Judge John Hodgman Episode 59: Spare the Hodg, Spoil the Child


Gail brings this case against her sister Aimee. Gail believes she and her nephew Ray are similarly sensitive kindred spirits. As a loving aunt, she thinks she should be able to comfort Ray when he's upset, even over rule-breaking, and help him handle his feelings. Her sister Aimee believes Gail is unnecessarily coddling Ray and encouraging him to become an overly emotional child. Who is right? Only Judge John Hodgman can decide!



Submitted by Gail



Mom needs a LOT of therapy. She's got some major emotional issues. But it sounds like both mother and aunt are equally uncomfortable with the child's emotions, and trying to make them go away in different ways.
Mom, you don't want to validate his emotions? SERIOUSLY?? Why so terrified of feelings? You must be feeling really badly deep down.
So then I hope that instead of starting a college fund, you should do him a favor and start a therapy fund.
Great advice, Judge!


Amy needs to get real about the differences between not only a boy and a man, but a toddler and a boy. Her expectations are not at all age appropriate, though I'm sure she means well.
I would also challenge the idea that a 3 year old (or anyone, for that matter) needs to "deal with" emotions. That usually means "suppress". Emotions don't need to be "dealt with", they need to be experienced so the person can move on and not keep re-experiencing them. As a mother it's her job to show effective, and not destructive, ways of expressing and experiencing feelings. Too many people, out of their own discomfort, morph that into lessons on how to shut off feelings and dismiss some as "bad" or unacceptable.
This idea that we have to stifle the emotions of boys, that they don't need comfort as much as girls is antiquated nonsense. Boys (and the men they will become) have human emotions just like girls and women. It's incredibly damaging to them, and to society as a whole, when we keep insisting that they don't. I'm a clinical social worker who works with children and families all the time. I know from whence I speak. While Gail shouldn't treat him like a "bay-bay", I think her instincts are more on target than Amy's in this instance. Perhaps both women need to move more toward the middle ground of this dispute.
It seems Amy's approach to what is Ok and what's not OK is a recapitulation of old and arbitrary notions based more on what makes adults comfortable (and on gender-stereotyping) than on what is best for the child, that she has uncritically adopted. It's disturbing to hear her interpreting her son's feelings as "manipulative". That's really sad. Maybe she would have been better off with more affection and emotional support when she was a child. . . who knows. And for crying out loud, the more "puddin'" the better. Good god, man--is nothing sacred? Great podcast, as always.



Well handled!

Great episode, and thanks for your sensitive dispensation of parenting advice, Your Honor! As a parent, I was having all sorts of reactions throughout the episode, but once again Judge John Hodgman came through with a great recommendation.