People often find interactions with children to be problematic. Making rules for them, getting them to behave the way you want them often seems to go wrong. One problem may be the illusion that as a parent (or teacher or other adult) one has "absolute authority" or "absolute control" over what the children are going to do and how they are going to act. I've written elsewhere that this is a delusion to which corporate managers and others regularly succumb. It is very likely just as much a problem in organizations like the military. Just because you're paying them, or because they've sworn an oath, doesn't mean they have to do what you "expect them to do" or even what you tell them to do.
There's a second problem with children, and that is that they may not share the same priorities and objectives as their grown-up counterparts.
Children often don't have to worry about jobs, schedules, balancing checkbooks, and so on. My thesis is that children's main priority is "keeping the attention of the parents." This is a concept that is easy to define precisely, and to evaluate, in macromemetic terms, but may be more fuzzy otherwise. The child needs to feel a sense of memetic enlistment at all times. This means that they must feel that at all times they are able to deploy some meme (preferably from an arsenal of them) that will reliably get a reaction from the parent (12). If their memetic enlistment dips to a low ebb, panic sets in immediately.
The reason for this is simple, and it doesn't really apply to adults. Adults are "independent." Children are not. Children instinctively know that if their parents abandon them, they will have no food (either from the breast or otherwise), the wolves will come with no one to drive them off, and they will die. Examples in nature are everywhere. Little birds in the nest will "peep, peep, peep" so their parents will hurry back with food. Obviously, this also attracts predators, but the youngster knows that being abandoned by the parents equals death just as surely as a predator (1).
Don't let's quibble about this one too much. Yes, of course, children have other priorities and interests. However, nobody would be so stupid to argue that if your air supply got cut off, your interest in your favorite TV program would not at least be "suspended" until you could breathe again. There's no "oh, wait, let me just get to the next commercial break." That's nonsense. It's useful to see children as working with the same kind of priorities vis-à-vis their parents (2).
In sum, the laws of memetics apply just as well to children as to adults. One important difference is that children are typically not expected to behave a certain way under threat of jail time or deprivation of income and livelihood, as adults all are. Finally, children's lack of independence imposes on them an urgent need for strong memetic connection to caregivers, typically the parents.
The TV Time RulesA scenario easily recognized is that of getting the kids to not watch too much television. Treating them like factory workers who only have a half hour for break and then back to work, work, work is an obvious first approach. Again, there's no threat of being fired or sent to HR as a precursor to being fired (4), which kind of works to extract obedience in a factory. Children want to watch TV, and it may be kind of an addictive activity (5), but here's the kicker: a lot of their interest may be in getting the goat of their parents! If the parents impose a rule system that guarantees parental reaction (13) if the children merely do certain things (which are usually termed "misbehaving") then the children may do unintended things and this may be on the face of it hard to understand.
|fig. 1. dysfunctional TV time memeplex|
|fig 1a. TV memeplex with explicit immunomemetic linking|
|fig. 1b. New State for Parent turning off the TV|
|fig. 2. A redesigned TV memeplex|
Please check my other essay for a detailed discussion of this memeplex, but some key elements are that they parent does not have to check up on the children. The children are expected to switch off the set themselves at the appointed time, and report to the parent that it is done. Failure to do so results in possible punishment in terms of NoTV for some period (the set may be physically removed, or other such). An additional, optional, angle, taking things a step further, is the "child.chores!" or "child.be-good!" memes which must be satisfactorily performed to get the TV back (TVOff, the only state from which you can get to the "Watching" state). In other words, the parent doesn't have to do anything, and is not in the position of "giving the TV back" to the children. If the children don't want it, they don't get it, the parent can hang back. Another suggestion I make is that the punishment be drawn out of a hat, or the number of days of no TV is the roll of dice.