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Susan Sontag's Rules for Raising Children


Susan Sontag's diaries are remarkable documents of an evolving writer and thinker, and have been published in two volumes: Reborn: Journals & Notebooks, 1947--1963 and  As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980. It is in the first installment that we get a glimpse of Sontag that particularly resonated with us: Writing in her journal in September of 1959, a 26-year-old Susan Sontag listed her 10 rules for raising a child. 

Remembered today as a filmmaker, literary icon, and political activist, Sontag gives us a small gift with this list, which was recently blogged by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings. It is a rare glimpse of herself at the cusp of fulfilling her promise, a young mother reminding herself of what is important to her. (As a side note: the collection this list appears in was edited by her son David Rieff, so she must have done something right.) 

Here, in full, are Susan Sontag's childrearing tips – a list as touching as it is brief:

  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. Don’t allow him to monopolize me when I am with other people.
  7. Always speak well of his pop. (No faces, sighs, impatience, etc.)
  8. Do not discourage childish fantasies.
  9. Make him aware that there is a grown-up world that’s none of his business.
  10. Don’t assume that what I don’t like to do (bath, hairwash) he won’t like either.

Do you have anything to add? Let us know what you think of Susan Sontag's parenting guidelines in the comments.