Hard or soft?

When I put the thing about hard times not creating strong men, (though they do create hard men, but that’s not always in the sense we think of as strong,) a lot of you came back with “shirt sleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.”

I don’t need to tell you that’s also not a universal truth, right? Not even close. It might seem that way in America (and we’ll go into it) but when you have an history as long as European countries, you quickly realize “families colonize niches.” Sure, some rise spectacularly and fall again just as spectacularly, but most families have kind of an “Area” they move within. Which is not particularly surprising given that your spouse usually meets in the same circles, and has the same general characteristics. (This is not true in America, btw, for obvious reasons.) I think it is at the back of the European notions of class and also that if no one in your family ever did x how dare you aspire to it?

My family is a bit of an outlier, because men in my family tend to marry weird. Not necessarily badly, mind you, they just tend to prefer their women to be interesting in some way, which involves (most of the time) marrying outside their circles and often very strange indeed. (That I know there is no genetic connection between Dan and I. I mean, we did look, since a lot of the same characteristics run in our family, and yes that is one of them, though frankly my husband — judging by past dating history — likes his women dangerous.)

So my family does tend to go up and down on a cycle, but the cycle seems to be more five generations. And frankly part of it is that the society doesn’t fit the family very well. As in, everyone seems to have artistic inclinations but also do well academically. Since the arts don’t pay well in a tiny and frankly odd country, people either become craftsmen or go into a bureaucratic position in which they die by bits, while excelling and living lives of quiet desperation.

We’re five generations removed from business acumen and I’d say those were outliers, since most of my family cannot sell ice cubes in the desert. They’re good at saving, mind you (thank heavens) but suck at selling at a profit.

However most people, if you count extended family, settles into bureaucrat or teacher, and rumbles along. And has done so as long as we know, which is very long indeed.

Now are there families where it is shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations. Yes, mostly in America, honest (or was when mobility was freer) though I know of two in Portugal as well, and mostly what I call “flash in the pan” wealth. It can be very large, but usually luck was involved in forming it. (Other than that, vast fortunes are usually amassed very slowly. As in husband’s family, 150 years to amass a fortune, four generations to lose it. Though not completely. I just married the youngest son of the youngest son of the youngest son. Makes a difference.)

And what that family did when getting rich was go directly to treating their kids as though they were scions of old, wealthy families. As in, families that have been rich as heck for generations and have so secured their income in land and investments that they can afford to wrap their kids in cotton and treat them like precious gilded china.

I met some of those, and unless the fortune is indeed vast, incredibly secure, and there is no catastrophic innovation to upend its security, that family is indeed going to tumble into poverty very fast. Faster if the guy (it’s almost always a guy, though there is the rare woman) who made the fortune and who is a bit of a sport, if you look at his ancestors, marries unwisely. And in the case of men, most of them do. They marry for looks, and often people of terrible inclinations and habits. And their kids devolve to the gutter.

As I write this it occurs to me some of you are going “eugenics” and “treating people like race horses.” You’d be wrong. Sure, there’s genetics involved, because you inherit psychological traits from your parents, as well as physical. If I’d ever doubted that, I can’t when younger son is my father’s slightly taller clone, down to the type of woman they’re attracted to.

But those traits are not, in themselves, what makes you capable of succeeding or failing in society. For instance, in Portugal I’d probably be a housewife, with poems stuffed in my desk drawer. Oh, I might also have taught. Because society can’t afford professional writers. So, in other words, I’d follow the family path.


Because I have most of my traits from dad’s side (where the business acumen pops up every five generations or so but dutifulness and intellectualism are consistent traits, so that they usually end up as middle managers, professors or well, doctors and engineers. Or carpenters. Or mechanics. Because if you look at it those professions are all actually using the same traits. What they don’t end up as is (normally) entrepreneurs, top managers, or charismatic figures. Why? Well…. because they’re very …. self-effacing and while not lazy don’t want to exert too much effort on things that don’t interest them. What usually interests them doesn’t pay.

Then there’s mom’s side, who are mostly decayed aristocracy. (VERY decayed, as I’ve shared some stories of her childhood.) But the thing is mom’s family is ODD. They throw sports all the time. And the sports are either startlingly UNsuccessful or well….. astonishingly successful. And you can’t predict it because the trait for wild creativity seems to be at odds with stick-to-it-ness. IOW I think mom’s family is mostly ADD (AF) and few have the discipline to overcome it and stick to it long enough to be successful.

So, you know, (As Jordan Peterson points out) it’s not just a matter of being intelligent enough or smart enough to be successful in life. There are other traits that go into it, such as persistence, (both in learning and in working in a field) and creativity and, oh, yeah, ability to work with others (most people in dad’s family are introverts. I think the worst ones go into teaching, because it’s very top-down in Portugal) which Peterson calls agreeableness. There are other traits he doesn’t touch on like charisma. Mom’s side has oodles of charisma. It oozes off them. So they often end up as leaders even if they’re in no way qualified to lead a kitten out of a wet paper bag. And often make it stick on charisma alone.

I’d like to think that even if I’d stayed in Portugal (looking back that is wildly unlikely. Though it was by no means sure I’d end up in the US, or at least not right away) I eventually lost my mind and started writing books in English, and that even if I put those in the drawer, I’d have now published them indie. And probably done very well. (Keep in mind the “very well” is about 2/3 lower in Portugal. In Portuguese terms I’m making as much money as MDs. So….)

Would I have? I don’t know. Depends on how much my upbringing could overcome my inclinations. And frankly, on how much I needed money.

Which brings us back to the old conundrum: genes or upbringing? I don’t know. And you can’t either. Each family has a culture that gets passed along with the genes. It’s probably not a coincidence that in demeanor and action I feel more comfortable with/resemble dad’s family the most, as they were the ones that brought me up, so I got that culture. Even if I also have some wild flashes from mom’s side.

At any rate, the way to do shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations is to get someone who is a wild outlier, amasses a vast fortune, and decides his children SHALL have everything they want, plus the pony. No one will ever speak to them in anger. They not only won’t be spanked, every pain will be spared to them.

This usually creates an absolute wastrel, who might coast through life on daddy’s money, but whose kid will have to work to GET BACK to “shirt sleeves.”

This has society wide implications, which is why if people squint really hard that strange thing about hard times creating strong men “feels” right. But it isn’t.

It would be more accurate to say that discipline and a strict upbringing creates strong people. This might or might not be a “hard” upbringing. And of course, if taken too far it creates broken people. As hard times tend to.

In the end we come back to Heinlein’s saying “Never ruin your children by making their lives too easy.”

Now, what is making your children’s lives too easy? I don’t know. You’ll have to calibrate it and sometimes you’ll be wrong.

There are certain things that seem universal, such as you should get your kids to do at least some work for their “extras”. How lavish the basic is is up to you. I mean, you’re supposed to furnish a minimum by law, but after that, you think about it.

My family didn’t give me many extras, either because they couldn’t afford it, or because mom was engaged in saving as much as possible (having seen the results of the opposite) which btw included depriving herself. In my case too it was complicated by the fact mom refused to understand there had been an episode of hyper inflation between myself and my brother, because of the long span (to be fair, she refused to recognize the hyperinflation at all for decades, which I think is similar to some people from the depression era here. As in, the equivalent of someone nowadays running around going “But the cheapest shoes are $5 at Walmart. OUTRAGEOUS. I should be able to buy an entire outfit for that.” Which meant we lived well below our means, while she lamented every day of how life was ruinously expensive. That’s fine.) Which meant what she gave me for school lunches bought me an espresso at the cheapest price (discounted school coffee shop.) It also meant that clothes, books and anything else came out of my pocket. Which was mostly empty because I didn’t get an allowance.

Now this isn’t necessarily as bad as it could be, because mom retired when I was 12 (medical, due to her heart condition and her tendency to brink deadlines) which meant after that clothes designing and making was her hobby, so as long as I was willing to wear whatever struck her to make, I was well (for Portuguese version) dressed and didn’t need to buy any. Except that I liked jeans and t-shirts for every day wear and she wouldn’t make or buy me those.

Anyway, what this meant in practicality is that though I think naturally — genetically — I’m like dad’s family and not likely to get really daring or entrepreneurial, I had to figure out early on how to make money for the extras. It mostly meant stuff like publishing a neighborhood paper at 12, or later tutoring.

Which caused me to develop initiative.

In the same way, though I am naturally ADD (AF) I had to learn to stick to studying long enough to have good grades (interestingly enough this involved rewarding myself, which I have to learn again.) because failing was just not possible. No, I don’t think my mom would kick me out, but in my head she absolutely would. Besides dad would be all “more in sorrow than in anger” and that was unbearable.

So, do soft times create soft men? Well, no. But a soft upbringing DOES create adults who just go with their genetic/family culture inclinations. And few of them are the kind that lead to success. Since humans are a scavenging species, if children internalize that “times are good” and they’ll be fine no matter if they don’t work, or if they give in to every destructive impulse, then the scavengers “time is too good. Have no children and laze about” kicks in. Because otherwise scavenging species get too large and the next generation starves (in nature.)

Obviously this is controllable, and obviously the “old, successful” families of Europe have managed to control it, by instituting rigid rules of conduct for their children, which in turn create or promote certain traits in the children. (In England this led to notoriously spartan living conditions for boarding school children, for instance. It seemed to work? At least better than now.)

And there is a hard/soft parenting thing that cycles. Let’s remember the Victorians succeeded the footloose and fancy free Regency. Those aren’t hard or soft cycles in money terms (though they were for many families. Because many people blew through family fortunes in the regency) but more soft/hard cycles caused by the fact people recognized the defects in their own upbringing and brought up their kids differently.

I want to point out here that both extreme hard upbringing and extreme soft upbringing both have problems. In the first, you risk creating someone too timid to succeed, and in the second the kind of hedonism that makes it impossible to ever do anything worthwhile, or even know it’s possible to.

On the other hand, all of us being human, it’s almost impossible to hit the happy medium (who won’t be very happy after you hit her.) You’re going to err. But most small mistakes are correctable. And sometimes you’ll make mistakes without realizing it. Or the kid’s innate tendencies will defeat your best efforts, because kids are human too, meaning self-willed.

Now hard times can force that kind of “come to Jesus” moment, where people realize that they need to treat their kids with more …. stern supervision. Or trigger the conditions for it. I’m sure the fact that mom’s dad drank away the family fortune was responsible for her “must sock away every penny” which in turn made me shift for myself in ways she didn’t probably even realize (like photocopying classmates’ school books so I could do the home work. Or doing it very early morning borrowing a friend’s book. Because mom refused to believe university books (come from England) could be that expensive.)

That’s undeniable.

However it doesn’t follow that good times must perforce create soft and spoiled, “decadent” men. (Competent men in each civilization are different. Spoiled scions of the elites, though, are all the same across the ages, and seem to partake the same vices with minor variations.)

It’s all on how you treat them.

Part of the problem we’re in is not that people who came back from WWII tried to give their kids the best of everything, and raise them as much in a bubble as could be managed. (By and large. There’s always exceptions.)

Rather it’s that the culture as a whole wanted to “study war no more” and also had hit one of its goofy cycles of “romanticism” and nature worship, which in child upbringing means “Let’s all believe Jean Jacques Rosseau knew squat about raising children. Let’s believe if we set no boundaries or limits, we’re creating angels, and that children only learn violence if they get a swat on the behind, and without it are natural pacifists.”

Look, I understand the temptation as far as the Germans of WWII were believed to be the culmination of the Prussian way of life, which was also believed to be very rigid and stern. (Look, none of these things are 100% but that was the popular view of it.) So, they tried to run the other way.

But unfortunately this also happened at a time when “mass everything” was at its apogee, as was centralized dictating of “how things are to be done”. This led among other things to schools of education who enshrined Jean Jacques Rosseau artsy fartsy nonsense as holy writ, taught generation after generation and made worse every generation because when it doesn’t work it must be because we’re still too harsh and demanding.

Which has us in the year of our Lord (maybe. not absolutely sure how much the Lord is involved in this) 2021 dealing with a top-down educational establishment and culture trying to force every kid to be raised like the spoiled scion of a noble family.

This discourages child bearing (as the only way to still make the kids functional is for the parents to treat child rearing as a full time job, which few families can afford.) It also — if parents don’t fight it tooth and nail, without running afoul of the law — creates a generation of useless wastrels, addicted to their pleasures.

To the Millenials credit most of them are NOT like that. But are they soft? Well, yes. Far softer than they should be, because the parents weren’t able to do much to make them work for their extras. (We managed it by living so tight that well, they had to.) And somewhat confused about their abilities, talents and what they should use them for, because in its latest “self esteem” incarnation the insanity of the establishment praises them for everything they are even vaguely competent at.

Yes, most of them need to be tested and hardened. Again, to their credit, at least in the US, most of them improve vastly over their first decade of paid work, and develop the discipline they were never taught. The rest of them become socialists, of course. Which, yes, is a problem. But I want to emphasize (whatever my younger son says) those are a minority. (A lot of them pay lip service because the establishment will destroy them otherwise.)

Is this the ideal way to raise kids? Oh, heck no, and I suspect in the wake of whatever is heading for us we’ll head the other way. Possibly too far. (And no, I can’t give exact dates or nature. I can just feel it, like a massive break in the timeline and culture. I still think it starts next month, though the early incidents might not be recognized as such. After that it’s all in the air. I still think “Brief” but is brief months or years. I don’t know. Also note, I’m not a cult leader. I could be wrong. Particularly on the timing. It’s just a sense from the “feel in the air.”)

So I see where people get that impression. But mostly it’s the way kids are raised, not how “good” times are, that creates softness or hardness. And it’s possible to be raised “soft” and fairly wild in bad times, too, particularly if distracted parents are fighting too hard to survive to keep an eye on the little so and so.

If you can at all, don’t have your kids raised by strangers. And make them work for some of their extras. And the rest will take care of itself.

The thing to remember is that as hard as it is to discipline our kids or deny them harmless pleasures (and if you’re not a parent yet, trust me on this, it is) if you are too soft and indulge them too far, you end up making it impossible for them to succeed.

And if you have the supervision of a bunch of kids and don’t discipline bad behavior because “he’s just wild, not a bad boy” you’re going to ruin everyone. Perfect justice is not your purview. Enforcing acceptable behavior is. Otherwise you’re teaching a kid to be untrammeled and, yes, cruel (all humans are cruel if not checked. All that varies is the degree) and the others that people can impose on them and there is no justice or safety.

It’s important to know that in the end the worst thing you can do to people is to set no boundaries, no limits, no expectations, and give them everything they want.

That will not create soft men, per-se. It will often create monsters, and the rest of the time create wastrels.

It’s bad enough when the institutions go that path. Don’t add to it.

174 thoughts on “Hard or soft?

  1. Our Hostess said
    “In the end we come back to Heinlein’s saying “Never ruin your children by making their lives too easy.”

    Now, what is making your children’s lives too easy? I don’t know. You’ll have to calibrate it and sometimes you’ll be wrong.”

    I’ve seen this in practice I went to an oddball private school which had A LOT of very upper crust folks whose parents had LOTS of money. As an example one young lady’s parents owned the Main schoolbus company for most of the Connecticut shoreline. Her 16th Birthday present was a recent model Mercedes-Benz 350 SL convertible (which she wrapped around a tree 6 months later). These folks had WAY to much cash and tended to be the drones/upper class dweebs. Too much partying, too much drug usage, no clue what life was like. Basically the grasshopper from Aesops Grasshopper and the ants. None of them fared well as far as I can tell. Either they slid off into abusive life styles and disappeared, or were enabled by their parents and kept sucking off the teat they’d started on. Clearly that’s too easy. With my being an engineer and my wife a college professor I worried about this fate befalling our children. We have 2 daughters, both seem to be doing fine. Both of us are from blue collar backgrounds so we have a deep fear of not having money. We kept fairly tight purse strings although there were certainly a variety of indulgences. So far its worked, ask me again in 10 years after they start their own families and we see what happens with the next generation…

    1. 13 year old Trump was a budding delinquent (reportedly surly and stubborn), but was sent to military school to straighten him up. It not only did so, he stayed a year longer than he had to, and became one of the student leaders.

      Let that be a lesson….

    2. I still remember two mothers assuring me that a mother would do anything for her child — in the context of disability fraud.

  2. My sister often remarks that she is extra neurotic because she was an artist raised by engineers. My father and mother, myself, most of my brothers are all practical, ‘read the instructions then figure out how it -really- works’ types. My sister was a natural at music and could be kept quietly occupied for hours if given enough paper and pens/pencils. She’ll give reading the instructions a shot, but she has a hard limit for interpreting techno-babble and will simply wing it until it becomes obvious that’s not going to work. At which point she’ll call me in to ‘do the thing’.

    The nature/nurture thing? It’s not which. It’s both.

      1. Take a strand of DNA in isolation, and nothing happens.

        DNA is just a compact data storage format for a fantastically complicated transcription machine feeding a wet-nanotech factory.

        On the other hand you are never going to discipline a child into having different color eyes.

        “Is it Nature or Nurture?” is one of the questions that comes very close to violating the “there are no stupid questions” rule.

    1. Culture is an environmental force that affect evolution which, in turn, affects the future development of the culture. It even has a name amongst biologists — culture-gene co-evolution. Nature versus nurture was always a false dichotomy

  3. Yeah. This.

    Look, by most measures, I grew up softer than my grandfathers. I also still have all my fingers and toes.

    Given the medical issues, decent chance I would not have survived.

    Yet, I’ve kept trying and haven’t given up.

    I had a great grandfather who appears to have retreated into drink. Another, who maybe compromised in ways that were wrong.

    My ancestors faced some challenges and tried to do some things.

    I refuse to let myself believe in some simple model that stops me from trying things.

  4. Kids and chores . . . I found that the tasks mattered. Helping Dad work on the mower was “real work” while “clean your room” was make work and resented as such. Helping with repairs, and other forms of serious adult work were tackled with energy, and sources of pride.

    Not that dishes don’t need to be washed and the house vacuumed, but I urge mixing in a lot of the harder tasks.

    1. “Clean your room” was make work?? Up until you start seeing mice and roaches, perhaps.

      1. We just had the kid leave his door, closed, mostly. Cats had to have access. One rule. No Food. Period. Our problem wasn’t rodents or roaches. Sugar Ants OTOH … I hate sugar ants. They’ll show up without food laying around, but they are much less likely to.

  5. “And if you have the supervision of a bunch of kids and don’t discipline bad behavior because “he’s just wild, not a bad boy” you’re going to ruin everyone.” – This. So much. I can attest to from personal familial experience it makes everyone’s life hell… in particular because my parents let their sons run wild and expected their daughters to fix everything for them when things inevitably went wrong.

    It’s to the point where “You’re so responsible!” is one of my personal Berserk Buttons.

    (It also makes self-motivation very, very difficult some days. Working on that.)

    In the larger culture – well, look at all the idiots marching out there who act like no one’s ever told them no. Argh.

    1. When my eldest was two and climbing into strangers’ laps to look at their phones, I’d tell him to stop. “I don’t mind,” they’d say. “It’s going to take years for him to learn, and if I don’t start now, he’ll be doing this when he isn’t little and cute.” And their eyes would get a little wide, like they’d never encountered the idea that you have to train kids in good behavior. (They’re very polite. Though I did have to go through a lecture with my 11-year-old the other day when she burst out with “What the F*?” Said lecture consisted of “What would happen if you did that at school?” “I’d get detention.” “You say what you practice, which is why I don’t want you saying phrases like ‘what the flip,’ even though it’s technically okay. So practice not saying it, okay?”)

        1. Our training of Sara (once the senior dog, now the only one) took better than I expected. Sort of woke up around 3:30 this morning (not *that* unusual), greeted by a nose and licking of the hands. She *really* had to go pee but was willing to let me do my bathroom stuff first. OTOH, she might have tried to wake $SPOUSE when I was busy, since a Great Disturbance in the Sleep was noted at that time. 🙂

      1. This – If you cannot get them to behave and respect parental authority when they are small … how can you manage when they are taller and bigger than you?

          1. I know you’re from Portugal, but “#1 son” is always, in my head, in the voice of Sidney Toler.

            1. Charlie Chan movies on TV when I was five are why I call my father “Pop”, a la #2 Son.

    2. “A hill is to climb, A man is to pick up after.”

      “There’s nothing so disgusting as a woman who can’t cope..”

      Both from the Ozarker trilogy.

      1. Modern kitchens promote sexism is by liberating men. In the old days, men who wanted decent meals had to get married, and that caused them to value women. Now, with modern kitchens, “Men can cook for themselves; women, minorities hardest hit.”

        Likewise with clothes washers & dryers, vacuum cleaners, and other modern appliances.

        (Caution: Tongue may be found in cheek.)

      2. I don’t know the Ozarker trilogy, but I’d like to see you “pick up” after someone who decided to turn down a gang, didn’t bother to tell you about it – and they jump you to teach him a lesson.

        1. *Nods* Exactly. And people wonder where the support for feminism came from.

          To the extent Mrs. Elgin was accurately reporting the culture, you can spot the seed of it in those two sentences. “No justice, no peace”.

          (Though of course, what people usually want is realky mercy.)

  6. There’s also a difference between vacuuming the common area, and vacuuming my room. The former was something that was done, needed doing, and I could take pride in. The latter was a disturbance of the perfect nest I’d built for myself, dammit.

    1. Depends.

      I really disliked mowing the lawn when I was growing up. Of all the chores that I had to do, that was by far the one that I disliked the most.

      It was also a source of dark amusement for me that my Dad’s old unpowered lawn mower got replaced pretty much right after I moved out of my parents’ house…

      1. To this day, I am not sure how much of my mother’s awe that *I* could get the crotchety riding mower to work and *she* couldn’t was genuine. 🙂 (Multiple acres to mow. I don’t apologize for the riding part.)

        1. I must be crazy.

          Not because if I had that much “yard” I’d also want a riding mower.

          But because if Mom was alive & able to use a riding mower, I wouldn’t let her if I live with her (or in the same town).

          IE I might have disliked Dad making me mow (not him doing the mowing) but mowing was the guy’s job.

  7. Hard times, hard men, soft times, soy milk. I’m not buying the whole cloth, pro or con, but the details, either way, are deviling. Just before reading this post I was perusing the thought as a genetic concept; Hard times, gene pool cleaning, survival of the fittest. Easy times, genetic diversity, mutations, combinations, alterations may, or may not, prove viable in a harsh world, but they do, in soft times, have a chance to develop, passed along, and be tested later.

    Nature vs nurture; agree hard to define and draw a line. If t’were so would be easy to construct an O&M manual for each model kid at birth. For example my daughter, manual clutch, four on the floor, top off her tank, change the oil every seven tears and she’ll be right. My son, turbocharged mouth, fast, flashy, sassy but with no brakes. Lot of maintenance required.

    Yep hard to hit the happy medium (Although if she’s a happy masochistic medium, she might like it!) & without O&M manuals best we can do is raise then as best we can and wait fifty years to see how they turn out.

    But fear not, if all else fails you can go over to Project Gutenberg and download The American Practical Brewer and Tanner by Joseph Coppinger, 1815; https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20663

    1. One of the big innovations of the human design, is we can learn reflexes, and extremely complicated ones at that. It makes us far more flexible and adaptable than creatures that have to depend nearly entirely on hard wired reflexes.

      But, they’re layered on to of the hardwired stuff, and can, at least somewhat, over-rule the hardwired stuff, so it’s hard to tell what is wired into the circuits, and what’s merely been embedded so deep it takes a roto-rooter to dislodge it.

  8. I had several rules that worked out well for me, in raising my daughter: #1 – never make a threat or a promise that you have no actual intention of delivering on, and #2 – Until about the age of 3 or 4 and they grasp the concept of amending behavior in response to threat for bad behavior or a reward for good, there is little to be expected from a child, no more than you would expect from a puppy or a kitten. They will wet the bed, throw tantrums in the toy aisle, so don’t torment yourself or them by assuming that the kid at two will be a perfect little angel.
    Chores, a regular routine and a degree of security, firm but gentle demeanor from the parental unit; and #3, no matter what question they might ask in all innocence, resist the initial temptation to come unglued. You will frighten them, if this happens, and then you will never hear anything interesting from the kiddo at all. Just take a deep breath and respond calmly and rationally.

    1. CeliaHayes Said
      “never make a threat or a promise that you have no actual intention of delivering on”

      Definitely. One time we went to D.C. when my girls were late grammar/early middle school. It had been a VERY long ride as traffic had been awful and so we decided to hit the hotel restaurant/buffet up for dinner instead of trying to fish around in D.C. at 8:30 or so. We went down ordered up dinner and were sitting waiting, the girls were working VERY hard to be on proper behavior. There was another couple with two similar aged children dining. The children were abysmal, getting up, racing around, yelling, messing with other tables (there were only we two sets of folks in the restaurant). The parents would threaten to take them back upstairs or to withhold Ice Cream ( there were self serve soft serve machines) or to sit them down for a time out (that was immediately violated). Our girls were apoplectic they couldn’t understand why the doom had not fallen (they used those words we’d just been listening to a Horse and his boy on the way down). Particularly our youngest who is such a lawful good straight shooter that paladins look up to her 🙂 was just turning pale knowing all hell was going to be unleashed and when it wasn’t and they children were given the Ice Cream she started to turn purple with rage at the unfairness. To this day (young one is 25) they STILL are baffled by that performance and remember it.

      1. I never threaten and I almost never promise. The problem with threats is that you give them the opportunity to do a cost benefit calculation. For promises, let’s say I’m a stickler for keeping them so I tend not to promise what I can’t guarantee I’ll do.

        1. My youngest sister. Issue is eating her green beans. Declaration from dad “Eat the beans or you’ll get a spanking.” She chose the spanking … THEN he still made her eat the green beans. To this DAY (Note, she’s 60 this summer) that was UNFAIR. Dad swore that he said AND. Which is also part of the story. Cost of not complying was analyzed. Result of not fully analyzing … indefinite.

          Our son threw two tantrums in a store. The reason for the tantrum was he was tired and wanted to go. Nope. Don’t get your way when you throw a tantrum. Period. Not a threat, not a promise. Just how it was. Throw a tantrum and it will take longer to get done and get out of here.

          OTOH we always prevented problems. Yellowstone with a mobile toddler (14 months)? Better believe we had him on a (short) harness and leash. Every year you see people grabbing other peoples running amok children. Running amok on the thermal boardwalks. One oops and there is a dead kid. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen a lot more often than it does. It is really rare. Which is why the strangers get away with grabbing the not-their-kids, 99% of the time it is because they are keeping said kid from toppling into a deadly thermal, or toppling someone else into one.

          1. My mom kept my brother in overalls for that reason. She grabbed him out of almost going into a thermal spring at Yellowstone, and off a ladder in Carlsbad Caverns.

            1. Oh, yes – Oshkosh overalls for the win. Pick them up by the back strap, and if small enough, even hold them out at arms’ length so they can neither kick or bite you…

          2. Yeah. Some years back I was j-u-s-t light enough to ease off the boardwalk and grab a four-year-old who wandered off the safe path. Then the parent started fussing at me for grabbing the kid and hauling him/her/it back onto land. Two witnesses intervened and gave the parent a Stern Talking To, so I eased out and let them have at. And so I could quit shaking.

            1. Yes. That’s exactly the ONE place where my Stay-Out-of-It fails. AND I have a dog on the walk where they aren’t allowed … Service Dog (legal), and kept tight. I’ll catch a lot of grief from the irate parents. Luckily others around will take up the mantle.

        2. This is why we stuck with predictions. X yields Y. Our best-beloved was naturally obedient, however, so we wanted to develop the Automatic Renegotiation reflex and cost/benefit calculations of going along with Authority.

          Choosing virtue (“A law in every heart or a policeman in every corner”) is a different (if related) training program.

            1. It comes from the Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois Bujold. When the adult in charge says “No,” the child immediately counters with reasons why the “no” can or should be overturned. Tends to override the tantrum and sulks and self-pity reflex by forcing analysis. It gets reinforced when, the child’s premises being sound, and his arguments following from them, he gets to “yes.” Especially since by investigating the “why” of the “no” he makes better arguments.

              This is very manipulative, mind you, so we started explaining why we were doing this as the Daughter Product became old enough to understand. Which also probably limits its effectiveness. TANSTAAFL.

              1. Manipulative on the part of the parents….. *how?*

                Unless we are stretching “manipulative” to cover all negotiations, which I have seen people do, which is why I never learned how to negotiate….

              2. We try not to yield to repeated “but I waant it!” if there was good reason for the “no,” but we were quite pleased when stuff like “you may not Y until after X” led to starting off with “may I have X and then Y?”

    2. The logical consequence of my husband deciding it would be fun to watch nature documentaries with the three-year-old was being asked at supper if we had mated. This was fine; I’d been worried we’d get freakouts over predation.

      Need to work on the chores though.

      1. LOL.
        I was once sent to bed without dinner for saying the word “sperm” at the dinner table.
        I was explaining the mating of some sea animal, but that was no excuse. Despite dad’s protests, I was sent off.
        Then dad and brother got me food.
        I STILL don’t understand why mom got so bent out of shape about that, when I was OBVIOUSLY talking about sea animals. (And not fish. It was something like starfish? Or sea urchins? SOMETHING.)

        1. The potty language rule?

          Groups have strictures about what can be said when and where. To the point that a couple times I was led into the bathroom by my child for certain comments / questions.

          I do not pretend to be (despite decades of trying to figure them out) anything more than a N00b at this stuff.

          But it is not all me. The SocJus [redacted]’s determination to kick out and undermine the social ground we stand on just for giggles every few years has a lot to answer for.

      2. I remember watching “Walking with Dinosaurs” with the nieces and nephews; they asked me what mating was and I said “making a baby” and changed the subject.

    3. Pretty close to the rules I used but #2; mine included -beat the hell our of them if they won’t listen!
      OK, sort of.

      Agreed below 4 or so not rational, but pain is nature’s way of telling the non-rational, in particular, they hadn’t otta do that!

      My daughter was born in NYC (Can you think of a better reason to move to Alaska?) and it was quite important she learn, as soon as she could walk, stop meant stop.

      Small pains trump larger maiming or destroying pains in raising them. When I would say STOP I didn’t want the child running out into the street, into NY traffic, looking over her shoulder saying, “Why Daddy, why?”


      Early on if I said stop and she didn’t stop she got a swat on the bottom. Actually not too many swats and my apprentice human could walk the streets on NYC, hand held but with no worries that if she got loose she’d damage any taxi bumpers.

      In some ways NYC was a good place to learn from minor pain. For example the radiator in our apartment was never hot enough to cause actual harm (Of course not, it was an NYC rent controlled apartment.). So I could tell my daughter don’t tough that, it’s hot, and not stop her when she touched it, and, when she turned around, lower lip quivering, holding her fingers with the other hand, she’d get an Itoldyouso. Lesson learned quite quickly.

      Beat the hell out of them when they don’t listen? Of course not but I’m quite sure when my daughter passes along the story to her great grandchildren the bottom swats will, be back in my (her) day, cat of nine tails, cattle prods, chains and bread and water if we didn’t listen!

      Did I ever tell you about the time my dad threw a hammer at me because I said it was too heavy and wouldn’t help him carry an 8 cylinder engine block up out of the basement? OK, it’s actually a story my dad told me about his dad but you get what I’m sayin’. 😉

      1. Same thing. Most of the smacks older son got (Younger son was not nearly as boundary pushing) were below 4. And for similar reasons. We lived downtown Colorado Springs and he had the charming habit of jimmying the front door open (at one time we had three locks and he still got them open) and running out. Sometimes naked. At one and a half.
        He was also 3 feet tall at two. And we needed him to understand things like “don’t jump on people, you hurt them.”
        And he made some mules look docile. So…. butt-swat. Which to be fair, till 2 was more noise than pain because of diaper.

      2. My father did the same. I grew up in NYC. When he told us to stop we stopped, if he told us to come we came. If we didn’t we paid a price. My father never beat us but he would certainly swat us. Later he told me that he did this because there would come a time when there wouldn’t be time to explain and the habit of obedience first was necessary.

        1. PRECISELY why we did it. But SERIOUSLY it really hurt me more than it hurt them.
          And I made it a point NEVER to do it when I was uncontrollably angry. Weirdly the two occasions that Robert KNOWINGLY (though he was three and 6) did something that endangered a) me b) his brother’s life, I didn’t touch him. I just said “I can’t look at you. Go to your room and stay there, quietly until I can.”
          He says he still remembers it, because I was white as a sheet, and he was sure I would kill him if he pushed it. (The second time was knowing, but not intentionally endangering his brother. I.e. he was breaking rules, but but he didn’t realize his brother was inches away from where he landed when he jumped from the top bunk. Seriously, an angel was with us that day.) The first time, the little sob knew exactly what he was doing, used a ruse to get me to step out of the house, and then locked the door. He also shouted through the door he was going to play with the gas stove. (He didn’t. He was being a little sh*t.) Leaving me outside the house, with no key, no phone (too early for that), an injured cat under my arm, and eight months pregnant. In the middle of summer.
          By the time I got back in I was repressing the berserker as hard as I could and couldn’t risk even swatting him because I might have lost it.
          He NEVER did anything that stupid again. EVER.

          1. Wow, just wow. My knuckleheads never did anything like that. I do remember number one son making me lose my temper. He knocked off my glasses and I came up out of the chair. Something caught me in the split second I was rising and I remembered that I, if no one else, had to be calm. God was with us that day. I’ve always kept my temper under the strictest control because the alternative is 30 to life in Rahway State Prison, which is why this last year has been so hard. I don’t have a middle ground, it’s either calm or berserker.

            1. It’s why this last year has been really hard, too because I only know a way to tamp down the berserker: DEPRESSION. So I depress myself so I don’t kill people.
              BTW #1Son has never been evil. He’s just prone to elaborate plans. And at three didn’t think things through.

              1. I used to have a teddy bear that would fall apart when I threw it. Then I would put it back together. That would relieve a lot of stress. Another place I worked at in my late teens, the ladies had a scream room. It was a back room in a clothing store. 🙂

            2. I don’t even REMEMBER why he put that bizarre plan into action.
              I do remember why he called 9/11 on me, that same summer: because I wouldn’t let him lick the mixer beaters.
              I wasn’t even mad on that one. I was so completely amused. The policeman who showed up got him to say why he’d called 911, and could hardly keep a straight face. But he explained to the kid all the problems.

              1. Daughtorial Unit once ventured such a threat – and got a lecture on how indulgent her parents were and the likelihood that any foster parents would indulge her (extremely) picky eating habits, be nearly so generous about feeding her book habit, and several other parental tolerances.

                References to Annie may have occurred.

            3. Yes. I think that being alone and able to turn off the TV when I am too upset helps a lot. I understand about keeping my temper under control. If I don’t– well I scare myself.

          2. There a probably exceptions. But.

            It is MUCH MUCH crueller to use the emotional manipulations the “never spank your kid” activists insist can completely replace it *and consider harmless*

            Both come with costs to the trust your children have in you. I’m notnormal enough to judge for all he sanity, but the “well-deserved whallop” seems less damaging than mind-games/shaper training.

            1. > Both come with costs to the trust your children have in you.

              They think your children are the property of the State. So, “a feature, not a bug.”

              1. And sadly, what has been “educated” out of the minds of most people is that there is no such thing as the “State”, the “State” is itself merely a smaller group of humans exercising power over a larger group of humans.

          3. I had a babysitting gig once, three boys: 5, 3, 18 months. One of the older ones locked me and his siblings out of the house. Older kid with me took a broomhandle and rammed it through a knothole in the kitchen/garage door. Caught brother square in the solar plexus and laid him out on the kitchen floor. I stood there in horror until he started whooping and I could assume he was all right. He finally had to let me in to answer the phone. It was his mother telling me they were held up at marriage counseling and would be late….
            By the time they got home the little monsters were taking the doors off the hinges with the kitchen knives (the dull ones, thankfuly). You betcha I got a bonus. And decided maybe I’d go into lawn mowing, instead…

            1. I had one of those baby-sitting jobs, as the only reliable teenaged girl in the neighborhood. Three kids, single divorced mother who worked as a nurse. The kids had a decided reputation as hellions – but I never had a problem with them, as I had sussed out the one treat that they valued, and all that I had to do to compel instant cooperation was to threaten not to do it for them.
              Homemade cake, from scratch – I think I used a simple four-egg cake recipe from Joy of Cooking. I don’t think their mother cooked much, certainly didn’t do any home baking – she hardly had the time and energy for it. Their treat, if they had been good, was helping me put together a simple cake from scratch. They could have it for dessert.
              They wanted that simple home-made cake so badly, they would behave for it.

          4. I think we’ve just discovered the truth about how the Neanderthals disappeared….

            “I wonder what happens when I do th–”
            “Og? Og?? where’d he go??”

            1. “Look, tribe! Og have invented…BEER!”

              [Tribe is suitably impressed]

              “Now, Gak. Hold Og beer, and watch this!”

    4. We are lucky, in that our 2-3 year old actually enjoys making people happy. Asking her to take something to Mommy, or put something in the trash can just makes her day.

      We’re also somewhat still at the state where most of the time she’s cranky is either because she’s thirsty or tired, rather than pushing boundaries. I swear, at least 2/3rd of the time she’s irritable, I just offset her a bottle of water, she takes it and drinks half of not and it back to her usual happy self.

      1. Might have been because he was an only. But I’ve got pictures and video of our son, from the time he could walk, carry, and talk, declaring “I holp”.

        I holp grandpa stack split firewood in the truck (wasn’t allowed to holp with the mechanical splitter … that was not safe). Pick up one split log. Put on box, climb on box, put wood on truck bumper (tailgate was off), climb on bumper, put wood on pickup bed, climb into pickup bed, pickup log, walk it back to the pile and lay it on. Repeat the process.

        I holp dad with raking leaves. Telling dad exactly what the steps were. Those little playskool plastic wheelbarrow, he had one. Do you know how long it takes to get the leaves into a recycling bin, when that, not a full size one is being used? Dad might have cheated with the “Fall Leaf Fairy” who got the leaves finished after son went to bed for the night.

        I holp dad move and stack our firewood. One piece at a time in his wheelbarrow. Dad was using his too, with his shadow following.

        As for other regular chores. He doesn’t have any siblings so there was no arguments on “whose turn it was”. Laundry, he’s done his own since he was 11. The Family scout merit badge has a requirement that you have to have and track 5 chores for 90 days. Reward for earning the merit badge? Get to keep doing the chores.

      2. Same here. My 20 month old demands to help me with the dishwasher and loves bringing things to people

    5. My rule is “natural consequences.” Oh, you damaged/destroyed something? Too bad—it’s gone now. Or if it’s something we need, well, that’s money we could have spent on something fun, but we have to replace this now.

      They caught on. Eventually.

      1. My kids were BIZARRELY non destructive, once they were …. speech-competent. I.e. once they got concepts. Even before they weren’t VERY destructive, but #1son did things like melt wax crayons on the radiator.

        1. He just wanted to see what happened. 😀

          I’ve said that young children can be little “scientists” as in “what happens when I do this” and an element “will that happen again if I do this”. Oh, the “will that happen again” thing is when a child drops something apparently just to see if Mom will pick it up again. 😉

        2. Old incandescent light bulbs were good for that, too. Although sometimes the wax runs down the sides and cements the bulb permanently into the socket. I discovered that all by my self. Haven’t found a journal willing to accept my paper on it, though.

        3. I used up a lot of crayons when we had hot water baseboard heat… trying to figure out why some, but not others, would just *disappear* when touched to the copper water pipe (even tho that was cool to the touch). No melt, no puddle, no smell, no residue on the pipe, just … instantly-vanishing crayon, down to a stump. And others… nothing happened no matter how long it was held to the pipe.

          That was about as destructive as I ever got… I still have pristine Stuff from the 1950s that survived assorted moves and dislocations.

        4. >> “My kids were BIZARRELY non destructive, once they were …. speech-competent”

          Haven’t you told us stories about your engineer son blowing craters in the yard and flying homemade helicopters into the chandelier?

          1. um…. yes, but it wasn’t to DESTROY things. I mean….. He wanted to make a non-use specific explosive…. didn’t we all?
            And the helicopter….. he was playing quietly. He didn’t notice what was above him. He was eight, you know?

            1. He wanted to make a non-use specific explosive…. didn’t we all?

              In the O-DSM-V (Odd-DSM-V) not having any desire for explosives is listed as a symptom of several different forms of mental illness.

              1. Nice to know I’m a defective freak even by the standards of other Odds, then.

        5. My eldest is lightly on the autism spectrum, and one of the ways it manifests for him is unconscious fidgeting, including to the destructive point. Took years to train him out of chewing on everything he could get his hands on. Now it’s unconscious noises.

          I ought to get him some singing lessons. Unconscious noises that are tuneful would be kind of cool.

    6. At just shy of 3, my kid got overwhelmed by Christmas displays at Target. I don’t remember what set it off, but the resulting tantrum was so epic that 1) I had to leave my groceries and carry her out over my shoulder and 2) for the next MONTH I had red-shirted people I didn’t recognize come up to me going “Is your little girl OK now?”

      1. Weirdly they didn’t throw fits in public MUCH. The exception being at church, because they knew we weren’t going to do what we did other places, which was to walk away, calling over our shoulders “Call us when you get a job.”
        At church the embarrassing tantrums continued until Dan grabbed one under each arm, took them out to the car and had — he SWEARS that was all — a TALK with them.
        To this day none of the three of them will tell me what he said. But they never did it again.
        He says he doesn’t remember what he told them, they swear they don’t remember a talk.
        In my head canon, he channeled his alter ego from the Converse and showed them the wings with the eyes.

  9. The human mind is very adept at seeing patterns where none exist, then tossing out data which doesn’t confirm that pattern.

    Happily, in most instances those patterns don’t much matter, as people are going to people regardless of whatever pattern others think they see.

  10. “Which brings us back to the old conundrum: genes or upbringing?”
    pretty much both, often enough, though one can trump the other more or less.

  11. On the scale of nations, Machiavelli pointed out that the best people come from plentiful resources guarded by discipline – and I note that today’s athletes are as good as any ever produced for this reason. From his much underappreciated discourses on Livy:

    those wise nations be imitated, who, inhabiting most fruitful and delightful countries, and such as were likely to rear a listless and effeminate race, unfit for all manly exercises, in order to obviate the mischief wrought by the amenity and relaxing influence of the soil and climate, subjected all who were to serve as soldiers to the severest training; whence it came that better soldiers were raised in these countries than in others by nature rugged and barren

    (end quote)

    On the subject of children of successful parents, I claim that if you are capable of understanding the idea of regression to the mean, you should learn about it, because your children may not be as capable.

  12. Strauss & Howe’s generational theory* posits that child-rearing follows a cycle of underprotective-tightening-overprotective-loosening. We Xers were raised in the “underprotective” part, today’s GenZers are in the “overprotective”/helicopter-parent part.

    * (which may be the winner for Greatest Wrong Theory Ever supplanting the bicameral mind hypothesis, but I think it still has descriptive power even if its predictive power is looking shakier.)

    1. Well, we’re a bit late for the crisis they predicted … but we all know it’s coming, quite soon now. And there was always some give in the prediction.

  13. “Eugenics”, if one is honest and not merely using the term as a Totem of Power with which to bash their opponent, is to be feared only its top down authoritarian implementation. Because every human who has ever chose their mate was engaging in it.

    And if you have the supervision of a bunch of kids and don’t discipline bad behavior because “he’s just wild, not a bad boy” you’re going to ruin everyone.

    The equal-but-opposite failure is to decide that it is impossible, nothing good can possibly happen, so complete isolation.

    1. I don’t think that’s a correct understanding of the word “eugenics”. The dictionary definitions I’ve seen all talk about groups, e.g. encouraging intelligent people to marry because they hope to improve the general population, or advocating that people with various disabilities be sterilized. Picking an intelligent spouse because you want to have someone intelligent to talk to at night, or even because you want to have intelligent kids, is not the same thing. The desire for intelligent kids is not because you’re looking to improve the general population, but because you want your specific kids to have the best chance they can of a good life. (Note: there may be some people who do engage in eugenics when selecting their spouse, thinking “I should have intelligent kids to improve the general human population”; I’m not saying that there are zero cases of that. What I am saying is that those people are the rare exception, and certainly not “every human who has ever chosen their mate”.)

      1. I’m not saying that there are zero cases of that. What I am saying is that those people are the rare exception, and certainly not “every human who has ever chosen their mate”.)

        Do you think the things that make a person attractive are just random traits, unconnected from anything else?

        1. I’m saying that “eugenics” means more than “chooses their partner for their genes”. Yes, genetics has something to do with attractiveness. But to be engaging in eugenics requires, by the meaning of the word “eugenics”, a motivation having to do with improving the population at large, and that is what I am saying most people are not doing.

      2. My understanding is that “eugenics” implies outside authority encouraging/discouraging personal behavior. So if an individual wants to marry someone intelligent, that’s personal preference. When the government or some other organization urges a person to marry or just have kids with so-and-so in order to have smarter/stronger/taller/healthier offspring, or conversely to not marry (or requires sterilization) in order to limit/stop hereditary disease/”idiocy” in the old sense of the word/discourage certain traits, you are getting into eugenics. YMMV, because a LOT of it is no longer “what is the original literal meaning” but “what is the generally assumed usage and implication.”

        Like “propaganda.” It started off simply meaning images and words intended to persuade. Now it has a strongly negative connotation.

  14. So, you know, (As Jordan Peterson points out) it’s not just a matter of being intelligent enough or smart enough to be successful in life. There are other traits that go into it, such as persistence, (both in learning and in working in a field) and creativity and, oh, yeah, ability to work with others (most people in dad’s family are introverts. I think the worst ones go into teaching, because it’s very top-down in Portugal) which Peterson calls agreeableness. There are other traits he doesn’t touch on like charisma.

    Actually, he does, it’s just you gotta learn the lingo. He couches things in the big five of psychology: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

    Charisma is probably mostly extroversion.

    1. Oh, hell no. I have it. Younger son has it. Brother has it. And we’re ALMOST non-functional introverts.
      I really have NO clue what causes it. I think it’s body language/way you relate to others. But…. No clue.

      1. Projecting certainty is a large part of it.

        There have been occasions when I’ve carried people along on force of personality.
        Looking back at them, having focus and direction while others were unsure what to do, seems to be a major part of the puzzle. And once there are a couple people following you, the thing snowballs.
        And being unsure what to do, comprises large parts of life.

        1. Looking back at them, having focus and direction while others were unsure what to do, seems to be a major part of the puzzle.

          “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” — George Patton

        2. I accidentally stole an art tour once. Still makes me giggle.

          A couple fundie friends dragged me to the art gallery at Bob Jones University, which for all its many flaws had a *stunning* religious art display. One does not expect to find a Titian in Greenville, SC. Mom was an art history teacher and I’d just finished up homeschooling with her old college textbook. So I started sharing some of the cool stuff I’d noticed with my friends. Didn’t really notice anybody else until I *felt* someone staring daggers at me and looked back to spot a gaggle of visiting parents and one exceedingly peeved docent.

          1. My parents did that on a trip in Europe. The professional guide came up all huffy and ordered them to stop.

            “Are you going to explain the art and answer questions?”

            “Or course not! That’s not what I am here for.”

            So my folks kept on truckin’. (MomRed has more or less an MFA in art history.) And their gaggle grew considerably, which really peeved the so-called guide.

      2. It is certainly a thing in motion. It is a quality of high energy. It can be technically ugly, but never repulsive. Charisma is a function of Beauty. Virginia Postrells essays on glamour are the closest I’ve read to an explanation.

      3. I concur with our Hostess. Elder daughter would charm the heck out of anyone as a child (admittedly being a cute curly haired red head didn’t hurt). Still does it, if you need something negotiated she’s your girl. But after interaction with folks she just needs to be alone to recharge, classic introvert. I wouldn’t say the extrovert trait is orthogonal to charm, but definitely not strongly correlated. All in all trying to catalog humans with a few specific traits seems bound to fail. Heck even trying to do it with far simpler creatures (say cats) falls flat pretty quickly.

    2. Number two son has charisma to spare, he’s also very introverted. People actually follow him. I, on the other hand, could lead a drunk to a bar serving free booze.

  15. We homeschooled our children, and in the community where we lived there were a lot of overindulged “no limits” children who were just intolerable to be around. A lot of the parents believed that putting any limits on their children was some kind of oppression.

    Tbh, I regret not doing more in getting our boys to do chores. That was definitely a mistake, and a family culture one at that. My mother found it very difficult to make us do chores, so those who whined and complained or managed to have other activities at the time got out of doing them. And I was maybe a bit better than my mother at that, but not as much as I would have liked. I just didn’t have the extra energy a lot of the time — and it does take a lot more work at the beginning.

    I did however have a motivating hatred of the squabbling that sometimes goes on between siblings. Maybe we just got lucky, but that was something that we just didn’t put up with and so we didn’t get much of it. I saw other families where it went on all the time, and the parents just kind of accepted that that was how siblings behaved, so didn’t seem to even try to stop it.

    1. Siblings do that. It’s part of how they learn to deal with people who are not themselves. But there are ways to keep the sibling squabbling out of the destructive zones. The only people who have never shouted for their parents to make their sibling stop doing something are the ones who never had siblings.

      We were allowed to squabble and settle minor issues among ourselves, but mom and dad made sure to stop things between us if they got out of hand. The result was that when push came to shove, we had each other’s backs and were more than willing to escalate if necessary.

      1. Same.
        Though brother and I didn’t fight MUCH because my early memories of him, he was 12 and six feet tall.
        OTOH my kids still have the rolling argument. It’s somewhere between autistic “But actually” and an argument. And yet, they’re the best of friends.

    2. I grew up squabbling with my sisters (no brother to squabble with). To this day we can disagree, even get loud about it, but we don’t get mad. Current political discussions included. One sister is in the government is right, and President Trump is mean, camp. We’re misguided, and they love us, and will protect us. We’ll protect them too. Funny thing though, they aren’t willing to house the homeless on the part their 5 acres that isn’t being used. But Vancouver and surrounding area doesn’t have a homeless or panhandling problem. Suspect they are another Springfield. No panhandling allowed, and homeless get shopped out, somewhere else (probably across the river to Portland)

    3. Yeah. My brother and I fought a lot growing up. But when he’d screwed up so badly that my parents made the decision to send him to boarding school to get away from the friends they felt were a bad influence, he freaked out and came to me crying. He was scared. But he still went…and got kicked out again…found more friends.

  16. I think the answer to the nature nurture dichotomy is yes but a academics can’t deal with ambiguity so it just goes on and on, My father was the son and grandson of marine engineers and that whole side of the family had been in shipping for generations. My mother was an impoverished aristocrat whose family had been British officers for generations. Both of them were the offspring of alcoholic, improvident fathers so both my parents grew up fairly poor. The family did find the money to educate them.

    I think the crucial thing is both of them thought long term and both were in it together.

    My father refused to move us up to Westchester county, where all his coworkers lived, because he didn’t want me to grow up a rich boy. He was a great believer in work and I’ve been working to one degree or another since I was fourteen. Did me a world of good. Did the same with our children.

    Too many parents today when their children throw their toys out of the pram, at best, give them right back or worse go out and buy them more toys. When my children threw their toys out of the pram they never got them right back and sometimes never got them back at all. Just the other day we found an original Pokémon red that my wife had taken away from number one son and then forgot where she put it or that it ever existed. It only takes a few of those and the throwing stops.

    1. My dad refused to send me to private school because he didn’t want me to get “notions.”
      I’m glad he did. In Portugal private schools were not nearly as demanding as public, which seems weird till you realize the paying parents want to be told sprout is smart.

      1. My wife and I went private and our kids did too. It was a real sacrifice for my wife’s family but the choice was that or the NYC public schools during their prior nadir. My wife got into Bronx Science and I got into Stuyvesant but both of us recoiled when we went on visits and wanted no part of it. I sent my children to private. My daughter would have been OK anywhere but the boys needed to go to boys schools and we didn’t want our children taught by militant atheists. It’s maddening that I pay very, very high taxes to pay for one of the nation’s top public schools and my children never attended.

        1. Ditto.

          If you want to start every meeting with your child’s teachers in prayer and to have a say in the curriculum because *it’s expected you’ll care about it*, private is the only way to go.

          At least for now, private, co-op, and homeschool are the acme of the old USAian Republic: A real choice.

  17. I have commonly thought the best thing that my parents did for me was to send me off to the family farms during the summertime and holiday breaks. This plus serious chores at home and part time jobs prepped me for working in the real world. (It also made me not want to be a farmer.) Money earned bought me clothes and my first computer. Boys in the family were never given any extra or spoiled. Girls got more slack.

    So when I’m sitting through a week packed with meetings and hating the tedium, I always think of dozens of experiences that are worse; like moving outhouses, digging out septic systems in August, sleeping in the barn in winter, working in cotton fields, moving irrigation pipe, slaughtering animals for food, spraying weeds in 115 F weather, frostbite looking for cows, etc…

    1. A few of these I have done, most not. If I had to pick between an hour of digging out wild blackberries, or scooping [effluvia] under a baking sun and an hour of a fully-converged CRT “discourse” meeting…

      I’d choose the former. You?

    2. #MeToo, when it came to my grandparent’s farm in AR. Fun to visit, but long term???? Of course, now I’m thinking it may not be so bad.

  18. mom refused to understand there had been an episode of hyper inflation between myself and my brother,

    We ran into this with my mother, as well, especially as the dementia began to intrude on her daily involvement in the world. We finally hit on the ploy of telling her what a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle currently cost … which was about ten times what she remembered it’s price being. That level of magnitude cut through the growing fog in her head and brought home to her how much effect inflation had been having.

    1. Mom didn’t have dementia, but by then she had retired and her transactions in money, much less things like eating establishments downtown, were MINIMAL.
      Until my brother intervened she thought I was asking for that much money because I had a drug habit. (This is kind of an obsession for her. Because I took, in her opinion, too much — 2 tabs — of aspirin, so obviously I was cavalier with drugs, therefore….)
      Later she popped out of this, but has a way of reverting, now that she’s in her eighties.
      One of the most bizarre things recently is that she wants to know the price of everything I buy. So if I mention we had roast, she wants to know how much it cost. I lie like a rug, because if she knew the prices we pay here, she’d demand I find it cheaper.
      At this point it is not dementia — they’re both remarkably clear headed, though mom has her times — but it’s one of those weird obsessions the elderly get.

      1. Ah yes… Drugs are a crutch. That did not change until very old age and all the assorted pharmaceutical remedies that ameliorate things like glaucoma.

        So many of your stories remind me of my own mom, although we get along more as you and your father did (She is the storyteller). When your mother made your clothes (and I didn’t get to wear T-shirts and jeans until I discovered thrift stores) did she insist on original designs from 15 years ago?

        Speaking of which… If you are still praying for my parents as I am yours, will you ask God to spare them from the evils of the pseudo-vax? Let it be for the faithful as Aaron’s rod and turn evil to good.

  19. So, do soft times create soft men? Well, no. But a soft upbringing DOES create adults who just go with their genetic/family culture inclinations.

    Soft times allow such men (and women … and those in-between) to grow unhindered. Just as never tending your garden permits weeds to grow.

    1. Soft times bring tolerance, which can either be tolerance for wastrels and Karens, or tolerance for Heinlein’s tiny minority whose departure brings “bad luck.”

  20. unfortunately this also happened at a time when ‘mass everything’ was at its apogee, as was centralized dictating of ‘how things are to be done’.

    Production of war materiel in WWII had demonstrated the incredible productivity of mass production. In the immediate post-war period the United States stood alone as a First-World economy, Europe’s factories having been looted or bombed (or both) and SE Asia’s having never really developed. This created a period of economic boom that people thought would last forever.

    We have already discussed the problem’s of Wilson’s efforts to extend the logic of war-time economies to peace-time, and that myopia was reinforced by the experience of WWII. The nation forgot that government is established to protect our liberties and were persuaded the government could manage all human affairs effectively.

    As we (most of us – the Progressives have yet to catch on) now recognize, government cannot even manage wiping its arse effectively, requiring more paper for the instruction manuals and the after-action reports than is employed in the actual wiping.

    1. O Marsupial of Internet-ness, here is a thought:

      government cannot even manage wiping its arse effectively, requiring more paper for the instruction manuals and the after-action reports than is employed in the actual wiping.

      What if the critical word above is not “government” but “bureaucracy”

      After all, the trick is to keep us fighting each other instead of the aristos.

      1. While I know you can have bureaucracy without government, I am not sure that government without bureaucracy is still possible.

        But I am wiling to grant your point that the problem is monkey, not pussy.

  21. because in its latest ‘self esteem’ incarnation the insanity of the establishment praises them for everything they are even vaguely competent at.

    Regrettably, not even being vaguely competent is required. They don’t even require the kids to show up.

    In the long run, of course, this engenders distrust and (often) contempt for authority, which will play out over time with such things as “mostly” peaceful protests where participants are secure in the belief that nothing by way of repercussions will occur.

    1. In the long run, of course, this engenders distrust and (often) contempt for authority

      To be fair, after the early part of the century American culture *needed* a good stiff dose of that.

      1. Contempt for the Bidenreich authority is a good thing.

        Contempt for Authority: Christ, the Godhead and those rulers (parents, teachers, rulers, etc.) who serve at his pleasure does lead to rapine and vice.

        1. Ok: Contempt for Human Authority.

          Problem is that because humans are involved there will be incessant attempts to overstep their bounds. And while you can often make educated guesses about who will do that you cannot know until after it happens or not.

          So every human authority must always be viewed with a certain measure of suspicion. By complete random coincidence this will usually make the people who are champing at the bit to overstep go ballistic.

      1. Some of A-C’s examples of surveillance (usually with examples of what the Google Streetview camera car encounters) does tend to bring out the observation that just because you are paranoid, it doesn’t mean there aren’t people out to get you.

        I think I understand his r/K take; soft times tends to bring out the rabbit tendencies (lots of resources available) while harder times bring out the wolf (K). It’s a plausible hypothesis and somewhat ties in the the generational dynamics (AKA “the fourth turning”) theories.

        Aside: he also did a useful book on dealing with narcissists. Both books were available (might still be) in Kindle, either free or low cost. If Anonymous Conservative as authorname doesn’t flag, try Michael Trust.

  22. “And if you have the supervision of a bunch of kids and don’t discipline bad behavior because “he’s just wild, not a bad boy” you’re going to ruin everyone”

    As the true details of the Trayvon Martin case got out in the open past the hysterical “he was killed because of racism!” media narrative I was struck by the apalling lack of structure and discipline in that boy’s life. He apparently had previously assaulted a school bus driver and apparently face no serious consequences, and at the time of the shooting he was suspended from school “vandalizing a locker” even though the cops should have been called for the burglary tools and jewelry that obviously did not belong to him. It took nearly two days for his body to be identified because his parents didn’t seem to be monitoring or supervising him closely. He apparently thought it was ok at seventeen years old and 6 feet plus in height to beat someone up for offending his ego by looking at him suspiciously.
    When I heard all these details I was immediately reminded of a quote in Starship Troopers about a negligent dog owner who does nothing to discipline a puppy messing inside the house, until one day it’s a grown dog and then the owner shoots it in the head for making the same mess it’s made all it’s life.

    1. I was struck by the apalling lack of structure and discipline in that boy’s life.

      I have long held that most of the “disparate impact” in school discipline and crime statistics is less an issue of race than of absent fathers — and if you factor for single parenthood it is a far better predictor than race of bahavioural issues.

      Census Bureau: Higher Percentage of Black Children Live with Single Mothers
      Only 38.7 Percent of African-American Minors Live with Both Parents
      By Zenitha Prince -December 31, 2016412346

      A disproportionate number of Black children under 18 live in single-parent homes, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.


      … The percentage of White children under 18 who live with both parents almost doubles that of Black children, according to the data. While 74.3 percent of all White children below the age of 18 live with both parents, only 38.7 percent of African-American minors can say the same.

      Instead, more than one-third of all Black children in the United States under the age of 18 live with unmarried mothers—compared to 6.5 percent of White children. …


      Social scientists have long espoused the benefits for children who live in two-parent homes, including economic, educational, health and other advantages.

      1. The racial aspect, O virtual Wallaby, is that *because*they are Black, the young men and women will be, by law and custom, excluded from expectations of responsible parenthood or expectations of self control. And any opportunity to learn otherwise will be under constant attack by the Powers that Be.

        Thus guaranteeing that, for the casual observer, Black = antisocial violent parasite.


        In order to avoid the Black Taboo, the casual observer must pretend he does not perceive any of the above.

        Thus preventing those on the bottom from organizing, Solidarity-style, A successful revolution. Everyone pretends to be blind; and mutual resentment and misunderstanding grows, as Satan and our rulers laugh.


      2. And there is the girl who was shot trying to stab another girl. Her mother is playing the “innocent martyr,” card hard, but what I saw suggests the girl was almost as neglected as Martin. Maybe more.

          1. Apparently everyone in that neighborhood knew it, too, to judge by subsequent actions.

            1. Notice that blacks are so afraid of the police that they will emerge only after the cop kills her, and then they will go heckle him with absurd demands.

              1. Yes – I’ve noticed their gaslighting by the likes of Al Sharpton and the MSM has had the effect of increasing the probability of every one of their interactions with police ending badly. Had George Floyd not fought the police but cooperated instead he might have received the medical aid he needed.

                1. It wouldn’t have done any good. Floyd was a dead man walking before the cops even talked to him. Had shot up with enough fentanyl to literally kill a horse.

  23. Nature/nurture/nutrition, it’s all linked.

    My father, his father, and his father were all merchants of one sort or another. I’m a stationary engineer/boiler operator. In the 1930s at least half of my British cousins with my surname were stationary engineers/boiler operators according to census and other records. On my mother’s side my grandfather was a stationary engineer. Going straight back from him to my 6th great-grandfather is an unbroken line of farmers and ranchers. But I have over 1700 people traced from him with his surname. Criminals and state supreme court justices, nominees for VP on the Prohibition Party ticket and rum-runners (my grandfather, and likely others I don’t know about.) All service branches, enlisted and officer, no one rising to flag rank. Yet. All kinds of missionaries and preachers, mostly Methodist. Both sides in the Great Unpleasantness from 1860-1865. Merchants. Doctors. Farmers and ranchers. Some branches never moved from Powhatan, Virginia. I have distant cousins living there today I’m Facebook* friends with. I don’t have any direct ancestors on any branch within 5 generations who died within 50 miles of where they were born. Most died in different states, provinces, or countries. Only one that I’ve found documented as living in poverty- in the 1880 era. From the newspaper stories that aren’t specific, apparently a disabled Confederate veteran. A few suicides, a few were murdered. Pretty much, a cross section of America.

    And then there’s longevity- and that’s where I find numbers interesting. On the branches where marriages and first childbirth was in the mid 20s or later, and no traceable cousin marriages for a few generations, barring accident and diseases, 80-90 years old isn’t unusual, with a few centenarians. For the lines with quite a few cousin marriages, first births 16-20, old age and lifestyle deaths hits at or before 65. A lot of my 5th and 6th cousins are dead, and I’m related to living 1 and 2X or even 3X removed cousins my age in those lines.

    So on another note- the other day at a Scout meeting one of the other leaders was telling the Scouts about incentives. His children all graduated from the local HS at or near the top of the class. As did 4 of mine. (the oldest graduated in another city) He said he offered his children $50 for each A, and his youngest almost bankrupted him. He didn’t punish them for bad grades, only rewarded for good ones. And he asked me what I did for mine. Answer- nothing- I simply expected them to do well, so they did. Didn’t ground or punish them for bad ones, which were rare. The kids I know who’ve done the worst in the local school? Their parents believed in punishments, not rewards. I know this from listening to my kids. The there’s “What did you make your kids do?” He never made them do anything, but told them they had to do something each year. I told mine they could join any clubs or sports they wanted, and my sons that they had to be in Scouts. Two made Eagle, the other two Life. And they credit that experience with helping them succeed.

    Children have to be challenged. They have to learn to succeed on their own. It’s possible to get through life as Hunter Biden, but the Biden family is going to be a rags to riches to rags story.

    1. “the Biden family is going to be a rags to riches to rags story.”

      I think they’re more likely to be a rags to riches to guillotine/lamppost family.

      1. Given what we know about the family – particularly Hunter’s habits – the guillotine/lamppost might not be required. Hunter’s fatal drug OD is likely more a question of “when” than “if”. And the rest of the family appears to only be marginally better.

        If any of the grandkids manage to overcome the massive amounts of moral corruption in that family, we’re probably going to hear some mind-boggling stories in the coming decades.

        1. In some ways you wonder if Hunter’s illegitimate child is the lucky one. She’s nowhere near the rest of the family, and even though mom made a really bad life choice, the kid might get away clean.

    2. I put an asterisk by *Facebook- and forgot the note:
      *note- One of the reasons I think Facebook should be treated as a common carrier and should be forbidden from censoring viewpoints. If you want everyone to be in touch with everyone else, they really all need to be connected on the same platform. It’s why the telephone industry was so highly regulated, and is to this day. I need to be able to pick up my Cricket cellphone and call 911 anywhere I happen to be, and someone with a landline needs to be able to dial my number and get me. And I need to be able to call someone with Sprint.

      My friends on Facebook can’t see what I post on MeWe. And vice-versa. Anyone on Facebook can refuse to communicate with me- that’s THEIR right because they’re liberals who don’t like being challenged. But it shouldn’t be up to Facebook to delete my posts because some “committee” thinks some might find the post uncomfortable, or they don’t understand sarcasm….

      Same with Twitter. I think I have an account- but I have NEVER tweeted anything. But some people do. For me, Facebook is more massively useful. Let’s me stay in touch with people scattered all over- and get in touch with people I’ve never met. Like many of you here.

      1. If you want everyone to be in touch with everyone else, they really all need to be connected on the same platform.

        That isn’t true. That isn’t even close to true. Federated twitter has been going for years, and the main problem with it isn’t that it “can’t work”, but that the people writing the software aren’t particularly competent.

        For added embarrassment; you decided to vomit out this drivel on THE INTERNET. The single artifact humanity has produced that most exemplifies in its bedrock structure they very thing you claim is impossible.

        1. You seem to be missing the point. We, this group, are all connected on this platform, accordingtohoyt.com, because we have found it and have a common interest. AFAIK, none of my family is here- just me. I can’t message you from here- just post this and now everyone else here can read it. That’s the Internet- a bunch of randomly connected dots. The internet had no reliable way for me to look someone up.

          OTOH- Facebook, if someone is there, I can find them- if they want to be found. I can send them private messages. I can post on their timelines. They can post on mine. Or I can post on mine and if they’re friends- or friends of friends since I have minimal privacy settings, my friends and all my friend’s friends can see and read the post. If they want to. Or- they can ignore me. They can block me. But they’re there.

          I have no idea what “federated twitter” is. I don’t even use twitter. Twitter really doesn’t facilitate interaction between people or groups of people. Seems to be mostly one wat- while anyone can post, only the important people with lots and lots of followers ever get any attention. My kids are all on instagram- I have no interest. They’re also on Facebook because that’s where all the old fogies are. And let’s face it, of all the social platforms, it has the absolutely easiest to use interface. MeWe isn’t even close. And I’m on MeWe, but far less often. Hasn’t reached critical mass yet.

          There are a few platforms that seem to want everyone to join- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MeWe, Gab, but most also want to control what is said on their platforms. That’s where the problem lies. Either they’re common carriers- like the phone company, and people are free to communicate or reject communication with each other, without phone company interference, with the company not responsible for anything said, or- they’re publishers- responsible for everything everyone posts. Most of the platforms want both- to censor, but not have any responsibility.

          1. I have no idea what “federated twitter” is.


            Since you don’t know, here is the summary: ass the stuff FB and Twitter and all the others do — the useful stuff not the social control systems — can be done through federated services. The existence of federated versions of twitter means a federated facebook can exist; you just have slightly different messages sent around, and a different coat of paint on the interface.

            You are unknowingly in the position of the dignitary asking Thatcher who makes sure everyone gets food.

  24. I have 100% of my fingers, unlike my father (who has about 95% of his). Lived a lot more stable of a life than him, or my mother (let’s be fair and say that Mom is the middle child and had to migrate to second-eldest due to two of her older siblings screwing up badly).

    I’m…all the lovely joys and neurosis and clawing my way through to do things, but I can only bang my head against the brick wall for so long before the blood patterns get boring.

    Doesn’t mean I’m not going to quit things like my novel writing (Must. Write. Faster. Feel like I’m letting down all…eight of my fans not having the next novel done sooner). Or trying to learn some new skills. Or even try to work for the USPS (Rural Postal Carrier job would be ideal-human interactions are minimal and simple).

  25. Gotta hit the rack, so I may be repeating…

    I think Mrs. Hoyt has nailed the truth that is used to feed the deception. Replace “times” with “parenting” -? (gag a maggot) “fathers and mothers” -?

    I don’t have the right word right now, but you lot will nail it.

    Meme the result.

    Build up, over, and around!

  26. A must read regarding the origin of the CCP virus, with extensive analysis:


    (I believe Insty linked to it yesterday at some point already).

    Fauci’s and Daszak’s conduct borders on, if not outright is, treason (giving aid and comfort to the enemy by helping it develop biological weapons). Additionally, whether the virus was intentionally or accidentally released, they both actively and knowingly assisted the CCP in covering up the origin of the outbreak for their own personal benefit and gain.

    Also given that Fauci funded the Wuhan gain of function research that led to the CCP Virus outbreak in violation of directives issued by the President, he should not be considered entitled to protection of sovereign immunity or qualified immunity and should be fully civilly liable in court for damages for everyone harmed by the virus

    1. Except that there will be no investigation, no penalty for the Saviour of the Pandemic, the Man Who Delivered The Government To the Democrats. The MSM is too invested in him as hero, and the Dems don’t give a damn about truth nor integrity – they’re too delighted looting the Treasury.

      What he did was necessary and a few hundred thousand dead old folk is a small price to pay. Doubt it? Look at the MSM treatment of Cuomo.

  27. Very decayed aristocracy on both sides of my family although my dad’s mother came from a stolid landowner/farmer type. Intellectual gifts run in the family and the ones that aren’t (still smart though) have charisma. Charisma is very high quotient in several of my siblings and comes from my mother’s side. Champagne tastes on a beer budget would describe many of my family members.

    I don’t know where the entrepreneur comes from in the family. At least two of my brothers have started successful businesses. We’ll see how their children turn out. I’m the one with the high level of creativity although the musical talent runs through the entire family. I met a second cousin twice removed who played the guitar in a band. My grandfather had a band when he was in his 60s and they sang folk music to elementary schools in his area every year. We don’t seem to make money with it so it has become a hobby.

    Also– there is schizophrenia that runs in the family– I’m not sure but it may be the cost of intellectual gifts.

    1. Just a note: I went through my early years on the hard option. I think if it is too hard that it takes a rare person who doesn’t break. I did and I had to glue myself together. It took years to become self-confident.

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