A mega-note for all the parenting related topics I want to keep for future reference. My goal is to collect thoughts here and split topics off into atomic notes as such atomic concepts emerge.
Smart kids should consider skipping high school and going directly to college; or supplementing high school with college
Know CPR and basic first aid
Question the advice and recommendations from doctors, within reason. They may be drawing conclusions from studies which have since been overturned or succeeded by better research.
Gentle parenting is not permissive parenting
(TODO: verify) breastfeeding > formula > nothing
- That said, make sure the kid gets enough to eat! If you don’t have enough breast milk, use formula. It’s okay.
“One of my best tools with my toddler is “don’t react, respond”. My first thought is rarely my best thought, and my reactionary tone of voice is not my most loving and supportive. A kid doesn’t need your immediate answer to everything. You can tell them, “let me think about that”” (acjohnson55 n.d.)
You’ll make mistakes and you won’t live up to your guidelines in every interaction. Don’t worry too much. Your kids will be okay.
Try to create Xanatos gambit-esque situations in which all the options are good options (from your perspective)
Be present with them when you’re with them; not on your phone, not thinking about something else
Avoid helicopter parenting; allow children to make mistakes, get hurt (within reason) and to get into situations where those things can happen. Give them a secure place to return to, but let them out into the world (Secure attachment)
Management advice probably applies to parenting as well
- Praise in public, criticize in private
- They may not ask for help when they need help; stay on the look-out for “smoke” so you can help with their “fires”
- e.g. Kid doesn’t want to go to school but is otherwise doing alright; consider they may be getting bullied or otherwise having a rough time socially at school
Avoid creating situations in which the child is incentivized to do the wrong thing
Don’t ask your daughter if she did something wrong, not because she might lie to you, or she might not lie to you, or whether or not you know the answer. That’s all coming from a faulty paradigm: that it’s expected for your daughter to tell you the truth when you ask her if she did something wrong.
Asking her if she did something wrong is setting her up for failure, whether or not you know the answer. I know it is a “thing” parents like to do, mine did as well, where we say - as you did - “It’s not whether you did it or not, but that you tell the truth about it” - but now you’re the liar, aren’t you? Because it darned tooting is about whether she did it or not. If it doesn’t matter whether she did it or not, why are you asking? Some sort of cruel mind game?
Put it to you this way, you’re on trial for stealing a car, and the prosecutor asks you “Did you do it?” What are you doing in that scenario? I highly doubt it’s admitting fault, unless the prosecutor can already prove it and is offering you a deal.
What you’re donig right now is training her to lie well. Because that’s the only winning game theory scenario on her end: lying, and lying effectively. Lying and getting caught = bad. Telling the truth = bad. Only lying and not getting caught wins, so - that’s what she’s learning to do. And kids are smart. She sees how you’ve set up the game, and the only option you’re giving her to win.
Turn the paradigm around, instead. Why are you asking her if she did [something wrong]? Either it’s because you know something wrong was done by someone, and you just don’t know whom, or because you weren’t paying enough attention to know what was done wrong.
Remember that other adults will apply labels to your children’s behavior which may not align with your own definitions
- e.g. “They were being disrespectful” which, to that person, meant “They didn’t obey me without question”
- e.g. “They were out of control” which, to that person, meant “They were acting like a kid” and the person in question doesn’t understand/appreciate/empathize with normal (to you at least) behaviors at your child(rens) age
- e.g. “They were rude” which, to that person, meant “They questioned my authority” (which I at least want to encourage in my children)
At some point your kid will have to learn the Hard truths
Kids copy, so behave the way you want them to behave
- Want them to enjoy reading? Read around them and enjoy it.
- Want them to enjoy exercising? Exercise around them and enjoy it.
Include your kids in everything, as early as possible: hobbies, errands, chores. More work short term, big benefits long term.
Consider “outsourcing” everything the parents don’t have to do while the kid’s young
- house cleaning
- garden/lawn maintenance
On communication and interacting with kids
How to Talk series
Use “Yes, and”, “Yes, but”, and “Yes, if” rather than “No” whenever possible
- e.g. Can I read that book? Yes, but you have to put it away.
- e.g. Will you take me to the swimming pool? Yes, if you finish your chores.
- e.g. Can I have another snack? Yes, if you wash your dishes.
“Instead of “I’ll go downstairs and get your bear” maybe “I’ll go downstairs and look for your bear.” While with adults we understand that when a person says they’ll do something they mean they’ll put in a reasonable effort and may fail if the task is surprisingly difficult or if factors outside their control intervene, I find that with kids being explicit about likely failure possibilities is helpful.” (Kaufman n.d.-c)
“I don’t know” has more than one meaning
“I don’t know why” could mean a number of things:
The answer is something that will make my parent annoyed if I’m honest.
It’s not an outright lie to say “I don’t know”, but it’s a dodge to avoid lying or having to instead confess to something worse. Like, “I didn’t pick up my laundry when you asked me to because I was eating a donut after you said not to, and I couldn’t come out of the kitchen with donut all over my face or you would know I ate it.” This tends to be the least likely option, though, and also tends to be accompanied by guilty looks and/or other evidence of breaking the rules (e.g., fewer donuts in the box).
It could also be that he doesn’t want to say “I didn’t want to do what you asked, so I ignored it.” (Would you react warmly and cheerfully to that, even as honest as it is? I wouldn’t.) Even without a punishment attached, kids don’t really want disapproval and disappointment, either.
I don’t remember what I was thinking when I decided to disregard instructions, or I don’t remember being asked to do something.
In this case, he could say “I forgot what you asked me to do” but may be looking for a reason for why he forgot – and the “why” of memory and attention is a complicated question!
My ten-year-old with ADHD has absolutely no idea why he has a harder time concentrating on instructions than most people. This frustrates him and frustrates me, so we both work on not looking for the “why” in those cases. (This doesn’t imply your child has ADHD, neurotypical children also have moments where they’re not paying attention. However, they won’t have any better idea of why they weren’t paying attention.)
I don’t have a way to communicate the complex emotions behind my decision.
If I’m angry about something at work, I’m more prone to forget to run an errand on the way home that I need to get done. The distraction of all the other things in my life got in the way of doing what needed to get done.
But if somebody asks me why I didn’t buy bread from the store, I would be hard pressed to explain the sequence of bad meetings, co-worker rudeness, and random software glitches that led to me being so frazzled. At best, I’d be able to say, “Ugh, I just had a bad day.”
I don’t want to talk about it.
This is a bit more common with older children, especially once you’re hitting adolescence, but happens at pretty much any age. If they don’t want to discuss what is going on in their head, this keeps that discussion from even starting. And the root cause of that could be any combination of the previous reasons, or wanting privacy, or feeling ashamed of themselves, or just not wanting to talk. (My kids know that any discussion about their motivations will lead to a discussion about making better choices, etc. and that can be boring/exhausting for them…)
Or, it’s pure honesty: I don’t know why I didn’t want to do that thing.
Motivation is a complex subject, and even adults struggle to get to the root cause of choices they make. Sometimes people make bad choices, and children are still developing both impulse control and introspection.
- (“Should I Allow or Forbid My Son to Visit the Education of a Religion That I Do Not Share?” 2020)
- “focus on understanding the reasons for belief, and the benefits of believing in something even if it’s not real.” (Joe 2019)
On raising your kids different than the “normal”
We’re vegan, so that’ll be one mark against normal right off the bat
Oddness goes both ways
I think there are two problems here:
Your child is friends with a kid who has learned some maladaptive behaviors/ideas and is passing them on to your child.
You and your wife are apparently unaware of the social and cultural realities outside your own family.
This isn’t to say that you can fix the situation, but you’d have a better chance of doing so if you understand the situation. I say this as someone who spent nearly a decade working with “at risk” kids.
First of all, your family is not “pretty typical” outside your neighborhood. 38% of US households have at least one firearm (a). 98.9% of US households have television sets (a). More than 2/3 of kids have video game systems at home, and 92% of children and adolescents ages 2-17 play video games (a) (pdf). 61.5% of children aged 9–13 years do not participate in any organized physical activity during their nonschool hours and that 22.6% do not engage in any free-time physical activity (a). I don’t have stats on profanity usage, but asking around to a couple of teachers I know from middle-class neighborhoods, their 1st-3rd graders frequently require discipline for using profanity that is considered “okay” at home. I could go on and on.
I’m not saying that your family’s values are wrong, just that they are not typical. Most people walk around with the illusion that their values are the norm, simply because we tend to surround ourselves with people who share our values. You need to be aware of this because you seem not to recognize how foreign and hard to navigate your family’s social scripts and values are to this kid.
Imagine that you were 8 years old, and dropped on some remote island. Everyone there spoke English and their houses looked about the same as yours, but their behavior was absolutely confounding. These people gave wet willies as greetings, never ever used words like “hey” or “wow” or “cool” (and were terribly offended if you did) and thought you were potentially criminally violent because of your firm handshake (which in your culture is a sign of confidence and strength). That’s essentially what this kid feels like coming to your house – your social rules are so different from the ones he was taught at home, even if he were 100% motivated to adapt it would take time and many mistakes. How easy would it be for the islanders to convince 8yo you that “wow” is a horribly offensive cuss word, and handshakes are threatening?
[bold emphasis mine]
- You’re going to raise your kids in a way that’s “odd” to some other parents and some of the friends your kid makes and wants to play with and have over to your house
- Cloth diapers
- They don’t go in a landfill!
- They may have a greater environmental impact than disposable diapers depending on how you’ll wash and treat them
On when it’s hard
- Be aware that others in the community, as well as government organizations, may push back at your idea of a safe level of independence
Have a reason behind the punishment and ensure the reason actually aligns with the punishment
No yelling, shouting, raised voices
No corporal/striking/hitting punishments (e.g. spanking)
Reward desirable behavior with attention; or punish by ignoring
Consider time-outs as a cool/calm-down period rather than as a punishment
Consider saying that there will be a punishment, then taking time to consider what it will be (don’t decide in the heat of the moment)
One thing I think my parents did right was never telling me in the heat of the moment how I would be punished. I knew how I was supposed to behave, and they let me know when I was not living up to the standard, but if they decided to punish me, I wouldn’t find out right away what my punishment would be. The only exception was trivial punishments like being sent to my room or having something taken away for a few hours, or if the behavior problem was ongoing and they had time away from me to talk between themselves and decide what would be appropriate to threaten me with.
This accomplished two things. First, they never had to back down on a punishment, because they were careful to only threaten me with things they could stand behind. That meant I never felt any urge to misbehave to call their bluff. Proving parents wrong is irresistible to kids, so if you threaten a punishment you can’t follow through on, you’ve just given them a reason to do the thing you’re told them not to. Even if you punish them in another way, it’s worth it just to prove you wouldn’t do what you said.
Second, it forced me to actively imagine what an appropriate punishment would be. To get into their heads and imagine how they would punish me, I had to think about why my behavior was wrong from their point of view. Kids spend a lot of time arguing against their parents, in their heads as well as out loud, and I think many kids don’t have enough occasion to go through the opposite process of thinking with their parents to try to predict their behavior.
On limiting or banning behaviors or activities
Attempt to redirect rather than outright ban something
When I was around your son’s age, my mother was worried I was playing too many video games. Her strategy was to get me involved in other after-school activities, like theater, which I ended up loving.
As long as this is your child’s only peer group, and that is their only activity, the game will be irresistible. He’ll need something else to fill the gap –music, or sports, or art –and other kids to be around, whose parents have made similar decisions as you have. The peer group is EVERYTHING at this age. (You also could probably benefit from the moral support of a group of like-minded parents.)
If he does develop other interests, it’s possible you might eventually be able to relax the rules without him going crazy. For what it’s worth, even though my mother never actually forbade video games for me, I just never got as deeply into them as my peers, because I had so many other things I was interested in. I won’t claim I never went through the occasional video game binge, but it never lasted. I’m pursuing a similar strategy with my own kids (a little younger than yours) and it seems to be working out so far.
Consider the community you and your child(ren) exist within; you may need to change the System in order to change the behavior
Given the smallness of your community, and the tight-knit nature of your son’s peer group, this is not a problem you will be able to solve on your own. You need to reach out to the parents of the other boys to express your concerns, even if you suspect they will not be receptive. It will be important not to come across as chastising or judging them, but just as looking for support and advice.
In turn, you might agree to let your son do some gaming with his friends, as long as it isn’t the only thing he does with them. In my experience, what’s most harmful isn’t the obsessive activity itself, it’s the way it crowds everything else out. Something like a once-a-week “tech sabbath” (for instance, no computers, games or phones on Sundays) can really help. It could be something the family could do together, or that you could perhaps even convince some of his friends to sign on for. (I personally do a tech sabbath myself –as a professional programmer it’s vital to have at least one day a week I’m not staring at screens.)
Media, books, etc
- Welcome To The Museum book series
- Curiositree series
- National geographic kids
- Calvin and Hobbes
- Media (good)
- Avoid, bad
- Paw patrol
- Read what you love until you love to read
- (TracingWoodgrains 2018) and comments
- (Engelman, Haddox, and Bruner 5AD)
- Supplemental material: (“Videos & Supplemental Material | Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons!” n.d.)
- Emily Hanford
Independence, confidence, self-assurance
Use of spaced repetition
Instill that learning is different than school
As Ivan Illich wrote in Deschooling Society (a): “The pupil is thereby ‘schooled’ to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.”
Instill that a particular lesson, test, etc, isn’t the end-all-be-all decider of their future
Engage the learner in setting the curriculum
First, we ignore their cries for agency. Then, we squash their curiosity with rigid curriculums like AERO and the Common Core that move too slow for the bored and too fast for the curious. Worse, the tyrannical curriculum structure teaches children to accept the world as it exists. Students can’t modify the syllabus. They have to accept it as it’s given to them. By doing so, we kill the joy of learning, strip agency away from our children, and in turn, rob them of their humanity.
We’ve stopped treating children like people.
Difficult to do right; easy to do poorly
Consider supplemental home schooling (e.g. extra math, reading, art, etc) in conjunction with traditional school
There are so many things to consider that I don’t have time to write down all of them, but make sure if you homeschool that you are forcing yourself to be held accountable. Parents go in with the best of intentions, but then get behind and are told by other homeschool parents that it’s normal and not to worry. A certain amount of flexibility is fine, but your kid getting too far behind does become an issue and is something you need to address sooner than later. Something like online school would at least hold you accountable better.
Also you need to be held accountable against abuse and your kid needs to have a number of safe adults they can confide in that won’t protect you. Obviously it’s easy to say you’re just not going to abuse your kid, and definitely don’t do that, but my parents didn’t think they were abusing me. After going through abuse while being isolated, I absolutely refuse to put my kid in an unprotected situation even from myself. Your kid is also most likely to face abuse from someone close to them. If you’ve made it clear who they can go to for concerns about anyone, even you, it helps prevent abuse from other close adults going unreported or getting dismissed. Regular doctor appointments are important too, both for health reasons and for accountability.
Have a lot of humility. You’re your child’s parent, your going to be too close to always see everything that’s going on. Take feedback from other people, especially those who have a background to know what they’re talking about. My mom was convinced that I only struggled in math because of ADHD and carelessness, turns out I have a math learning disability that went undiagnosed my entire childhood. On the other hand, I got a lot farther in my math education than most people with math learning disabilities because of one on one teaching and higher expectations.
Do your own homework on current educational best practices. For example, teach phonetics. Not being taught to read phonetically is something that’s still difficult for me. Don’t just use the highly advertised Christian homeschool curriculum. Don’t just search your local homeschool Facebook group and go with whatever they are recommending or giving away for free. I got taught really outdated things that way. The average Joe is not qualified to make curriculum recommendations. This isn’t even a job public school teachers have. Follow expert advice. This is another reason online school can be a better option.
Get your kid involved with public school kids in non religious settings. Maybe even get them involved in public school activities. Depending on the state there is a lot in public schools available to homeschoolers. Socialization is extremely important, do not listen to anyone telling you it’s not, socialization with their peers especially. I was always told it wasn’t important because I would be interacting with only adults eventually anyways. Well those peers grew up to be different sorts of adults than our parents, so that didn’t work out well for me at all. I also missed out on a lot of common experiences my peers had, which makes me feel like an outsider.
Give your child a choice to go to public school, and don’t lie to them about, or embellish, what it’s like there. Lots of homeschoolers chose to remain homeschooled because we were afraid of public school when it would have been better for us. Also counter the lies of other people about public school. Homeschooling is pushed really strongly by homeschoolers, and that can make conversations about what’s really best for the kid difficult. Also different schools can be very different experiences for different kids.
I get that school shootings are concerning, but as a former homeschooler I’m going to be putting my kid into public school and keeping them there unless they really aren’t doing well and want to try something else. I find homeschooling to be unnecessarily risky in America. I would also look at going through a public school program if I were to ever homeschool/online school. Parents don’t know what they’re doing better than the teachers that have an education in it, even if some teachers are awful. I originally went to college for education before switching majors, and there’s a lot to it. My mom was a public school special education teacher before homeschooling us, and it wasn’t enough. It’s a lot to expect yourself to do the job of an entire school, and you’re not an expert. I think homeschooling could be better, but it’s not set up that way currently and I can’t in good conscience recommend it as a better option, just better ways to go about it.
Consider the political angle of those introducing policies which drive parents to home school their kids: Women will bear the brunt of the schooling labor and will, statistically, drop out of the workforce at a higher rate. This may be a desirable secondary effect; weakening women’s political power and enforcing a “traditional” family structure with the mother at home.
Programming, computer science
- Keep a sleep diary!
- Keep one for yourself
- Keep one for every child
- Not getting 6/8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is at 6-12 months is normal and has no affect on later mental or psychomotor development or maternal mood
- Make sure the parents get enough sleep
- Rachel Rowell
- 6. Babies shit all over your schedule
This is a collection of discussions — not a conclusion.
Sleep training doesn’t harm children
Summary: There are many studies done, but they all have data quality issues to different degrees.
In general… (my conclusion)
> Leaving your baby to cry it out is helpful for most babies.
> But it’s not recommended for babies younger than 6 months.
> Some experts recommend even waiting until 12 months, because month 6-12 is critical for developing emotional regulation that occur with help of parent intervention.
> Benefit of letting baby cry it out isn’t permanent. It needs to be repeated.
> By the time they’re 6 years old, there was no difference.
> individual personality/temperament play large role in how the baby responds to the training.
> When babies are sleep-trained (with the “cry it out” method), they don’t actually sleep (much) longer; they wake up as often but have learned to not signal their parents.
Getting kid to sleep
On crying, tantrums, calming, etc
- Solid foods
- Bottle warmers
- Look into early food interventions
On technology, screens, etc
- Agree and stick to a plan
- e.g. 0-3 years old: no screens at all; 3-6: 1hr per week; ???
- Generally speaking, limit access to consumption-oriented activities and toward creation-oriented activities.
- YouTube, for example, can be both.
- This isn’t a 0%/100% divide
- Don’t use screens to calm children. Doing so reduces their ability to regulate their own emotions.
- Hold yourself to the same standards, within reason
- Use a pi-hole or equivalent to block junk like ads and some of the web
- Try to be close to family (depending on your family, that is) and friends
On learning to parent
- Find and maintain a social network of other parents
- Find one or two mentors
- Read reflections from parents
- They don’t have to play a specific sport, but they need to play a sport
- When can kids start lifting weights?
- Remember you need to “walk” your kids daily
- Get them out, stretch their legs, have them do something physically
On gender norms, culture, and other social expectations
How much time children take up
On risk, danger, vulnerability
- https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2022/09/the-best-way-to-teach-kids-about-danger/671310/ (a), https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32678228 (a)
- Involve your kids in chores
On toilet training
- Normal age in the USA to start potty training is 2-3 years old, and complete by ~4 years old
- “Elimination communication (EC) is a practice in which a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant’s need to eliminate waste. Caregivers try to recognize and respond to babies’ bodily needs and enable them to urinate and defecate in an appropriate place (e.g. a toilet). Caregivers may use diapers (nappies) as a back-up in case of “misses” some or all of the time, or not at all.” (“Elimination Communication” 2023)
On bodily fluids
- Newborns poop and pee a lot more than you expect
- “At the peak we went through roughly 25 diapers a day for our twins. Friends tell us similar numbers of 12 diapers per day for one kid. Another friend had a peak day of 20 diapers for one kid in one day.” (Skarupke 2022)
- “A good rule of thumb for newborn urination is to have at least as many wet diapers as they are days old, up to five days old.” (“How Often, How Much, What Color: Your Newborn Poop and Pee Questions Answered” n.d.)
- Day 1: one time
- Day 2: two times
- Day 3: three times
- Day 4: four times
- Day 5: five times
- Day 6: five times
- Day 7: five times
- “Newborn urine can take a range of yellow shades. Some parents may notice an orange tinge with some crystals, and that’s okay. Newborn girls may have small drops of blood-tinged mucus in their diaper (from the delivering parent’s hormones). That isn’t cause for concern. But if you see any other blood in the diaper, give your pediatrician a call.” (“How Often, How Much, What Color: Your Newborn Poop and Pee Questions Answered” n.d.)
- “A good rule of thumb for newborn urination is to have at least as many wet diapers as they are days old, up to five days old.” (“How Often, How Much, What Color: Your Newborn Poop and Pee Questions Answered” n.d.)
- “A new baby should poop in the first 24 hours of life. This first stool is called meconium, and its usually black and tar-like. (Hospitals generally won’t send a baby home if they haven’t pooped in the first 24 hours.)” (“How Often, How Much, What Color: Your Newborn Poop and Pee Questions Answered” n.d.)
[…] when baby poops, do not change immediately. Wait like 5 mins because they need time to unload haha. In that 5 mins, after you hear the initial blast, try rubbing their belly in a gentle but firm downward motion starting from the ribs down to the pelvis 10-15 times, Then bicycle their legs 10-15 times. You want to think about really moving the gas and solids through their system. So while obviously being gentle and not hurting them, you really want to bring as much movement and pressure to their belly as possible while still being comfortable/safe. then lastly, lift their little legs up as if you’re lifting them to slide a new diaper beneath or wipe them. Lift and pull their knees up to their chest while they lay on their back. The gas and poop will flow. Repeat 2-3x or until they stop pooping!
On age ranges
- No circadian rhythm until ~2-3 months
- Food for parents
- Plan food out for the first ~2 months
- Cook ahead and freeze
- Make a food calendar
- Schedule help from friends and family in advance
- Food for parents
- Feed them
- Change them
- Clothe and bathe them
- Sleep them
- Love them
On breast feeding
- Pick a formula you like and buy it in advance as a just-in-case
- No bad weather, only inappropriate clothes
- Second hand, second hand, second hand
Alternative education styles
- https://catherineproject.org/principles (a)
- (BLAP 2023)
- Consider education where they’ll be in mixed age groups
In middle school, my first year out of Montessori, I was shocked at how little other kids cared about learning. I remember the teacher discussing something about astronomy, and I raised my hand to comment on some fact I had read, and what followed was mockery by my peers and antipathy by the teacher. I learned quickly to never again show that I cared about learning.
This was a huge contrast with Montessori where most us were eager to learn and share what we had learned. I had friends that had built the solar system to scale out of their own initiative (in hindsight they may have taken some liberties, nonetheless).
On mental health
Social Media is a Major Cause of the Mental Illness Epidemic in Teen Girls. Here’s the Evidence. (a)
Fitness and education
When can/should kids start lifting weights?
How to foster flexibility?
I’d love a quick-skim, bullet-point, guide
Sounds like you want the Army Ranger’s Field Guide to Infant Civilians, which sadly doesn’t exist. The kind of people who write books about parenting can’t help but put in anecdotes and cute stories.