Children Don't Exist

Most bad parenting can be said to assert that children don't exist.

For example, spanking a child in order to improve it's behavior is treating a child like a donkey at best. It thus denies the child exists as a person.

The idea of temper tantrums denies the child exists, and says instead that other things exist such as 'temper' and 'childishness'.

The idea of aspies denies the child exists and replaces him with a syndrome.

The preferences of children are very commonly denied to exist. He doesn't really want that toy, just an ad told him to pester his parents. Ads exist, and pestered parents, but not children who agree with ads or who would benefit from toys.

Sometimes children are asked to pretend they don't exist: be seen but not heard, or go to bed before the guests arrive.

When a child doesn't want a vaccination, all parents acknowledge to exist is irrationally fear and irrational demands that life consists absolutely entirely of love and unicorns.

When a child doesn't want a medication, all parents acknowledge to exist is the absolute necessity of administering the medication.

When a child doesn't like school, it certainly never occurs to parents that they are dealing with a person who has a preference and a life, and perhaps should have some control over his life. Instead, all that exists to them is a ball of clay which has the potential to be an adult with the skill to run its own life, and will get there not by practicing doing that but by molding.

And it goes on and on.

Despite all this, I think it'd be highly inaccurate to say the primary problem with parents today is they haven't realized children exist.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (9)

Temper Tantrums

Quotes from Feb 2000:
Could someone help me? How do you discipline a child that has got in the habit of throwing temper tantrums, when she doesn't get her way?
Well, why doesn't she get her way?
Exactly. Classic TCS.
What is it that she wants? How does it conflict with what you want? How could you create a situation that worked for both of you?
Unfortunately, this does not answer the question. The poster did not ask how to find a solution. He asked how to discipline his child. He's already decided A) they aren't both going to get what they want B) whose going to lose out.

It has not occurred to him that, say, he could be mistaken about whether temper tantrums are good or bad. Or whether "discipline" (punishment) is good or bad. Or that there is a truth of the matter about how they should proceed, which he and his child disagree about, and that they should try to find out what this truth is.
It's becoming a common practice for my daughter to fallout wherever she is(public, home or daycare), which is very embarrassing. HELP!
His daughter is greatly upset, and his concern is his own embarrassment?

His daughter is being hurt frequently, and he wants help for himself?
Help her get what she wants. If you just crush the behavior, she may be less embarrassing, but won't be any more happy. Get rid of the problem, not the symptom of it..
The idea that "tantrums" have reasons or problems behind them is rare.

The whole point of calling it a temper tantrum is to deny the child is using reason in any way. And to deny the child is expressing a preference or want of any kind. It's to deny the child exists at all. All that exists is the temper, the genes, the childishness, the parent's embarrassment, and so on.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Single Pushback Discussions

If you're a parent and your kid wants something, common preference finding usually doesn't mean you have a long discussion. Most things kids want are small and immediate, and can be done faster than a big discussion.

If you think it's a good idea, just do it. If you think it's a bad idea, say this:
I'd rather not do that because [short reason]. If you still want me to, then I will.
Optionally, you might say briefly what you could do instead. Especially if it's a bigger issue, rather than a really little one. But only if you think your kid would want to hear it.

This way, there won't be a long discussion. There won't be a big back and forth. This strictly limits how much your disagreement delays your kid getting what he wants. It keeps transaction costs low.

But the kid does get advice. He does find out why the thing he's asking for might not be good. You wouldn't just want to do whatever he asked without sharing your useful knowledge about it. But you don't want to block him from getting what he wants by arguing a lot.

Suppose your kid wants something and you're busy. Don't ask if it'd be ok to wait 20 minutes, and then he says he's not sure, and then you ask if 10 minutes would be ok. Then you're getting into a discussion that takes too long and is too unclear how your kid can get what he wants (now, if necessary).

Instead, say something like this:
I'm busy. Can you wait 20 minutes? Otherwise I'll stop and do it now.
This keeps it simple. You make one short objection. You give the kid some clear and immediate options. He can have what he wants right now with no further discussion. Or if he doesn't mind waiting, then you can finish what you were doing.

It's important to say stuff like this because the kid may prefer your alternative option. Sometimes he won't mind waiting. You wouldn't want to drop what you were doing every single time, even if the kid could have waited half the time. It's better for both of you if he sometimes prefers for you to finish, when it won't be a problem for him. But you also don't want to put a big obstacle between your kid and getting the help he's asking for.

A reason child may prefer to wait is that parental help is a limited resource. The child will benefit by using it efficiently. Interrupting the parent will use up a bit of the parent's energy, and it'll take some extra time to switch tasks and switch back (like to find his place again, and remember the context, if he was reading). In general, parent will be able to help more with other things if he's got fewer demands on him.

In the examples, the parent does a single pushback on what the kid wants. This gives one opportunity for the kid to get new information (parent currently in the middle of something) or criticism (a reason it's a bad idea), and then change his mind. That's good because it allows for improvement, and without it a worse outcome would happen frequently. But multiple pushbacks is frequently too many and burdens the kid. A single pushback is a good amount to use for most everyday events.

If child agrees to wait, he may change his mind, or parent may be busy longer than expected. If child comes back and asks a second time, parent should help immediately. Don't repeat that you're busy or make a second request for child to wait. This keeps it to a single pushback for the issue and makes it safer for child to agree to wait.

Every single pushback or back-and-forth or layer of negotiation is a big deal. People don't have enough respect for how much that needs to be minimized. You can discuss back and forth more when your kid wants to, that's fine when everyone's interested in doing it. But there are going to be a lot of times when he doesn't want to.

Notice how these statements are structured to limit the amount of times the parent and kid go back and forth talking. Kid makes request. Parent does one pushback. Kid chooses to either get his request immediately or accept the pushback. That's it. And the parent clearly states these options to the kid, so he knows he can get what he wants, right now, without any further arguing or pushback. The kid does not have to argue back against the parent. And the kid does not have to have a discussion where the parent speaks several times.

The kid is welcome to ask for a larger discussion if he wants. He might ask if there's any other options, or can the parent explain more. He might ask a question about what the parent said. He should be told, in general, that he has options like that. But don't state those options every time. Stating two options is enough for small everyday events – with one option being the kid's initial preference, and the other being the parent's alternative suggestion.

Parents should get good at making appealing alternative suggestions without having to question and argue with the kid for 10 minutes and then have 5 tries at telling him alternatives. Parent needs to get skillful at this to reduce the burden on the kid.

It's important the parent be happy. So parents should also get good at being happy to help their kid. And get good at being interruptible during most activities. And get good at thinking, "I got to say why I thought it wasn't the best idea. I got to express myself. But my kid still disagreed, so it must be important to him, and I better help."

It's important for the parent to remember that if he negotiated with his kid more, it'd interrupt what he was doing anyway. Or if he argued with his kid more about a decision (e.g. whether kid can stay up late tonight), then he's making it harder for the kid to be his own person. Parents need to stop having agendas they are trying to push on their kids, and instead understand their role as helpers. Parents should only pushback more than once if they really, truly think the kid will regard it as helpful and thank them for it (right now, not later).

This will not solve every problem parents have. If kid wants a yacht (which is unusual), parent can't just say "I think that's too expensive, but if you still want it I'll buy you one." But it will help with a lot of small interactions.

If you don't know dozens of concrete, practical parenting interactions like this, you could be a much better parent.

And if you didn't know this one, try to understand that you still don't know it after you read this post. It's not going to just instantly work in your life. You might be able to immediately do something better than you used to do. But you're not done yet. Remember it, try it out, see what goes wrong, ask some questions about it, make some adjustments, etc. Then you'll form a real, thorough understanding.

You can find out ideas like this by discussing your parenting and getting tips from other people. And other people can point out some problems you didn't see with your parenting (and you can point out some of theirs, since you'll have different perspectives). And you can ask for ideas like this to help with your life, instead of passively waiting for me to post them unprompted. Take some initiative to get better parenting knowledge!

If you already have some really useful parenting knowledge like this, share it. Other people need it and can offer you refinements. If you have none, your parenting could be way better! Start actively seeking out more knowledge right away!

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

Cold Hands

A question was posted to FI about having unpleasantly cold hands when walking to the car in the morning to go to work. Here are some thoughts about how to think about problem solving in a TCS way. With approaches like these, all problems are soluble and no one need ever suffer.

people bothered by cold hands imagine alternatives like warm hands. they have had warm hands. they know of summer and gloves and heaters.

if the laws of physics didn't allow for other temperatures, most people wouldn't be sad about their cold hands. they couldn't imagine any different, so they wouldn't see a problem.

suppose they were somehow bothered by cold hands that were IMPOSSIBLE to change. a rational person would then go "well i can't change my hand temperature, but i can change my attitude to it." they'd focus their problem solving on their interpretation so the cold feels neutral or good to them.

suppose i had an issue with cold hands in the real world. i don't wanna go to my car to go to work b/c my hands will be too cold. i don't own any gloves or hand warmers. ( http://www.amazon.com/HotHands-Hand-Warmers/dp/B00PX20LO0 )

i also don't want to miss work.

i had bad foresight.

what do i do?

i come up with a plan for how to proceed from here that sounds good to me. it will involve getting gloves (maybe 2 pairs to layer) and HotHands, and perhaps some other things (like a warmer jacket, or a car with a stronger heater, or a portable heater that can be used in a car).

if i really don't wanna have cold hands, i'll call in sick, get the solutions, and go to work tomorrow.

or maybe i'll decide i don't wanna miss work and i can deal with cold hands one more time, given that i'll make sure it doesn't happen again.

i won't want the impossible like that i had better foresight in the past. i'll focus on productive ways forward and come up with a plan that i have no criticisms of. my poor foresight in the past isn't a criticism of my plan since no plan can change it. the poor past foresight could be used to criticize plans that don't correct it. repeating that mistake would be bad. but plans which deal with stuff well going forward won't necessarily have any criticism of them.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (16)

Parents at the Park

i stopped at a park and sat on a bench for 15min today and there were parents and little kids

they did a lot of awful things in that short time

like 6-8 different parents came by. there's like a daycare or something next to the park

i got there at 1pm

one thing i noticed is sometimes parents hold their kid's hand while walking

and i saw a kid trip a bit

and i realized holding hands wasn't affecting parent's balance or stride

but it WAS affecting the kid's

to have his hand held upward and immobile

and also to try to match parent's pace

and i thought parent contributed to the tripping

and prolly thinks kid needs hand held to yank him up to prevent falls

but i think parent causes more falls


another parent said kid could only go down slide once and then they had to go

so kid delayed. a lot. and banged on the slide. and sat on top.

and parent got impatient asked him to come again before he'd even gone down once. and parent gave the reason that his brother was in the car waiting.

which is so nasty to put the two siblings at odds against each other. to create a conflict btwn them, where the brother is the excuse for why he can't use the slide

and the amount of time before the left, i figure the kid could have gone down the slide 5 times if he was reasonably quick

but the parent told him once, so he did it really slow

if the parent had said "you can slide 3 times if you are quick"

they might have left faster and with a happier kid

it's so wasteful to drag it out enough time for 5 slides, with parent resenting it, and kid resenting only getting to slide once. so inefficient.


there were 3 trikes someone had left at the park. it's in a good neighborhood, small park, bit isolated, low theft risk.

a mom praised the hell out of a dad who she found out was the owner

she gushed about how big a difference the trikes made. later she said she had one on her porch she never remembers to bring.

it was very like boring smalltalk, very low content, very gushy and exaggerated

but also note the trikes are a big deal for the kids – that she'll gush about – and she just keeps forgetting to bring one she already has. that's how much she actually cares about about kids. not enough to make the effort to remember.

and she said something about 3 trikes being a good number. i was thinking if it was only one then some parents would prefer zero trikes instead of one to avoid kids fighting over it. they'd rather have no resources so kids don't expect anything than some resources kids really want and have to deal with resource allocation. (and these people have plenty of money and other resources to provide plenty for the kids. they all present as being well off financially and it's not a neighborhood for poor people. they just, in various ways, choose not to provide their kids with resources.)


then later i saw a little girl, like 3, was on a small plastic trike. and her mom tried to help her peddle but it wasn't working. she pushed along with her feet on the ground. the mother just gave up and ignored it. she was obviously way too big for it. her knees were bent heavily for her to sit on it.

while the mother was standing 2 feet away but ignoring her, the girl, on her own, noticed the 3 trikes the other guy had left at the park. they were metal and larger. they fit her better. she went to one. the mother followed.

and then she put her doll in the seat and then realized it blocked her from sitting on it herself, and tried to figure out what to do

sigh. and the mother was not helping or offering to hold the doll or suggesting how to handle it

and the gender roles. none of the guys had this problem. they would play. the girl is taught priorities that get in her way.

the girl is taught to treat a doll like it's special and important and fragile

which is inconvenient

so she manages to get on the trike and hold the doll in her lap. and her mom pushes it around for her some. it had a poll sticking up the back the mother could push. kid didn't figure out how to peddle and mom didn't even try to help with that this time.

with the first trike the mom was physically grabbing the kid's feet and putting them on the pedals

and then spun the pedals with her hands when kid had feet on ground like a demonstration

i think she was very bad at explaining it and was not a patient helper

anyway mom says something about time to go, pushes the trike onto the grass instead of stone, stops pushing it, leaves kid stuck and not moving, and stands there

i thought she did it on purpose to end the activity but later found out she didn't have much trouble pushing the trike on the grass, it still rolled fine

but kid had to wait a while. mom talked to someone else or looked at her phone or just stood there, idk, but kid wasn't moving for a minute

and for some reason mom got the doll

and dropped it into a little basket on the back of the trike that was like 2 inches above the ground

mom was unaware or uncaring that her daughter cared about the doll, and treated it very carefully

which i knew from watching her with the doll for 20 seconds a few minutes earlier

and then what next? mom just looks away or ignores kid, doesn't pay attention

and kid tries to reach back and arrange doll better in basket

and spends like 30s trying to get doll more comfortable and properly taken care of for the ride

and mom isn't helping or paying any attention or realizing she just fucking dropped the doll like 1 foot into the basket, carelessly, that kid is trying to treat like a fragile baby

then mom pushed her on the grass some more then made her leave

all the parents were pressuring their kids to leave and no one stayed for long


my friend commented, "Ppl think my sister is weird cuz she asks toddlers for permission to like pick them up"


it's so sad how the parents consistently aren't interested in helping their kid get plenty of trips down the slide, get his fill of the park.

and it's so sad how parents mostly just don't pay attention to what their kid is doing. they can't help much because they don't pay attention. they say "we're going soon" and then talk with another parent and look away and then a few minutes later say "we really gotta go now" without even checking or caring what their kid is in the middle of. they mostly don't play with their kids. they don't try to understand what their kids are thinking. they don't try to help with it. they just don't care or pay much attention.

the one mom did help push the trike. but she wasn't paying any attention to the great care and attentiveness with which her daughter treated her doll. and i'll bet the kid has been loving that doll for months and treating it much the same and mom just doesn't care or have any respect for her kid's wishes and goals. and she just stopped in the middle of pushing the trike for a while for no apparent reason and then kid was stuck sitting still for a while. and she's not a good enough helper to help her kid peddle a trike. and she doesn't care or have the patience to keep trying. she just grabbed her kid's feet, placed them, didn't seem aware the trike was way too small for the kid (knees super bent), and then promptly gave up. kid will have to learn how to use a trike later from some other kid who knows how to use one. or maybe figure it out herself if she gets the opportunity to spend more time with a trike instead of being made to leave. or maybe, being a female, she'll just go through life being bad at that kind of thing because if a girl apparently "doesn't like trikes" parents think that's normal and ok and ignore it instead of figuring there's a problem to help with. but if a boy isn't playing with trikes, a lot more parents would figure something is wrong and help him solve the problem instead of just thinking it's a matter of taste. stuff like that, which isn't very blatant, is how a lot of gender role stuff ends up happening.


my friend also commented:

and it's so sad how parents mostly just don't pay attention to what their kid is doing. they can't help much because they don't pay attention.

when ppl do try to “help”, they mostly just interrupt with their kid is doing

they aren’t paying attention to what the kid is trying to do

so they interrupt and are like “here, do this”

but that won’t even help with what the kid is trying to do

like, say kid is trying to make swing twist around

parent will kind of see what kid is doing, but will think they are just incompetent at swinging

so if they try to “help” it will be either by pushing kid on swing, or trying to make them pump their legs

or maybe they know kid is trying to twist swing around, but they just think that is the wrong way to use the swing. so they are trying to make him use it right

i think both things happen


i don't entirely get how people are so blind to this stuff. you watch anyone interest with kids for a few minutes and you see horrors. they consistently don't pay attention to what their children or doing or why. they consistently don't try to understand. they consistently suck at helping or explaining anything, or don't even try to.

and they try to control their kid and make him leave. with no idea what kid is doing, they have no idea how important staying more is. they don't care. they don't try to figure out if it's worth staying because kid is in the middle of something great. they just have a very limited amount of patience for kid to delay them and they don't care about the park.

some reason people are blind to these horrors:

  • they don't think of children as people
  • they see it all the time so it just looks normal to them
  • they make excuses like parenting is tiring enough without actually paying attention to your kid and his activities and having to help
  • they don't respect children "playing", don't regard it as important or having anything to do with learning or education
  • they're not very nice to anyone in their lives, including themselves. this isn't all kid-specific
  • they treat people by categories (e.g. "child") rather than worrying about specifics like what that individual child cares about

it's so fucking simple though. your kid treasures a doll. you don't just drop it. the parent is just doing generic actions without knowing about her kid as an individual.

if your kid wants to use a slide, that's great. he likes it. this thing exists, people built it, and then other people enjoy it. they didn't have to build it but they did. and here it is. and your kid didn't have to find things in life he likes but he did. liking things and thinking things are good is not automatic. people take it for granted but it's wonderful and takes some positive human spirit and thinking. and then people grow up and don't actually like much stuff, or feel much joy, or have many interests, and they wonder why their lives are so empty. it's because their parents crushed their interests young and had no respect for their joy and preferences.

then people cover up their empty adult lives with a bunch of lies and make excuses for their parents and then do it to their own kids. they pretend getting drunk and partying and having sex are interests, when they're really just doing it because they have no idea what to do with their lives and that's what society offers. some pretend their profession is an interest. some pretend to like video games but play "casually" – meaning without really thinking about it much, just to kill time like watching TV. (some people don't even want to watch TV at higher speeds because then they'd just need to watch more shows to take up the same time slots in their life. they don't actually care about what they watch, and aren't interested in seeing more, they are just killing time.)


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (39)

Liberalism + Popper = TCS

I was asked:

How did people find out about how to find Common Preferences and TCS [Taking Children Seriously] stuff?

Here are two of the big ideas that went into TCS:

  • Karl Popper's philosophy, which is about how people learn.
  • Liberalism, which is about how people deal with each other.

Liberalism includes some of the world's most important ideas. Many thinkers and writers have tried to advocate it. And its opponents often try to steal its concepts. Some liberal ideas are peace, freedom, progress and cooperation. Today, everyone says those are great – even the people who actually hate peace, freedom, progress or cooperation.

Liberalism talks about how peace, freedom, progress and cooperation imply capitalism and free trade.

Most liberal thinking focuses on politics. It looks at topics like government, laws, rulers, production, wealth, commerce, and fighting (including big stuff like wars and genocides, and also little stuff like robberies or assaults).

Liberal ideas also have a place in families. Families need peace and cooperation, not fighting. People in families need freedom and want to make progress in their lives.

Liberalism has criticisms of authority. Families usually have the parents as the authorities over the children. And sometimes the "man of the house" is the authority over his wife, too.

So part of where TCS comes from is taking liberal ideas, and understanding them well, and applying them to families.

Popper focused the most on how learning works in science. But his ideas apply to all learning. And he knew that. But he didn't write much about children or students learning. He didn't write much about education.

TCS took Popper's ideas and worked out what they mean for education and parenting. We looked at what the implications are.

Popper's ideas contradict authority. They don't fit with having authorities.

Popperian philosophy says to judge ideas by what the idea says, not by who said it. So if the child says an idea, it doesn't matter who said it, it's just an idea. You have to look at whether the idea is good, not whether a child or parent said it.

Popperian philosophy says that people have to think in order to learn. The learner has to do most of the work. You can't pour ideas into someone's head like water into a bucket. The learner has to figure stuff out.

Popperian philosophy says that finding and fixing mistakes is really important. People make mistakes. So we should look for them and fix them. And to find and fix mistakes we need criticism. Criticism means trying to point out mistakes. Lots of people don't like criticism, but it's really helpful. Parents should be happy to get criticism from their kids, but usually they aren't.

If someone understood liberalism and Popper really well, and then they thought carefully about education and parenting, they could come up with some ideas similar to TCS. Maybe not all the details, but a lot. It'd be really different than regular parenting. But people don't do that, instead they hurt their children's ability to learn.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Multiple Children and Sharing

Having one child is hard enough. Having more will lead to more mistakes and problems.

Sharing is overrated and it's generally better if people have their own property with no strong pressure/expectations to share it. They can share when it's convenient, but when it's a problem then stop sharing. And the borrower can be happy to borrow things sometimes, but realize sometimes other people's stuff won't be available. This is the same as how two adults friends would typically treat each other.

Sharing space is problematic too, not just possessions. It's typical for adults who share spaces to either have conflicts about the spaces. The main things that prevent this are being flexible and conflict-avoiding rather than picky, and having shared culturally-standard expectations about how the space is used (e.g. most adults in our culture have a similar concept of what to do and not do in a kitchen space or bedroom space).

Sharing rooms is typical in our society. Even if everyone has their own room, they still will share a living room, dining room, kitchen, etc. Usually parents mostly get what they want regarding shared rooms and children have to defer. That's somewhat bizarre because parents are the ones who are much better at dealing with problems, finding alternative ways to get stuff they want, etc. Parents are better at delaying an activity until later and dealing with life over a longer time horizon, and have way more other options, so usually they ought to be the ones deferring about the use of shared spaces (unless child is happy to defer in this case). What about two children sharing a space? That's hard and our society causes that difficult situation to happen far more than necessary – then complains that children get upset too much, squabble too much, etc

Children are people and ought to be treated like full people. So they ought to be able to choose their friends, rather than being required to be extra close friends with their siblings. This is often problematic in terms of various resources like money or parental attention to multiple children in different places all wanting help, now, with their separate projects.

Once you have a situation with several children trying to get along with each other (no other choice), sharing stuff, etc, then what has to be done is help them learn skills to deal with this situation. These are difficult skills – most adults have lots of problems with skills like these. It sucks to pressure children to learn these particular skills at a young age or else have ongoing conflicts with their family. It'd be better, in general, if children learned to deal with siblings after they learn how to deal with people more at arms length (which is an easier place to start). Yet getting along with siblings can be learned and children can be resilient to all kinds of difficult situations.

Children can forgive and deal with a lot – people massively underestimate this because other stuff is going wrong (coercive parenting, coercive schooling, treating the child like he's sub-human, etc) which is using up most of the child's coping and problem-solving ability. If parents would act less like irrational, cruel rulers then that'd free up tons of child's creativity, energy, good will, etc, to be used on smaller problems like learning how to deal with siblings.

When dealing with sibling problems it's important to keep in mind the perspective I've outlined. That's not just being negative, it's part of the solution. The key to fighting with siblings less is to lower expectations – recognize it's a tough situation and be less ambitious about what one expects from it. Just like if you live in a poor family, it helps a lot if the children recognize they are poor, recognize that's bad and hard, and calibrate their expectations accordingly. Children in poor families can be happy if they learn skills like sometimes being OK with not getting to buy something. Children with siblings can be happy if they learn skills like sometimes being OK with giving up a shared space or shared possession. Children can learn standard coping strategies for how to do this – e.g. have a list of activities they like which they can switch to which use a minimal amount of space, are flexible about where they can be done, and don't require any shared possessions. For example, if each child has their own phone/iPad/laptop then they can watch movies, watch youtube, listen to audio books, etc – and those activities will always be options they can fall back on to avoid a conflict over a shared space.

There are lots of other things to learn that also help. Like how to communicate one's preferences and make clear statements about what outcomes one is OK or not-OK with.

I think a lot of problems in multiple-children families are because everyone involved thinks having multiple children in a family is normal or good, and they don't see the problem with it. So they aren't putting effort into coping with it. They think it should work better than it does work, and their unrealistic expectations lead to ongoing fights.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Rational, Liberal Parenting!?

people should take pre-existing values and traditions about liberalism and reason seriously, and apply those to all their relationships (friends, coworkers, parent-child, etc).

you value the pursuit of happiness? why won’t you help your kid pursue his happiness, now?

you value freedom, and each person choosing his own way in life? why, exactly, should there be an exception for children? whatever you answer, be super clear about the limits of the exception, and how the same reasoning won’t apply in other cases.

you think children are stupid and need to be controlled by their betters? what’s the difference between this and other authoritarian views? why is this authoritarianism more rational or less cruel? why does it apply by age rather than by IQ test or by having psychologist-kings interview everyone and decide who is competent to run their own lives?

why do you think it’s OK to take your child’s phone away as a punishment? is it his property, or not? do you respect property rights, or not? if you think your answer is that your child is not a property owner, you’re just lending him stuff, then why do you think that’s a good model for dealing with children but property ownership is a good model for the rest of society?

how do you think about voluntarily persuading others and what your options are if they disagree? why don’t you apply similar thinking about consent, persuasion and voluntary action to dealing with your child?


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Bad Parenting List

This is an incomplete list of some of unacceptable, uncivilized parenting behavior. These are pretty normal in our culture, but should be viewed with horror. They're pretty blatantly intolerable to a reasonable, classically-liberal-minded person.

  • Making children do things they don't want to (e.g. making a baby go in a carseat when their crying indicates they don't want to, or enforcing an unwanted bedtime, or making a child brush his teeth or take a bath when he'd rather not, or making a child go to school). In general anything that causes crying or "tantrums" indicates the parent is doing something wrong.

  • Punishments.

  • Anything that relies on parent being bigger/stronger than child, such as spanking or carrying a child from one location to another when child doesn't want to be moved (which is literally assault and kidnapping – it should be a crime).

  • Rules that child doesn't like.

  • The parent putting his foot down or doing "nicer" pressures and manipulations to get his way. Frowning, having a stressed voice, or being selectively less energetically helpful/friendly/cheerful can be pressuring and controlling. (E.g. parent is "too tired" to do an activity child wants, but would suddenly be available if child wanted to do a different activity that parent cares about more.)

  • Screen time limits.

  • Not getting a baby an iPad and helping them get apps and use it (by around 6 months old, for people who can afford one).

  • Having multiple children. (Parenting one child well is hard enough. Having more kids is much harder. That guarantees more mistakes in the treatment of the first child. Knowingly, intentionally guaranteeing to treat one's first child worse is a betrayal).

  • Posting baby pictures online (privacy violation).

  • Skipping vaccines (scarily trendy lately and literally killing kids), or denying children anesthetics for shots.

  • Circumcision (genital mutilation).

  • Having child to evaluated by a psychiatrist or giving him psych drugs, or letting a school do this. ("Mental illness" is a myth, and psychiatry is an attempt to "scientifically" legitimize the use of violence against non-criminal non-conformists without following the rule of law. People today are imprisoned without getting a trial, with psychiatry as the excuse. Psychiatric drugs literally cause brain damage – as their primary effect, not a side effect.)

  • Giving children (oral) herpes (sometimes called "cold sores"). Herpes is widespread and uncurable, and is often spread by people kissing babies without adequate medical knowledge or herpes testing.

  • Not prioritizing what child wants. The parent's proper role is as a helper to enable the child to get what he wants, not to control the child. That means e.g. helping child get sugar and other foods he likes, and "violent" games and movies he wants.

Read about more details.

Ask questions or add to the list, in the comments below!


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (14)

Hurting Kids Deliberately

Deliberateness is a tricky issue, whether it comes to hurting kids, making mistakes, or breaking promises. Parents do all kinds of stuff kids hate and still think they "meant well" – including sometimes literally beating their kid up. If I honestly meant well, was I "deliberately" hurting my kid? What if I think I meant well, but I was lying to myself?

Parents often consciously and intentionally choose actions which hurt their kids. Their goal isn't to hurt their kid, but they know he will find it painful to have his phone taken away for a month, and they take the phone anyway.

Why do parents hurt their kids?

  • They think it's justice (kid did something bad).
  • They think it's educational (makes it memorable, seems to "work" in that kid stops doing the things the parent yells/hits/punishes about).
  • They think it's good for the kid somehow, possibly because a positive outweighs the negative. E.g. leaving a baby alone in a crib to cry himself to sleep is a negative, but some people think it's a larger positive for the child to learn to sleep in his own room. They don't know that the child stops crying because he learns his parent won't help him, so the child gives up on problem solving and happiness (in some ways, not all ways).
  • Habit.
  • Carelessness.
  • Accident.
  • Anger (they will say they didn't deliberately choose to be angry).
  • Not having much control over what one does/says/feels in one's life in general.
  • Doing common, normal parenting behaviors without thinking about whether they are hurtful.

None of these involve consciously thinking, "I will now hurt my kid, on purpose, just for the sake of hurting him." (That would clearly be deliberate.)

Regardless of deliberateness, the child is still hurt. Whether or not the parent is morally guilty, it's an ongoing, recurring problem that needs to be addressed so that the child stops getting hurt.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

The History of Taking Children Seriously

This is a history of Taking Children Seriously (TCS), particularly the online community leaders: Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC), David Deutsch (DD) and Elliot Temple (ET).

TCS was founded in 1992 by SFC and DD. (SFC was Sarah Lawrence at the time but changed her name in 2003.) It started with a paper journal. When ET joined in 2001, the community had TCS list (an email discussion group with around 1,000 members), a website with articles, and a chatroom.

SFC, a mother of two, did most of the recruiting. She met with homeschoolers and libertarians, networked and gave speeches internationally, and posted at many online parenting and homeschooling groups. TCS advocates frequently got banned from other online groups but did get the word out first.

DD, a theoretical physicist, did most of the intellectual theorizing. He had made significant contributions related to quantum computation and learned about Karl Popper’s Critical Rationalism (CR) philosophy. He and SFC were libertarians with ideas like individual freedom, minimal or no government, and laissez-faire capitalism.

DD’s books are The Fabric of Reality (FoR, 1997) and The Beginning of Infinity (BoI, 2011). They discuss science and CR philosophy. DD also wrote hundreds of blog posts about politics between 2003 and 2008.

A main idea of TCS is that CR – a philosophy about how to create knowledge – applies to parenting and education. DD thought we must understand how learning works in order to know how to treat children. There are no reasonable philosophical positions which imply that punishments are educational. And if punishments aren’t educational, then they’re cruel and abusive, and “coercive” as TCS calls it.

TCS was also based on (classical) liberal values like peace, freedom, cooperation, individual rights and opposing tyrannical authority (be it a king, parent or teacher). Karl Popper shared these values, although he was no libertarian.

CR says all people learn by brainstorming, critical thinking and critical discussion. TCS concluded that even young children, even babies, think and learn this way. People learn on their own initiative with help from others, not as buckets which educators can pour knowledge into like water. Learners are the leaders of their own learning.

TCS’s big claim was that children could be raised well without doing anything to them that they disliked. It’s always possible to find “common preferences” – win/win solutions that everyone prefers. The main obstacle to this kind of rational problem solving is the irrationalities that adults have. Irrationalities aren’t inborn, they come from coercion, so don’t coerce your child and he won’t become irrational.

TCS Activities Timeline

SFC wrote around 1,000 TCS list posts (emails), mostly from 1994-2002. DD wrote around 2,000, mostly from 1996-2002. ET wrote around 3,700, mostly from 2002-2012, though he hasn’t stopped writing about TCS and still answers questions and posts.

SFC secretly began building a separate community unrelated to TCS which she launched in 2003. This partially explains why she reduced her involvement with TCS. Year after year, SFC hid these other activities, while leading people to expect more TCS activity soon and misleading people about her interests and priorities. She avoided transitioning to a new community leader, and blocked messages sharing alternative TCS resources, which left many TCS-attempting parents with little support and fewer resources than they reasonably expected.

SFC stopped creating the TCS Journal in 2000 after 32 issues. She never announced that it ended and left the webpage up where people could pay money to sign up. People were still confused about the matter years later and SFC still didn’t clarify, while still advertising herself as the TCS journal editor.

In late 2002, SFC deleted the TCS IRC chatroom that she’d started in 2000. She said she didn’t know how to run it well and received too many complaints. Rather than solve the problem, she shut it down.

In 2003, SFC discontinued the TCS website. She let the domain name expire without putting a notice on the site telling people about the new site, redirecting traffic, or leaving it up as an archive. She created a new site which had a worse layout and she never even finished transferring over all the old articles. The new site was never very active and SFC mostly stopped work on it after only 3 months. There was an occasional update later, e.g. there were 4 posts in 2004. After trying to be active for one month in 2005, the updates stopped entirely in 2006.

In 2006, SFC announced moving the TCS list from AOL to the new website. People were supposed to be automatically transferred but the new group had no posts and people kept using AOL. This was never explained. Then in 2008, SFC moved TCS list to Yahoo Groups and intentionally didn’t automatically transfer anyone. The result was reducing membership down to around 50 people from a past high over 1,000.

After these disasters, ET created the TCS Google Group in 2009 and Fallible Ideas website in 2010 which included articles about CR and TCS. ET’s TCS list had around double the membership of SFC’s and many more discussions. It became the primary TCS list while SFC’s group went inactive. Meanwhile, at DD’s request, ET also made the BoI Google Group and BoI website in 2011.

ET also became the owner of the Autonomy Respecting Relationships (ARR) forum in 2010 or 2011 after running the group as moderator for over a year. ARR was started by SFC and DD as a way to apply TCS ideas to romantic relationships. Major ARR ideas included that standard romantic relationship patterns are irrational and hurt people, and that freedom implies polyamory instead of monogamy. ET, however, criticized polyamory as well as monogamy.

Elliot Temple Joins TCS

ET read DD’s book, FoR, in 2001, then read DD’s TCS articles and joined the email group and chatroom. DD regularly talked with TCS community members on IRC and on the email group. ET quickly got much of DD’s attention due to energetic curiosity and quickly learning and arguing in favor of CR and TCS ideas. Over the next decade, ET and DD had around 5,000 hours of discussions (the majority were one-on-one, not on the public groups). In 2002, ET started a private email discussion group named curi where DD frequently participated. In 2003, ET started his blog, Curiosity.

After only a few months, ET became TCS’s most active advocate. He was more interested, and wrote more, than anyone else. He’d debate anyone about anything (like DD, ET was interested in ideas broadly, not just parenting), and whenever he had trouble winning an argument, he brought the issue to DD for advice. That way, ET learned how DD would argue each issue and address each challenge. DD heavily influenced ET’s views and arguments. For example, DD converted ET from left to right wing, persuaded him of capitalist and libertarian ideas, and got ET reading Ayn Rand. DD also persuaded ET to favor George W. Bush and the Iraq War politically, to support Israel, and to reject environmentalist ideas like recycling and global warming.

Due to the close association and agreement on so many issues, people, including one of DD’s close friends, accused ET of being DD’s puppet. However, the agreement was achieved by rational discussion, not puppetry. ET argued with DD more than anyone else and persistently followed up on disagreements. It took ET around five years of learning to become skilled enough to win any significant arguments with DD, at which point some disagreements started forming as ET developed more of his own ideas.

ET began providing detailed feedback and editing for BoI in 2004, which continued until publication in 2011. DD and ET routinely discussed topics related to the book. In total, ET wrote around 250 pages specifically to help with BoI, which is enough material to fill a book. That’s why the acknowledgments say “especially Elliot Temple”.

ET was also recognized favorably by SFC. For example, in 2006, ET, SFC and another speaker gave a TCS seminar to a paying audience in SFC’s home. In 2003, SFC tried to persuade ET to “becom[e] a regular contributor to the TCS blog/web site”. She said more articles from ET would help with her goal to “make it more difficult for people to bitch about TCS the way they are now.” SFC had some mixed feelings, stating “In the past, I have sometimes found your posts a bit too harsh and dismissive and lacking explanation, but I have noticed you have written some beautiful posts which are both true and also kind and non-alienating.” Overall, SFC saw ET positively and wanted him to be more involved with TCS including writing official articles because, also, “I really love your writing.” Similarly, in 2005, SFC was also asking ET for more TCS writing: “If you would like to write articles for the site, and if you would like to contribute to a new FAQ for it, that would be splendid!”

TCS Affects Lives

Thousands of people took an interest in TCS. As with many communities, especially controversial ones, the majority quit for one reason or another. Some had major disagreements with TCS from the start. Others liked TCS initially but had major disagreements when they learned more. And others liked TCS but drifted away without planning to – they just never really got around to doing much. But hundreds of people made TCS a major part of their life. TCS affected how many children were treated.

SFC led people to believe that TCS was an important, growing movement that they could join and then get ongoing help and advice. People thought TCS came with resources and support, at least articles, a chatroom and the email group. But then SFC and DD stopped writing articles, SFC discontinued the chatroom and journal, and SFC reduced her TCS list to complete silence. This harmed people who were struggling to live by TCS ideas, as well as preventing other people from joining TCS.

These problems were made much worse by the lack of announcements, clarity, transition plan, etc. The original TCS founders didn’t take responsibility for the movement, what they led people to expect from them, and the consequences of their actions for people’s lives. Instead they broadly kept up public appearances years after ceasing most TCS activity.

The continued availability of TCS materials, and discussion places where people can ask questions, is due pretty much entirely to ET. But ET has done more to take over DD’s intellectual role than SFC’s community leader role, so it’s not a full replacement. And SFC sabotaged the transition to ET’s leadership by preventing many people from finding out that the new resources existed. Even some of the more involved TCS parents were left not knowing what happened or how to continue with TCS.

SFC knowingly poured time and effort into a different, unrelated, non-TCS community, in secret, while misleading the TCS parents that had trusted her. These actions go beyond explanations like merely neglect, failure or incompetence.

DD Quits

DD gradually left TCS for several reasons. First, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, many TCS members sided with the terrorists by making anti-American comments. The political conflict divided the TCS community. Most parents open to TCS were left wing, while DD and his intellectual associates were right wing.

By the end of 2002, DD didn’t write public posts as frequently, although he actively discussed with ET and others. From there, DD’s public posting gradually declined, but it took a decade to stop. Meanwhile, DD often watched ET debate in favor of DD’s ideas, like TCS, and encouraged and advised ET behind the scenes.

As time went on, DD pushed back the publication deadline for BoI but eventually had to face it. In the several years leading up to the 2011 publication, he became increasingly busy and talked with everyone less. He even had to cut a few planned chapters from the book in order to finish.

Although DD hoped and planned for things to return to normal after the book was done, they never did. Instead, he quit every discussion forum, stopped talking about TCS, and decided to focus more on his new physics idea, Constructor Theory.

After gradually distancing himself, DD stopped collaborating with ET and most other active community members around the end of 2011. DD never gave a clear explanation of why, never wrote an article arguing his case, never announced anything had changed, and never even tried to claim that ET had changed in any significant way. It was DD, not ET, who had changed. DD was disillusioned by how little TCS had changed the world, and how few people had learned his ideas. DD wanted to try to get along with the mainstream more, while ET continued developing non-mainstream ideas like TCS and CR.

Looking Back At TCS

From day one, TCS had always offended many people and attracted hateful comments for its unconventional ideas. DD hoped it would spread and gain traction over time, and it did some, but less than DD wanted. Meanwhile SFC ended the journal, chatroom and original website, reduced TCS List membership by 95%, and stopped creating content or recruiting.

ET kept TCS alive as a philosophical theory with some resources to help, but the number of participating parents dropped over time. Eventually, there was little discussion about parents trying to use TCS in their life.

To see quotes from the harsh, offensive side of early TCS, as led by SFC and DD, see this post and the comments under it.

The TCS list grew initially. But SFC said that whenever the list got over 1,000 members, a bunch of people would unsubscribe when there was an active topic causing them to receive lots of emails. Many of the people SFC recruited were not interested enough in TCS to direct the emails to a folder outside their inbox, and just left instead.

The TCS list was moderated. SFC and her buddies blocked whatever posts they wanted, quite frequently and aggressively. It was common for posters to regularly have some their posts blocked and keep participating anyway, though some people left when they weren’t allowed to speak freely. Consequently, SFC had control over the content of the list. If the content alienated people, that was her choice.

At his groups, ET always emphasized free speech instead of controlling what you were allowed to say. He thought this better fit the total-freedom-and-libertarianism-and-maybe-even-anarcho-capitalism type principles of TCS and its founders.

Conflict Between DD and ET

When he quit TCS, DD also quit associating with TCS’s new leader, ET, as well as with active participants in the TCS community. ET wanted to do problem solving. What about CR, common preferences, and win/win solutions? ET wanted to fix things but DD refused.

At the end of 2012, over a year after DD had become unfriendly and withdrawn the help and support he’d led ET to expect going forward, DD had refused many olive branches from ET. ET wrote I Changed My Mind About David Deutsch. This carefully worded piece left out most details to respect DD’s privacy because DD didn’t want the problems discussed and debated openly. Every statement was written so that it could easily be defended and explained if private facts were included in the discussion. DD saw the article prior to publication and made no objection then or later. Others in the community supported the article or didn’t mind; there was no opposition to it because people had seen DD change and leave over the years. ET thought the article was necessary because he’d been such a fan and promoter of DD, so he thought he should update people when he changed his mind about stuff he’d told them. ET was taking responsibility for the advice he’d given other people, as he believed SFC and DD should have but did not.

Although preferring to mostly leave DD alone, ET also wrote David Deutsch Interview Undermines His Philosophy in 2017, Accepting vs. Preferring Theories – Reply to David Deutsch in 2018, and David Deutsch Smears Ayn Rand in 2019. ET thought it was important to defend the ideas he’d learned from DD, even against DD himself. Again DD had no objections, publicly or privately. DD didn’t want to defend or explain his opinions or offer any rebuttal. Although critical discussion and rational truth seeking are major parts of the CR and TCS philosophies, DD didn’t do them nor explain why he wasn’t doing them and how that was compatible with his philosophy. ET’s claims remain uncontested. Meanwhile, DD never said anything negative about ET, leaving him to continue running the BoI, TCS and ARR groups and explain philosophies like TCS and CR to the world.

SFC Destroys FoR Group

Alan Forrester (AF) ran the FoR discussion group, about DD’s book, for a decade. He has a CR blog. Although AF ran the FoR group alone, SFC was the original group creator and never gave AF ownership. This allowed SFC to do whatever she wanted with the group, regardless of AF’s opinions or consent.

After 10 years with no posts or involvement by SFC, she suddenly took over FoR in order to ban ET as revenge for the I Changed My Mind About David Deutsch post. (AF agreed with ET regarding the philosophical issues that ET and DD disagreed about, and didn’t want ET banned.) Then SFC immediately neglected the group and soon everyone stopped using it. She’d been uninvolved because she wasn’t interested in FoR ideas and because she was still involved with her secret, unrelated community; being motivated to ban someone didn’t change that situation.

Just like when SFC neglected the TCS Yahoo Group, everyone interested in discussion moved over to one of ET’s groups. In that case, they went to ET’s TCS group. In this case, they went to the BoI group: since DD’s second book was out now, fans of the first book naturally were interested in the second book too, which covered similar topics.

SFC didn’t attempt problem solving, consent or common preference finding with ET, AF or the FoR group membership. She violated the standard group policy of giving warnings before banning people. And she said nothing indicating that DD himself had any problem with ET’s article. It seemed to be her own personal vendetta, and she didn’t care that she was primarily punishing AF and the FoR discussion group members, not ET who owned the BoI group anyway.

DD and ET had always had a relationship based heavily on explicit communication: if you want something, request it; if you prefer something, say so. DD knew he could make requests of ET and had wide latitude to get whatever he wanted. Several times, DD had asked ET to refrain from saying something or take something down. But this time, DD made no request and expressed no preference, knowing that ET would take that as a go ahead signal. DD, to this day, hasn’t said anything negative about ET or ET’s critical articles.

Fallible Ideas Group

In 2013, ET merged several discussion groups into one, the Fallible Ideas (FI) discussion group. Although the older groups were left unchanged, ET simply asked people to switch and every active poster voluntarily started posting on FI. This smooth transition stands out in contrast with SFC’s disastrous move of the TCS group.

ET merged the groups because the topics are all related. They’re all about understanding good philosophy and applying it. And, over time, under his leadership, the groups had become more philosophically sophisticated. For example, it had become unusual for posters to be unfamiliar with DD’s books. With a smaller membership that was more knowledgeable about all the ideas, and had more consistent ideas, having a single forum made sense.

Thus, the FI group is the continuation of the TCS group from 1994, as well as the ARR, FoR, BoI groups. The FI group also merged some more minor groups: TCS Society (a companion to the TCS group for political discussion), Rational Politics (a newer group by Justin Mallone, which ET and DD participated at), and an Ayn Rand discussion group (by ET).

Where Are They Now?

DD has gone on to work on Constructor Theory. He also became a member of the Royal Society in 2008. DD and SFC seem to no longer like to talk about TCS or be associated with it, but don’t make clear statements or requests about the matter. ET has withheld the older TCS archives posts from the public at DD’s request, even though DD has not provided any public statement about his reasons.

SFC stopped being involved with philosophy, TCS or ARR. She still hasn’t explained what happened or apologized to any parents.

SFC’s two children were friends with DD too, and one was also a friend of ET. They are adults today but never got very involved with TCS or CR. No other child with any sort of TCS upbringing became very involved either.

ET has gone on to improve CR with new ideas like Yes or No Philosophy, Paths Forward, Overreaching, Impasse Chains, Using Intellectual Processes to Combat Bias and Rationally Resolving Conflicts of Ideas. As of today (2020), ET still posts regularly to the FI discussion group and has been a consistent, active poster continuously for 18 years, and he’s branched out to videos and podcasts.

Editor’s note: I made a serious effort to get the facts and dates right. If anyone believes any fact is in error, please let me know.

More info:

If you liked this, or want to learn more about TCS, sign up for the Fallible Ideas newsletter and join the Fallible Ideas discussion group.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (18)