This is a series of post on Jordan Peterson’s book ‘12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’. It has become popular and it is important to understand why it is appealing to this generation and how it is different from the Gospel. Each post will be on a specific chapter or section of the book and the hope is that we can engage in conversation over these matters. I hope to represent his thought accurately - but due to being human may not always do so.
Summary Chapter 5
Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
As a parent, your job is to be a merciful proxy of the world to your child so that they can learn how to be successful citizens and members of society. You must learn how this small person reacts to discipline and then do so effectively and mercifully. Otherwise, you are turning over that responsibility to a harsh and cruel world and that should never be mistaken for love. Rules and boundaries help children to be creative, to feel secure and to be successful in their future lives. Children who grow up without these boundaries have a higher chance of ending up socially isolated or delinquent. To say ‘No’ to a child requires punishment - no authority, governmental or otherwise, has any meaning unless transgressing the law comes with real consequences.
Children must be shaped and informed, or they cannot thrive.
Why are these ideas appealing?
What do you think? Why do you think people are attracted to these ideas?
I believe these ideas in this chapter are appealing because many of them are refreshingly true and actually obvious to anyone who has observed a child that has not been properly taught.
Critique of Chapter 5
I think that Peterson strikes very near the truth in this chapter. Admittedly, his ideas are rooted in the child’s need for survival and a desire to see them thrive rather than the Biblical aim that they might walk with the Lord. But the main thrust of the chapter is not ‘why’ we should mold and discipline children, but that rules and discipline are necessary. And on that point, there is much agreement.
In the Scriptures, we see repeatedly that a wise person delights in discipline, even though it is not pleasant at the time. God disciplines His children, that they might learn to be citizens of His Kingdom. I have included a discussion on teach children religion that I believe is directly relevant (the links within that discussion are also relevant).
Proverbs 3:11-12 - My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
Proverbs 13:24 - Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Hebrews 12:11 - For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Ephesians 6:4 - Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Proverbs 29:15 - The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
Proverbs 12:1 - Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.
Proverbs 13:1 - A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
Exodus 20:12 - “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
What are your thoughts?
What is your response to this chapter? What are your thoughts?
Quotes from Chapter 5
More thoughtful parents would not have let someone they truly cared for become the object of a crowd’s contempt.
No matter how good your intentions, or how sweet and tolerant your temperament, you will not maintain good relations with someone you fight with for a month and a half of work weeks per year. Resentment will inevitably build. Even if it doesn’t, all that wasted, unpleasant time could clearly be spent in more productive and useful and less stressful and more enjoyable activity. (regarding fighting with child or family member)
If society is corrupt, but not the individuals within it, then where did the corruption originate? How is it propagated? It’s a one-sided, deeply ideological theory.
Thus, altering our ways of social being carelessly in the name of some ideological shibboleth (diversity springs to mind) is likely to produce far more trouble than good, given the suffering that even small revolutions generally produce.
Was it really a good thing, for example, to so dramatically liberalize the divorce laws in the 1960s? It’s not clear to me that the children whose lives were destabilized by the hypothetical freedom this attempt at liberation introduced would say so. Horror and terror lurk behind the walls provided so wisely by our ancestors. We tear them down at our peril. We skate, unconsciously, on thin ice, with deep, cold waters below, where unimaginable monsters lurk.
But human beings are evil, as well as good, and the darkness that dwells forever in our souls is also there in no small part in our younger selves. In general, people improve with age, rather than worsening, becoming kinder, more conscientious, and more emotionally stable as they mature.
William Golding’s dark and anarchistic Lord of the Flies is a classic for a reason. Furthermore, there is plenty of direct evidence that the horrors of human behaviour cannot be so easily attributed to history and society.
Even dogs must be socialized if they are to become acceptable members of the pack—and children are much more complex than dogs. This means that they are much more likely to go complexly astray if they are not trained, disciplined and properly encouraged. This means that it is not just wrong to attribute all the violent tendencies of human beings to the pathologies of social structure. It’s wrong enough to be virtually backward.
Children must be shaped and informed, or they cannot thrive.
They want their children’s friendship above all, and are willing to sacrifice respect to get it. This is not good. A child will have many friends, but only two parents—if that—and parents are more, not less, than friends. Friends have very limited authority to correct.
We assume that rules will irremediably inhibit what would otherwise be the boundless and intrinsic creativity of our children, even though the scientific literature clearly indicates, first, that creativity beyond the trivial is shockingly rare96 and, second, that strict limitations facilitate rather than inhibit creative achievement.
Observing the consequences of teasing and taunting enables chimp and child alike to discover the limits of what might otherwise be a too-unstructured and terrifying freedom. Such limits, when discovered, provide security, even if their detection causes momentary disappointment or frustration.
Infants are like blind people, searching for a wall. They have to push forward, and test, to see where the actual boundaries lie
If I can hurt and overpower you, then I can do exactly what I want, when I want, even when you’re around. I can torment you, to appease my curiosity. I can take the attention away from you, and dominate you. I can steal your toy. Children hit first because aggression is innate, although more dominant in some individuals and less in others, and, second, because aggression facilitates desire. It’s foolish to assume that such behaviour must be learned.
There is just no talking to parents about their children—until they are ready to listen.
To unthinkingly parrot the magic line “There is no excuse for physical punishment” is also to foster the delusion that teenage devils magically emerge from once-innocent little child-angels. You’re not doing your child any favors by overlooking any misbehavior (particularly if he or she is temperamentally more aggressive).
Part of establishing a relationship with your son or daughter is learning how that small person responds to disciplinary intervention—and then intervening effectively.
Here’s a fifth and final and most general principle. Parents have a duty to act as proxies for the real world—merciful proxies, caring proxies—but proxies, nonetheless. This obligation supersedes any responsibility to ensure happiness, foster creativity, or boost self-esteem. It is the primary duty of parents to make their children socially desirable.
Clear rules and proper discipline help the child, and the family, and society, establish, maintain and expand the order that is all that protects us from chaos and the terrors of the underworld, where everything is uncertain, anxiety-provoking, hopeless and depressing.