Scientific Parenting

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

baby feet, parents, toes (flickr: John A Ryan Photography)

Dalton Conley, University Professor of the social sciences at NYU, chair of the Children and Youth Section of the American Sociological Association and author of Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Science of Raising Children but Were Too Exhausted to Ask, turned to the latest scientific papers for advice on parenting.


Dalton Conley

Comments [36]

c warren

Those of us old enough to remember Dr Spock know better than to rely on so called experts, in pursuit of distinction with radical notions, to rear children.
Spanking is a way to help the child associate negative consequences with inappropriate behavior until they understand and respond to the spoken words.
By that time they will be developing affinities for things of which they do not wish to be deprived; at which time deprivation of those things can replace spanking to correct behavior.
Once a child is permitted to address and or regard a parent as a peer the parent is not likely to be an effective influence on that child's behavior.

Mar. 23 2014 12:22 AM
Lara Wechsler

Hi, this is not about using profanity but about how one treats people at home vs in public. How about this, using his rational, I think all people need to find a way to get out their frustrations, but I do think it shouldn't be put on the people closest to them or to people in public. I think it is also good to figure out a way to teach that as early as possible, it is hard. As an adult going through living with roommates and also now being married for 13 years, I have always dislike moody people who take out their frustrations and you and then later say, sorry, I had a bad day. We all have bad days and need to practice and figure out ways to deal with our frustrations that do not put it out to those closest to you. I don't think it is a good way to be if later in life an adult takes out their frustrations to their significant other and kids but acts perfectly with their acquaintances in public, so maybe it is good to try to teach that as early as possible, what do you think? I have kids, so I go through it too. I am not a hardcore punisher but I do explain to them every time they are rude that it is not good or nice and I try to figure out ways to have them stop, or ways that they can deal with their frustrations without taking it out on me or their brother or Dad.

Cursing can be a different topic, for instance my sister curses a lot just in regular conversation, a lot more than me in regular conversation. We both grew up with the same education and all that stuff, and she is actually better in English, writing and grammar than I am.

Mar. 21 2014 07:46 AM

So, when this child is an adult, will he assume that he has to be polite in public and at work, but he can swear at his wife?

Mar. 20 2014 09:15 AM
Eugenia Renskoff from NY, NY

Hi, I was allowed to view adult shows and movies as a child and I turned out all right. Eugenia Renskoff

Mar. 19 2014 12:55 PM
Brigid Whelan Juneau from Bedford New York.

I tried to call into the show but I was too late. I totally agree with everything I heard the author say, his words were music to my ears. I have 4 children 13, 11, 9 and 5 years old. I do allow them to curse in their home but I also allow them to express all their frustrations. I believe their home should be a safe place of expression. I also have very open conversations about anything they are curious about. As the author said I use all life events as an opportunity to teach my kids about themselves and the world. My kids are so well behaved at school and in public. I'm so looking forward to reading this book, finally I have found someone who agrees with the way I have always raised my kids.

Mar. 19 2014 11:39 AM

In parenting assuming you had parents who cared, who did their best to provide and do the right thing, one should follow instincts. Someone has to be the adult. I do agree with one thing the author said concerning public verses private. In this area many parents are failing. So I guess that is important and I do agree.

Mar. 19 2014 11:27 AM
Dash from NYC

I grew up in a household that was essentially pro-profanity. My father delights in curse words, and all language (he is a professor of romantic poetry, which informs my POV on the "reduced vocabulary" argument, i.e. it's nonsense). My brother and I were never punished for using curse words. We both went on to graduate from college and are still both big fans of all words, not just the "good" ones.
With essentially the same attitude toward my own kid, a problem we have run up against which we did not foresee, is the judgement of other parents. Obviously people have all kinds of knee jerk reactions to language (as evidenced by some of the, in my view, shallow arguments made by callers on the segment) and when parents get together and discuss which kids they like and don't like, that judgement can have a negative effect on your own child's social status. I have become very wary of the minefield that is other parents' judgement. If your own kid doesn't speak or present themselves in a way adults approve of, things like playdates and social engagements can disappear quickly. It is very tricky, and I find myself worrying about it much more than I'd like.
As a result, we explain to our 7 year old as clearly as possible that there are words that adults often do not want to hear from a child, and if she chooses to use them, she should be ready for a reaction, and/or consequences. For the most part, I think she gets it. Cause and effect is, after all, a concept that children grapple with constantly.

Mar. 19 2014 11:26 AM
Roberta from Brooklyn

As the mother of an 18-year-old about whom every adult including all teachers has only wonderful things to say, I understand the guy's point. I do think it's hard to impose "consequences" since most of the time they turn out to be harder for me than they are for my kid.

What got me through the years from 12 to 17 was this book:
Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager, by Anthony E. Wolf. It's a great book. His point is to always let your kid know when s/he does something that is not acceptable to you. Although they often appear to blow you off, it does sink in.

For those who haven't been there and done that, it's hard to imagine parenting an adolescent. And to those in the middle of it, my sympathy and empathy.

Mar. 19 2014 11:23 AM
Oy vey from Westchester

Yeah, Brian. Your last question is one that most parents of adolescents could answer for your guest. His answer: that they are used to it? Is WTF a curse?

Mar. 19 2014 11:17 AM
mary from rockland, ny

I'm curious about his ex-wife's parenting style. Does she agree? Do the kids have to follow different rules when they are with their mother? How much time do the kids spend with each parent?

Mar. 19 2014 11:17 AM
Susana from Westfield, NJ

This author is completely muddling the issues. Cursing about something is not the same as cursing AT a parent. Venting anger is not the same as speaking disrespectfully to a parent. I let my kids express anger and frustration, and to disagree with me in emotional ways, but calling me names, slamming doors, and cursing at me are absolutely out of the question. They know this and they have yet to cross any of those lines. We have few strong disagreements, and when we do have them, my husband and I try to listen and ask open-ended questions, and give our kids a chance to be heard. This brings the temperature down quickly and avoids the blow-ups the author describes. He should read, "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk."

Mar. 19 2014 11:15 AM
Philip Ayers

What a load! I disagree with almost everything this person is said. By the way i'm married to a major figure in sociology I'm an artist and have seen the same behavior this gentlemen describes. He seems tobe a total control freak. Basing anything to do with child rearing on Sociological research is crazy. Pay attention to your child red allow them space and love them but be reasonable!

Mar. 19 2014 11:15 AM
Shawn from Bergen

Love the caller talking about using vocabulary and how cursing is violence. It really is. You see it all the time, people who have nothing left but to curse. It is a low class act, and many people are better than cursing.

I liked also the same caller saying to his 10 year old, "Look, you can be mad. But you can't hit." It's the same for adults. You can be frustrated. But articulate your frustration. Use real words. Talk about it. Be an adult, not a moron.

I suggest a follow up in 10 years, so we can find out how bad this kid turned out because his father refused to parent him appropriately

Mar. 19 2014 11:14 AM
RICANN BOCK from Cold Spring

I agree allowing kids to blow off steam at parents can be a good thing, but I always drew a distinction, between my son cursing or blowing off steam with ME doing the same. I never swore when he was a kid or blew off steam in HIS direction.

Mar. 19 2014 11:14 AM
American Cannibal

American Parents teach how to adopt and sustain the mental illness that is being American.

Mar. 19 2014 11:11 AM
American Cannibal

If you don't let kids learn and use English in all it's variations, you're only hurting their future selves. Shame on parents for their dictatorial behaviour.


Mar. 19 2014 11:09 AM
Jessica from Orange County

I'm horrified by what this guest is saying. He admits that he's tougher on the older, better behaved kid but more lenient on the one who acts out? What kind of message is that sending to the older kid? He is so afraid of being an authority figure to his own kids that he is rationalizing by publishing this nonsense in the name of science.

Mar. 19 2014 11:08 AM
American Cannibal

"cursing is an act of violence"

This is poor thinking. Very, very poor thinking and poor parenting.

Mar. 19 2014 11:06 AM
American Cannibal

Why would anyone have kids nowadays? Not worth the effort, time and suffering—for the kids.

Mar. 19 2014 11:06 AM
Shawn from Bergen

@Freddy from Brooklyn, NY: Awesome comment! If kids are willing to disrespect someone they love, how can you expect them to respect a total stranger? Freddy nailed it right on the head.

I like you Freddy.

Mar. 19 2014 11:05 AM
Larry from Brooklyn

with kids, respect is a two way street, respect is to be earned. (My daughter is twenty six year old veterinarian.)

Mar. 19 2014 11:03 AM

with kids, respect is a two way street, respect is to be earned. (My daughter is twenty six year old veterinarian.)

Mar. 19 2014 11:03 AM
Shawn from Bergen

Ask this guest if his kid has things like TV, iPhone, games, etc? Does he get allowance?

Paying kids to do things is also just wrong! You need to instill the idea that you do good things, you work hard, just because it's right to do. Not because you are getting paid.

You need to have the kid on as a guest, and have him lecture about how to completely control your father and get everything you want with no consequence.

There is no right way to parent, but this guy seriously has instituted every WRONG way! I am just shocked!!

Mar. 19 2014 11:02 AM
Tamar Smith from Brooklyn, NY

I am so irritated by this guest I want to scream - fuck no am I letting my children curse me out! I'm kidding, sorry for cursing, but I would like to be treated with as much respect by my children as I expect them to treat everyone outside the home. Aren't there simple respect rules as to how people treat each other? Even in a household where everyone is equal, which isn't like my household, I don't curse at my children and so they cannot curse at me. It sounds to me like he just has a somewhat out of control kid, his son, and is desperately searching for ways to deal with it. And now his kid basically charges him money just for being decent and helping around the house - nice job buddy!

Mar. 19 2014 11:02 AM
Kitrin from NYC

I live with someone who raised their son very much in this way. And although for the most part I find it positive, there are certain things that the adolescent just won't do, despite "understanding why". He is 15 - at what point do you force someone to do something (clean their room, brush their teeth, do their homework, go to bed on time) when he clearly understands the ramifications of not doing these things but is overtaken by apathy, or just immediate gratification? In fact one of the consequences of the fact that he knows that he is doing things he shouldn't is that he lies - not go get out of trouble (because this isn't a punitive household) but so he appears to be more responsible than he is.

Mar. 19 2014 11:02 AM
Carol in Kansas

Brian, this segment is Fantastic birth control!

Mar. 19 2014 11:01 AM
John from NYC

So here is what bothers me. Let's assume that everything the guest says and puts in his book is wonderful and useful.

But listening, I am hearing a bunch of common sense approaches that sound like they come from his biases about how we should be / act.

Fine. Great. But then it get wrapped up in pseudo science studies that in 10 years will be saying the exact opposite.

Mar. 19 2014 11:01 AM
Freddy from Brooklyn, NY

I'm confused by Professor Conley's thought process: If a child is going to be rude to their parent in the privacy of their own home, why wouldn't they be rude to a total stranger in public?

Mar. 19 2014 11:00 AM
Julia F from Brooklyn

Growing up, I never would curse at my parents, but it was because they showed me how much it hurt their feelings, which is what cursing at anyone does. They should me WHY it was wrong.

Mar. 19 2014 11:00 AM
Dana from Mountain Lakes, NJ

Last year, in the aftermath hurricaine Sandy, when we were without power for almost 2 weeks, we designated all cursing allowed by all children at all times. This gave the teenagers a chance to vent their frustrations, especially when the house got very, very cold.

Mar. 19 2014 10:59 AM
Aldona Rygelis from Williamsburg, Brooklyn

There is a big difference between allowing and even encouraging a child to express their anger, frustration, disagreement, irritation with a parent in order to communicate and allowing oneself to be abused by a child.
Allowing a child to be abusive at home may bode poorly for any one that child attempts to have an intimate relationship with later.

Mar. 19 2014 10:59 AM
Robert from NYC

Oh ok, he wrote this book just to make money. That's cool.

Mar. 19 2014 10:59 AM
Elisabeth from Pleasantville

Regarding the adult exposure to either language or movies: I tell my kids that they are young for only a couple of years and they can watch whatever they want and speak however they want when they are an adult (and that for another 70 or so years). When they see how short their childhood is, they love the fact that this is a special period and they should enjoy it. Plus this is their formative years, if they do not learn certain behavior now, when will they?

Mar. 19 2014 10:58 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

And the Park Slope / Upper West Side: enabling parent of the year, goes to this guest.

Mar. 19 2014 10:56 AM
Shawn from Bergen

This guy is nuts.

You can't attempt to raise a kid with two sets of rules, one in the house, one outside the house. When you see kids who just run all over a restaurant, scream, smash things in public, it's because they have no rules at home. And they have no rules at home because these parents are blaming "ADHD" and other things that don't exist in other cultures except the US. Where's the line between public and private behavior? Is the car ride to school private, or public because others can see? Is it private when you are alone together in a public place, no one around?

ADHD is a joke. It's a US attempt to divert blame from poor parenting or diet.

Behavior is simple. Kids like routines.

Mar. 19 2014 10:55 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Letting your kids get away with cursing you out sounds funny but it sets a dangerous precedent for future disrespectful behavior.
Of course it depends on the kid, but you give 'em an inch, they'll reach for a mile!

Mar. 19 2014 10:53 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.