With pre-verbal children we have to be creative and come up with concrete ways of conveying information about dangers, rather than just giving explicit explanations. (I suggest both.)
Babies are full human beings with astonishingly amazing creative minds. They are absolutely fascinating. Enjoy every precious moment with them.
People sometimes say explicitly that they are fallibilists, but inexplicably they are ‘saying’ that they are infallibilists. They say people are fallible and not omniscient, but they act as if they think people see the truth yet are wickedly choosing evil.
The kind of expressions of approval that are not manipulative are the ones that bubble out of you without any forethought. Anytime you are wondering if what you were planning to say might be coercive approval, it probably is. Is what you are saying the kind of thing you would naturally say to an equal, a friend, or your boss, say? Or does the idea of saying this to your boss seem highly inappropriate?
Often, we need to increase the bandwidth by communicating not just explicitly in words, but simultaneously also inexplicitly, through our facial expressions and body language, and we also need to find more concrete ways of expressing theories. Show them concrete effects. Help them understand.
Parents sometimes imagine that phrasing a command as a question will somehow make it more palatable for the child, but it doesn’t.
When one child hurts another, forget about trying to establish the motivation. The truth is likely to be either that it was an accident, or that it was caused indirectly by coercion on our part, so any asking the child about his motives is likely to cause yet more coercion.
Saying “Sand is not for throwing” is a euphemism for “I have made the rule that you may not throw sand, and I am going to enforce it.” This euphemistic construction is ubiquitous: “Food is not for throwing” (“I have made the rule that you may not throw food, and I am going to enforce it.”); “Hitting is not appropriate,” (“I have made the rule that you may not hit, and I am going to enforce it.”).
Expressions of approval are inherently manipulative the approval is designed to manipulate the child into meeting your own standard.
Using love as leverage to double-bind children to obey—threatening to withdraw the relationship—is wrong. Children have a right to our love.
Many have suggested that my use of the word ‘coercion’ is non-standard and that I should find another word, but I think that is the quest for a euphemism. People don’t like using a harsh word for something they think is morally right. But if you prefer, use the word ‘manipulation’ instead—as long as it is clear that manipulating children is not taking them seriously either.