Notes that I keep about stuff I’d do if I had children now. But that’s probably 10 years off. Updated frequently.

I think I want to have 4-6 kids.

Communication

  • I find myself attracted to the parenting philosophy of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. I’ve already written about this. E.g. How to communicate and listen with full emotional bandwidth. Moreover there’s just a general nourishing energy from this book that I want to emulate.
  • Play with them. See: Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen.
  • No punishing them if it’s only meant as coercion/”correction”. (See both books above.)
  • Create and maintain healthy boundaries. Don’t do anything for them that they can’t do for themselves. Make sure to update boundaries appropriately as they mature.
    • Never coerce them “for their own good”.
  • Praise that doesn’t feel uncomfortable: praising without judgment.

Aesthetics

Hold space for infinite play.

Community

  • Always prefer to place my kids in contact with adults, rather than other kids.
    • Age segregation seems bad, mainstream daycare seems bad. Preschool was lonely ime
  • Raise them in a colocated community of people that I look up to.
    • But I also want them to have access to nature, which is almost in conflict with this.
    • Where do such communities exist?
      • Update: Jason Benn’s SF Neighborhood was created explicitly for this reason.
        • I don’t think SF has as much nature as I’d like there to be, personally, though
  • Put them in situations where they naturally become highly socially intelligent.
  • Find something better than conventional school?
    • Consider private tutoring, cf Bloom’s Two Sigma Problem (wiki) (metareview)
    • This area will probably change a lot in the coming years.

Time and activities

  • Avoid superstimuli (including screens)
  • Encourage them to spend their time on positive-sum games, e.g. interactions with the physical world, rather than zero-sum games of power, ranking, and naive prestige.
    • At the same time though, I don’t want to pick the games that they play. I want them to pick their own games— and then they will know that they can always leave any game that they choose to play. (E.g. don’t impose the games “college admissions!!”/grades/sports/etc. on them.)
    • I think the parenting of the Polgar sisters might have been bad actually. Chess is a purely artificial game, and that László Polgár chose this and not something of positive-sum value really feels like a cop out. I haven’t read his book though.
  • Travel with them?
  • Exercise with them, make it natural
    • also, encourage them to maintain their physical flexibility into their teens.
      • What causes most people to lose their flexibility? What other effects does that cause have? Can we avoid that?
  • Lots lots lots of outdoors
  • Have pets!!
  • Allow musical aptitude to develop if they want it
  • Teach other languages from a young age, even if not practically necessary
    • (From the standpoint of teaching a kid younger than 5, there’s really not much else they can do except memorize, so might as well use that to teach them languages.)
  • Teach them to read from a young age
    • cf Anki guy. note to self: add this
    • Wikipedia cofounder Larry Sanger did this with his child

Health

I also want my children to be as healthy as possible, and I have some unusual views on how to go about this. Mainly, I have strong naturalistic priors.

  • Avoid environmental pollutants. Avoid all synthetic materials by default, especially almost all plastics synthetic fabrics, and PFAS/other nonstick materials. E.g. most bedding and furniture is created with toxic flame retardants.
  • Mostly follow Scott Alexander’s 2022 review on pregnancy interventions/check for more recent versions.
  • Feed them predominantly animal foods. My babies will be eating liver!
  • Figure out how to make pregnancy easier— modern pregnancy practice doesn’t make sense in many ways (why no squatting?). Also, “birthing centers”?
  • Research how to reduce the chances that my children develop allergies.
    • Or, if they do develop allergies, get them immunotherapy early on in life. When I was younger I had very severe environmental allergies and asthma, but immunotherapy resolved this entirely. Probably one of the most impactful unusual actions that my parents have ever taken on my behalf.
  • Run micronutrient tests to check for deficiencies. GI tests, too. What else?
  • My children will not need to have any orthodontics! and they will not need to have any teeth removed! I don’t buy the narrative that malocclusion (teeth crowding) is a natural phenomenon in humans.
    • Interventions: Baby-wed leaning, don’t use baby food
  • Lots of sunlight from a young age
  • Use strong water and air filters at home.
  • Think about microbiomes (links to mental development?)

Final notes

One counterargument to all of this comes in the form of some evidence that parenting strategies are usually/mostly insignificant in the development of children. Eh. While I believe almost every parent tries extremely hard to provide for their children on the object level, I don’t think almost any trying to deviate and create a perfect environment from first principles. Moreover, variance of parenting interventions doesn’t seem that high, and in that case it’s totally expected that variance of parenting outcomes wouldn’t be high either— but that doesn’t mean that thought-out-but-still-unusual decisions can’t cause outstanding results.

contact me, chris@chrislakin.com

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