Is there a Science to Parenting?

By Keith Kloor | December 19, 2012 1:02 pm

Yesterday, my 5-year old was literally climbing the wall–with his sneakers on. He has figured out how to wedge himself against the arm of the couch and inch his legs up the wall. When I asked him to stop, he hesitated for a few seconds before climbing down. I explained to him that sneaker marks on the wall are a no-no.

Five minutes later, I walk out of the kitchen into the living room and he’s halfway up the wall.

“I just asked you not do that. Why are you doing it.”

“I don’t know,” he says.

Bill Cosby did a whole bit on this years ago that I never get tired of watching.

This is not an isolated incident. My son doesn’t listen to me. His 8 year-old brother is marginally better at it. I keep telling myself that it’s developmental, a testing authority kind of phase that will soon pass (but probably reoccur once they become teenagers). After all, both of them behave in school (so I’m told). They have no problem following directions there.

And they’re both sweet, lovable kids. Being their father is the best. I’ve rearranged my working life to be able to spend more time with them in their formative years.

But they’re not listening to me.

This, I can assure you, would not have happened when I was their age. My brother and I still jokingly refer to our father as the Great Santini. When I was five and Dad called my name, I had no more than two seconds to respond, “yes sir!” I could have been on the other side of the house, but I had maybe another two seconds to find my way to that barking voice, front and center.

Alas, I’m not a military discipline kind of guy. (Some things don’t carry over.) I also don’t believe in ruling through fear. I’d like respect from my kids, but I don’t want them to quiver when I ask them to put their pajamas on. So what am I doing wrong?  Or rather, what should I be doing that will make my kids listen to me as much as they love me?

I was going to ask you all for tips, but then I googled the title of this post and came across what looks to be a smart, helpful book. Still, if you think you have mastered the science of parenting, I’m all ears.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: child behavior, parenting
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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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