Let's Get All Emotional: Childhood as Investment and Consumption

At Applied Statistics: a thread on whether it's good if you spank your children. Unsurprisingly, this is discussed exclusively with regard to what effect the spanking might have on the children's development. It's always the same: whether the topic is foreign languages in kindergarten, school choice or whether you should make your child learn a musical instrument, the focus is almost always what long-term effects this is going to have on a child's development. Hardly anyone ever seems to ask about short-term effects.

Anecdote time: I got hit by my parents a few times when I was a child. The way I remember it, the physical pain was nothing to speak of, but the demonstration of the power differential and the feelings of humiliation were excruciating. When I was in first grade, I once pissed my pants while in class (i.e., in front of all of my most important peers), and that was nothing in comparison. Never mind what the getting hit did to me in the long run. It was fucking painful in the short run. I'd rather have my hand smashed by a sledgehammer than experience those emotions again, and I'm not being hyperbolic.

The short run: If you make your child learn how to play the piano, will she enjoy it? Is she more likely to be bullied in school A or B? When you read to her, does she look bored? Hardly anybody seems to ask these questions, because they see children only as potentials. But children are people, too! With preferences and feelings, just like you. To use the seemingly cold and technocratic terms of economics: Childhood shouldn't be all about investment. It should also be about consumption.

A good argument against hitting children: You're hurting them.

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