It just occurred to me...


Categories: Personal


Any piece of parenting advice which starts with the phrase “Without loss of generality” will turn out to be bad parenting advice.

I welcome naturally-occurring counterexamples.

Comments [archived]

From: Dave Leppik
Date: 2010-09-20 14:24:42 -0500

Linda is right. And I think this can be applied more generally. Mathematicians are more likely to say “without loss of generality.” But, for example, a physicist might give parenting advice that starts with “assume a spherical baby in a hemispherical diaper…”

I think it’s an axiom that any parenting advice you give before you have children will come to haunt you one you have kids. It may in fact be the case that when you have n kids your advice will be proven wrong on child n+1. I was pretty good about avoiding doling out advice before becoming a parent. But the one thing I did tell a parent was that antibiotics for ear infections should be avoided— the kids will grow up fine without it, and it’s a cause of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Then I had a daughter who got horrible ear infections. Every month. It would be a human rights violation not to treat it.

Similarly, she responded to gentle discipline the way advice books say. Sure, she had tantrums and acted unruly, but not to the point where people would stare at us too much in public places. We felt a little smug about being able to tell the good parents from the bad by the tantrum and the parents’ response. But it wasn’t until we had a second child that we discovered that many “bad” parents are simply good parents who do all the right things but have been worn to a level of exhaustion where their goodness can’t be summoned any more. Not that this happened all the time, but it happened enough to make me less judgmental.

From: Linda Seebach
Date: 2010-09-17 09:47:55 -0500

None occurs to me offhand, but then, no examples occur to me either. Have you ever seen “parenting advice” that begins “without loss of generality”? Seems to me the intersection of the set of people who write parenting-advice books and the set of people who say WLOG in real life must be close to empty.

Having grown up with parents in the latter set, you may have a somewhat exaggerated view of its cardinality.

(This comment is intended to be self-referential.)

—Seebs’ Mom