Limits = Love


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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35 Responses

  1. aaron david says:

    One of the things my son and I have talked about over the last year is the “cool dad.” You know, the guy who will smoke out with the kids occasionally, just to show he is “cool,” or set the kids band up a gig at a bar he’s friends with, just to show he is “cool.” You can see where this is going. The job is to be a parent, not a friend. (By the way, “cool dad” is mocked mercilessly. He often has a pony tail.)Report

    • NewDealer in reply to aaron david says:

      I think that one can be a parent and be a friend. Being a good parent is not synonymous with being a jerk.

      On smoking pot with your kids, probably not the best idea.

      Teaching you kid about cool music (as you define it) is probably an excellent idea.

      Now for a shameless plug on how this dovetails nicely with my adulthood and freedom essay.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

        Well, my use of the term “jerk” was a bit deliberately hyperbolic. Put more accurately, I’m saying sometimes parents need to act in a way that the child might think makes them jerks.

        But sharing passions and hobbies an interests, such as music? Fantastic!

        And, in reality, a true friend is one who will similarly look out for your best interests.

        I’m using the terms in the way they most typically are used among parents/children who are in the “friend zone”.

        “Cool parent” is another similar term to use. And a good one.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        The problem with hyperbole or the term jerk is that it comes with strong connotations.

        I think there are a lot of dad’s out there who think it is their job to be a jerk and general kill joy for their kids.

        These dad’s usually end up being pretty resented. You can be a parent and set limits and discipline without being a jerk all the time. No does not need to be a default answer.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

        Agreed, ND. Well said.Report

    • ScarletNumber in reply to aaron david says:

      I disagree with you on your second point. Most parents would pull strings to help their child succeed, if they had strings to pull. It has nothing to do with being cool.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to ScarletNumber says:

        But I think it depends on what that parent sees as success. There is no shortage of parents who attempt to vicariously live through their children, and thus shape their children’s success as their unrealized dreams. “You’ll be captain of the football team no matter what… I don’t care how many concussions you get!” Maybe the kid does become captain, but at what cost? And is that true success? Perhaps for the parent, but likely not by other standards.Report

      • ScarletNumber in reply to ScarletNumber says:

        Yes, but pulling strings to help your kid get a gig is the American Way. Forcing them into music lessons in order to help them become rock stars is over-the-top.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to ScarletNumber says:

        But you can go too far. If you isolate your child from all consequences for bad behavior, they’ll think they’re invincible, and might one day find themselves in a hole their parent can’t pull them out of.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to ScarletNumber says:

        When I was a kid, I remember stumbling across some Child Order Personality Type books. What it meant to be an Only, what it meant to be the oldest boy, the oldest girl, the middle kids, the youngest boy, the youngest girl, and various combinations that worked best in marriage: (I remember being irritated by the “youngest boy, oldest girl” chapter.)

        I don’t recall stumbling across those anymore… I wonder what the dynamic of having most families have one, maybe two, kids will do to society.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to ScarletNumber says:


        I always look at those things like I look at horoscopes and astrology: if you squint hard enough, you can make it all true.

        My anecdotal experience tells me there are some slight trends one can look at regarding birth order and family makeup, but their R-value is never very high. Only children TEND to develop certain social skills later because they aren’t naturally challenged by a sibling. But if they spend regular time with cousins, that will be largely mitigated. Etc.

        Related, I believe you’ve advanced the theory that differences ascribed to astrology were more likely a function of when during the year the mothers were pregnant. Being pregnant during the harvest could very well impact future development when compared to women pregnant during lean winter mothers. Etc. I sometimes wonder if the differences between earlier children and later children are because of how the parents respond to the pregnancy and formative years. Zazzy was a nutcase during Mayo’s pregnancy, both good and bad. She’ll likely be more relaxed about things on the next go around, both good and bad. I wouldn’t be shocked if that explained at least SOME of the difference between Mayo and his hypothetical sibling.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to ScarletNumber says:

        Eh, they strike me as about as accurate as those “First Kid… Second Kid” commercials for those diapers. I think that there actually is likely to be some there, there. (I imagine that there will be differences in how the oldest of five is treated than the baby, for example, and this will have similarities across a culture.)

        You’re a teacher. What percentage of your kids have siblings? How many have multiple siblings? What’s the most siblings you’ve ever had someone in your class have?

        If it’s more than 2 (excepting a possible twin situation), I’ll be surprised.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to ScarletNumber says:

        I do think there is a certain there there, but not what many of the books purport. My mom keeps pushing one on me that basically claims it can explain every facet of your adult life based on birth order, which is a bridge too far for me.

        To your other question, about family size, they definitely appear smaller now. Off the top of my head, I can’t remember a family this past year I had that had more than two kids. I had one two years ago with four kids, though three were adopted (including a pair of twins). Before that, I had another family of four, all adopted (by a same sex couple). I do know there is a one family in the school with four biological children but they’re Irish so…

        My anecdotal experience tells me family sizes, at least amongst the families I work with, are indeed smaller. I’m from a family of 4 and Zazzy from a family of 3, which seems to really throw people for a loop. Before that, Zazzy’s mom was from a family of 6, which is basically unheard of nowadays.Report

      • trumwill in reply to ScarletNumber says:

        4, 3, and 6 kids? Or are you including parents?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to ScarletNumber says:

        Kids. I have two sisters and a brother, Zazzy has a brother and a sister, and her mom has two sisters and three brothers.

        My dad had one brother and my mom was an only child, but her parents were never married (or were but not when they had her… a complicated Italian thing).Report

  2. Vikram Bath says:

    I think this story is related…
    We had some friends from out of town this weekend come with their three sons. They were understandably enamored with our dog, who has always been great with kids. This was his first time playing with three kids though. They grabbed some of his toys and eventually figured out they had squeakers in them and that he would react to the squeaking.

    And then there was nothing but squeak after squeak from all three of them.

    Part of me attributed this behavior to “being boys” (because I’m sexist like that). I know (and remember) the impulse of discovering that something happens and then wondering what happens when you turn it up to the max.

    Then I remembered that that is also what scientists do. We’re interested in effects of certain causes, and one of the best ways to discover an effect is to make sure plenty of the cause is present. That’s how we learn about the universe.

    Anyway, it makes the endless squeaking easier to take.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      There are likely two primary factors at play here, depending on the exact age of the boys.

      One is cause-and-effect, which is likely what you were getting at with the scientific method. Depending on the age of the children, it can take many squeezes before they conclude that the squeeze causes the squeak. They must experiment.

      Upon realizing that, I think the more powerful force comes into play: the realization of power. That squeak ain’t happening on its own. They are making it happen. They are affecting change in their world. They are causing something to happen. That is incredibly empowering. And young kids are all about understanding and exerting their power and influence on the world. Many adults, too.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    One of the issues we got into in the poverty posts was what the goal of good parenting is. It seems to me that the goal is to raise a child through various childish stages into adolescence, raise the adolescent through those stages and end up, hopefully, with an adult capable of taking care of him or herself and, if it comes to that, raising a baby of his or her own into, eventually, an adult capable of (yadda yadda yadda).Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      One of the difficulties of discerning a “one true path”, especially when evaluating practices across economic classes, is how many different variables are at play.

      Are the different outcomes we tend to see between wealthy and poor parents related to parenting style? Food choice/availability? School opportunities? Community influences? Etc. And how much of all of that is interrelated?

      To make perhaps a crass analysis, I’ll point to major league baseball. Opponents of a salary cap or something similar argue that spending a ton of money is no guarantee of success. Which is true. But it does give a team more margin for error. The Yankees can deal with albatross contracts while other teams would be destroyed by them. Similarly, wealth parents can likely make more mistakes as parents than poorer parents can, because of all the benefits that come with being wealthy.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        It’s not a “one true path” as much as “if you raise a child who is incapable of taking care of him or herself, you have messed up somewhere.”

        See it as a variant of Chris Rock’s “there are no report cards for being a father but if your daughter is a stripper, you effed up.” (Which, while likely to have any number of exceptions (especially in this economy!), touches on something somewhere in there.)Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Got it.

        His, “Keep her off the pole,” bit is a great one, one I quote to any friends who father daughters.

        More to the point, I agree with you. I don’t think we stress independence, autonomy, and self-sufficiency enough when we discuss education. But, again, I think class comparisons are difficult. There are a number of wealthy offspring who, if not for their parents fortune and connection, would be wholly incapable of caring for themselves. On the other end, you have a number of industrious poor people who unfortunately put their efforts towards rather unsavory pursuits (e.g., drug dealing). But because the former put little drag on society save for shitty reality television and the latter do, we pay less attention to “self care” and more to the ultimate outcome. Of course, neither of these examples is representative of its particular social strata; I simply offer examples to highlight how complicated it is to really measure. “Your kid is a drug dealer? You failed! Your kid has a hedge fund? You succeeded!” Eh… not so fast.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        At what point does the agency of the person either stripping or not taking care of himself kick in? After all, at least in the latter case, it’s not actually children we’re expecting to take care of themselves. You raise a child, during which time you take care of him (though hopefully he increasingly takes care of himself during that time and is doing so by the time he becaomes an adult, whenever that might be). Thereafter, though, he’s an adult, and it’s by virtue of that that we expect him to take care of himself. Obviously, in he cases of many adults who can’t take care of themselves, there are a parents back there who screwed up somewhere. But every one? (Also: doesn’t every parent screw up? All this can really be is a discussion of degrees, it seems to me.)Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        …Obviously I know you’re not saying there’s no agency on the part of the adults who were once children. But at what point does it kick in enough to throw into doubt whether there’s a parent back there who “screwed up” (X amount) in a given case, is what I mean to ask?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’ve never raised a child myself but, from the stuff I’ve watched in the various nephews, it seems to be something that is cultivated in ways similar to “manners”. (One of the great joys of my life is dealing with my nephews who have impeccable manners by doing such things as the old favorite “wanna hear a secret?” “sure!” “*BELCH*”.)

        But at what point does it kick in enough to throw into doubt whether there’s a parent back there who “screwed up” (X amount) in a given case, is what I mean to ask?

        And if there is a parent who screwed up, the child is more likely to not have the best tools to help his or her children… and those children are more likely to not have the best tools themselves… and on and on until you have children who have no idea that these tools might even exist. Who grow up to have children themselves.

        I imagine that society as a whole can provide a bit of a buffer… but, I imagine, that works better when you’re dealing with exceptions.Report

  4. ScarletNumber says:

    1) I assume the picture is of a catcher in the rye.

    2) We all know parents who set arbitrary rules just to be assholes or to exhibit dominance over their children. We all know teachers who are the same way. I think they do this because they have so little control over their own lives that they feel they have to exhibit control over children. This ruins it for those parents/teachers who set reasonable rules.

    3) Some kids are just assholes.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to ScarletNumber says:

      1.) Yes. I sometimes tell parents they have to be the “Catcher in the Rye”, stopping the kids from running off the cliff because they won’t stop themselves.
      2.) Hear, hear. I won’t say I’m perfect in this regard, but I try to be reflective and consider whether a rule really serves a purpose or whether it is an attempt at control. I do encourage my kids to always ask, “Why?” even of myself, and this has actually led to real changes in rules. I also involve my kids as much as possible in the rule making process.
      3.) I really doubt this. I’m not a psychologist, but my sense/belief is that this is exceedingly rare. There are real things such as ODD (Oppositional/Defiance Disorder); is it possible that this is just dressing up assholeish behavior? Sure. And I have no doubt it gets diagnosed inaccurately at times. But the one kid I saw who I know was diagnosed with it (he was probably 9)… man… it was like nothing I’ve seen before.
      Some kids really, really test limits, to the point that you say, “Don’t touch the stove,” and, well, they are going to touch that stove just to spite you. Or so it seems. These kids are likely wrestling with power/control issues, trust issues, as well as limit testing gone too far.
      I also believe in the adage of judging action and not actor. Some kids do assholish things. Some are probably more prone to doing regular assholish things. But I don’t think any 4-year-old has irreversibly set himself down the asshole path. Older kids? Probably. But not little ones.Report

  5. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    It’s even worse when they are 1 & just figuring out what ‘No’ means.

    No, stop putting rocks in your mouth!

    I know he’s just examining them, but I really don’t want him to crack a tooth, or choke.Report

  6. Cascadian says:

    There seems to be very little to disagree with here. Teaching little ones to listen is important. I’ve been a stay at home or work at home parent since mine was four months old. I’d agree that four is a little early to start identifying the problem kids but by five all bets are off.

    My little one and I do a lot of fun and potentially dangerous mountain activities. We climb, we hike and we ski very steep very fast. It is absolutely mandatory that in these environments little one listens and obeys immediately. This isn’t a banister, this is a no fall zone. Of course, little one has friends that like to join us, some can listen, some can’t. The kids that can’t listen don’t get a second invitation.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to Cascadian says:

      very little to disagree with here

      I thought that too initially, but then I considered the source. If Kazzy thinks these parents are too touchy-feely and not imposing proper boundaries, then these folks must really not be enforcing any sort of discipline at all. I’ve gotten the impression from his writing that Kazzy is on the permissive side of the spectrum, so if a parent strikes him as overly permissive, then they might be outright negligent.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Yes, but he’s a teacher. He doesn’t have the ability to write kids off like other parents can. He has to believe that he can change or help his students regardless of the reality.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:


        I always make a point of distinguishing between what I consider acceptable behavior and what I consider understandable. I don’t consider hitting acceptable. But I understand it will happen. Kids do that sometimes. There is little use in me getting outraged about it, though I make clear to the children the transgression. I also know kids don’t change overnight, so that kid might hit again. This has sometimes gotten be labeled an apologist for one sort of behavior or another, but I tend to see it as viewing kids as works-in-progress who I have a hand in molding, not as finished products who ought to be perfect. They’re kids. Some people tend to forget that.

        And as Cascadian said, I’d rather burn energy thinking an irredeemable kid is otherwise than right one off to soon.

        Ultimately, it depends context. I am permissible with my kids making a mess if it is a constructive mess because kids work is messy. But I will intervene in every instance of physicality between kids, even if behind the scenes I’m stressing patience and understanding.Report