Story time as an opportunity to train kids

I encountered a statistic that said that dads spend about 30 sec/day on average talking to their children – probably not true, as I can’t seem to find it on the internet now, but probably not far from the truth either. Immediate search results reveal amounts between 4 min and 7 min per day.

7:30 PM used to be bedtime snack-time for our kids. I’ve switched it to bedtime clean-up time, followed by snack-time. And now snack-time doubles as story time.

Rather than use children’s books, I’ve decided to use non-fiction samples, social experiments, and thought experiments. Plus I find it fun to apply the Socratic method on my kids.

Kitty Genovese, 1964. Of course, I left much of the tragedy out of the real-life murder story. I introduced her story as a story about a kitty who was attacked and who sadly didn’t survive. I described the behavior of the attacker as a type of error of commission, in that he did something bad. I described the behavior of the bystanders as an error of omission, in that they failed to do something good. I also used the story to introduce them to social proof work, the conditions that enable social proof, and leadership during uncertainty.

The Stanford Marshmallow Test, 1960s and 1970s. I used the famous experiment to ask questions on how self-control or self-discipline might help one succeed in the long run, and how lazy might really mean sacrificing the long-term for the short-term.

A variation on a thought experiment by libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick. I didn’t remember the details of the experiment, but I did remember enough to question my kids about the meaning of fairness. My son complained about it not being fair that his 5-yr old cousin didn’t need to clean up at 1930 like he did. I asked whether she had school the next day and whether she had a reason to sleep early.

I had fun with that one. The third time around, I more quickly situated the kids to gain even more time discussing with them. Plus, “It’s not fair” is a fairly relatable comment for them.

The thought experiment goes that in a country in which you reign supreme, there exist 1,000,000 citizens who receive a fair income, by however your define fair. Matt, a famous American piano player, performs at your country’s one stadium, which can somehow handle all 1,000,000 citizens. All attend. And, all pay $1. Matt gets to keep every dollar. How much did he earn? $1,000,000. Is that fair?

My daughter said no and provided a clever reason – everyone else earns $1B, so he got shortchanged!

My son said no, because that’s more than what everyone else got. This is the typical answer I’ve heard from adults. So I ask, if it’s not fair for him to receive $1,000,000, was it somehow unfair for your citizens to give $1,000,000?

I really enjoyed watching them discuss. I then threw a wrench into their focus.

What about attractiveness?

Some of us are born attractive. Some not. Is that fair?… If it isn’t, should it be? How would you make it fair? Would that even be possible (reference to Ancient Greek mythological villain Procrustes)?

Tonight’s story time will be on Plato’s Cave.