Parenting and ‘special’ children


in Ottawa, Psychology, Writing

My friend Ann had an essay on parenting published in The Globe and Mail today: “My kid isn’t special, and neither is yours“.

She raises some interesting points about the expectations of parents, as well as the ways in which it is challenging to think objectively about your own child.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan March 15, 2011 at 3:29 pm

A society in which parents don’t see their children as “special” is a culture on the decline. The valuation of motherhood and child-bearing is required to convince people to reproduce at a sustanence or growing rate.

There is, however another good reason to think your child is special. This is simply: they probably arn’t normal, and if you don’t assume they are special, you’ll probably fail to notice when they aren’t normal because we don’t notice things when we don’t direct our attention towards them. And moreover, no child is “perfectly normal”, since normal is a distribution rather than a standard. If your child lies outside the first standard deviation of distribution on any major traits, you’d better try to push them into the average or they will have a hard time socializing and becoming happy productive members of society. For instance, if your child is far more agressive than normal, you should try to edge their behavi0r into the normal range. Or, if your child is radically passive, you should probably get a dog or something to toughen them up, or they’ll have a lot of trouble dealing with the difficulties of the world.

Parents that don’t recognize their children as special, and pay attention to all the specific ways in which they are distinctive, are going to have a hard time acting as a loving proxy between their child and the larger social enviroment. And parents who fail at that, fail at parenting.

Arguing that your child is “objective not special” is as rediculous as arguing that “objetively your tax return is just a piece of paper made of atoms”; it is technically true, and if you make it the basis of practical decisions bad things will happen.

Tristan March 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm


Your blog is advertising
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I don’t know if you have any control over this, but I find it offensive and sexist. And I’m not even a girl.

Matt March 15, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I find it offensive and sexist.


Tristan March 15, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Because it encouraging teenage girls to participate in beauty rituals that produce female bodies as objects of sexual attraction for me, and suggests that this activity itself “is fun”. Would you write a blog post encouraging teen girls to shave their legs? What’s the difference between that and displaying advertising that shows the same?

Milan March 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm

I have no personal objection to people choosing to shave (both men and women) or to companies trying to sell razors.

Google ads are partly tailored to you based on your search history. If you don’t like them, I encourage you to use AdBlock.

Matt March 15, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Because it encouraging teenage girls to participate in beauty rituals that produce female bodies as objects of sexual attraction

But female bodies are objects of sexual attraction to people who are sexually attracted to women (similarly, male bodies are objects of sexual attraction to people who like men).

That fact doesn’t need to imply that females are only useful as objects of sexual attraction, which is what would be objectionable.

ann September 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm


Late to this discussion, but your comments made me laugh. I have to ask: did you actually read the article before commenting?

“My child is special to me, of course. But how could he possibly be special in the vastness of life? Why should he be better than any other little one? Unique, yes. Loveable, yes. But special?”

A distinction was being drawn between unique and “special” as in superior.

If/when you become a practitioner of parenting, instead of an acedemic commentator, you might notice that comments about what constitutes a ‘failure of parenting’ are a dime a dozen. They tend to not improve parenting outcomes. I think our ability to launch these criticisms on parents (without ever having to wake up seven times at night to comfort the child, wash puree off the walls, or in anyway understand the context in which a parent is parenting) is itself possibly an indicator of “a culture in decline”.

Anytime you ‘d like to come over and help with all that shaping of the next generation, you’d be more than welcome.

oleh September 28, 2011 at 4:05 am

I wonder how much of the desire that our child is “special” is rooted in the desire and pressure that we are “special” parents. Children have various influences that determine how they grow up, including their own genetic makeup. We see how different children of the same parents can be. Letting go of a belief that our children is entirely who they are based on their parents provides that child the freedom to be who they will be. And freedom for the parent as well.

Ann, thanks for your article.

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