How to Raise a Child: 10 Rules from Susan Sontag

Be consistent. Always speak well of his pop. Do not discourage childish fantasies.

The second volume of Susan Sontag's diaries, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980, gave us the celebrated author and thinker's insights on love, writing, censorship, and aphorisms. However, it was in the first installment, Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 (public library), that the beloved public intellectual coalesces out of a shaky young woman grappling with her place in relation to the world and herself -- as we've already seen in her 1957 list of "rules + duties for being 24″.

Two years later, in September of 1959, Sontag lists her 10 rules for raising a child. (Their object, Sontag's son David Rieff, edited this very volume.) Underpinning them is a subtle but palpable reverence for the precious gift of "childishness" -- something Ted Hughes has spoken to with such stirring eloquence

sontag_david.jpg
Image via The Telegraph
  1. Be consistent.
  2. Don't speak about him to others (e.g., tell funny things) in his presence. (Don't make him self-conscious.)
  3. Don't praise him for something I wouldn't always accept as good.
  4. Don't reprimand him harshly for something he's been allowed to do.
  5. Daily routine: eating, homework, bath, teeth, room, story, bed.
  6. sontag_reborn.jpg
  7. Don't allow him to monopolize me when I am with other people.
  8. Always speak well of his pop. (No faces, sighs, impatience, etc.)
  9. Do not discourage childish fantasies.
  10. Make him aware that there is a grown-up world that's none of his business.
  11. Don't assume that what I don't like to do (bath, hairwash) he won't like either.



This post also appears on Brain Pickings, an Atlantic partner site.

Presented by

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

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