Defiance of parental authority leads to success?

toddler with red adidas sweat shirt

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Fleur pauses if you say, “Careful!” She complies with commands to help, but… only if she wants to do so. If she does not, then she just continues on with what she wants and ignores my presence. When it gets to her, the babbling back, though, is too utterly cute because it feels like I know what she is saying even though she cannot yet say it. We call this her being “strong-willed.”

A while ago, I noticed articles claiming that strong-willed children are more successful according to science. Intending to bookmark one to remind myself that I want this in my child any time I feel frustrated about this behavior, I found they linked to the actual study which is not behind a paywall.

Spengler, Marion & Brunner, Martin & Damian, Rodica & Lüdtke, Oliver & Martin, Romain & Roberts, Brent. (2015). Student Characteristics and Behaviors at Age 12 Predict Occupational Success 40 Years Later Over and Above Childhood IQ and Parental Socioeconomic Status. Developmental psychology. 51. 10.1037/dev0000025.

Note that this study is using income for occupational success, is longitudinal, and is somewhat self-reported. I do wonder if being willing to admit to “rule breaking and defiance of parental authority” in a study makes a difference to who gets rated strong in that measure. Like, they are so defiant that they are essentially bragging to authorities about doing so. Also, the people talking about their strong-willed kids have toddlers. The study they cite looks at pre-teenagers. Lots of behaviors at ages 2 or 5 or even 8 don’t persist to age 12.

That said, I was pretty defiant of adult authority in school. It did persist from elementary through high school. I guess I can only hope that Fleur keeps it up? That won’t stop me from having her do what I want her to do. I just perhaps might be a bit proud of her doing it.

Also, the article basically seems to be saying that after controlling for IQ, parental socio-economic status, and educational attainment, this rule breaking and defiance of parental authority seemed to be the best predictor of higher income. But, they admit that they don’t really have a good, non-ad hoc explanation so the causality needs to be explored. (Basically, don’t train your kid to have these behaviors until psychology understands why.)

Preference for adult artifacts

It amuses me how we try to get baby friendly equivalents, Fleur much prefers the real version for adults.

Cups for babies are designed to be leak resistant. They can take a drink without drenching themselves. She always wants to drink out an adult water bottle or glass whenever she sees one. Usually drenching herself in the process. (Okay, she actually is correct on that one because sippy cups are bad for speech development. The leak resistance is good for parents not babies.) It is good for her to practice so that she will eventually be able to use them on her own.

art board cooking flowers

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She has another tendency to attach to kitchen utensils. Tongs, whisks, spoons, strainers, and the like got carried around for a few days at a time when she first discovered them. I guess we could get baby equivalents for her, but she is generally fine with the real ones. Thankfully, we integrated households, so we have a few of everything. We can handle her carrying around something for a few days until she moves on to the next thing.

My favorite decoy was her desire for the television remote. I gave her the old one that did not work except to turn off the TV. I removed the batteries. She finds the decoy and hits the buttons. Lately, she has gotten a hold of the real ones enough that she sees how it does things to the TV and only wants the real thing.

Fostering kindness

Turns out, kindness is complicated. We’re born with the wiring for both kindness and cruelty, so altruism is not inevitable. It’s a skill and a habit that we have the power — and responsibility — to foster, one good deed at a time.

I love the concept of mirror neurons. When watching someone else do something, the parts of our brain for doing that activity light up as though we are doing it. One of the reasons why I enjoy watching sports that I have played, especially the players of positions, is because I feel it when they make a play. They also have a dark side, in that when others experience pain, our brain experiences it as well.

two gray monkey on black chair

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My first experience with seeing early empathetic distress was in helping my aunt babysit twins. When one would cry, the other hearing the cry would also start to cry. Nothing was wrong. At the time, we chalked it up to attention seeking, but I bet really it was empathetic distress. Hearing the the cry bad made the other feel bad and crying was the way to express it.

Kindness is not just about feeling bad about another’s distress, but doing something to resolve it. Fleur likes to take my glasses. Unfortunately, I have turned it into a kind of game. Lately, I have had to shift my reaction to expressing sadness about it. She is much faster about giving them back when I do. Wonder if that would work for the throwing food thing?

Student Handbook

book shelves book stack bookcase books

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Being a technocrat, if I have a question about school policy, then my instinct is two-pronged:

  1. find the document that explains it: the student handbook (K-12) or bulletin (university)
  2. find the data.

Naturally, not trusting a teenager to even know where his student handbook is located, I went to the web site. This one is terrible. It took me half an hour before I was satisfied I had found it.

Worse, the document reads as though it was written by an Ed.D. and a lawyer. It sought to define terms in legalese like governments do, such as what an infraction is, the severity levels, and the recourse the school administration will take. If the parents typically have a reading level of at least a bachelor’s degree or above, then I think this is fine. If the parents lacked upward mobility because historically this school system failed them, then they probably will struggle to understand these rules.

It makes me wonder if part of the reason the school system has such problems with discipline is due to parents and students not really understanding the expectations because the school is obscuring it from them. The students find out things are wrong after getting caught. Which makes things seem arbitrary.

Of course, parents have to report they understand the rules. How many actually do? I suspect not many teachers do.

They have their own classroom rules and probably only enforce the school ones when made to by the administration. Of course, this means navigating a random set of rules in each class plus another set outside them.

Nail Trimming

Reading this reminded me of the trials trimming Fleur’s nails.

You can learn a lot about someone’s parenting style by how they trim their baby’s nails. There are the crunchy moms who suggest chewing them off, saying the nails are usually soft and flexible and the baby won’t care. There are the got-it-all-together moms who somehow knew to buy baby emery boards to gently file the nails down. There are the smug moms of easy babies who trim their nails while their infants sleep, undoubtedly through the night. And then there are the idiot moms like me, who actually think using nail clippers on a newborn will result in anything other than a bloodbath.

613knpqghzl._sx522_It really only took one session of fifteen minute bleeding amd my wife crying on shoulder over injuring Fleur for me to go find an electronic nail file like this. Both have been happy with the result. No bleeding for Fleur. No causing an injury for my wife. No having to console both for me.

Personally, I feel like I have Parkinson’s at times. Indeed I make myself nervous clipping my own nails and bleed often enough. Best not to inflict that on the kid too.

Sleeping through the night

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The hairy baby sleeping

A 2018 Pediatrics study found sleeping through the night overrated. Though, to be honest, I have skepticism about the potential for its validity due to:

  1. it was based on self-reporting by the mothers
  2. it only measured development through age 3.

RESULTS: Using a definition of either 6 or 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, we found that 27.9% to 57.0% of 6- and 12-month-old infants did not sleep through the night. Linear regressions revealed no significant associations between sleeping through the night and concurrent or later mental development, psychomotor development, or maternal mood (P > .05). However, sleeping through the night was associated with a much lower rate of breastfeeding (P < .0001).
 2018 Dec;142(6). pii: e20174330. doi: 10.1542/peds.2017-4330. Epub 2018 Nov 12.

Pointing

Babies point at objects because they really want to touch them:

The first test revealed that we don’t necessarily angle a pointing finger in a way that will direct another observer’s attention towards the object we are pointing at. Rather, a virtual line runs from our eye through our fingertip and towards the object, as if we were reaching to touch the object.

The second test looked at the way we rotate our wrists when pointing at objects – for instance, how we point at a magnet attached to the right-facing side of a box that is placed directly in front of us. Even infants, if using their right hand to point at the magnet, will often rotate their wrist almost 180 degrees so that the pad of their pointing finger is directed towards the magnet, as if reaching to touch it.

The third tested how people interpret a pointing gesture being performed by someone else. It showed that 18-month-olds and 3-year-olds – but not nine-year-olds and adults – understand a pointing gesture to be an attempt by someone to touch an object, not an attempt to use their finger as an ‘arrow’ to direct attention in a certain direction.