In which Socratic parenting backfires.

I've been busy in the three-dimensional world, where I am in the middle of committing an unnatural act for an academic: writing out every word of a lecture. (As weird as it is, it makes the video production of that lecture easier -- more about that in the fullness of time.) In between such unnatural acts, however, I've been schlepping the sprogs to their summertime activities.

Today, during one such schlep, the following exchange occurred.

Younger offspring: If I walk in the shady parts instead of the sunny parts, bees and wasps won't try to sting me.

Dr. Free-Ride: Oh. So, you think bees and wasps prefer to be in the sun, so you'll be safer in the shade?

Younger offspring: (after a moment's thought) No, they don't. I'm not safe anywhere.

Dr. Free-Ride: See, I thought you had an interesting hypothesis about the bees and wasps, and that we could talk about it.

Younger offspring: But I don't think it's true.

Dr. Free-Ride: I just wanted to talk with you about your hunch, and reasons why bees might prefer sun over shade.

Younger offspring: I know.

Dr. Free-Ride: And instead, I've made you feel less safe! Totally not what I was going for.

More like this

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Last night as we sat down to eat, a spider scuttled out from under Dr. Free-Ride's better half's napkin. Younger offspring: Spider! Where'd it go? Where'd it go? Dr. Free-Ride: I think it's hiding under that serving plate. Younger offspring: I don't want a spider in our food! Elder offspring: The…
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That reads like a Calvin & Hobbes strip. XD

By AnonymousCoward (not verified) on 15 Jul 2010 #permalink

I think the socratic method has a highly likely risk of making the other person feel less safe, at least insofar as humans find safety in surety :-)

ps: I tried writing out something by hand the other day, and was shocked at how much my writing muscles had atrophied. My hand started hurting after a couple paragraphs.

Well... maybe Younger Offspring was not in the mood to share his/her hypothesis and found a polite way out... It can happen to any of us.

By Dario Ringach (not verified) on 15 Jul 2010 #permalink

cute story!
I thought maybe you could have pushed through in the same Socratic vein and asked 'What is safety'? working towards an appreciation that it's not all or nothing, and that it helps to keep the odds in perspective. Like the chances you'll get stung are pretty low most of the time anyway. It's so easy to make the big leap from 'something is possible' to 'something is likely'. I suppose anchoring it on the positive also helps people feel safe...Like maybe one could add up the number of days that one has been outside and NOT been stung. It really depends on how much you want to help your child titrate their level of concern.

I'd like to say that my initial motivation for asking about the stated claim (that bees and wasps don't like the shade) was to distract the child from being anxious about bees and wasps ... but really, I just asked because I was curious about the reasoning that might underlie the hypothesis.

And, I stopped with the questions when it was clear that they had enhanced the anxiety rather than diffusing it. Our agenda at that point was pretty much just to get to the car without a major freak out. If we revisit the subject, it will be someplace bee-free, like a plane at 10,000 feet.

At least I hope, for the sake of the flight crew, that any plane at 10,000 feet with my child as a passenger is bee-free, else *I* may join in the freak out.

why is your child concerned that wasps or bees might try to sting her?

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 17 Jul 2010 #permalink

There was this one memorable incident where a wasp stung the younger offspring.

I grew up in Miami, and learned very quickly that in the Everglades, the mosquitos were in the shady spots (hummoks).

Your child is a quick learner. I had to get stung several times before I quit going down the the water trough and swatting them with a flat board.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 17 Jul 2010 #permalink