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Can Children Think?

Here are some studies about how children are bad at making decisions:

http://www.faqs.org/abstracts/Social-sciences/Are-young-children-adaptive-decision-makers-A-study-of-age-differences-in-information-search-behavio.html

http://ideas.repec.org/a/jdm/journl/v2y2007ip225-233.html

I'm not sure what their purpose can be in a debate about TCS (where they were brought up). None of the children in the studies were raised in a TCS fashion.

People think if you did raise kids in a TCS way, it wouldn't change these things, because they are genetic. But how do they know that?

The reason they think it must be genetic is they think that's the only explanation. Their argument goes like this:

- my kid is like this
- i didn't do anything wrong
- therefore something outside of my control, like genes, must have done it
- and therefore changing things under my control, like how i parent, wouldn't work

That argument uncritically assumes that most parents don't make any mistakes. It assumes there is nothing they could do better.

TCS can point out a lot of things that they might be able to improve on. Would it work well? We have good reason to think it would, in theory. Why won't they try it? They are the ones saying interventions based on changing parenting behavior are powerless, so what harm could be done? Oh, yeah, interventions are only powerless to help, but can hurt! Why? Because they are already parenting perfectly, so any change must make things worse. It's so arrogant to think you couldn't do any better than you have done!

The fact is that very young children have already faced the following:

- gotten some bad advice from their parents
- seen their parents set a bad example about how to handle some situations
- seen their parents get angry
- been intentionally thwarted by their parents
- been made to cry by their parents
- not being allowed to make a lot of decisions in their life (how are they gonna improve without getting to practice? and why are they going to try to learn about decision making if they have no decisions to make?)
- being intentionally indoctrinated with some dogmas the parents have accepted uncritically (and if child resists accepting it, his parent gets angry and hurts him)

Parents do a lot of things that cause their children to be bad at making decisions. Then they use that badness to justify doing it more.

Elliot Temple on January 2, 2009

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