BOOK REVIEW: The real “Good News About Bad Behavior” is that the kids are already alright

Journalist Katherine Reynolds Lewis’s inaugural book, The Good News About Behavior grew out of a 2015 article for Mother Jones called “What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?“. The promotional material claims it was the most read story the magazine had ever published; The Seattle TimesClaudia Rowe relates that it got more than 4 million hits.

That’s a good clue you ought to get to work writing a book for someone to sell.

Which Lewis did. This book, subtitled “Why Kids Are Less Disclipined Than Ever—And What To Do About It” or in some editions, “Am I So Out of Touch? No, It’s The Children Who Are Wrong” might be the most important book ever written considering what we’re up against with Kids These Days.

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A rare Internet discussion where both sides prove their point

One of my most favorite and most unproductive things to do is argue on the Internet with people, and I know it’s so, but it feels productive in the sense that I better understand why I feel the way I do. Occasionally, I much later change my mind when I recall some argument without first remembering which side of it I was on.

One of the worst ever to get involved in is abortion because it is not the sort of thing that will resolve in common understanding. I used to wear a T-shirt I made that said ‘LEGALIZE ABORTION’ because that was the joke. It would be like a shirt that said, ‘BAN MARIJUANA’. Back then, both already were common policy and said nothing more than STATUS QUO.

But recently, I engaged with someone on Twitter on the subject of reproductive autonomy and made many mistakes but (of course) don’t feel that I was wrong.

The major mistake I made was not recognizing how the person I talked to had latched on to an age that was not rationally important to what I was saying but definitely was viscerally: 10-year-olds should have access to long-lasting contraceptives. Really, I meant anyone with internal reproductive systems should be able to have access to it as soon as they begin puberty and are at risk of becoming pregnant. But the person I talked to fixated on the example age, and I should have given them an off-ramp so their automatic emotional defenses could lower.

The second mistake was to allow any snideness or attack to creep in to what I said. To have a productive discussion with anyone, you can’t call into question their motives, even if their motives have changed throughout the conversation.

Beyond that, what follows won’t be decisive or much use to anyone else, and I’m sure many have had it before, but I was surprised by how quickly someone went from believing that unborn lives were preeminent to finding reasons to prefer everything else.

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Life hangs by the hairs on a chinny chin chin

The idea of when personhood begins and ought to be respected is a sort of Zeno’s Paradox —like how many hairs it takes on someone’s face before they have a beard.

We have a commonly understood idea we all agree on, but defining the exact moment where something crosses over is always absurd and any given number of people will have different, contradictory, even self-varying opinions on where they draw the line.

If you say that someone with 3,017 chin hairs is still beardless but 3,018 has a beard, that’s ridiculous. But it’s also ridiculous to say that the first hair on someone’s chin is what makes them bearded if you want that concept to have any utility and align with anyone’s intended meaning.
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