More on the “fool your kids” parenting strategy

Reader Kathi Rosen writes in with this terrific nudge related to the asparagus study.

Your story about the “you loved asparagus as a child” reminded me of a nudge I provided for my son lo these many years ago. He was three years and three months old. He was still in diapers. We had tried all sorts of methods to potty-train—-bribery, books, encouragement, praise…..nothing. When asked, he would just shake his head and say “I can’t know how to use the potty.” The doctor kept saying “when he’s ready”, but finally, I was more than ready. One morning, my son awoke bright and early. I said to him in an excited voice, “Guess what? While you were sleeping, you learned how to use the potty! You know how, now!” He looked at me for a few seconds, then exclaimed, “Oh, yeah, I do!” He ran to the potty and used it right away. And……he never needed another diaper or even had an accident from that moment on. Many difficult moments in child-rearing could have been avoided if I had only pondered the significance of this episode more fully.

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8 Responses to “More on the “fool your kids” parenting strategy”

  1. ted Says:

    oh that’s great. I”m going to to try that out on my kids tomorrow morning.

    “Guess what? While you were sleeping, you learned how to put away your toys! You know how, now!”

  2. Donn Says:

    I am disappointed (but not surprised) that you accepted this “nudge”. After all, it worked.

    That is the great and fatal temptation: It is a lie but it is for your own good. Following this logic it quite acceptable for government to outright lie to you as long as they piously claim that it is for your own good. After all, they have good intentions. You are on the leading edge. This IS what we have come to. The casualty is trust. I weep.

    Donn

  3. Jenn White Says:

    oh cripes. This is NOT a lie! The kid DID know how to go. He just needed confidence. Telling a child that you KNOW they can do something often works. If you give them a reason you know, that’s even better. (“you learned in your sleep!”)

    Hey, when it comes to poop, whatever it takes, man, whatever it takes…

  4. David Wood Says:

    help me out in the shady area – how do we legislate what is a lie and what is acceptable?

  5. David Glenn Says:

    As a father of two teens, I see that they know what a lie is even if we call it a nudge. Even more disturbing (to parents who lie) is the discovery that kids keep some karmic track of honesty over the years. When I say “I did it for your own good,” they grin and say “riiiight.” Darn, how do they remember that stuff?

  6. Anonymous Says:

    More importantly, does anyone seriously believe that the difference between politicians and the “regular people” is equivalent to the difference between a parent and a 3 year old who still uses a diaper? No offense to that child, everyone learns at their own rate, but that comparison takes a very low view of civilians and requires an all-knowing government. Scary.

  7. Barbara Preuninger Says:

    One way to test the rightness or wrongness of this action would be to ask the child himself what he thought of the intervention. (At least a few months after he’s been established with potty training! Probably years would be better.)

    There have been many times in my own life where a misperception of reality has actually aided me. Optimism itself can actually contribute to the conditions one hopes for. Being “fooled” in this manner can be a kind of freedom, though it seems counterintuitive.

    I realize that it’s playing with fire to say that sometimes deception yields the better result (only because this notion has been terribly abused). Yet, it happens ALL the time, in ways that people intuitively perceive as moral.

    What if some government officials see the possibility of recovery from an economic recession, if only people had the needed confidence? So they exaggerate various reports to say “look, the economy is recovering already!” (LOL – it happened while you were sleeping!) Note that it doesn’t have to be outright lies, but it could be selective truth-telling. If that actually brings about the desired result, is this a wrong action? How would history judge this action? Could it still work in the future? (I think it actually could, given enough time in between.) Even if we as individuals can perceive the government doing this, as long as we sufficiently believe that others will accept the lie, it can have the desired effect.

  8. Shannon @ Lullaby Baby Carriers Says:

    Oh wow! That is sheer brilliance! If only I read this post three weeks ago when I started toilet training my 3 year old son. Stubborn little monkey! LOL!

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