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A while back, I asked this question about whether I should allow my child to participate in dangerous sports and when they may be able to assess risk.

Originally, this answer contained a description of a young man being injured by being gored by a bull, along with a fairly graphic image.

At the time, I saw this as unnecessary and probably off-topic (as it doesn't answer my question) but the answer finishes (quite fairly) with a paragraph questioning my reasoning:

But for a parent to actually encourage a dangerous activity? I just don't see it. There are plenty of fun things to do which are less harmful.

So, at the time I thought it would be most constructive if I just added a comment explaining what kind of activities were relevant and why I was considering them:

I'd probably differentiate between bull running (which I see just as a "dare" activity, with no real skill or training required) and competitive sports. Yes, the sports you've listed can be dangerous - but they also teach a lot. (American) Football, for instance, teaches teamwork, leadership, bravery, commitment and physical fitness. Less "harmful" activities can cover most of that - but lack the element of risk and "face your fears" experience that I want my son to learn, to make a "man" out of him.

The response I got was as follows:

I don't think football teaches a boy to be a man, but I suppose it depends on your definition of a "man". I would prefer my son to be a "mensch" than that kind of "man". But your son is your responsibility, not mine.

To me, this came across as slightly insulting, with negative connotations around "that kind of man" and the snark in "But your son is your responsibility, not mine.".

My response was to clarify my meaning and explain the values I was attempting to instil in my child:

"Well rounded adult" was what I meant (I had to look up "mensch" - its not in my daily vocabulary). I want all of my children to learn a sense of grit and determination, to keep pushing when things get tough. The ability required to keep trying when you're tired / exhausted, possibly in pain (and possibly losing) takes character. IMHO, too many parents avoid exposing their children to life's difficulties - and they raise weak spirited, "meh" generation adults as a result. True, kindness and wisdom are (to me) more important - but not everything. I'd want to raise a child that keeps trying too.

Met with no reply, I asked directly:

@anongoodnurse 'I would prefer my son to be a "mensch" than that kind of "man".' Why do you consider the two to be mutually exclusive?

Then, yesterday, after editing the answer to remove the portion, I finally got this response:

@Mikaveli - Usually, yes, they are mutually exclusive.

Again, not very constructive to me. I also felt this to be somewhat of an attack - as the answerer knows that I place value in the participation of those sports - and this comment basically implies you can't do that and be a good person (mensch).

So, firstly was editing the answer a correct course of action?

Secondly (and more important to me), do those comments violate our community standards / "be nice" policy? They don't contain any direct attacks or abusive language, but I feel they're purely opinion, very judgemental and deliberately insulting.

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  • Met with no reply, I asked directly: [comment] -- Can you clarify the reason that you felt a reply was important? – Acire Sep 17 '15 at 13:11
  • Because I wanted to determine whether they were actually trying to be helpful or just trolling. – Michael Sep 17 '15 at 13:13
  • Something like I don't feel like your answer is really trying to be helpful or understand my parenting approach might have accomplished the goal better, rather than continuing the debate. – Acire Sep 17 '15 at 13:19
  • Up to that comment, I was not attempting to debate anything - just to add the information requested in the answer. – Michael Sep 17 '15 at 13:23
  • I understand; I'm just noting that there's where it seems to have really veered off the rails :) – Acire Sep 17 '15 at 13:26
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    Maybe, but I consider it a fairly balanced response to the perception of someone trying to cause upset? Instead of throwing mud back I just sought to understand their rationale. – Michael Sep 17 '15 at 13:29
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    I don't know you; you're still new here. But I really think you're blowing this way out of proportion (as a user. I'll let others moderate on this question.) I had (and have) no anger or much feeling one way or the other here. I expressed my feelings in my answer. See comment below @Erica's answer. – anongoodnurse Sep 17 '15 at 20:02
  • The only thing wrong with your answer (IMHO) is that it veered off-topic. But I don't think your comments were constructive or helpful. – Michael Sep 17 '15 at 21:44
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I see three problems here.

The first is that the title and the question body are slightly at odds.

People have a tendency to put heavy emphasis on the title, even when the body of the question provides clarification that changes the focus from what the first impression might be. In your case, the title was "Should I allow my son...", but the focus of your question seems to be more "When should I...".

This is further muddled within the body of your question, where you do digress into what other parents consider "acceptable risk", which seems to be trying to quantify how much danger is okay. This strikes me as far too subjective to be valid for our site (which was mentioned in comments).

This leads to the second problem:

The answer in question doesn't really answer the question. Instead, it actually disputes a major part of the the asker's fundamental premise.

Q: "When should I allow my son to do stuff like this?"

A: "As a parent, I would never encourage my kids to engage in motocross, American football, race car driving, boxing, or other dangerous activities."

In my opinion, the answer was not appropriate (although this is pretty subjective, given how the question muddled "when" with "what is the line over which something becomes 'too dangerous'?"). The use of shock imagery took the inappropriateness further.

The third problem is that the comment discussion occurred in the first place. The OP's initial comment probably would have been better as an edit, yes, but I don't see anything wrong with it aside from in a comment not being the best venue.

While I'm sure Anongoodnurse wasn't upset or feeling angry, her response could very well be interpreted as snarky (and, in fact, it was interpreted that way) regardless of her intent.

Its very tempting to engage in comment discussion like this, but it is rarely, if ever, productive. Learning to let comments go, rather than responding at all, on topics where I personally felt that the other person was making a parenting choice I couldn't condone, was one of the hardest things for me to learn as a moderator, but it is also one of the most important.

I'm sorry to chime in so late on this, but I feel that this sort of interaction is exactly why we spent so much time establishing that disagreeing with the premise of a question is something to be avoided as much as possible.

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  • Thank you for this answer. I fully accept the points you make about the question and my comments - I'll keep your advice in mind going forwards. – Michael Sep 22 '15 at 13:12
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I was actually thinking last night as I was falling asleep that I should take a good look at this answer and comments first thing in the morning and try to clean it up and sort it out, largely by deleting that exchange of comments. It is messy, distracting, and not conducive to either participant reaching an understanding. In the meantime, this meta question happened.


So, firstly was editing the answer a correct course of action?

Editing to improve the topicality of an answer and better focus its content is fine.

I will note that I'm slightly skeptical when the asker substantially edits answers to their own Question. I don't intend to actively discourage it or imply it's inappropriate, I just give it a bit more scrutiny than I otherwise might. A downvote/comment may be the better route.

In this case, however, the edit preserved the central message of the answer.

  • TL;DR: Sure.

Secondly ... do those comments violate our community standards / "be nice" policy? They don't contain any direct attacks or abusive language, but I feel they're purely opinion, very judgemental and deliberately insulting.

"Purely opinion" isn't a problem (Parenting.SE is opinion-heavy anyway). "Judgmental" and "insulting" are. After a certain point, those comments weren't productive and it was clearly getting heated.

However, this was not a one-sided problem. There is a mechanism for dealing with problem comments: flags. The same system is mentioned elsewhere (the "be nice" policy) as the appropriate way to handle bad interactions:

If you see a hostile interaction, flag it. If it keeps up, disengage — we'll handle it. If something needs staff attention, you can use the contact us link at the bottom of every page.

That isn't really what happened here. One participant disengaged (not replying to your expanded outline of your parenting philosophy), but you asked for more dialogue, to find out if the answer was "actually trying to be helpful or just trolling."

Again from "be nice":

assume good intentions

Seriously: A high-rep user who's also a moderator doesn't troll. Disagrees with users, makes choices you don't like, has beliefs you dispute? Sure, that can happen. Troll? No.

If you truly believe a user (any user, regardless of reputation) is communicating aggressively, disrespectfully, in bad faith (trolling): flag it and step away. Our mod team does handle flags against other mods, but if you have no faith that will be balanced, then pull in a community manager.

Arguing in comments simply isn't productive, beyond "being not nice". It's difficult to respectfully and accurately convey complex opinions in the space limit that comments provide, not to mention a ripe potential for misunderstanding. If you want to know what somebody really meant, try chat. I have seen very positive interactions between users when they take their disagreement or misunderstanding into chat, where there's a more unlimited structure (and space!) for really examining the issues in a balanced fashion. (Note that chat is also moderated for content, so flagging can happen there as well if you feel that an interaction is hostile, disrespectful, etc.)

  • TL;DR: That exchange could have been handled better all around. The comments will be cleaned up.
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