Book: 12 Rules for Life. #5 – Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them

The Goal of This Post

This post is a synthesis from the book 12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson.
The author shares a series of powerful guidelines, virtues and rules to help take control and responsibility for your life.

If You Only Takeway One Thing

“The foremost rule is that you must take responsibility for your own life. Period.” – Jordan Peterson

Post Outline

The main ideas we’ll explore in this post:

  1. The Responsibility to Parent
  2. Developing Emotional Intelligence
  3. The Way Forward

About this Rule

Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
The author describes the role that parents and proper parenting has on the development of conscientious and well socialized individuals.

  • The author dives into the stance and responsibility that parents should take.
  • The author expands on the role of discipline, punishment, timeout, and emotions play.
  • The author expresses a set of principles to guide parental efforts.

The main idea is that children require role-models. More specifically, children require guidance and correction and reinforcement in order to learn the behaviors suited and appropriate within our collective societies.

I. Why We Must Parent

To Build Autonomy
“The desire of his parents to let their child act without correction on every impulse perversely produced precisely the opposite effect: they deprived him instead of every opportunity to engage in independent action. Because they did not dare to teach him what “No” means, he had no conception of the reasonable limits enabling maximal toddler autonomy.”

To Socialize
“Every parent therefore needs to learn to tolerate the momentary anger or even hatred directed towards them by their children, after necessary corrective action has been taken, as the capacity of children to perceive or care about long-term consequences is very limited. Parents are the arbiters of society. They teach children how to behave so that other people will be able to interact meaningfully and productively with them.”

To Shape Behavior
“Because children, like other human beings, are not only good, they cannot simply be left to their own devices, untouched by society, and bloom into perfection… This means that they are much more likely to go complexly astray if they are not trained, disciplined and properly encouraged. This means that it is not just wrong to attribute all the violent tendencies of human beings to the pathologies of social structure. It’s wrong enough to be virtually backward. The vital process of socialization prevents much harm and fosters much good. Children must be shaped and informed, or they cannot thrive.”

“It is an act of responsibility to discipline a child. It is not anger at misbehavior. It is not revenge for a misdeed. It is instead a careful combination of mercy and long-term judgment.”

II. Developing Emotional Intelligence

Emotions, positive and negative, come in two usefully differentiated variants.

Satisfaction (technically, satiation) tells us that what we did was good, while hope (technically, incentive reward) indicates that something pleasurable is on the way. Pain hurts us, so we won’t repeat actions that produced personal damage or social isolation (as loneliness is also, technically, a form of pain). Anxiety makes us stay away from hurtful people and bad places so we don’t have to feel pain. All these emotions must be balanced against each other, and carefully judged in context, but they’re all required to keep us alive and thriving.”

“We therefore do our children a disservice by failing to use whatever is available to help them learn, including negative emotions, even though such use should occur in the most merciful possible manner.”

III. The Way Forward

The author lays out a series of principles for parenting:

(1) Limit the rules.
“Rules should not be multiplied beyond necessity.”

(2) Use the least force necessary to enforce those rules.
“Part of establishing a relationship with your son or daughter is learning how that small person responds to disciplinary intervention—and then intervening effectively.”

(3) Parents should come in pairs.
“Raising young children is demanding and exhausting. Because of this, it’s easy for a parent to make a mistake. It is necessary to have someone else around, to observe, and step in, and discuss.”

(4) Parents should understand their own capacity to be harsh, vengeful, arrogant, resentful, angry and deceitful.
“A parent who is seriously aware of his or her limited tolerance and capacity for misbehaviour when provoked can therefore seriously plan a proper disciplinary strategy—particularly if monitored by an equally awake partner—and never let things degenerate to the point where genuine hatred emerges.”

(5) Parents have a duty to act as proxies for the real world.
“This obligation supersedes any responsibility to ensure happiness, foster creativity, or boost self-esteem. It is the primary duty of parents to make their children socially desirable. That will provide the child with opportunity, self-regard, and security.”


Taking Action

Clear rules make for secure children and calm, rational parents. Clear principles of discipline and punishment balance mercy and justice so that social development and psychological maturity can be optimally promoted. Clear rules and proper discipline help the child, and the family, and society, establish, maintain and expand the order that is all that protects us from chaos and the terrors of the underworld, where everything is uncertain.”


The book focuses on the virtues that empower an individual to take responsibility for themselves and live a more plentiful and happy life. All content credit goes to the author. I’ve shared the bits I’ve enjoyed the most and found most valuable.

Cheers ’till next time! Saludos!
Alberto

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