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.

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.

The dolphin squeal

gray and brass metal dolphin pool decor

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The toddler enjoys playing with others. When she is excited, she lets out the cutest little high pitched stuttering squeal. It reminds me of the dolphin from Flipper. (I wrote in the bio that I am old.)

I first heard it in her excitement at learning the cat was near. For a while it was the cat’s warning sign the new walker was on her way.

It comes out while horseplaying. The best, is chasing her around the house saying, “I am going to tickle you!” She does her dolphin squeal and runs away. I had a proud dad moment when she paused to try and close a door behind her to impede my chase. Great tactic.

Over the weekend, we attended a baby shower. The hosts have a friendly dog who stands just under eye-level for the toddler. The dog licked Fleur’s face because, naturally, there was food still on it. That. THAT. Got the longest squeal I have heard yet. And a quarter hour of following the dog around trying to get in her face and receive another face lick.

I am finding the kiddo is a daredevil. Things I kind of expected to be shocking and make her scared don’t. She instead lets out a squeal and wants more. Greaaaaaaaaaaat. Dopamine addict.

 

Elephant Parenting

elphants standing on brown soil

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It feels like I am constantly struggling with whether my response was the correct one. On the one hand, a particular reaction was perhaps not the best. On the other, that one reaction is probably not going to permanently damage the kiddo for all eternity.

So, then the question is… What is important? I completely agree with this:

If you’re wondering what ‘elephant parent’ means, it’s the kind of parent who does the exact opposite of what the tiger mom, the ultra-strict disciplinarian, does… Parents who believe that they need to nurture, protect, and encourage their children, especially when they’re still impressionable and very, very young.

The “especially when very, very young” is appropriate. I envision it as an adding of responsibility over time. Let the kid be a kid. As the kid matures, add more to their plate over time such that they are growing into the roles.

Of course, parents disagree over what is and isn’t appropriate. They probably did or would do something different. Is it better? Maybe for their kid. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe it didn’t really matter.

The troll: Roll Tide! (It is funny because the University of Alabama mascot is an elephant. And the college town where I live currently hates their football team more than their “official” rivals.)

The Recency Effect in children

When Fleur is done with dinner, she often exerts her displeasure at not having food in front of her. Such bad parents that we did not ensure she has just the right amount of food. Basically, if she has more than she wants to eat of something, then she throws it on the floor.

My wife often just gives something else. I prefer to provide options between two different kinds of food. So, this finding that children have a preference for the Recency Effect caught my eye.

Suspecting she might be picking left or right, the first several times I did switch them to see if she picked the same one. (She did.) My goal was to better understand her preferences.

Now, I know I need to design my choices for whether she is picking the second choice being a victim of this bias. Of course, she is not having to overburden her working memory capacity in these decisions. So, it probably does not apply.

Smile timing

Fleur makes us work at times to get great smiles for photos. As she has gotten older, it seemed like she has gotten more crafty about getting more. Then I ran across this nugget of confirmation bias:

The research team found that by timing their smile precisely, babies can elicit maximum smiles with little effort on their part.

My wife fills up her phone trying to get the perfect smile because the toddler is manipulating the adults to get entertained enough to bestow upon us a photo worthy one.

Proud of her.