EconTalk — Bryan Caplan

On: Parenting

Episode: N/A

Date: May 2011

Background: Economist and author of “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids”.

Key Subjects:

  • Parents have very little effect on long-run outcomes of how their kids turn out.
    • There is a short-term impact on kids’ behavior, but the influence fades.
  • So, it’s okay to cut back on some of the parental investments.
    • Stop pushing your kids so hard and focus on doing things you and your kids enjoy.
  • Also, have more kids.
    • Once you take out some of the unpleasantness, kids are “cheaper” than you think.
  • It may be difficult for parents to cut back on investing in their kids.
    • Parents want kids to do well in the short-run (also elevates the status of the parents).
  • Most meaningful parenting effect: how kids feel about and remember parents.
    • Irony: parents that push kids hard have little long-term impact other than a bad relationship with the child.
  • Kindness and respect.
    • Doesn’t matter if you are a child or an adult, like to be treated with kindness and respect.
    • As a parent, show how good one human being can be to another.
    • Unconditional love is not the same as pampering (cater to all their needs).
    • Do what is best for the child in the long run.
  • Discipline.
    • Kids should treat parents with respect as well…
    • Discipline is not about imposing your will.
      • Naïeve to believe that you can change your kid.
      • Doesn’t work with anyone else, spouse, etc.
    • Clear, consistent, mild.
  • Safety.
    • World is safer, parents should worry less.
  • Economics.
    • The most important difference between today and the world 200 years ago is ideas.
    • The reason why we are richer today than in the past is we now know more than we used to.
    • Important that this flow of ideas keeps coming.
    • New people = new ideas.
    • Also, new people = new consumers (of new ideas).
  • Advise:
    • Get more sleep:
      • Ferber method.
    • Clear, consistent, mild discipline:
      • Make your kids decent roommates today.
    • Less activities:
      • If parent doesn’t like it and kid doesn’t like it, scrap the activity.
    • Less supervision:
      • Kids don’t need as much supervision as parents think they do.
      • Kids never complain about parents not spending enough time with them.

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