Tag Archives: parenting

Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing

Listening to the same person talk for two hours in a class-room setting is not a feat to be undertaken by those blessed with ADHD. It is certainly not a feat for someone who is fasting. Few weeks ago, I found myself in that situation, and man! I could not wait for lunch. I had a good breakfast but the lecturers later sounds seem to be causing my body to vibrate at a frequency that all the breakfast I ate was being siphoned to a blackhole, unbeknownst to me. Not saying he stole my food, but I have a strong feeling he caused it to disappear.

It was lunch time and I thought “Munch Time!”. At the restaurant, a customer pays for a lunch ticket and then it’s basically a buffet; Buffet Time. There was queue. Patience, empty one; I told my stomach. Then finally got to make my order. Alhamdulillah. I had momentarily forgotten that queues are made up of people. I knew there was noise but my brain was wasting energy as it were hearing, it wasn’t ready to invest in figuring out the source of the noise. Ahhhh it’s people… humans.

Seated now. A child returns to the mother, beside my table, with a modest content of food on their tray. It was modest especially comparing with all the other dunes of rice, lakes of gravy/soup and scrap-yard of meat (excuse my metaphors). The mother scolded her under-performing child, and instructed the child get more food. I thought, here is a mother that wants her child to grow body mass. Then she spoiled my motherly opinion of her. She said “Oya, go and add more food jare! It has been paid for now. Add whatever you like!”. My heart was broken

Here is a kid who is learning the ways of the world from his experienced mother. She on the other hand is wired to think that because one pays for a thing, they must squeeze out the most they can from it, even if not beneficial to you. She probably sleeps better at night saying to herself “at least I didn’t let them make the most out of my money”. Now this child will probably grow up to be distrustful and a vindictive customer by default. Every money spent will be a wrong done, thus the vindictive customer must see to it that vengeance takes place in making life as difficult as possible to the paid agent. Outside the commercial sphere, this child is likely to have all sorts of cynical view of humanity, which will be confirmed by others with cynical views… and then they are trapped in a vicious cycle.

Niccolo Machiavelli

This is a problem I think we should look into; especially new-parents. A holistic approach would aim to correct the parent’s perspectives. That would be awesome, but as we know, dealing with oneself is the biggest struggle (Greater Jihad) there is. I propose an alternative, a lesser struggle, which is something we are good at doing, that is monitoring the kids. I call this the Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing.

The famous Florentine statesman and philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, like many philosophers, can be argued to be quite misunderstood. Today, the adjective “Machiavellian” implies deceit, ruthlessness and cunning, among other negative connotations. Some probably consider him the anti-Christ of morality. However, I subscribe to the understanding of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” as basically saying there are two sets of morality: one for the world, and the other for the Prince (King/Ruler). That is to say that a Prince is not subject to the same laws of morality that is binding on all others, because the prince has to put the welfare of the state (kingdom) first, even above his/hers. Yea, Machiavelli espouses having a double standard of morality; one for the populace, and a flexible one that adjusts to secure the welfare of the state. I said Machiavelli is misunderstood, I didn’t say I agree with him.

Back to the prescription of the Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing. First parents must agree on the values they hope to impart on their offspring. Then they see if they personally act in contradiction to those values. If they don’t, then cool, all is well; no need for Machiavellian Ethics. If however, they act in contradiction to the intended values, then they could engage in Machiavellian Ethics.

Machiavellian Ethics simply instructs that, when in presence of your offspring, act in ways that encourage/build the values you hope to impart on your offspring. The kids will pick it up and your actions (or the hiding of it) will become the building blocks of your offspring’s internal morality. That means double standards of morality, but not one for you and one for your kids. Rather, one for you and one for the what you want your kids to see in you.

Back to the restaurant (I’m just finishing up my plate). What would I have the mother do in front of the child? She would first have to agree her reaction to her child’s plate is not proper for the world view her child ought to have. If she agrees, then she could apply the Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing. Imagine all the possible reactions she could ‘ve gone with at the sight of her child under-performing…

Since it is difficult to fight a person’s habits and inclinations (i.e. the greater jihad), then some could embrace the double standard inspired by Machiavelli (i.e. the lesser jihad). Most of use spend most of our lives acting anyway. Many of us are fake, this is not a rap song so lets us not make a big fuss between the real and the fakes. All I am saying is, if the greater Jihad is too difficult for you, then settle for the lesser Jihad, by acting. Do it for the kids, do it for the future generation 🙂


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Dancing Kids at Parties

Kid-parties. Once upon a time, the most dancing you did at party was “dancing round the chair” to innocent pop music. What happened to dancing your hammer-moves at parties? MC Hammer was the focus, not his background dancers. Kids today dance club-dances; it is like a miniature BET music video. I hate kid-parties because of this. I can only say about the situation in Nigeria.

Kid-parties leave a void in its participants; unless there is a dancing competition. This realization prompted me to write this post. I forgot the writing. Some (many) weeks ago I watched Lupe Fiasco’s new video Bad Bitch and Lupe captured some of what I wanted to say in a few minutes. I remembered the post but again forgot. I found it and I’m obliged to complete it. I can’t drag any longer so I will post it anyway.

Stories on Adulteration of Children

Have you heard about the 9 year old beauty pageant contestant who is tormented by hair waxing… Have your heard of the anorexics aged 3-12… Have you heard about the number of American kids on anti depressants… ?

There is a debate on kids’ beauty pageants; the negative (in my opinion) outweighs the positive. Taking a side is a moral issue. It suffice to say there is a lot of child abuse involved, dangers to child mental health, insecure parents and likelihood of child growing to be a pathological cosmetic surgery customer; among other things. Most insidious is that these children have been imposed an unhealthy worldview: a world where carnal beauty and competition make the world go round.

Childhood experiences indeed steer the direction of an adult’s life, significantly.

Adult Psychology

A lot of these experiences of children are influenced by their parent’s psychology and ethics; insecurities and morality. Childhood insecurities of parents could manifest as unhealthy competitiveness forced upon a child. To some extent, the pressure on a child can be excusable. That may be true for beauty pageants but what about dancing? Dancing is the issue of this post anyway.

The reason adults like to see their kids dancing (which is seldom motivated by competition as in Child Beauty Pageant) is because it’s cute, entertaining; thus “cuteness”. While in the case of competitiveness, the adult actively orchestrates (by extreme means) their child’s victory, in the case of “cuteness” the adult passively accepts an action after it happens. In the former instance, the adult is (too) active while passive in the latter.

In what may seem a simple everyday scene, there may lie a complex psychological dynamics/transactions. For instance,  a child does something “cute” and then the adult laughs at it and does the easiest thing: dismiss its importance by calling it “cute”. The adult may sincerely not know how to deal with it or may be looking for an easy way out in their reaction.  Insight into psychology is therefore important.

Whereas in competitive situations, adults could be seen as enforcers, in “cute” situations adults could be seen as enablers. Many adults enablers appear easy-going when it comes to denying kids doing something the kids already want to do (in this case, dancing). Well that is true only if we disregard child-psychology. The passivity of adults translates into activism from the perspective of child psychology.

Child Psychology

Humans as social creatures interact. Arguably, the most famous currency of this interaction is attention. We seek attention in subtle ways but when we don’t get it we resolve to dramas. That is why a baby cries LOUD to protest, given his/her limited vocabulary. As a child grows something interesting happens; the child learns to express themselves but nevertheless cries to attract attention. Similarly the well articulated spouse makes a scene rather than “articulate” the issues. This tells us two things: first such ways of seeking attention are effective; second such patterns of thinking become a habit.

They say black babies are born with rhythm. I would have like to use that to justify my inclination towards music but understanding the difference between Nature and Nurture provides a more reasonable version of this statement: Black parents love music, communicate this to their black kids (as cute), and black kids use this cuteness to purchase attention (starting with their parents).

Now back to dancing in parties. Let me propose what is actually happening. Child is born in a black family. Child learns to cry to get attention. Child is exposed to music (not lullaby) and dance. Child dances and Child receives attention from parents for being “cute”. Child loves to dance and parents think Child simply enjoys dancing. Parents allow/expose adult-club songs to child because someone is always watching at home. Parents see this picture is simply “cute” since it is a child. Child impresses parents with new moves learnt from the latest music videos. Child is summoned to demonstrate new moves to uncles and aunties; child becomes a family star. Child now has a habit and see’s the world against him/her when asked not to dance when older, indignant from being exploited for former glories of “cuteness”.

The Fascist or Liberal Parent

The logical question is which type of parenting should one adopt, strict or easy-going? Would one be a strict disciplinarian or a do-what-u-like parent… or something in between? Would you monitor your teenage children’s movement or would you let them have fun until they come to their senses (Assuming the parent actually wishes to have responsible children). Unfortunately the options between the two extremes are merely treating the symptom; symptom of an issue from childhood.

The solution is to understand child psychology and carefully select which habits/behaviors you would like to encourage/discourage using the currency of attention. If you want a child to be a dancer (among other things) then by all means “pay” the child positive attention whenever they dance; by cheering, smiling, or talking about how cute it was. What if you don’t want your baby to be hooked on dancing? Should you chastise them every time they do?

I think NO. Being a “fascist” is also treating the symptom. We are operating at psychology level here. I think the best solution is simply not to encourage it. Don’t cheer the child, don’t tell them how cute they are, don’t tell uncles and aunties how cute they were within their earshot (you gotta admit they can be quite cute in diapers).

Your Child Down the Slope

Am I saying that your child will become a whore/gangster simply by watching music videos and dancing club songs at parties? I am saying a child is much more likely to pursue any life path that has a worldview compatible with the worldview the parents instill, psychologically (by giving positive attention). And if they become a whore/gangster, they will surely enjoy the attention they get from their careers.

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