Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Children and the Imp of the Perverse

Just read an article at NYtimes ( about what Edgar Allen Poe called the "Imp of the Perverse." It is that strange contradictory feeling you get when standing at the edge of a cliff that you might just walk over the edge - you have to keep telling yourself not to do it (or maybe I'm just unnaturally afraid of heights).

The article quotes Daniel Wegner, a psychologist at Harvard: “There are all kinds of pitfalls in social life, everywhere we look; not just errors but worst possible errors come to mind, and they come to mind easily, and having the worst thing come to mind, in some circumstances, might increase the likelihood that it will happen.” And the author continues, "At a fundamental level, functioning socially means mastering one’s impulses. The adult brain expends at least as much energy on inhibition as on action, some studies suggest."

I've been with the kids quite a lot lately and I'm kind of tired of saying, "don't do that, stop it, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!" Well maybe for children the parent acts as the master of the children's impulses. Sounds reasonable. The fact that I must spend at least 1/2 the day saying NO to my kids, fits the statement that the ADULT brain expends as much energy on inhibition as it does on action. So I feel a little less guilty now, I'm just helping my children not die before their own brains take over the task themselves. Now, when exactly do their brains take over, and can I stop with the NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!


  1. Dean,
    According to my research and Piaget, at about 9-11 years old the child starts to really begin to do it but others say at 8 years old slef regulation is in effect. Can you guys read my comments?
    Good luck,

  2. Hi Dean,
    Cecilia and Katherine are at home with me this week and boy do I know what you're talking about. In the evening I am exhausted and after some car rides my head buzzes - and I can't get that lullaby out of my head that my kids sang all day long...