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July 07, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is strong and secure.

- Kahlil Gibran, On Children

Tony Woodlief is thinking about happiness:


Any parent will tell you children are difficult, and they wear you out, and they likely will just break your heart in the end. And who knows -- maybe when we believe we are feeling deep joy from parenthood (usually over a glass of wine, after all the little stinkers are finally in bed), we are simply sentimentalizing the whole ordeal to keep ourselves from rooting out our unused passports from the sock drawer and dashing off to Europe, never to be heard from again. Or perhaps we just feel too guilty to admit that, while we couldn't bear losing them now that we have them, we very well could have been delightfully satisfied had we never met them.

And here's where I wonder if we ought to re-examine our commitment to happiness. It seems to me that there's possibly some merit -- if we persevere and have the sense to learn from it -- in the other-orientation that is (good) parenting. It's fine to go through life happy, in other words, but I suspect we also want to go through life without becoming big fat self-absorbed jackasses. Children really help in that regard.

I am always a bit bemused by these kinds of discussions. Not so much because I disagree with Ms. McArdle in any meaningful way, but because her conclusions seem so right, so obvious that I'm surprised there is any debate at all over whether intelligent people "ought" to have children? Can't smart folks just rely on someone else to do the dirty work of perpetuating the species? Weighted against the joys of unlimited choice and mass consumerism how can the mess, inconvenience, and momentary chaos of parenting justify so trivial a goal as the survival of our present way of life?

Let the next generation take care of themselves. We've got ours.

However heartening I may find Ms. McArdle's good sense, discussions like this only strengthen my view that the evolving social compact - with the nearly universal affluence and security it makes possible despite our best efforts - may be the ultimate form of moral hazard. Our great grandparents wouldn't recognize today's world. It is, to a degree unprecedented in human history, nearly worry free (if by worry one means the fear of death, extreme poverty, starvation). Ours is a world in which technology, global commerce, and the rule of law have replaced natural scarcity with artificial abundance. Gone are the Great Famines that plagued mankind for centuries. Mass starvation has given way to the "food crisis". For competition and natural selection we have substituted mandated cooperation and the state sponsored safety net:

Through an array of birth-to-death social services that are either free of charge or subsidized according one's income, the state redistributes income widely. There is no reason for anyone in the Netherlands to be without a suitable home, to cut short his or her education anytime before senility or even to give any thought to feeding and clothing one's children. The Dutch have decided that a good society is a compassionate society, and so people should provide for one another's dignity and basic quality of life ... but only through the state. People needn't actually have anything to do with one another directly.

As we get better at insulating ourselves from the predictable results of our own freely made decisions, it is perhaps not surprising that even tragedy has been defined down to the level of an unfortunate lifestyle choice. For the vast majority of Americans the worst case is no longer starvation, disgrace and a lifetime of penury but the heartbreak of being asked to repay an adjustable rate mortgage on terms agreed to in advance. The paradoxical consequences of our national war on cause and effect are encapsulated in a nifty little theory called the Peltzman Effect:

It seems that the appearance of removing the risk, even if it’s only marginally safer makes people behave disproportionately to the added benefit of the safety net. The net effect seems to be that people feel even more detached from the consequences of their decisions. The safety nets, the ropes, and the ABS brakes may actually encourage more risk taking and be less safe.

As it turns out, human beings are a lot better at evaluating small risks than taking precautions against big ones. In blissful denial of this fact, our government appears to be engaged in the process of institutionalizing systemic risk.

There is something deeply wrong with a world in which academic theories have replaced accumulated experience to the extent that we seriously wonder whether we have any duty to future generations? The reality fairy seems to have gone missing, leaving us to debate eternal questions in a consequence free zone; a moral vacuum in which utility is defined as "what pleases me now". But what do I know? I lived my life exactly backwards so undoubtedly my priorities are all wrong.

It would be easy to see my attitude towards parenting as some sort of post hoc rationalization for having squandered every opportunity I was ever given. I was raised in an upper middle class household, graduated from an expensive and well regarded private school and gained admission to an Ivy League school I attended for less than a year before dropping out and eventually marrying the boy who invited me to my high school Senior Prom.

two_grandmas.pngBy 23 - an age at which most young women of my class were working at white collar jobs and dating handsome young men with "potential" - I had a high school education, two small boys, barely enough money to scrape along from paycheck to paycheck and a brand new mortgage at 13% interest. In theory at least, my life should have felt much like this:

There was a day a few weeks ago when I found my 2½-year-old son sitting on our building doorstep, waiting for me to come home. He spotted me as I was rounding the corner, and the scene that followed was one of inexpressible loveliness, right out of the movie I’d played to myself before actually having a child, with him popping out of his babysitter’s arms and barreling down the street to greet me. This happy moment, though, was about to be cut short, and in retrospect felt more like a tranquil lull in a slasher film. When I opened our apartment door, I discovered that my son had broken part of the wooden parking garage I’d spent about an hour assembling that morning. This wouldn’t have been a problem per se, except that as I attempted to fix it, he grew impatient and began throwing its various parts at the walls, with one plank very narrowly missing my eye. I recited the rules of the house (no throwing, no hitting). He picked up another large wooden plank. I ducked. He reached for the screwdriver. The scene ended with a time-out in his crib.

As I shuffled back to the living room, I thought of something a friend once said about the Children’s Museum of Manhattan—“a nice place, but what it really needs is a bar”—and rued how, at that moment, the same thing could be said of my apartment. Two hundred and 40 seconds earlier, I’d been in a state of pair-bonded bliss; now I was guided by nerves, trawling the cabinets for alcohol.

The difference between my experience and the author's is a simple one: I couldn't afford a babysitter. Ever. Grown up time was an act of will; a function of regular schedules and 6:30 bedtimes, a living room (complete with hand me down silk damask Chippendale sofa) that my boys were only allowed into on special occasions and a steely eyed determination to give my marriage top priority and relegate my small children to a loving second place in my life.

That's not to say that I didn't spend the lion's share of my time changing diapers, reading stories, finger painting and wiping little noses. Like every other stay at home mother I knew, my days were filled with escaped gerbils and other forms of barely controlled mayhem. Remembering my dating days, I sometimes longed to smell jasmine and honeysuckle instead of freshly cut grass and cherry Koolaid.

But although I sometimes felt restless and often felt exasperated and exhausted, I don't ever remember being unhappy. I also don't recall feeling as out of control as parents of small children seem today:

“I’m going to count to three.”

It’s a weekday evening, and the mother in this videotape, a trim brunette with her hair in a bun and glasses propped up on her head, has already worked a full day and made dinner. Now she is approaching her 8-year-old son, the oldest of two, who’s seated at the computer in the den, absorbed in a movie. At issue is his homework, which he still hasn’t done.

“One. Two …”

cass2.pngThis clip is from a study conducted by UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families, which earned a front-page story in the Sunday Times this May and generated plenty of discussion among parents. In it, researchers collected 1,540 hours of footage of 32 middle-class, dual-earner families with at least two children, all of them going about their regular business in their Los Angeles homes. The intention of this study was in no way to make the case that parents were unhappy. But one of the postdoctoral fellows who worked on it, himself a father of two, nevertheless described the video data to the Times as “the very purest form of birth control ever devised. Ever.”

“I have to get it to the part and then pause it,” says the boy.

“No,” says his mother. “You do that after you do your homework.”

Tamar Kremer-Sadlik, the director of research in this study, has watched this scene many times. The reason she believes it’s so powerful is because it shows how painfully parents experience the pressure of making their children do their schoolwork. They seem to feel this pressure even more acutely than their children feel it themselves.

The boy starts to shout. “It’s not going to take that long!”

His mother stops the movie. “I’m telling you no,” she says. “You’re not hearing me. I will not let you watch this now.”

He starts up the movie again.

“No,” she repeats, her voice rising. She places her hand firmly under her son’s arm and starts to yank. “I will not have this— ”

I don't think I was three sentences into that vignette before I thought, "For Pete's sake, you're the parent. You're supposed to be in charge."

"Turn the *&^% computer off!".

For some reason I found myself thinking of a 20th century sociologist named Emile Durkheim. Durkheim's work focused on the relationships between individuals, culture and society: the thousand ties that bind us together and shape both our inner lives and our responses to external events. The modern world is preoccupied with individual happiness and identity. We're taught that the path to self fulfillment lies in avoiding the confining traps of other people's expectations, but Durkheim's genius was his ability to show how much our individual happiness depends on our connections to those around us. The very things we're told are antithetical to individual happiness - overcoming hardship, duty, responsibility, community, commitment, the confining presence of societal norms and expectations - turn out to be be the things we need to feel fully alive.

All these things - the things that matter - are why we have children. Children are both a repayment on the debt we owe our parents and an investment in the future. They bind and connect us to the past as they begin to shape a tomorrow none of us will live to see. Children are - quite simply - the infrastructure of civilization and no civilization of any worth can continue to exist if the current generation fails to build upon the contributions of their ancestors. Why would we ever expect otherwise?


The seductive lure of aggressive individualism ignores one of the most basic of human desires: the need to belong to something larger than ourselves. This is something religion used to provide but faith has been replaced by an oddly disconnected form of humanism that seems to place the seat of happiness firmly in the human belly button.

birthday.png Over the past year I've been organizing and scanning old family photos. It began with our own collection - over 30 years and several generations. I've watched our children grow up, get married, have children of their own. My parents' and in laws' hair has slowly turned from sable to silver. Recently I began scanning boxes of slides from my parents' basement.

My childhood, and my brother's. Our wedding back in 1979. Ancient history.

And as the parade of faces has slowly passed in review I've been reminded of the thousand connections: memories, the ghost of my grandfather in the faces of my father, eldest son' and now grandson. The echoes of my mother in the way I brought up my own two boys.

My pesky little brother's elfin grin in my niece and nephew.

And then there's the photo I like best so far: a little girl practicing her mothering skills.

cass1.png There are so many things that little girl could have been: a lawyer, a college professor, a cop, a doctor, a writer. Unlike generations of women before her, she had choices.

Many of them were sacrificed on the altar of marriage and motherhood. The feminism I grew up with would consider my life to have been wasted - a sad tale of unused potential and outdated, stifling gender roles. But when I look back on my life, any regrets I feel will be because I spent too little rather than too much time with the people I love most. They - and not the lofty prizes I was urged to strive for during my youth - have brought me the deepest contentment, the fullest sense of pride, the most lasting joy.

In a few weeks I'll be going to the beach. The house will be full of parents, grandparents, great grandparents, brothers and sisters in law, nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, grandchildren and no doubt crying babies. I'm sure it will be too crowded and too noisy and not terribly relaxing. We'll probably get on each other's nerves a lot.

There in one little house will be my life and my life's work. My family.

I can't wait.

Posted by Cassandra at July 7, 2010 07:14 AM

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"only strengthen my view that our ever-evolving social compact (and the affluence and security it brings with it) may be the ultimate form of moral hazard"...two quotes from Walter Miller's great novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz:

"To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law—a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security."


"..children of Merlin, chasing a gleam. Children, too, of Eve, forever building Edens – and kicking them apart in berserk fury because somehow it isn’t the same."

Posted by: david foster at July 7, 2010 01:20 PM

People have confused happiness with a passing emotional state. They think if you ask them, "Are you happy?" that you are asking something like, "How do you feel?"

Happiness is really about flourishing -- it's about using your powers in a full and complete way, both rational thought and virtuous feeling, to improve the world and make things better.

The happiest time of my life was when I was at war. We were fifteen to eighteen hours a day, in the heat, under tremendous pressure, with life-or-death decisions to make and an unwieldy bureaucracy to keep moving in the right direction. The friendships made there and then were the deepest I've ever had, and the experience of riding out beyond the walls, in armor, where people would occasionally try to kill you, was sublime. Training green-broke horses is the only at-home experience I've known like that.

The second happiest time of my life was when my son was born, in those first few months when I was so aware of how everything he was seeing, he was seeing for the first time. It made the world fresh for me even as it was fresh for him, and there was never a moment when it was easier or more natural to be conscious of deep love -- for him, and for his mother.

That strikes me as the road to happiness. I've got all the access to physical pleasure in the world, right now, and I'm doing my best not to be bored to death. Every day I have a lengthy schedule I'm imposing on myself, beyond work, to try to engage my powers as fully as possible. And there's land to work, a child to rear, philosophy to study, and a book I'm writing; in addition to work. It's still not enough to really feel the same level of flourishing I used to know.

People who do 9-5 and then go home and gripe about their kids keeping them away from their booze, I just don't understand at all.

Posted by: Grim at July 7, 2010 01:27 PM

And by the way, just to be clear: during those times when I was happiest at war, I wasn't "feeling happy" very often at all. What I felt was loneliness, hardship, frustration, occasional anger, excitement when mortars or machine-guns would come in, and a deep sense of loss from being away from my family.

Yet, in reality, that was happiness. I've often told you the story of the documentary I worked on where we talked to once-members of FDR's CCC. Every one of them told us that the happiest time in their lives was working for the CCC, with its long hours and hardship -- except for their service in WWII, which was, for every one of them, the one experience that was better.

We heard that over and over, from every man; the machine-gunner and the POW, the one who fought with Patton (who was something of a bastard as a commander) and the ones who didn't.

Posted by: Grim at July 7, 2010 01:32 PM

That doesn't surprise me a bit, Grim.

Some of the happiest times of my life involve hard work, significant discomfort and lack of sleep, and often a lot of worry.

Maybe we're just sick puppies :p

Then again, maybe there's more to happiness than momentary diversions.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 7, 2010 01:41 PM

"To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law—a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security."

Thanks for this, David. I'd never seen it before. Very apt.

I'm reminded of that medal of honor winner's quote a while back. Something about "I'm convinced you'll never be able to lead men until you've learned how to serve."

I expect one could easily substitute "be happy" into the first part of that sentence and it would be no less true.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 7, 2010 01:44 PM

The whole novel from which these quotes are taken is very much worth reading. It's classified as science fiction, but is really philosophical/theological fiction. Takes place in a monastery which is attempting to preserve what little knowledge remains after a global nuclear war.

Very serious, but also very funny...for example, the monks discover some circuit diagrams. They have no idea what they actually *are*, but understand that they're probably important...so they create *illuminated versions*.

Posted by: david foster at July 7, 2010 02:00 PM

This wouldn’t have been a problem per se, except that as I attempted to fix it, he grew impatient and began throwing its various parts at the walls, with one plank very narrowly missing my eye. I recited the rules of the house (no throwing, no hitting). He picked up another large wooden plank. I ducked. He reached for the screwdriver. The scene ended with a time-out in his crib

The difference between my experience and the author's is a simple one: I'd be whippin' his sorry little butt to where he couldn't sit down for a week. I would even allow him to go "pick" his own switch for the benefit. Heh!

Been strolling down memory lane quite a bit myself lately Cassie. It must be our age huh? Out of all the dozens and dozens of "happy" memories I've recalled they all seem to have either hard work or hardship associated with them. Funny that.

Simple as well. Times of fishing with the kids in the Chattahoochie, all four at a time. Their fights with the hikes, bugs, scrapes, mud, each other. All with smiles so wide you'd think my insanity gene had passed on. The more remote areas we fished required the most labor to attain and the more broader the smiles would get. You could rate their enjoyment by the amount of blood shed and condition of clothing when we made it home. Even having to carry my baby girl the last couple of miles was as if part of the story. You know the one? The one that ends "They Lived Happily Ever After"! he-he!

Weird how so many of my happiest memories involved fishin'! From my grandparents to my papa to my Mom to my Lovely Bride to my own children. What could that possibly mean? :-o

Posted by: JHD at July 7, 2010 06:04 PM

You know what some of my happiest memories are?

Walking down Merrimac Trail in Williamsburg with my brand new son looking for wildflowers to put on the table.

Traipsing through the woods in Pensacola, FL with my 3 year old straddling my pregnant belly in 95+ degree heat. Finding blackberries for blackberry cobler and once, a load of the damned UGLIEST bricks that I loaded up in my neighbor's kid's wagon and used to line the flower and vegetable beds. It took a LOT of trips to bring all those bricks home but I didn't leave a single one in the woods and what I couldn't use I gave to my neighbors.

That was one of the worst places we ever lived in 30+ years of Marine Corps life but I was so happy there. And you're right - a big part of that was the simplicity.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 7, 2010 06:28 PM

"There in one little house will be my life and my life's work. My family." - Cassandra

True dat. :)

When I was young, I had great dreams of doing great things, but as the years wear away, I realize that ain't gonna happen.
But my sons, I have some hope for them, and I hope that their lives will be better for me having passed along the few grimy lessons I have picked up along the way.
All the material things the world can offer will wear away, but the great treasure in our lives is in those transcendetal metaphysical things that we assign value to.
Courage, honor, trustworthiness, integrity....love. Those were the things that made Grim happy in Iraq. The shared fear and danger among like minded men that held true to the same values of duty and honor, made the time seem invaluable. Our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor, pledged to .....increasing the profit margin at Geico (?),.... or in serving some greater metaphysical meaning, whether it be in raising a child or risking your life for the greater good.

My life and life's work. My family. More precious than gold.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 7, 2010 06:54 PM

Humans aren't happy until they win against Nature and Man. That, perhaps, entails wiping out human weeds every few years, but a challenge isn't a challenge if there's no loss.

Humans have evolved for some lengthy duration and forever they were always trying new things and attempting to surmount some hurdle.

By telling humans that they have nothing more to do, no great enemies to defeat, no great creatures to trap and eat, is to tell them that the human species is finished. So why procreate at all? No challenges, no reason to procreate to restock the race due to casualties.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 7, 2010 07:23 PM

The Left has their version of Doomsday with the Gaia cult. So does Islam.

Islam, however, has a high reproduction rate, consistent with such an ideology of the End Times, which presents a challenge or barrier that procreation was designed evolution wise to help surmount.

The Left, however, does not. Which is, perhaps, a historical rarity. The closest previous example, I would think, would be the worship of Bhaal and ritualized infanticide. Even though there were environmental hazards, some cultures intentionally set out to kill more of their children, for some odd reason. And in Bhaal, it wasn't just commoner children that nobody would mind, but high caste children.

Carthage was said to have practiced Bhaal worship. Don't know much about it. Maybe cause the Romans wiped them from the annals of history. *shrugs*

For some reason, eventually a group of humans will figure out that nihilism and self-destruction are "solutions" to the problems plaguing mankind. Which is interesting.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 7, 2010 07:27 PM

Emile Durkheim! I'd guess that less than 5% of college graduates, and maybe 10% of "elite" college graduates, ever heard of him or know anything about him. I'm impressed.

BTW, Durkheim's concept of "anomie" was widely used during the 1940s-1970s by sociologists, writers, etc as a club to attack mass-production manufacturing, using the argument that factory work of this type was destructive of human connection and community solidarity. It's interesting to note that the "good middle-class manufacturing jobs" for which so many now have nostalgia were by no means universally popular among the Criticizing Classes when there were more such jobs...

Posted by: david foster at July 7, 2010 09:32 PM

When I was young, I had great dreams of doing great things, but as the years wear away, I realize that ain't gonna happen.

Edward Abbey wrote:

"Once upon a time, I dreamed of being a great man. Later, a good man. Now, finally, I find it difficult enough and honor enough to be -- a man."

Posted by: Grim at July 7, 2010 11:59 PM

How thoughtful. Makes me think of my own mom and her many years as a sacrificial stay-at-home housewife. While she relished the job, there were no doubt times when me and my sis pushed her to the point of reconsidering her tea-totaling ways.

Tragically years later, when going through a serious post-menopausal hormone imbalance and ensuing depression, a highly schooled psychologist insisted that part of her problem was that she lacked "her own identity" separate from that of her family. What she really needed was her own space, her own pursuits, her own accomplishments to gain a greater sense of self and personal fulfillment. She needed to stop thinking so much of other people and who she was in terms of her relationship to them.
This advice, of course, tore at the fabric of her entire existence and only compounded the problem. Somehow this trained "professional" was unable to grasp the tremendous value of motherhood and its inherent significance to someone who willingly gave their life over to its humble pursuit. This was where my mom chose to invest her entire being. It wasn't cover for an unrealized dream she was forced to "give up" due to an unplanned pregnancy. This was who she was and all she really cared to be.

My mom was a woman of surpassing virtue and rare human beauty. Raised on traditional mid-Western values with an abiding Christian faith, she bore huge burdens, made countless sacrifices and did it all with grace and a certain childlike innocence that some mistook for naivety. From what I've gathered in 45 years of considerable observation, women like her no longer exist. Yesterday would have been her 71st birthday. And yes, she would have agreed with you wholeheartedly in sentiment and spirit:

There in one little house will be my life and my life's work. My family.

Posted by: Scott in OC at July 8, 2010 02:36 AM

Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman.

I don't think I realized what a treasure my own mother was until I had children of my own to care for. Looking back over all these photos has reminded me what a loving and gentle mother I had in her.

Though I was never the mother she is, I do know I would have been a far worse one without her example.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 8, 2010 03:16 AM

Amen Grim.

Scott, I think you described my mother in many ways. The exception being that she was a redheaded Irish lass who did not outwardly suffer depression. Plus she did not have a label warning others not to push her past her boundaries... I always thought that in the spirit of fair play, she should have had a warning label.

Anywho, her faith, her pepper or spunk if you will, carried her well into her 80's before her aorta gave way while she was in surgery to have it repaired.

M'lady, the shame of it is that many of us do not appreciate our parents until we spend some time as parents ourselves.

My father shared with me a pearl of wisdom when I was very young. We were at a funeral, probably one of the first I'd ever attended. I asked why everyone dressed up and acted so somber, I think I probably said sad. I was maybe 4 or 5, give or take due to factoring in long ago memories. Well, dad said that the people were showing their respect for the deceased. He then said, he was not real enthused with the respectful funeral display, although he understood why it was necessary for the survivors. He said that people should show others respect while they lived, not just when they were being buried.

It was not until many, many years later that his simple observation hit home.

I've said it a time or two, but when it comes to showing those you love and/or respect they're appreciated, don't blink...

Posted by: bthun at July 8, 2010 10:52 AM

Having my wonderful mom as an example of what a mother should be, I never really wanted to have kids - I was not and still am not ready for this kind of commitment, unconditional love and self-sacrifice. My mom had a very demanding and very successful full-time job that never impacted her time with me. How did she do it?? I still do not know. I can fill up many pages talking about my mom :o) In short, I had a very happy childhood and literally everything that I am today is thanks to her...
One of my most happiest moments was 30 minutes into a St.Pete-Helsinki FinnAir flight when I realized that we crossed the Russian physical border.
You can say that I have been in the state of perpetual happiness since we came to the States. And that's why it pisses me off to see people trying to ruin this wonderful country.

Posted by: olga at July 8, 2010 12:04 PM

"For Pete's sake, you're the parent. You're supposed to be in charge."

I really DO hate to say it, but this is the #1 problem with "kids these days" (oh god, I really AM old). And in fact, the problem isn't so much the kids as their parents. From the 20-something who turns down work living with mommy and daddy, to the kid who throws things at his mother and gets a "time-out" to the brat who won't shut off the video, they're all symptoms of spineless parents too concerned about their special little snowflake's self esteem to give them the one gift that actually instills it. Discipline.

My mother counted to three, not in order to give me a chance to ignore her before she got "serious" about whatever I was doing wrong. it was quite formulaic:
1) Stop
2) Stop now or mommy spank
3) Mommy spank

And that was it. If she hit three, our time was up. There was no debate, there was no "sorry", there was no "I'll comply now". Sorry and compliance were for one or two. Three was consequence time. And her cadence was even. There was never a "One... Two... ... ... ... Two and a half..." Looking back, sometimes it was "ONETWOTHREE!" but rarely (and only when we had driven her over the edge). At fourteen, she was still unafraid to give me one and two, and I was smart enough never to get to three. By the time I was fifteen, my father took over the discipline with "I am so disappointed in you." And that was much more wrenching (at that point) than any corporal punishment could have been. But without that foundation, it would have been meaningless.

Posted by: MikeD at July 8, 2010 12:56 PM

Discipline is what makes you recognize the chain of command as being worthy of having authority over you. Then once you have recognized the chain of command's authority, then and only then can their "disappointment" in you be something you wish to avoid.

Otherwise, you think you're living in your own world, free to do what you want, and to hell with the "authorities". 1960s.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 8, 2010 02:04 PM

The article you reference wasn't written by McArdle, but by Tony Woodlief who blogs at http://tonywoodlief.com/

He was one of the guest bloggers while McArdle was on her honeymoon.

I am somewhat disappointed to see time-out as a punishment disparaged here. It doesn't matter whether a parent uses time-out, spanking, lectures (my father's personal favorite).

What matters is consistency of the kind that MikeD points out. If the child doesn't know what to expect, it's the parent who is undisciplined.

Posted by: Donna B. at July 11, 2010 05:38 AM

"I am somewhat disappointed to see time-out as a punishment disparaged here. It doesn't matter whether a parent uses time-out, spanking, lectures (my father's personal favorite).

What matters is consistency of the kind that MikeD points out. If the child doesn't know what to expect, it's the parent who is undisciplined. "


Of course that's easy for me to say now that mine are grown. =8^}

Posted by: bthun at July 11, 2010 10:45 AM

Posted by: david foster at July 12, 2010 11:15 PM