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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2011 :  10:09:38  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Another cool blog I'd like to spread the word about is Science Based Parenting.

I've been reading it for a while (it used to be called something like the Skeptical Dad, but then it expanded and is run by several people now.) But the most recent post Communicating Skepticism With Your Kids made me think to post it on SFN.

All in all I think it is a useful article, and one which I will contemplate as a parent desiring to raise skeptical children (and to be a better skeptic myself.) I do wish the advice under the heading Instill a ravenous curiosity had been more elaborate.

On instilling particular traits in children: Children are born with certain tendencies greater than others. I recall a friend of mine who deeply wanted to teach her sons empathy and kindness. But her older son just wasn't very inclined in that direction. It wasn't that he was cruel in any sense. He was just more interested in information and ideas and not very interested in how people feel and how he might play a role in alleviating the suffering of others. He grew up to be an engineer, and his mother eventually came to peace with the fact that he would never be as empathetic as she was. That said, I'm sure being raised by her, her son is no doubt more aware of the importance of empathy and probably values that quality in others, like his mother, who display it more prominently. I would like my children to have "ravenous curiosity". And I'm sure certain approaches to parenting can definitely encourage greater curiosity, and greater awareness and value of curiosity. However, whether that curiosity will be truly "ravenous", or greater than that of the average cat, will likely also depend on the child's natural inclinations.


"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

Hal
Skeptic Friend

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2011 :  10:48:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Hal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marfknox

Another cool blog I'd like to spread the word about is Science Based Parenting.

I've been reading it for a while (it used to be called something like the Skeptical Dad, but then it expanded and is run by several people now.) But the most recent post Communicating Skepticism With Your Kids made me think to post it on SFN.

All in all I think it is a useful article, and one which I will contemplate as a parent desiring to raise skeptical children (and to be a better skeptic myself.) I do wish the advice under the heading Instill a ravenous curiosity had been more elaborate.

On instilling particular traits in children: Children are born with certain tendencies greater than others. I recall a friend of mine who deeply wanted to teach her sons empathy and kindness. But her older son just wasn't very inclined in that direction. It wasn't that he was cruel in any sense. He was just more interested in information and ideas and not very interested in how people feel and how he might play a role in alleviating the suffering of others. He grew up to be an engineer, and his mother eventually came to peace with the fact that he would never be as empathetic as she was. That said, I'm sure being raised by her, her son is no doubt more aware of the importance of empathy and probably values that quality in others, like his mother, who display it more prominently. I would like my children to have "ravenous curiosity". And I'm sure certain approaches to parenting can definitely encourage greater curiosity, and greater awareness and value of curiosity. However, whether that curiosity will be truly "ravenous", or greater than that of the average cat, will likely also depend on the child's natural inclinations.




I say, good luck to anyone who can espouse, and exercise, any kind of life philosophy -- especially when it concerns parenting. I've simply never been able to achieve the necessary level of consistency. I'm not saying it can't be done -- I know (and envy) lots of people who manage to live by clearly-articulated ideals.

But, I also don't think that "winging it" always leads to disaster. When my kids were young, I assented to (and funded) their education at conservative Catholic schools. I allowed them to participate in fundy-type activities when invited by friends and family. I never objected when my parents sent them home with YEC propaganda. Worst of all, I never overtly challenged any of this; not with my kids, my wife, my families, or anyone else.

In fact, being the hippie-liberal-milquetoast that I am, I'm pretty sure the only times I've felt the need to scold, or correct my children is for breaches of their personal integrity (my rules: tell the truth, do your share around the house, don't blame others for your behavior). Outside of that, I've made few attempts to directly influence my kids opinions or interests. And when I have ("let's listen to the Beatles on this road trip!" "plant a garden with me!"), let's just say I've failed pretty consistently.

Oddly enough, as teens (and young adults!), they all seem to be developing what, to me, are some nice qualities. They enjoy being creative and their interests are wide, varied, and non-exclusionary. They are eager to meet and form relationships with people from all walks of life; conservative or liberal, religious or non, gay or straight, etc.

I suppose it's because I was brought up with fairly significant constraints in all these areas, I've over-compensated on the side of leniency. Somehow, they seem to be developing into mature, rational adults, despite my best efforts.

When they're older, they can all work with therapists to undo the damage I've inflicted, but I'm reasonably confident that they won't be complaining about the fact that I never told them where to go to church, or who to vote for. The way I see it, there have been, and always will be, plenty of other people willing to dish out that kind of advice.

My 2 cents, offered today at a 100% discount.


Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King Jr.

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On fire for Christ
SFN Regular

Saudi Arabia
1266 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2011 :  13:08:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send On fire for Christ a Private Message  Reply with Quote
If you can truly mould you child to this extent what goals would you set for your end result? For the child to be like you? I think everyone wants that to some degree. But ravenous curiosity? Sure it's a quality, but is it that important?
Personally one of my end goals for nurturing the personality of my child would have to be one that ensures them best quality of life possible.
Curiosity is great but we aren't all going to be raising scientists, in fact the odds are against it.
I believe hard work is probably one of the most important things. I grew up with many kids who were very intelligent but ultimately lacked the discipline to succeed. Lack of natural curiosity and critical thinking were never a problem. One of the smartest people I ever knew has a minimum wage job because he just couldn't be bothered to attend classes at university.
I'd be interested to know how to encourage a work ethic in children. I don't think this article really says anything about that.

Edited by - On fire for Christ on 07/27/2011 13:12:50
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alienist
Skeptic Friend

USA
210 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2011 :  13:34:03   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send alienist a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It really is amazing that a lot of kids do fine despite what parents do. I am going to take my son to a unitarian church with me. Some people say it is too religious but the church talks about other religions as well as giving to the community, teaching children to be tolerant of people's differences. The church reminds me of psychiatry in a way. There is no one right answer. It is about the process of looking for answers.

I agree that encouraging a child's curiosity is important. Curiosity is not limited to the scientific disciplines. If you want your child to be a "hard worker" you have to give the child motivation and reasons to keep working. My mother was an elementary school teacher and she had techniques of building up a child's confidence. She would give them tasks she knew they could do. It gave them the confidence to keep trying new and harder tasks.

I think the toughest task as a parent is to be a role model. (Dammit, son, do as I say, not as I do. )

The only normal people are the ones you don't know very well! - Joe Ancis
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Hal
Skeptic Friend

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2011 :  13:43:56   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Hal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by On fire for Christ

If you can truly mould you child to this extent what goals would you set for your end result? For the child to be like you? I think everyone wants that to some degree. But ravenous curiosity? Sure it's a quality, but is it that important?
Personally one of my end goals for nurturing the personality of my child would have to be one that ensures them best quality of life possible.
Curiosity is great but we aren't all going to be raising scientists, in fact the odds are against it.
Ultimately I believe hard work is probably one of the most important things. I grew up with many kids who were very intelligent but ultimately lacked the discipline to succeed. Lack of natural curiosity and critical thinking were never a problem. One of the smartest people I ever knew has a minimum wage job because he just couldn't be bothered to attend classes at university.
I'd be interested to know how to encourage a work ethic in children. I don't think this article really says anything about that.


You make some very good points here. To the extent that an individual's life is defined by the values and goals he/she pursues, it is obvious that this will be expressed in their child-rearing. At the same time, even a new-born infant responds to its world in its own, utterly unique ways. The challenge is, how do I effectively communicate my values to my children, while respecting the fact that in the long run, their own values will diverge from my own. I've almost certainly erred too far on the side of, "let 'em figure it all out for themselves," but it's just as easy to go the other way.

When my first child was born, I was horrified to hear my sister say, "I love newborns! They're like little blank slates and you can make them into anything you want!" Needless to say, that didn't work out for her any better than it does for anyone else. I recall an interview with Richard Feynman, in which he recounted how his father instilled in him a fascination for discovery. When he tried to do the same things with his own children, they didn't always respond with the same degree of enthusiasm.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King Jr.

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On fire for Christ
SFN Regular

Saudi Arabia
1266 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2011 :  13:50:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send On fire for Christ a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by alienist

If you want your child to be a "hard worker" you have to give the child motivation and reasons to keep working. My mother was an elementary school teacher and she had techniques of building up a child's confidence. She would give them tasks she knew they could do. It gave them the confidence to keep trying new and harder tasks.


If you can somehow get them to enjoy learning that's great. But academic achievement is not all about overcoming challenges and exploration, a lot of it is hard and sometimes repetitive work. I don't think a lot of people find essay writing fun for example. The motivation to complete tasks like that must come more from a kind of discipline than any kind of enjoyment. Except the enjoyment of completing a task, maybe. I could be wrong but that seems axiomatic to me.

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2011 :  14:28:44   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hal, thanks for your story. I have read about a lot of different approaches to parenting, especially now that I'm a new parent (almost through my second year of it - whew!) I have come to the ultimate conclusion that different children thrive and respond better to different parenting approaches. Sadly, we cannot know our children until they're here and we're already implementing whatever approach to parenting that we've decided to implement. The best we can do is try to modify our approach based on their individual needs (or rather, what we think their needs are), without being so inconsistent that we confuse or worry them. All parents would do well to just accept that we're going to screw our kids up at least a little, and all people would do well to forgive our parents their mistakes.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2011 :  15:15:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
OFFC asked:
If you can truly mould you child to this extent what goals would you set for your end result?
I must admit to having high ambitions for my children. When my husband and I have reflected on the highs and lows of our own childhoods (which were both overall quite happy and stimulating), we both feel we were not challenged enough, and that perhaps if we had been, we would have achieved more. Both of us also feel that lack of desired level of achievement in certain areas are a source of significant disappointment. Not that we aren't generally happy with our lots in life, but we can easily see how we could be much happier in certain very specific and substantial ways. I would like my children to have greater opportunities than I had. For instance, I wanted to attend Oberlin College. Unfortunately, I didn't have the maturity to recognize the importance of good grades until my junior year of HS, and that was too late to bring up my overall GPA high enough. I was always capable for straight A's, but my parents didn't enforce that level of effort. (I don't blame them at all. Just saying how it was.) I also probably might have gotten in if I had known how to study harder for the SATs and ACTs, but I hadn't developed particularly rigorous study habbits. My parents just bought me a study guide and were otherwise not very involved. And so while I scored above average, it wasn't enough to get me into Oberlin. As a result, I went to Ohio State U. OSU's poor academic reputation made it that much more difficult for me to get into any graduate programs, much less good ones, even though I had almost straight A's at OSU and did many extra curricular activities. As a result, I only got into one grad program, and a crappy, expensive one at that. As a result, I have a frighteningly huge student debt load and really no hope of ever scoring a good college teaching position. The fact is, decisions we make when we're only 18 years old can have a cascading impact on our future.

Now my daughter may not want to attend U Penn, an ivy league school. However, if she does have that desire (and she might be partially persuaded since she can attend for free - my husband works there) I certainly want her to be able to get in! If she instead wants to avoid college and work or do residencies or work exchanges, or hell, join the circus, I won't mind so long as I can see it is the right decision for her at the time. I just want her to have as many options as fit her potential, and that means attempting to prepare her for the most difficult-to-achieve ones. So the kid is gonna have to participate in several formal extracurricular activities and get high test scores, and if I have to drive myself almost mad enforcing it, so be it. Life is so much grander when we can do things that challenge our highest capabilities.

For the child to be like you? I think everyone wants that to some degree.
Honestly, first and foremost I want my kids to have a strong sense of self and be able to live their lives in a manner that is most personally fulfilling. If that means being a poly-amorous tattoo artist who likes to frequent S&M clubs, or if it means becoming a Methodist accountant, so be it. But okay, if I'm pressed to think about who I hope they turn out to be, I must admit it'd be nice if they shared my interests so we'd have more opportunities to be closer as adults. I've had fantasies about having one kid grow up to be a professional dancer and dance teacher, and another grow up to be a physicist. I honestly don't really want a kid who grows up to be a visual artist, like me. But that might mostly be because I know how damn difficult it is to be an artist. As long as my kids don't grow up to be selfish assholes, I really don't care that much.

But ravenous curiosity? Sure it's a quality, but is it that important?
For some, yes. A friend of mine married his wife based largely on her shared curiosity. Curiosity is a source of great joy and satisfaction for many people, as well as being an often tremendously useful attribute. Not saying everyone should be all hot for hard-core curiosity, but as attributes go, I think it is generally undervalued.

Curiosity is great but we aren't all going to be raising scientists, in fact the odds are against it.
Curiosity is valuable in pretty much all fields. Even an accountant would be both a happier and more effective accountant if they remain curious about the changing tax laws.

I believe hard work is probably one of the most important things. I grew up with many kids who were very intelligent but ultimately lacked the discipline to succeed.
I totally agree with you, and I think this is one of the problems with mainstream attitudes about parenting in America these days. Lots of parents make nice-sounding excuses about why they don't want to force their kids to do things, but I think in many cases it really comes down to what is easier for the parents. I wish my mom and dad had forced me to do all my homework and actually practice piano for even just a half hour a day. But they didn't, and I know why; I was a huge pain in the ass and extremely resistant and rebellious. Making me do things was very frustrating and exhausting. My daughter is already exhibiting many traits similar to me, and I only hope I will have the determination and patience to make her do things my parents never made me do. And hopefully she'll be grateful, as I am grateful to my parents for the many difficult things they did force me to do.

I'd be interested to know how to encourage a work ethic in children. I don't think this article really says anything about that.
I'm taking the tactic of developing a parenting plan which involves certain non-negotiables which have negotiable elements within them. One is that starting at age 4, my kids will have to take some sort of disciplined form of phys ed, such as ballet, karate, or gymnastics. After committing to one for a certain amount of time, they can change to something else, but they have to do something. Same thing with playing an instrument. I've already decided they are going to learn Spanish (and I'm going to re-learn it; I was fluent when I was 17, so it shouldn't be too difficult.) I've already started my daughter on Spanish language videos and books. I am seriously considering also including Mandarin Chinese. I don't think it matter what requirements are decided on (certain household chores, service activities, etc.), so long as there are clear requirements set from an early age. If they are set from an early age, and always presented to the child as something that is absolutely expected of them with no negotiation, the work will be met with less resistance in the long-run. But any parent who wants to take this approach has got to be prepared to deal with at least some serious resistance. That's where a clear idea (beforehand) of consequences and rewards comes in.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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Hal
Skeptic Friend

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2011 :  15:29:43   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Hal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marfknox

Hal, thanks for your story. I have read about a lot of different approaches to parenting, especially now that I'm a new parent (almost through my second year of it - whew!) I have come to the ultimate conclusion that different children thrive and respond better to different parenting approaches. Sadly, we cannot know our children until they're here and we're already implementing whatever approach to parenting that we've decided to implement. The best we can do is try to modify our approach based on their individual needs (or rather, what we think their needs are), without being so inconsistent that we confuse or worry them. All parents would do well to just accept that we're going to screw our kids up at least a little, and all people would do well to forgive our parents their mistakes.


I've never had a lot of confidence in my ability to direct my kids to any specific "truth," but I have tried to assure them that they have the same right (and obligation) to seek it as anyone else. You'll find the measure of consistency and self-assurance you can present to your kids, while staying true to yourself. I know that I always worried a lot about the fact that I didn't always express myself to my kids the way other dads did -- I'm kind of a boring guy, and I didn't enjoy playing games or rough-housing, but in retrospect I think the fact that I was willing to accept my kids as they were helped them to accept me the way I am. The thing I've enjoyed more than anything else about being a parent is simply discovering who these brand-new people are.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King Jr.

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2011 :  17:56:03   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The thing I've enjoyed more than anything else about being a parent is simply discovering who these brand-new people are.
That perfectly describes what most excites me about being a parent, too.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2011 :  18:07:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
alienist wrote:
It really is amazing that a lot of kids do fine despite what parents do. I am going to take my son to a unitarian church with me. Some people say it is too religious but the church talks about other religions as well as giving to the community, teaching children to be tolerant of people's differences. The church reminds me of psychiatry in a way. There is no one right answer. It is about the process of looking for answers.
I am very pro-Unitarian churches for freethinkers, including atheists like myself. Some of the most well-rounded, compassionate skeptics I met in college had grown up in Unitarian churches. Their focus on values based in human interest in this world and their openness to various religious points of view is why I plan to send my kids to a cooperative nursery school run by the UU Church in my neighborhood. Also, I plan to homeschool, and the neighborhood homeschool co-op meets in the same church. I doubt I'll ever go to services just because I'm not into that sort of thing. But I'm glad my kids will have that sort of exposure to organized religion. (Granted, modern day UUs really stretch the definition of "religion".)

I think the toughest task as a parent is to be a role model. (Dammit, son, do as I say, not as I do. )
Definitely another important component of good parenting, I'm sure. After I had my daughter my motivation to work harder on my own art career really ramped up out of my desire to show my kids through my actions that mommy has a real career even if she doesn't go to an office every day like daddy.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2011 :  18:21:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
OFFC wrote:
If you can somehow get them to enjoy learning that's great. But academic achievement is not all about overcoming challenges and exploration, a lot of it is hard and sometimes repetitive work. I don't think a lot of people find essay writing fun for example. The motivation to complete tasks like that must come more from a kind of discipline than any kind of enjoyment. Except the enjoyment of completing a task, maybe. I could be wrong but that seems axiomatic to me.
I have to dispute some of what you are saying here. There is definitely a sort of mental endurance that people can build up through practice, just as we can build up our physical endurance with practice. So what we're really talking about is the motivation to practice in the first place. The difficulty or repetitiveness that comes along with achieving many goals may not be understood by very young children, but by grade school and certainly middle school, children understand the tangible rewards that make the efforts worth it. As an art teacher, I have witnessed many students dive into very difficult tasks, even giving up recess or coming after school, or doing extra work at home for no extra credit, simply because they wanted to master a certain technique or get a piece just right. Oftentimes during this process, those same students get frustrated. I've even seen one kid destroy a promising piece out of his own frustration. So clearly they are capable of making themselves endure difficult work for the sake of the desired rewards.

I tend to think that most kids will not put in enough practice in most subjects, not because they don't recognize the rewards, but rather, their immaturity makes many of them short-sighted. This is where parents and mentors can step in and provide additional motivation through both rewards and punishments. But just saying, it isn't always necessary with all kids in all subjects. Some kids actually are just natural workaholics.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

Edited by - marfknox on 07/27/2011 18:22:47
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