…my wife asks at the end of our date night. “It better be a short one.”
Category Archives: Family
Our son Soren is pretty much the most adorable little boy you could imagine. Observe. Soren’s the one on the left. That’s his “cousin” David on the right.
He is also fairly obedient. Truth be told—he’s been struggling with obedience lately, but still. He’s a really great boy. He loves his mama and dada, loves seeing “friends!” (anyone he gets to interact with), loves cleaning, loves helping, and loves snuggling. His enthusiasm for life is inspiring. He is tickled with the very existence of things. He is a true philosopher: filled with wonder. Not just curiosity about how things work, though he has plenty of that, but awe at the fact that they do. Awe at everything. Everything is peculiar to him. Everything is neat. He has an unquenchable thirst for life. More life!
I have a long list of worries. I am worried about discipline—I don’t know how to do it. I am worried about his education. I am worried about his relationships. I accidentally smacked him in the face in the dark the other night and I worried I had already done psychological damage he’ll have to work through one day in counseling. I am worried he won’t be charitable enough or hard working enough or know how much we love him no matter what. He woke up crying very abruptly the other night and Lindsey mentioned it was probably a nightmare and the very thought of my sweet little baby son having a nightmare broke my heart. When he cut his chin on the curb it really impacted him. He points to it in remembrance every time we explain to him that someone else has a hurt, and more recently every time he observes for himself that someone else is hurt. There was blood. He has a scar. The fact that it happened just knots me up!
Anyway we often get asked about parenting and how we get him to behave and what principles make sense to us because people know we (Lindsey) does a lot of research and has multiple relevant graduate degrees, etc. I think I’ve boiled it down to 5 principles that have so far stood out the most to me as being particularly effective for behavior modification, character formation, and general healthy development. Ask me in a couple years and the list may be different (and my child might not be one to make one ask, either; who knows).
Whatever we do, we try quite hard to do consistently. This means we all have to be on the same page. Not just Lindsey and me, but Lindsey’s mom too, as she watches him often enough to be considered something of a primary caretaker. Inconsistency confuses. Consistency convinces. Consistency makes habit.
Consistency takes endurance. Not Ironman endurance. Just more endurance than a one year old. Which is almost as strenuous, and to be honest, sometimes even more so, in part because it can be required at unexpected times.
If we say something, we try very hard to do it. This goes for keeping our promises, like “you may have a snack when we get home” (even when we know he doesn’t understand the vocabulary used in the promise), and it goes for threats, like “if you throw that food on the floor, then you’re all done eating for tonight”. This does a number of things.
Followthrough teaches language. If we say something and then do not exhibit it, how is he to understand what the words we used mean?
Followthrough teaches boundaries. If we make a threat that we do not followthrough on, how is he to understand where the boundaries are? How is he to learn obedience or to trust that we mean what we say—how is he to learn honesty?
Followthrough teaches parents. It taught us, fairly rapidly, not to make threats we cannot carry out or wouldn’t want to if we had to. Admittedly, this occasionally leaves me without anything to threaten. I sometimes feel powerless because I have no consequent to the antecedent condition I want to mitigate. But you know what would make me feel even more powerless? A 5 year old who knows I won’t do anything if he runs away when I call him back. An adolescent who feels free to strike his siblings because there won’t be any consequences for doing so. A teenager. And one who doesn’t believe his parents mean what they say or are willing to respect their own boundaries would be even worse.
3. Positive Reinforcement
We reserve the right to punish, and do punish. But we reinforce positive behavior far more often, and we could not be happier about it. How often do you see kids acting out for attention, and getting it! Oftentimes it is in the form of discipline or some semblance of it—but it’s attention, which is what they wanted. How often do those same kids do something right only to have it go completely unnoticed? It has been empirically shown that positive reinforcement is a more powerful modifier of behavior than punishment. The research is so strong in fact, that there is a movement to do away with punishment entirely. I’m not talking about some progressive new age bleeding heart movement motivated by a contrived sense of compassion. I’m talking about hard-nosed behavioral scientists just wanting results, and believing that pure positive reinforcement is the most efficient means to that end. We don’t go that far for several reasons, but the point is that positive reinforcement is effective. And to me it just makes sense on a higher level, too. The focus should ideally be on what to do rather than on what not to do. Refraining from crime isn’t nearly as powerful as engaging in charity. We should be facing forward.
Our behavior is far and away the single most powerful driver of Soren’s behavior. Whenever I don’t understand something he’s doing, I can think back to a time when he saw me doing it or something that looked like it to him. Almost every time. And the anomalies are probably due to my selective memory or general lack of creativity. I mean, it’s simply amazing. The other day I was leaning against a wall with my arms and legs crossed and after studying me a second he went and found a place to try it himself. Heart-meltingly adorable. I punished him a couple times for climbing on the coffee table after telling him not to (10-20 second time-outs after saying “if you climb on the table, then time-out”). Later on David saw me sitting on the coffee table and called me on it! Soren will take a rag to the floor when there’s a spill because he sees grandma doing it. He would rather push the stroller than ride in it. I could easily go on.
It’s usually adorable, but it’s sometimes frustrating. He’ll want to do things he can’t or shouldn’t. Sometimes that’s ok and even good, and we need to make room for it, even if it means it’ll take us longer. For example, he loves sweeping, but isn’t very good at it. Completing a sweep of the kitchen will take four times as long if Soren is helping. But it’ll be worth it when he is an 8 year old who sweeps regularly because he wasn’t constantly told to go play instead of cleaning up. To him right now sweeping is playing.
Sometimes though, it’s neither adorable nor frustrating. Sometimes it’s convicting. Realizing just how powerfully my behavior affects my son’s is frightening and inspiring. But mostly frightening. May God help me to be a better man for the sake of my son.
What good is external behavior without love? What good is anything without love? The whole point of all of this or anything else is relationship. And none of this could be pulled off well anyway if it weren’t motivated by love. It’s all about loving and being loved. If some parents raise well-behaved children but have no relationship with them, they have failed. Abjectly.
I had a theory.
Soren does what he sees me doing.
I try to intentionally do stuff, knowing this.
I started peeing in front of him.
I ask him to wait and watch.
I did this enough times, and
today I get a report from Bob,
that Soren has been trying to climb on the toilet to go pee.
We haven’t even started trying to potty train him yet;
he just wants to be like Dad.
That can be read as a poem.
Jenny: how do you create a strikethru on a word on a blog?
Jenny: thanks! I love you
Louis: why cant I see you on my buddy list?
Louis: you’re welcome- i love you!
Jenny: because I am gmail sniper
Jenny: and I’m wearing Harry’s invisibility cloak that no one knew that Louise gave me for Christmas
Louis: wesleymail snipes
Jenny: AHAHAHHAHAHA. best blog ever
Louis: watch you are going to deny perseverance of the saintmails now?
Louis: get it?
Louis: John Wesley?
Louis: too far removed.
Jenny: Is John Wesley that guy in The Social Network? Or was it The Fighter? Or was it No Strings Attached?
Jenny: never mind.
Louis: demolition man.
Louis: with freakin.
Louis: whats her nam
Louis: sandar bullocks
Jenny: Sacramende Bollocks
Lumens flooding into vulnerable eyes,
beating against tender retinas,
spreadsheets, spreadsheets everywhere, but not a drop to drink,
emails, emails, spreadsheets, and invoices,
are some of my only choices,
alongside problems about which to think,
problems, problems, emergencies, and problems,
overhead lights feel too bright,
impatient emails from prospects
partners on vacation and not returning calls,
Hurry up! I must put my tender retinas in front of the deluge of cosmic radiation, I mean lumens from a screen
whose arrangement of light is to not my liking
I have to push buttons on it a lot
until I see arrangements of light that are to my liking
Clean up! Clean up! Must get clean. Must keep organized. Don’t hang onto my pantleg.
Singing, dancing, running. Put down the dishes.
Tickling. Chasing, catching, more tickling! More giggling!
Soft skin and bright eyes. Snuggles and hugs. Blocks! Blocks are so fun! You can stack them! They are fun!
Books. Lots of books. Lapsitting. Giggling. Eye contact. Your hair is growing! Your teeth are showing!
I like you and you like me!
bedtime, bedtime, is approaching.
Those teeth that were showing,
Get some brushing going,
Climb into jammies and we can have more books.
More books, more books.
Aaaaaand some more books. You can read them! They are fun!
They are good books!
Slowing singing and embracing,
getting slower, getting softer,
and then night night follows after.
Far more important.
The other day I gave you a little bit of homework, and today I am going to give you the answers so that you can grade yourself.
1. The difference between a typeface and a font.
In brief, a typeface is a collection of fonts, such as “Helvetica”. Within the Helvetica typeface you can have Helvetica Neue, Helvetica Italic, etc. in differing point sizes. An example of a specific font within the Helvetica typeface would be “Helvetica Bold 12 point”.
You can even choose to embolden or italicize each font, even if it comes as bold or italic already. Just as you can change the kern, ligature, baseline, and other aspects of it. But those changes are made to the font, they are not changes of the font.
So “Times” is not technically a font. It is a typeface. But I won’t get after you for conflating the two, just as I won’t get after you for misunderstanding “irony” (which, you do), though I enjoyed arguing about it with Jon, and arguing about that argument with everybody else. More on this genus of argument later in this post.
2. The difference between a forward slash and a backslash.
A forward slash goes like this: /, whereas a backslash goes like this: \. So the domain that hosts this blog should be pronounced aytch tee tee pee colon slash slash (or forward slash forward slash) ess double-u eye en gee ar (or argh!) oh vee (“as in victor”) ee ar dot com. There are almost never any backslashes in domain names or URL’s. It’s ironic (shout out) when people go to the trouble of specifying the direction of a slash in a domain name or URL, only to specify it incorrectly. Just say “slash”, or, if you must, “forward slash” (which is the default type of slash, which is more meaningful I-well, you know the story).
Also, you don’t really need to specify “www” anymore (more on why later), and rarely do you need to specify the “http” anymore either. But whatever.
3. The difference between a domain and a URL.
A URL is, quite simply, the full address of a resource on the web. Whereas a domain name is the thing immediately preceeding “.com” or “.net”, or the like. So the domain name of this website is just “swingrover.com”, whereas the URL for this page is http://swingrover.com/blog/2010/12/15/answers-to-your-homework/.
4. The difference between the B and STRONG tags.
To style text as bold in HTML, you can either use the B or the STRONG tag. For example, “<b>bold text</b>” would be rendered “bold text” in a browser, just as “<strong>strong text</strong>” would be rendered “strong text“.
The difference is that the B tag is only an aesthetic element, whereas STRONG text is supposed to convey something semantic and its styled text should be pronounced strongly by electronic text readers.
And who wouldn’t want that?
The debate about whether the B tag should be dropped entirely from the W3C HTML spec, and/or whether and when to use the STRONG tag hotly rages on and on in tech forums, and I love it. I think it is hilarious. And this brings us around to the genus of argument in which the infamous one we had concerning “irony” (though not concerning irony, exactly – do you know the difference?) should be placed.
This genus is also home to arguments over Settlers of Catan rules, how to pronounce and spell “Shady Ripkins”, the necessary and sufficient conditions one has to fulfill in order to be said to have “Dan-dar”, and debates about the same for “Canonical Swingrover” (see here and here). It is the same genus of argument Lindsey, Brianna, and most others despise, the one whose member species Jon loves too, and the one responsible for 75% of any intraswingrover conflict.
I love these arguments because of their finitude. This is the same reason I love chess, why I would enjoy being a lawyer or studying the pre-Socratics, and why learning about grammar sounds like a fun time to me.
I also love them because they are ridiculous, and it is funny to take ridiculous things seriously. And it is fun to instantiate funny scenarios. If you are willing to go through and cause more than a certain amount of pain in order to instantiate such scenarios then you are Daniel Walker and you engage in “antics”.
Above a certain latitude, the UV index drops to, oh, you know, 0, during the winter (no big deal), and the rays from the Sun come to strike at the Earth so obliquely that their riches are stripped by the atmosphere upon entry. What goodies remain among their photons are only found in such low quantities that the skin of the average homo sapiens is incapable of deriving what is needed to synthesize vitamin D from them. Lack of vitamin D in homo sapiens is statistically correlated with depression in homo sapiens.
We are above said latitude. You do the math. (Stop saying that.)
For homework, go learn the difference between a typeface and a font, a forward slash and a backslash, a domain and a URL, and between the B and STRONG tags.