I’ve decided to publish private notes that I’ve been keeping for a while. This is more of “stuff I’d like to investigate in the next ~10 years before having children” than it is “stuff I’ve already decided on”.

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 vibe from this book that I find nourishing.
  • I also find myself interested in a form of punishment that’s more like instead of imposing arbitrary punishments, first try to communicate with your child and let them know how you feel— and if then, if necessary, go as minimally far as necessary to directly protect who or what you’re worried may be damaged. (This is discussed by the authors of the book above.)
  • Probably will lean against giving advice.
  • Also, see Praise that doesn’t feel uncomfortable: praising without judgment.

Aesthetics

Make space for infinite play.

  • Emphasize intrinsic motivations over extrinsic motivations. Do this by placing more attention on e.g. talking about how things feel, rather than how others may judge them according to their value systems. Emphasize feeling. Emphasize this over others’ games like money, prestige, etc. This is hard to do, though, because it’s generally easier to talk about extrinsic motivations, and so it’s unfairly easier to direct others’ attention in that direction.
  • Teach them that intuition is sacred. Don’t cause them to unlearn it or doubt it. Emphasize that it’s okay to think and feel anything even if you’re unable to give an explanation for it.
  • Don’t cause them to lose their natural ability to play.
  • Figure out how to naturally cause them to intuit the overarching way of being that contains Alexander Technique and other forms of meditation.
    • (Or, figure out how to prevent them from unlearning their natural ability for this. Maybe: Don’t ever tell them how to be/avoid the class of things that contains pickup artistry?)

Community

  • Prefer to place my kids in contact with adults, rather than other kids. Age segregation seems bad, daycare seems bad (and I found preschool, etc. lonely myself).
  • Find a colocated community of people I’m impressed by. Raise my kids nearby.
    • I am conflicted here because I also want my kids to have easy access to large natural spaces, however “community” almost necessitates “city”.
    • I’m not currently aware of any such communities where a density of parents with kids live, however.
      • Update: This is the vision for Jason Benn’s SF Neighborhood. I’m still skeptical that a city is the right place to raise children though.
  • Overall: Put my children in situations where they naturally become highly socially intelligent.
  • Find something better than conventional school?
    • Consider private tutoring, cf Bloom’s Two Sigma Problem
    • (I expect a lot of change in this area in the next several years though, so I haven’t thought too much about it.)

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 feels like a cop out. But he wrote a book, and I’ll have to read it eventually,
  • Travel with them?
  • Exercise with them? Make exercise a natural part of their life.
  • Lots lots lots of outdoors
  • Have pets! I never had pets but I did briefly this year and it’s definitely happening.
  • A childhood full of books?
  • I regret not developing musical aptitudes as a child. Will consider.
  • If my wife has a first language that is not English, then consider teaching our children the language, even if it’s not practically necessary.

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.

  • Mostly follow Scott Alexander’s 2022 review on pregnancy interventions/whatever is most recent.
  • Probably do the carnivore thing? Or at least feeding my kids lots of animal products seems good, if at least because it’s my genes they’ll be receiving. Babies will be eating liver from a young age.
  • Figure out how to make pregnancy easier— modern pregnancy doctoring seems pretty wtf and clearly out of phase with what is best in some ways. Also, a friend of mine is trying out a ‘birthing center’, and I’m excited to hear how that goes.
  • Avoid all plastics and many synthetic materials. Figure out whether I want to avoid synthetic fabrics, too? Also probably avoid anything that is made with flame retardants— e.g. afaik this currently this includes most modern furniture.
  • Figure out if there’s anything I can do to reduce the odds that my children have allergies. Or, if they do develop allergies, get them immunotherapy early on in life. Immunotherapy resolved my severe environmental allergies and asthma entirely and is probably one of the best things my parents ever did for me.
  • Occasionally run micronutrient tests to check them for deficiencies? GI tests too. There will probably be many other useful tests invented soon too.
  • 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 for humans, and surely there are natural methods that encourage proper jaw development. E.g.: Investigate whether baby food/lack of chewing inhibits this.
  • Lots of sunlight from a young age? (I think I was very sunlight deficient as a child; I suspect that it stunted my growth, too.)
  • Use strong water and air filters.
  • Investigate links between microbiome and mental development.
  • As a child I was flexible (as all children are?), and stretching in weird ways became an occasional pastime, and today I’m still very flexible. I expect it to be very easy to set my children up to be physically flexible with only a few minutes of attention per day.
  • And my future wife will likely have many thoughts in this vein, too. –> <!–
  • Consider how any of the above could go wrong
    • If I don’t have the time or financial resources to support the above.
    • Think harder about whether what things here might actually be harmful. E.g. maybe my kids would regret not having been more ‘normal’?
    • (Hm, thinking about the future without considering the impacts of AI is hard) –>

Final notes

One counterargument to all of this is that there is some evidence (eg) that parenting strategies are usually/mostly insignificant in the development of children. But, I dunno, I think very few parents are trying very hard on a meta/planning level? (Though I do believe that almost every parent tries hard on an object/providing level.) And I’m not sure why that is. I wish I had a more charitable explanation for it. (Maybe most parents are similarly idealistic as I am, but they lose the energy or capacity to do this kind of planning?— but, eh, this seems preventable.)

contact me, chris@chrislakin.com

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