I 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”.
(P.S.: Dear my parents: I love you, and thank you for raising me, but there are a few revisions I would make :P)
- 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.)
- Don’t give advice (for the most part).
- Also, see Praise that doesn’t feel uncomfortable.
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.
- Prioritize aesthetics, honor intrinsic motivations. E.g. Derek Sivers’ Parenting: Who is it really for?
- 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 teach them the general thing that is like 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?)
- 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. very lonely).
- 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.
- Find something better than conventional school? (I expect a lot of change in this area in the next several years.)
- Put my children in situations where they naturally become highly socially intelligent.
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 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.)
- Travel with them?
- Exercise with them? Make exercise a natural part of their life.
- Have pets! (I never had pets but I spent 10 weeks with a dog this year and I’m so getting a dog soon.)
- A childhood full of books?
- If only something like the Primer from The Diamond Age will exist!
- 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.
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. Feeding my kids lots of animal products (and relatively few plants, and zero processed food) seems good, if at least because it’s my genes they’ll be receiving.
- (Figure out how to make pregnancy easier)
- 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? There will probably be many useful tests to run by the time I’m a father.
- 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.
- Use strong water and air filters.
- Investigate links between microbiome and mental development.
- Know that I don’t know what I don’t know.
- Ask my kids for feedback.
- Ask parents who I respect about what surprised them about parenting.
- And my future wife will likely have many thoughts in this vein, too.
I’m sure I’ll discover how idealistic I was now, but I do think if I really try that my children can be significantly more resilient and mature than I was at any age.
Also, yeah, there’s some evidence that parenting strategies are usually/mostly insignificant in the development of children, but, idk, I just don’t think almost parents are trying that hard on a meta/planning level? (Though almost every parent seems to try hard on an object/providing level.) Or maybe parents often just have less energy and capacity than they expected to have, but this too seems preventable.
Let me know if you have thoughts about these notes!
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