around them and communicate with people and they’re learning to produce real expectations. And those expectations, if they fail to be met, produce real anger or sadness or disappointment. I’m not saying that the “terrible twos” don’t exist. What I’m saying is that they’re greatly exacerbated if the child has had no prior training. Here’s this person, with the idea that they can do anything they want; Anything that they can see or touch, they may. And then, all of a sudden, as soon as they come into the idea that, “Oh, well, I can have expectations! I can make plans! I can start doing things on my own and having agency over the world!” Co-incident with that is this sudden influx of training, frustrating this child’s new-found abilities.
So, you could say, “Okay, well, just don’t train them when they’re two, just wait until they’re five or ten!” And this produces the problem of the spoiled teenager, where they “become an adult” and they still don’t know how to behave around other people. ( How to be pleasant. Just like you would train a dog to be pleasant around, you train a child to be pleasant around. At least as much as an animal. And I would say, you should train them much more… but) You come to this arbitrary age limit of eighteen or sixteen or whatever it is in your country, twenty-one, where you have, suddenly, new abilities and new responsibilities and you don’t know how to handle them, because you haven’t been trained! You haven’t been given instruction. You haven’t been directed and confined in any way.
And so people just go nuts! They go bonkers! They do completely ludicrous things, and destroy their bodies and their minds. They destroy their lives! They do all kinds of stuff…
If they had just made good decisions.
And people are like, “Well, why do teenagers make such bad decisions?” Because you’re giving them the opportunity to make decisions only at that point! Only when you absolutely have to!
And the same thing goes all the way back down to children. If you put locks on your cabinet doors, you are refusing to give the child a choice, whether or not to open the cabinet. You remove choice from them. You’re removing their responsibility of making wise decisions.
I think that we should… and I’ve done this with all of my children, and so far none of them have died.
I think that we should train children when they come into abilities.
For instance. If a child demonstrates capacity for crawling we should, at that point, train the child to come or to stay. You can set expectations. You can punish them for disobeying, and reward them for obeying. It’s really very simple. Training. Just like you would train an animal, only you have better and higher expectations for them, because they are a person just like you. They are capable of becoming just like you, and quite likely far better than you.
So this goes all the way back down to when a child can grab things. You can start training a child at this point.
For instance. Most people don’t like it when children pull hair. I’ve seen so many people put up with this thinking, “Oh, well, there’s nothing to be done. We can’t do anything about this! It’s a child! It’s completely intractable! It’s completely unable to learn.”
No! Your children are not lower than animals! Children are capable of learning. I have trained all my children to not pull hair. They can grab hair, they just may not pull it. If they pull hair then you take your finger and you flick them in the hand and they go “[gasp!] Oh my goodness!” and they cry a little bit, but it doesn’t kill them, it doesn’t injure them in any way except to cause them pain. And then they don’t pull hair. And they might be afraid of hair for a little bit, so you take their hand and you rub it on the hair ’til they grab it. And then you just let their hand sit there. And if they pull on the hair? Flick their hand again! You can do this as long as it takes. The child will learn not to pull hair. And then they will be much more pleasant to be around! Which will make everyone else happy, and you happy too.
And it will make the child happy! Because then people won’t be getting upset at them. “I don’t know what’s happening! I don’t know why people are so upset at me!” “Well, it’s because you’re pulling their hair.” So you train them. You train them not to pull hair. You train them to come and to stay. When they have capacity to speak you train them to speak loudly or quietly.
When they develop capacity to control their screaming, (And this is what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to train a child when they have a controllable capacity. When their will is able to affect their behavior. that is the point you train them. You train them to train their will.) when a child starts to scream, say, you are holding the child and they’re all happy, and then you put them in the car-seat and they start screaming. You can train them not to scream (And I would say that this is (so far, and again, my children, the oldest is only four years old. So I haven’t gone through trying to teach children in teenage years. I haven’t tried to teach them in grade school years. I’ve only gotten as far as four. But so far…) the hardest thing to train.), and not scream out of willfullness. You want them to be able to scream if they are really injured. And don’t worry! They will! They will scream if they’re really injured, and you need to not punish them for that of course.
The first thing that they really scream from is willfullness. They’re like “I don’t want to be in the car-seat! I want you to hold me!” And so they’ll cry, and if that doesn’t work they will scream. At some point, they will! And then you can train them.
What I do is I flick them on the lips with my finger, and it hurts! It doesn’t injure them, it doesn’t bruise them. It’s not going to permanently disable them. It’ll just cause them pain and they’ll be like “Oh my goodness! Something went wrong!” And they’ll stop screaming for an instant.
And then they’ll probably scream louder!
And this is really hard, emotionally, to continue to train at this point. But it is very important. If you decide to do this (And you don’t have to train your children not to scream. I’m not saying it’s your moral obligation. But if you want to) you need to continue, because at this point if you “stop” training them, you will have trained them that they should continue to scream when they want something, even if it causes them some pain. If you stop short of training the behavior, then you’ve just encouraged them to press through pain. (Which is an important skill! But you shouldn’t train them to do things that you don’t want them to do and press on doing them. You need to stop them from doing it.) So you cause them pain, and that will, eventually, get them to stop screaming…
It takes a while. For all my children so far (and I’ve trained all three of my children not to scream) it takes, maybe, an hour or an hour and a half? Flick their lips, they’ll cry, they’ll scream, you flick their lips again when they scream. They’ll look startled! They won’t understand what’s happening! It’s heart-breaking! But for me, it’s worth it. Maybe for you it’s not, but for me it’s worth it to train them to not scream. And they’ll relapse, and they’ll scream at other times too, but it’s much easier to train them out of it at that point. It doesn’t take an hour every time. It’ll maybe take an hour or an hour and a half the first one or two times.
So, sometimes I’ll cover their mouth right after I flick them, just so that they can calm down a little bit. You know, you don’t suffocate ’em. So they breathe through their nose and they’ll [sniff] they’ll breathe through their nose and they’ll try to scream and you’ll have your hand over their mouth so it will just come out a [muffled scream]. But they won’t hear themselves screaming, and they’ll be like, “oh, okay, I’m calming down.” It will help them to calm down.
So you have to go through this process, and you have to repeat it over and over again. And they’ll keep screaming. And you have to keep training them until you’ve trained through it.
And they’ll get through it! And they won’t hate you! None of my children have hated me for doing this. They’ll be sad. And they’ll feel betrayed. But you’re doing it for their good, and for everyone else’s good. Because at that point? They won’t scream just because you put them in the carseat. They won’t scream just because mamma’s not holding them. They will definitely cry. And I have not tried to train my children not to cry. I don’t think that would be wise.
But you could! You absolutely could train your children not to cry. It would just take a lot more effort. And I think it’s counter-productive, because crying is the only way a child can communicate at that age. Once my children have learned to speak adequately, I do train them not to cry. And usually I don’t have to flick their lips or anything, I just tell them, “Okay. Stop crying. Relax… Calm down. We can talk about this… and if you can’t stop crying…” Then usually there’s a safe place for them to go cry. We send them to their bed. You can send them wherever. But somewhere safe; Somewhere away from everyone else so they’re not annoying people by their crying.
So then they say, “Hey, I want a popsicle.” and you say, “Uhh, no. No popsicle right now.” and they’re like “[sob] But why? I wanted a popsicle!” And you can be like “Calm down.” and if they can’t calm down, you say “Go to your room until you stop crying.” And this works so well that they will go to their room on their own if they feel like crying! You’ll tell them, “No, you can’t have a popsicle.” and they’ll be like “[anguished gasp]” And then they’ll walk out of the room and they’ll go lie down in their bed and they’ll cry for a little bit. And that’s perfectly healthy! It’s perfectly healthy to have sadness when something that you had anticipated and looked forward to turns out not to happen. And I have not tried to train them out of that, and I don’t think that would be wise.
But screaming? Aaaahhhh, I think is unnecessarily troublesome to both myself and people around me. And there’s no reason the baby needs to scream. ‘Cause if you were in, say, the wilderness somewhere, and you needed to leave your baby in a secluded place, and go and gather food, or go hunting, the baby would need to be able to scream, because you’d need to be able to hear them from a long ways off. But we live in an age and a society where that doesn’t happen. The baby is always very close, in the car with us, in the house with us, so the baby doesn’t need to scream. And so you can train them to not scream.
You can train a child to do pretty much anything that they’re capable of doing, to harness that ability to their will. So, I think it’s a very valuable practice. We should treat children like people, and hold them responsible for their actions that are under their control, and train them to use those abilities in an appropriate way.
I also think that we should treat children like people in that… (and some people don’t treat other people like this at all! Other adults! But…) For example, some people refuse to tell their children that it’s going to be bedtime… because they don’t want their children to freak out. If you tell your children, “Okay, gonna be about an hour until bed-time.” or “It’s gonna be a half hour until bed-time.” You’re affording them the luxury of deciding what to do with the short time they have before they need to go to sleep. If you just spring it on them all the time, then they are going to feel uninformed. They are going to feel like you’re keeping them in the dark… because you are keeping them in the dark! Their feelings will be justified! You shouldn’t keep your children in the dark about things!
People also refuse to talk to their children about topics that the children ask about. So, people will refuse to mention, bring up, discuss in any way… sex! Or violence! Or death! Topics that are considered “adult topics.” And I think this is unhealthy. (People may disagree with me on this… that’s fine) If our children ask us about things, we’ll give them an answer just like we would give an adult an answer. It’s not a whole lecture, because that’s not really respecting another person’s time. If someone asks you a simple question, and you give them a huge lecture about the topic, that’s not really respecting their time! They’re just asking a simple question, you should be able to give them a short straight-forward answer. If they’re still interested, they’ll ask about it! They’ll ask “Why?” and so far, none of our children have expressed any undue interest in sexuality or death… they do talk about it, but it’s not unhealthy, it’s just a natural “Huh?” “Oh the bug died.” “Well, can you fix it?” “No you can’t fix it, the bug’s already dead.”
I think we should just treat them like people. Because they are people.
Children are people.
They’re just not very well informed people. But there’s nothing wrong with not being well informed!
So, people like being told what’s going on. Children will ask, “What’s going on? What’s happening? What’s happening now? What are we going to do? Where are we going?” And, you should just answer their question. If they ask for something, don’t ignore them, just say yes or no. And they can say “Well, I want it!” and you can have a whole discussion about that. “Well, that’s fine… you can want it… but you’re not going to get it… so what are you going to do about it?”
My children ask for money all the time, “Oh! I want to buy this thing!” “Well, do you have any money?” “No…” “Well, you can’t buy it.” “Okay, well, I want you to buy it for me.” “Aahhh! Well, I’m not going to buy it for you.” “Well, I want you to give me money… so I can buy it.” It’s like, oh! Yeah! Good good! You’re thinking about this. “Okay, you want me to give you money, you need to do something for me, because that’s what money means. Money means you did something for someone that they liked and they gave you money for it.” They will (sometimes, if they really want something) they will vacuum the floor or they’ll sweep the floor, or they’ll clean something (Editors note: The other day Leah asked me for all her money back that she had spent on food. I had to explain that she already ate the food, so she can’t get the money back. It was a clever approach though!). We don’t give them money for cleaning up their messes…
Oh! That’s another thing!
People are held responsible for their actions. To treat someone as irresponsible for their actions is treating them as (again) less human than an animal. You will punish a dog for chewing on something and breaking it. So we hold our children responsible for things that they do. If they break something, they are punished for it. Because they can’t really repair things at this point. But they can break them. So we punish them for it and then that’s it. Your debt’s settled. That’s more training than justice, but it’s as close as we can get.
Maybe not as close as we could get. Maybe we could have a debt accrual and they can have to work for it and we sell them into slavery internally to pay off the debt, but that seems a little overly cumbersome.
But if they make a mess, for example… and this happens all the time. Children make messes, I mean, they just… they do! They’re moving things around. They’re learning how to manipulate objects. And they’re not very good at it! So, the objects end up in a worse state than they were initially. Children just increase entropy, and that’s fine.
But that whole system doesn’t have to end there! A lot of people spend a huge amount of their time picking up after their children. You don’t have to do this! You can train your children to pick up after themselves! And we’ve done this, and it works great! Our two year old can clean up anything that she spills. She can put away anything that she’s gotten out. They can put books away. They can put toys away. They know how to do these things because we’ve trained them.
And you don’t want to be unjust about it, because nothing rankles a person (including a child) so much as being held responsible for someone else’s actions. It’s just the epitome of unfairness! So if someone makes a mess, that person needs to clean it up. You don’t want to have the older more experienced child clean up the younger less experienced child’s mess. Even though there’s a strong temptation to do so, because you know the older child is more experienced, the older child is more capable, the older child knows how (better) to clean up and will do it it quicker, will do it with less fuss, it’ll be easier on you, it’ll be easier for everyone… except that older child.
But it will be unjust. And your child will remember that it was unjust. Your children will resent and hate you if you treat them unjustly and make them clean up after their younger siblings. I can not recommend (in any way) this practice of unjustly punishing capable people for incapable people’s incapability.
So, if a child makes a mess, that child cleans it up. And (almost all the time) if a child is capable of reaching objects, they’re capable of putting them away. If a child is capable of spilling something, you can give them a rag and have them wipe it up. If they spill their cerial, or if they’re eating messily and they make a mess of the table, they clean it up! They clean up their own messes. And you have to repeat this, you have to train them to do this because they won’t do it naturally, because it’s annoying to have to clean up your own messes. You’d rather have someone else clean it up.
“Hey, you made this mess. It’s fine, finish your meal, but when you’re done you have to clean it up. You have to clean up your own messes. I hate to even mention it really… just because it seems so skull-shatteringly obvious. But so many people… I just… I don’t understand. They… they don’t seem to understand this… this idea. So maybe it’s not as obvious as it seems.
So I went through all the trouble to say all that, but, like I said, my Dad had a different philosphy that you can just kinda let kids go wild until they’re maybe two years old. It’s not gonna hurt ’em. And, I’m not unhappy with the way that I turned out. I am pretty happy with myself as a person. So maybe it doesn’t matter all that much. Maybe if you train your children, or you don’t train ’em, it doesn’t really matter! But even so, I would say that I feel like I am happier as a parent than my parents were. And maybe that has to do with training. Maybe it just has to do with temperament, or my wife’s temperament. It’s not a huge deal, I don’t think, which way you do it. Although my parents did train us after we were two or three years old. They trained us pretty strictly. Probably more strictly than I train my children. So maybe they made up for it? Maybe I should be training my children even more strictly than I am now?
Because the other thing is that my wife and I are, pretty laissez faire outside of infractions against other people. [laughter] Basically we’re very strong on criminal and very lax on social. If someone wants to just sit around and play video games all day… Um… that’s fine? I mean, I do that sometimes, my wife does that sometimes, we can’t exactly tell the children they can’t do that, so if they’re interested in playing the DS all the time, um, that’s okay! I mean, they can’t play it all the time, because sometimes other people are playing with it.
Although! “Other people playing with it” that’s another interesting point!
Parents, I have observed, tend to be communists in practice! They will buy a toy for someone (it will be a birthday present, or a gift, or everyone will have one of something) but if that becomes a rare item (or if it is a rare item to begin with) they will insist that a child share (and they use this word “share” with great liberality) with other children. They will insist on it!
Now, sharing is an interesting idea. It’s the idea that one person owns something and allows another person to use it while the person who owns it is not using it. Or, sometimes, that they allow them to use it temporarily, even though it would put the owner at some inconvenience.
Sharing. It’s a very useful practice.
But if it’s compulsory, then it’s not sharing any more.
Then it’s theft.
If it is compulsory, then the parent is stealing from the child and granting it (even temporarily) to someone else. If you steal something temporarily it’s still stealing!
So parents (I think) work to their own detriment a great deal in this idea of training children to share.
Now, our children do share a lot of things! They share, I think, better than most children who are trained to “share.” Because it is always voluntary. If an item belongs to a child… And we treat item ownership very seriously. If something is mine, it’s not the child’s, it’s mine. I’ll let them use it (and I do let them use all kinds of things) but it’s mine and I can say “no” if I want to. If something belongs to my wife, it’s hers. And we do have a hierarchy, I mean, I have authority over things that my wife has, and my wife has authority over things that our children have, but we try to respect it as much as possible because… again, they’re children, but they’re also people.
So, if our child owns something, if it’s their toy, I don’t touch it without their permission, my wife doesn’t touch it without their permission, the other children don’t touch it without their permission. It is theirs. It belongs to them. They do not have to share it with anyone. We encourage them to, when it’s appropriate, it’s like, “Hey, you’re not using that right now? Eehh, let the other person use it. They’re not going to break it. It’ll be okay.” But if it’s breakable? I wouldn’t share something breakable with my children! That would be silly! That would be foolish! So, if our children have something that is theirs, it is always voluntary to give, lend, loan, or share it with someone else.
And I think this is very important because it enforces the idea that we are respecting our children as people. They have property, they have desires, they have expectations, and we need to respect those. We can’t always fulfill them (and we shouldn’t always fulfill them) but if we can respect them I think we should.
So our children have their own belongings. They’re not family belongings. We don’t have family toys. We have some toys that are my wife’s! My wife says “I bought this toy, and it’s my toy, and I will let whoever wants to play with it, play with it.” but then it is Anna’s. And there are some things that belong to the baby. And because he’s not really clear on the whole “consent” thing, we let the other children play with his toys, as long as he doesn’t want them. But if he wants them, he gets them. They’re not allowed to keep his toys away from him. And he’s allowed to grab them right out of their hands. That’s okay! They are his! If someone is using something of yours, you’re allowed to just grab it away from them, it’s not rude… I mean, it IS rude, but it’s rude in the first place for someone else to be using your things without asking permission, without getting your consent.
So! We are, as a family, my wife and I (I’m going to move this to the beginning of this section) very strongly in support of personal ownership, and personal responsibility. We teach our children to behave this way, and we behave, ourselves, this way toward our children. We don’t steal our children’s things, we don’t take them without permission, and our children don’t take our things without our permission.
And it works great that way! And a lot of times we do give permission! Or we’ll say, “Hey, this is mine, but you can use it whenever you want. As long as I’m not using it, just go ahead.” The silverware for example. Children are allowed to go and get silverware out. It’s fine! It’s our silverware, it’s not theirs, but they can use it if they want, it’s great! They each have their own cup. “This is my cup!” And it’s very gratifying to a child to have something that’s theirs. We try to, as much as possible, give them their own things, so that then they can take care of them and be responsible for them… and a lot of times they misuse them. They’ll leave them outside. They’ll break them. They’ll misplace them. They’ll loose them! They’ll be like, “I can’t find my whatever!” And it’s not our responsibility to find it. We don’t (generally) go out of our way to help our children find the things that belong to them that they have lost. If they lost it… it’s somewhere! And if someone else finds it, it doesn’t suddenly become the person who found’s it (Editors note: Is that proper grammar? Probably not.) it still belongs to the child. And usually they’ll be like “Hey! I found your thing! Here it is back!” and they’re so happy and they’re excited, and it’s great!
It re-enforces the idea that you can help each other. It’s not like personal ownership means that you reject all helpfulness and all sharing and all community. It just means that you have some things that are yours and not someone else’s, and that means something. It means something in particular, and we’re trying to teach our children that as early and as thoroughly as possible.
We also have great relationships with our children! Well, I don’t know about great relationships. I don’t have a great number of friends. Uh, I have a very few very close friends, and the rest of the people in the world I’m not very close to, I don’t interact with them much. And our children are kind of like that. Maybe you’re different and have children that are very outgoing, and that’s great, I’m sure they’ll get along just fine. But for us, we have great relationships with our children in the sense that we have conversations. My daughters will get up in the morning and tell us about the dreams that they had, and we’ll tell them about our dreams that we had. We’ll eat food together.
Food grinders! Short note! (Editor’s note: This is another lie. Sorry, I can’t take him anywhere)
I don’t use ’em. My wife uses ’em sometimes, but I don’t. I just chew up the food, and then spit it out onto a spoon, and give it to the baby. You’re not allowed to say “hey, just do this” because some people have terrible diseases that you can transmit by mucus membranes apparently? We don’t have them, so we’re free to do this… and most people don’t have that kind of a disease, so, you’re free to do this! Just chew up whatever food you’re eating, and when your baby gets hungry, you spit some onto a spoon and you give it to them. It’s not going to hurt them, it’s not going to hurt you… it might gross some people out, but that’s okay… they can be grossed out if they want to be. And when the kids are old enough to chew their own food? I give them food from my plate. A lot of times it’ll just be my wife and I, my wife will have a plate, I’ll have a plate, and I’ll just feed the kids right off my plate. We share a fork, it’s fine. And that way they don’t make a mess! They don’t have the opportunity to make a mess, and then they don’t have to clean it up! I’m much more capable of feeding them than they are of feeding themselves, so we just all eat off the same plate and it works great.
I think people should be more tight-knit like this. Not necessarily because it’s better psychologically or anything but just because it’s so much more efficient. You have to wash less dishes, clean up less messes, you all eat more quickly.
This idea, of forcing children to do everything themselves I think is a little strange.
Now, our children are extremely independent, and they want to do things themselves. They want to have their own food and do it themselves, even if it means cleaning up messes. But sometimes it’s like, “Well, no, I’m not going to give you, and if you want to eat, you will eat from my fork. And if you’re not that hungry, that’s fine! You don’t have to eat! You can get down and play and do whatever! But if you get hungry, I have some food for you and I’ll give it to you.” And we have fallings out for several minutes at a time, where the child will be like, “I’m not hungry! I’m not going to eat! I want my own!” and I’m like, “You can’t have your own.” and they’re like, “Welp! I’m not going to eat then!”
“That’s fine. I don’t mind. I’ll eat the food myself.”
But usually after about ten minutes or so, they’re like, “Huh. You know what? I actually am hungry!” and it’s like, “Oh? Great! Well, I have some food for you. Here, have some.”
It doesn’t have to be a feud. It doesn’t have to be a fight. I think it’s always just… almost comically sad how people fight their children trying to get them to eat healthy things. Just don’t give them anything else! They’ll get hungry! They’ll eat it!
So anyway! Food grinders and feeding…Ummmmm, I forget what I was talking about! Yeah, I got on this tangent somehow. It all comes back to treating children like people.
If I were starving, if I had nothing, no belongings, no money, no food, and someone offered me food, but said “You have to eat it from this spoon.” I would probably say, “Okay.” I mean, what other option do I have? That aspect of it as well is important, to train children to accept when there are no reasonable alternatives. Because a lot of times in life, you come up against something where, you don’t want to do it, but you don’t have any reasonable alternatives, so you do it anyway. It’s just part of having self control. The ability to do things that you don’t want to, because the alternatives are just way too difficult.
Like getting their own food. It’s like, “Hey, you can buy your own food if you want, but you’re going to have to work for money, and then use that money to buy things. And the amount of money you can make as a child is ludicrously small! So you’re much better off just taking the food from me! I’ll give it to you freely, just under certain conditions, like you can’t throw it all around the room, and, um, maybe you have to eat from my fork, or maybe I’ll give you a small helping and then you get to eat more later if you finish that. Or I give you some food that you don’t really like, but you’re going to eat it anyway or you don’t get anything else.”
And I think parents should feel totally comfortable setting conditions on what they give their children and training their children to accept conditions from others if they want to interact with others. Because that’s, really, a fundamental law of society. Consent. Two people consenting to do something together. Trade, marriage, all forms of commerce, all forms of craftsmanship, planning, everything is based on this fundamental idea of “I want this and you want this, we both want to make this exchange, we’ll do it, because we both want it.” And anything else, I would say, is theivery or bribery or skulduggery (Editors note: please excuse the hyperbole). I don’t want to teach my children that. I don’t want to teach my children how to do that. I don’t want to teach my children to submit to that.
So I treat them the way I would like to be treated if I had the skills that they have, and the abilities that they have, and the resources that they have. And I expect them to treat me the way that I would treat anyone else that was giving me something basically for free. Which is, with gratitude and with compliance.
I don’t know anything. All I know is that I like my kids, I like how they’re turning out, I think you would like your kids better if you expected them to use their abilities in a way that you enjoy, and I think that children are capable of a great deal more than most people give them credit for.
Thank you so much! I have been Paul Spooner! This is… your daily sermon on how to not be a terrible person?
And again, I turned out fine. My Dad used different methods. They still trained us! My parents were kind of communists with the whole ownership thing too, and I got through it, I got over it, and I turned out okay.
If you have a child, just know… and you don’t have to train them! I mean, I think it’s a great idea to train them, but you don’t have to. But if you have a child, and you want to, rest assured that you can train them to do just about anything.
[Strangely Melodic Outro]
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