Mar 8·edited Mar 8

A truce may be found in the Nordic pattern of parenting, which is simultaneously mushy and assholish. Right now there is a blizzard outside in Stockholm, which I am far too fragile to willingly brave myself, except to placate the increasingly pointed arguments from my dog that he needs to take a poop. And yet, right up the block now, my own dear toddler, at the tender age of two, is doomed to play outside in this harsh Arctic chill with the other condemned of his preschool/daycare. In the United States, this counts as child abuse. Here in Sweden it's "fun." The Finns might add that it contributes to the child's "sisu," the pathological national trait of just dealing with whatever.

And, when I saunter down to the förskolan to dig him out of a snowbank and take him home, inevitably my son will say that another kid pushed him or something, to which I must suppress my American helicopter parent impulse to immediately validate his trauma and call up my lawyer to sue the offending party and their parents. Because, as it turns out, toddlers have a *very* expansive definition of harm... perhaps a little like some in the Leftist Discourse? So I have learned to steel myself against immediately validating his complaints. And would you believe it, he has learned to regulate his own emotions and navigate the confusing social milieu of the winter wasteland that is his preschool playground! The kid who "pushed him" is now his best friend.

Maybe I'm being a huge asshole and enabling a violent prison gang culture among the toddlers of our community, who thrive in secret on parental skepticism and callousness. Or maybe I'm encouraging him to grow into a well-adjusted Scandinavian, whose emotional ballast and resilience (or just low expectations for anything better) famously make them the (allegedly) happiest people on earth?

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I was a stay at home dad. My son is now 20. One thing I noticed in those early years on the playground was that after a kid wiped out, they often looked at their parents for a sign of how to react. If the parent revved up the routine for an ouchy, the kid jumped into the act. If the parent brushed it off with a hug and a smile, the kid ran back to play.

I think there’s a lot to your theory. There is such a thing as over emphasizing pain. Sometimes it really hurts, but most of the time you can and should just walk it off, as they used to say.

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Jeff, you sound like a great dad! And not just because I completely agree with you and have always striven not to fight all my kids’ battles for them. They are young adults now, and they seem to be coping with life’s challenges reasonably well and in good spirits.

I have a little theory: Zoomers have been raised by parents who are mostly Gen-Xers like me. We Gen-Xers were latchkey kids who were left on our own a lot and in some cases maybe handed a bit too much responsibility. I think some people in my generation, when they become parents, remember that they felt lonely as kids, or had to do lots of chores and/or care for younger siblings. And they think (or maybe it’s on an unconscious level), “No child of mine is going to go through that!” So they smooth every obstacle, never ever leave their kids alone, schedule activities to fill every moment, and shower their kids with sympathy for every little blip and slight. They love their kids, but this way of parenting prevents children from solving their own big problems and shrugging off the smaller ones. The result is that when their kids move into high school and young adulthood and life gets more difficult, every problem feels serious and intractable. No wonder they’re depressed.

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I don’t know. I feel like you’re only nibbling at the edges of the giant honking obvious thing here. I don’t know whether it’s out of denial or just a cowardly instinct to go along with the herd. But only one thing has demonstrably - objectively, conclusively - been proven to be true since 2012: Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 was a somewhat underrated TV show. Yeah I said it. Come at me bro.

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It is ironic that the culture - education industrial complex has worked overtime to boost the self-esteem of liberal girls and to de-center conservative boys. Yet it has had the opposite intended effect. It has made conservative boys more resilient and liberal girls more depressed.

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As Jeff put it in an earlier article, the inherent nature of progressives is to push for change, and for conservatives to resist change. Given that the universe is wired to resist change (it happens, but slowly), no wonder progressives are more depressive.

Maybe social media amplifies this by creating unrealistic expectations - due to "bubble feedback" - so that no-one ever sees the desired outcomes of their tribe comes to pass, and definitely not within the instant-gratification timescales of social media. Hmm, why don't we just rename it "tribal media"?

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“Which makes me think that calibrating a response to my son’s appeals for help will be one of my biggest challenges as a parent. I can't let him come to believe that claiming hurt is the fast track to getting whatever he wants. Plus, if I’m way too squishy, I’ll glorify victimhood. Conversely, if I’m an unyielding block of granite, my son won’t talk to me about his problems, and as much as I want him to make his own choices, I do want to be consulted. Also, if reporting injury never elicits a response, he’ll just swallow his feelings.”

Somewhere around my second and third out of six children I could articulate this. Very insightful. You are on it.

So, when does the follow up post with the answer drop?

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Two things should be added:

1. Rates of teen suicide are up recently (up 31% for 15 - 19 year-old males and more than 100% for females), so this is not merely an issue of teens over-reporting depression. Source(CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6630a6.htm)

2. Since religious participation affects depression, the recent fall in religious affiliation is probably a contributing factor. It likely also explains some of the gap between the conservative and liberal teens. Source (PsychologyToday: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neuroscience-in-everyday-life/201904/can-religion-help-depression)

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Mar 8·edited Mar 8

Hell, I'm more depressed than I was last century and obviously I'm nowhere near teen years. I do believe there's an impact of media, not just social because I'm pretty antisocial. There is a shit-ton of information out there, most of which directly impacts me exactly zilch. Flood in India, earthquake in Turkyei, bomb in Pakistan, mass shooting in the U.S. all are pretty devastating to people affecte. Me? Meh. I mean it's sad and if I let it, it could pile up. But I can't, it's a self defense mechanism

I am very sympathetic towards overwhelmed teenagers. There are lots of people out there telling them, among many perils, there is an existential climate crisis. Thats pretty depressing, how much worse could things get! Parents can certainly push children into a helpless mire of depression, unless you're like Jeff and my family. By that I mean perfect with one "soft" parent, mummy in both our cases and a "hard" daddy (ooh, that sounds weird). Coddle your kids when they really need it and push them to be a functioning person when appropriate.

Good luck.

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Mar 8·edited Mar 8

We're talking 17/18 year olds, right?

Something odd about the chart, as presented. The male/female lines appear to have lags between the two political stances. That is, the rise in male conservative rates begins to rise after the liberal girls (and after the liberal boys), but before the conservative girls.

So, is this just about in- and out- group shagging?

Strange how conservative girls plateaus off, though.


Ah ha! A different take on me comment.

Jeff's chart shows a fall in rates from the 2005 (where the chart begins) to around 2007.

There's a similar chart on a Noah Smith piece on the 2000s, posted last week or so on Substack.

https://substack-post-media.s3.amazonaws.com/public/images/485f3344-54ad-42ed-815f-4dfe67558601_990x495.jpeg - the underlying image.

That shows reported loneliness rates amongst US teens, and handily there's a line for yer actual 12th Graders.

From the late '70s, there's a fall until 1980, the rate bounces around between 30~35%, mostly nearer 35%, until maybe '97. It then drops by 10pp to ~22% by 2006/7, and shows the same rise, over a time period equivalent to the prior fall.

Which changes the question(s) - what is it that caused the fall, and why did go into reverse, and then is it the same thing?

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The more that teenagers read and hear that they are depressed, the more they will say they are depressed. As well, with a smartphone in hand it is harder to keep out what's happening in the wider world, i.e., "the news" which is overwhelmingly about things going wrong. The upside to this generation's angst is that they may adopt traits associated with stoicism more quickly than any other generation.

I wrote a relevant and deeply personal short post about this subject using my own childhood (born in 1962) It may be of interest. My sub stack is permanently free so not trying to sell anything!


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My husband and I were just laughing about the old, "I'll give you something to cry about" intervention that both of our parents used when the performative tears went on for too long. Since they all otherwise performed their jobs in a satisfactory to outstanding manner, I would say that even though hearing something like that now gives me pause, it must have worked.

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I was amused by the PG version of the Team America: World Police speech in the middle

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Hearing that one's favorite animals- rhinos, giraffes, elephants, etc- are extinct or endangered of going extinct would be depressing as hell, and I have to wonder if children of progressives are more encouraged to bond with these animals on some level, and are more devastated at the news they are dying out. Maybe conservatives are more into cows and pigs? That said, social media definitely contributes.

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Oh. And would you like to jump all over my reasoning for not bringing a child into this world?

I dare you or anyone to. My wife who I love deeply had cancer when she was 18. Stage 4 leukemia. 50/50 shot at a future. But the bone marrow transplant and chemo took. So we get to have a life together and she is who I fell in love with. And that cancer and chance at life stole her ability to create it. Which is probably why she gravitated towards being a therapist for kids and teens.

And maybe seeing her sadness over seeing all the people she grew up with able to get pregnant and her having been robbed of that makes me a little upset when someone says “ I don’t want to have kids because look how bad the world is and we are all going to die because of global warming anyway” is being a selfish, ignorant, little shit.

So. Any flaws in my reasoning there? Cool.

Good reasons to not have kids that don’t rely on a bullshit excuse like “there’s too much crime” or “racism”. Are as follows:

1. I just don’t want to. (Perfectly acceptable answer)

2. I don’t like what it does to my body.

3. I don’t have the money or feel stable

4. I want to travel

5. I don’t like kids

Notice that all of those reasons start with “I”. Because it’s you. Not the world. That is changing your opinion.

But blaming the world for your personal decision to not have a child? That’s peacocking or brain dead. It’s also passive aggressive as fuck.

Saying the “world is so bad as to be not worthy of having your child in it. Or so bad that a child would just create more badness” is a nonsense excuse that removes an my agency from you yourself.

But it is some great progressive peacocking. You now don’t even have to do anything to prove how seriously you take global warming. Great! What a noble person! Sacrificing her birth giving because she sees the reality of the world! How, fucking, brave.

But like I said please. Give me a break down on how “samey” these two reasons are.

If you want this country to get better then it’s not by throwing stones at “the other side” (god even saying there are sides makes me almost vomit. How do you not constantly almost commit?). It’s by criticizing the people you know. Iron sharpens iron.

And if you can’t find anything about progressives to criticize because their all so “holy” then why even bother? Everything is worthy of criticism. If you’re not capable of it. Then what does that say about you?

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As someone currently working with a broad range of ages of people and who knows a few people from super (I mean crazy super) progressive families I will say this about them. And a lot of you might not know about these families. But they are myopic as an art form. My brother in laws ex was from such a family. Beautiful woman. (Like Instagram fitness model gorgeous but had no idea even though her Instagram was full of half naked shots). But I believe her family, who are crazy progressive, and teachers, had broken her down. To her EVERYTHING was sexism. Everything in media, in anime, in novels. It was all sexism! There was no question. She was also one of these women (you know the type) who didn’t want to have kids. Which is fine. I’m not going to have kids so I had no problem with that. But her reasoning. Which I’m sure was directly from her parents was this “I just can’t in good consciousness bring a child into this world!!”

This world? That’s the thing. And that’s the problem a lot of progressive households have. They act as if we are living in some hellscape. As if they’re child will just contribute too much to global warming or something.

I’ve seen this same pattern with other young people I know. There’s this idea that the sky is falling. This comes from the crazy fringe druids we call environmentalists these days. (You know. The literal soup nazis). It’s apocalyptic.

My parents were democrats. But as Andrew heaton would say. They’re what might have been called conservative-democrats. They were catholic. But also pro choice. Pro cop but anti drug war.

I think the catastrophizing that the left does is bad. It’s bad for kids too. They don’t think discourse is an answer anymore. They’re afraid of global warming like it’s the villain from the fifth element (not Gary oldman, the big planet thing).

Is the right better for kids? No. Not in a long run sense. But at least they will dole out responsibility to their kids as they get older. Whereas I think progressive parents are so scared of the world we live in that they are afraid of the kids going outside.

A lot of this reminds me of the satanic panic stuff in the 80s (which was not just conservatives. An awful lot of liberal parents went along with the reported narrative of rings of Satan worshipping child milestones were roaming American cities).

All that being said. It’s no wonder kids are vaping nicotine these days. It relieves stress. And you’d have a lot of stress too if you had these yuppy woe-is-me helicopter parents (who totally aren’t alcoholics since they only drink a “few” glasses of wine. You know. Every night).

In essence. If you walk around and every time you look up that sky looks a little bit closer to falling (I mean my god. Progressives literally made a shitty move called “don’t look up!” That was literally making fun of everyone who “wasn’t” a chicken little) you’d be a neurotic mess too.

I feel bad for them. A lot of these people do honestly think they are living through the apocalypse.

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