Ignorance in parenting

Fol­lowup to: Strate­gic ig­no­rance and plau­si­ble deniability

My in-law always says: “For chil­dren it is eas­ier be for­given then to get per­mis­sion.”

EDIT: This post is su­per­seeded by my Book Re­view: Kazdin’s The Every­day Par­ent­ing Toolkit I recom­mend read­ing only that. The re­main­ing in­sight of this post is: Chil­dren ex­pend more brain power on their par­ents than the par­ents on them.

Kaj_So­tala wrote

Par­ents may also pre­tend that they don’t no­tice their kids en­gag­ing in some minor mis­be­hav­ior, if they don’t want to lose their au­thor­ity but don’t feel like in­terfer­ing ei­ther.

I can say from ex­pe­rience: That is risky.

Chil­dren (esp. small ones) ex­pend sig­nifi­cantly more brain power on their par­ents than the par­ents on their chil­dren (your mileage may vary). I can as­sure you that they will no­tice these cases—at least some—and take that into ac­count one way or the other.

If the chil­dren no­tice this they may as­sume that you ei­ther con­done, ac­cept, bear or ig­nore it. None of these has pos­i­tive effects.

Pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tive strate­gies:

  • In­vest the en­ergy on the nec­es­sary con­se­quences (these will be well in­vested be­cause you save on lots of fur­ther oc­cas­sions)

  • Sig­nal the child that you did no­tice, tol­er­ate but do not ac­cept it. This in­di­cates to the child that the bor­der to re­ally un­ac­cept­able be­hav­ior is near. If the child still con­tinues you do not get around to act. I do this with a smile and treat it as a gamed played by the child. This breaks a pos­si­ble ten­sion but may have dis­ad­van­tages for dis­ci­pline.

  • Estab­lish clear limits to ac­cept­able be­hav­ior that avoid re­peated test­ing of where the bor­der ac­tu­ally is.

  • Less re­stric­tions that may be bro­ken to be­gin with.

I am in­fluenced by The Adle­rian School. Of rele­vance here is Striv­ing for sig­nifi­cance.

The test­ing of limits and the re­sult­ing in­ter­ac­tion with the par­ent give the child a feel­ing of sig­nifi­cance if the par­ent ac­knoledges the act of the child even if he doesn’t agree with it. On the other hand ig­nor­ing the act of the child is nega­tive feed­back about sig­nifi­cance.

EDIT: The asym­me­try be­tween par­ents and chil­dren with re­spect to the effec­tive­ness of de­ni­a­bil­ity can be gen­er­al­ized to any situ­a­tion where one ac­tor has sig­nifi­cantly less over­all in­for­ma­tion about the situ­a­tion than an­other ac­tor and thus might not be able to re­li­ably es­ti­mate whether de­ni­a­bil­ity is pos­si­ble.

ADDED: tadams­mar pointed out that ig­nor­ing is sci­en­tifi­cally known to be effec­tive and the ad­vice or rather per­sonal ex­pier­ence I have re­lated in this post may be con­trapro­duc­tive (at least if ap­plied in iso­la­tion).