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Growing Stronger While Parenting

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To me, it is an essential part of parenting to give children as many options as I possibly can; that’s how they learn and grow and so on. It is always going to be the case that I’m going to say no sometimes because I’m tired or cranky or whatever, but I try very hard to say yes whenever I possibly can, so that they have more experiences and so that they make more mistakes while I’m around to help and so that they have some control in lives that have so very, very little control.

A related idea is that I consider it my job a as a parent to become the person they need to have the most options in their lives, not the other way around. If they are being limited by me, it is I who needs to change, all other things being equal.

If I find myself saying no to something on an occassional basis, meh.

If I found myself always saying no to something that was not obviously dangerous or absurd (and if another parent, in my household or otherwise, who isn’t obviously insane or whatever, is saying yes to that thing regularly, it clearly isn’t that bad), I would ask myself why.

It seems to me that there are basically two categories here.

If it was due to my fears, I would research and see if my fears were empirically justified, where “empirically justified” means “this things has a noticeably higher chance of a negative outcome than walking across the street on the way to school does”. If my fears were, in fact, justified, I would alert other parents I cared about to them and attempt to alter people’s behaviour, and would explain to the children that there was a real, actual bad danger, etc. If my fears were not justified, I would figure out a way to change my mind. This is a thing that can be done, people do it all the time.

If it was due to my (lack of) abilities, like “I can’t take the girls kayaking because I don’t know how” or whatever, I would see if it was possible to alter my abilities, and if that seemed like the right solution I would do that (contrast: becoming a gymnastics coach is probably not a thing I’m ever going to do, no matter how many options it would open up for the girls; the rewards vs. handing it off to a pro aren’t worth it IMO). If it was an ability I couldn’t alter (i.e. due to physical limitations; my nerve damage mean I’m never going to be able to race at full speed to the corner without warning unless I have explicitely prepped for this possibilty in advance, so I often say no to this), then I would (and indeed I do) be apologetic about this and explain that it’s a perfectly OK thing to ask for, I just have a limitation that I can’t really fix or that isn’t fixed yet or whatever.

When parents don’t do any of these things, but just say no to everything that seems a bit incovenient or scary, I find that upsetting; I think it’s giving up on the job.

Unfortunately, I handle my feelings around this quite poorly.

I have serious problems with correspondence bias ( https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Correspondence_bias ) with this issue. When I see this sort of behaviour, I almost always go “OMG NO GUD PARENT!!!” instead of “I guess they must be really tired today”.

This gets much worse the more tired/stressed I myself am, and does not seem to be much affected by being aware that this is a thing I do; the righteous rage feels very salient to me and is hard to ignore.

This is especially odd as I’ve gotten very, very good at anti-correspondence bias over the last few years, to the point where I am routinely not bothered by behaviour that drives people around my crazy, because by the time the person next to me objects I’ve already told myself a story of the bad day that person must be having.

It would be nice to make some progress on that, as it’s pretty stressful.