Susan Sontag's Rules for Raising Children

By: Brian Braiker
© Corbis

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 child rearing 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?

More from
Early Signs of Pregnancy
What Kids Think About Election 2012
The Danger of Smartphone Parenting