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Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think

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We've needlessly turned parenting into an unpleasant chore. Parents invest more time and money in their kids than ever, but the shocking lesson of twin and adoption research is that upbringing is much less important than genetics in the long run. These revelations have surprising implications for how we parent and how we spend time with our kids. The big lesson: Mold your We've needlessly turned parenting into an unpleasant chore. Parents invest more time and money in their kids than ever, but the shocking lesson of twin and adoption research is that upbringing is much less important than genetics in the long run. These revelations have surprising implications for how we parent and how we spend time with our kids. The big lesson: Mold your kids less and enjoy your life more. Your kids will still turn out fine.Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids is a book of practical big ideas. How can parents be happier? What can they change--and what do they need to just accept? Which of their worries can parents safely forget? Above all, what is the right number of kids for you to have? You'll never see kids or parenthood the same way again.


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We've needlessly turned parenting into an unpleasant chore. Parents invest more time and money in their kids than ever, but the shocking lesson of twin and adoption research is that upbringing is much less important than genetics in the long run. These revelations have surprising implications for how we parent and how we spend time with our kids. The big lesson: Mold your We've needlessly turned parenting into an unpleasant chore. Parents invest more time and money in their kids than ever, but the shocking lesson of twin and adoption research is that upbringing is much less important than genetics in the long run. These revelations have surprising implications for how we parent and how we spend time with our kids. The big lesson: Mold your kids less and enjoy your life more. Your kids will still turn out fine.Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids is a book of practical big ideas. How can parents be happier? What can they change--and what do they need to just accept? Which of their worries can parents safely forget? Above all, what is the right number of kids for you to have? You'll never see kids or parenthood the same way again.

30 review for Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lily

    This is a bad book. To summarize the author's point is this message - it doesn't matter what you do as a parent. The kids will grow up the way nature intended them to grow and nothing you do has any influence. So why bother? You, the parent, can just relax and stop investing all this time and energy in raising your kids. That way, you can have more kids. Its not a problem at all to put them in front of TV, feed them take-out food, and do whatever makes your life more convenient. Nothing you do m This is a bad book. To summarize the author's point is this message - it doesn't matter what you do as a parent. The kids will grow up the way nature intended them to grow and nothing you do has any influence. So why bother? You, the parent, can just relax and stop investing all this time and energy in raising your kids. That way, you can have more kids. Its not a problem at all to put them in front of TV, feed them take-out food, and do whatever makes your life more convenient. Nothing you do matters. Other dubious points he makes are that having more people is actually good for the Earth cause, you know, actually resources are getting cheaper (excuse me?). And the more people are there the more advances in technology we have, like iPhone and genetically modified crops. Genetically modified crops as a benefit?!? Well, he lost me there. I thought GMOs are the ultimate evil... I am sorry, but doesn't matter how much research this fellow will show me, nothing would convince me that my efforts as a parent don't matter at all. I don't care what the research says. I don't. Research is all about who pays for it, who designs it, who picks the subjects, who interprets it, who lets it be published. Research is not the replacement of common sense. At least not for me. And I know what he says, based on these researches is just wrong. I am sure parents *do* have an impact. And not just a superficial one, the way he says. Also, it kind of bothers me that he is a guy, a man, not a woman, making this point. Cause whether we like it or not, women are usually the ones that need to make the most sacrifices when raising children, starting from pregnancy and birth, to hormonal shifts, to sleepless nights, nursing, childcare, career sacrifices, housework and more. So it may be easy for this guy to preach to have more children as a theoretical intellectual exercise. And this is what this book is for me - an intellectual exercise. Cannot wait to get rid of this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eduardo Santiago

    I'm a save-the-planet kind of guy: the way I show my children my love is by not bringing them into this world. So why in blazes would I read this book? Two reasons: 1) I respect Caplan based on his Myth of the Rational Voter, and 2) fuck confirmation bias. To my surprise, I enjoyed and learned from this book. Caplan's main point, as others have mentioned, is “don't sweat it”. To a large extent, you don't have that much say in how your kids turn out: in the unsolvable nature/nurture debate, he pre I'm a save-the-planet kind of guy: the way I show my children my love is by not bringing them into this world. So why in blazes would I read this book? Two reasons: 1) I respect Caplan based on his Myth of the Rational Voter, and 2) fuck confirmation bias. To my surprise, I enjoyed and learned from this book. Caplan's main point, as others have mentioned, is “don't sweat it”. To a large extent, you don't have that much say in how your kids turn out: in the unsolvable nature/nurture debate, he presents evidence that nature accounts for more than we like to think. So if you're holding off at one child because you want to devote all your resources to him/her, Caplan's message is: quit being a superparent. It's your genes that will make the kid. The uncomfortable corollary here is that it's easy to read Caplan's message as “psssst, hey upper-class educated first-world people, the Others are outbreeding us. If you have good genes, do your part.” I can think of no believable way for Caplan to deny this, because he has to deny it. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, but still minus one star. Minus one star for its obvious daddy perspective: does the mother of his children feel the same way? Her voice isn't even hinted at. Would she feel the same way if they were divorced, if she were struggling to work while raising them? In the long run there are many yeses to this question, but it's irresponsible not to address it. Minus one star for the cutesy fake dialogs; I found them too annoying to read. Minus one for its length: I would have found it more effective at half or two-thirds the length. Minus one for its focus on the joys of grandparenthood: that's a perspective he can only theorize about. Despite all the minus stars... four total. For making me think, and especially for getting me to rethink some assumptions. This is a worthwhile book, well written, worthy of conversation.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Justus

    Interesting but not quite interesting enough. Some good ideas with lots of horrible flaws. This book is a mishmash. It also feels like one of those Atlantic articles that gets blown up to book length and suffers for it. The subtitle tells you exactly what Caplan is going to attempt to convince you of. Unfortunately he does a pretty poor job. His basic thesis is essentially "parents in modern, middle class American spend too much time on 'child rearing'." His primary argument to convince you of th Interesting but not quite interesting enough. Some good ideas with lots of horrible flaws. This book is a mishmash. It also feels like one of those Atlantic articles that gets blown up to book length and suffers for it. The subtitle tells you exactly what Caplan is going to attempt to convince you of. Unfortunately he does a pretty poor job. His basic thesis is essentially "parents in modern, middle class American spend too much time on 'child rearing'." His primary argument to convince you of these are a slew of "twin studies" which show that, over the long haul, genetics trumps parenting in every category that parents care about. I think you'd have to be silly to dismiss the findings of twin studies. There's no real basis to do so other than you don't like the conclusions that science has so far provided. I am deeply sympathetic to the argument he puts forward in the first 1/3 or so of the book: the world is safer than we think and children don't require constant helicopter parenting to turn out just fine. But there's a huge leap from that to Caplan's real argument of "have more kids". And to get there he deploys a ridiculous amount of shoddy reasoning. I made notes along the way of objectionable things he said but I think his argument fails to convince me for two reasons: - Okay, being a parent is less work than I think. How much less? Enough less than having more kids is worth it? He deploys the analogy of finding something on sale at the store and buying more of it. But if I see something is 20% off I don't immediately buy two of them. When Toyota has a summer special that knocks $5,000 off the price of a car I don't buy two of them. And how much less work is it? 5%? 10%? 60%? - He doesn't even really try to convince you that being a parent is more fun than you think. His entire argument seems to be "being a grandparent is awesome and having lots of kids ensures that you will be a grandparent." That's it, as far I can tell. Also, wtf was up with that chapter about IVF and cloning? The final Socratic dialogues are just rehashing (sometimes nearly verbatim) earlier passages and arguments.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    This book is great. Some reviewers disparage it saying that it claims that parenting efforts are meaningless and that kids will grow up according to the dictates of their genes. This is not the author's argument. He argues (with adequate support) that EXCESSIVE parenting efforts are meaningless. The advanced preschools, all the music lessons, all the sports teams, and all the extracurricular activities that require so much time and commitment detract from your ability to enjoy your children and This book is great. Some reviewers disparage it saying that it claims that parenting efforts are meaningless and that kids will grow up according to the dictates of their genes. This is not the author's argument. He argues (with adequate support) that EXCESSIVE parenting efforts are meaningless. The advanced preschools, all the music lessons, all the sports teams, and all the extracurricular activities that require so much time and commitment detract from your ability to enjoy your children and their ability to enjoy their childhood. All the over the top lengths parents go to to give their children every possible advantage doesn't really give them any advantage at all.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne

    This book has changed my life. I think the title is unfortunate because it can give people the wrong idea, but I’m glad I saw past that misnomer. It came at just the right time, too. I have recently been thinking a lot about all the parenting books I’ve read and wondering just how effective their techniques really are. I mean, if “effective” means that they work to change the targeted behavior, then I would say most techniques that make it into a published book probably fit the bill. But I’ve fo This book has changed my life. I think the title is unfortunate because it can give people the wrong idea, but I’m glad I saw past that misnomer. It came at just the right time, too. I have recently been thinking a lot about all the parenting books I’ve read and wondering just how effective their techniques really are. I mean, if “effective” means that they work to change the targeted behavior, then I would say most techniques that make it into a published book probably fit the bill. But I’ve found myself wondering about the long-term outcomes of these things. Do they even make a difference in the long run? My main concerns are about long-term behavior outcomes as well as the long-term effects of these things on my kids’ relationships with me. (You know, am I going to elicit compliance now, only to have my kids resent my later?) This book has helped me answer those questions. Caplan uses twin and adoption research to make his argument that parents are “charging” themselves too much for the “commodity” that is children. If we stopped wasting energy trying to control our kids’ development in areas where we really don’t have much influence, we would have the energy to happily and effectively raise more children (which would actually feel like a good and enjoyable thing if we weren't overextending ourselves). Basically, twin and adoption research shows that parenting has very little, if any, effect on what our children become. Adopted children resemble their adoptive families when they’re little, but the older they get, the more they become like their biological families, whom they’ve never met. Identical twins raised separately are far more similar to each other than they are to their adoptive siblings. Caplan sums it up best with this analogy: “Instead of thinking of children as lumps of clay for parents to mold, we should think of them as plastic that flexes in response to pressure—and pops back to its original shape once the pressure is released.” With this knowledge in hand, I’ve been able to let go of some of the exhausting techniques intended to mold my kids into something and instill habits that apparently won’t stick anyway, and instead just ENJOY them. They’re going to be who they’re going to be (barring extremes like abuse or neglect, of course) so why bust my hump trying to make them something they’re not? Obviously, we have to teach our kids to be respectful and responsible but most of that is taught through example. I just love this book for lifting a foolish burden that I placed on my shoulders when my daughter was born four years ago. I'm so much happier as a parent, AND my daughter is better-behaved. Go figure. Perhaps it's because I'm not up in her business all day, trying to mold and shape her? All that said, I didn’t care for the dialogues in the last section of the book. I ended up skipping them because they were kind of awkward to read and they just reiterated what was already said. So the book could have been significantly shorter. Even so, best parenting book ever. I wish I had read this one first. ***To the reviewer who refuses to believe the research, I think it's important to realize that these studies focus on overall character traits. And the truth is that as parents, we aren't going to change our children's core character traits. But I don't think that means that parents don't make any difference at all. Lots of things are learned. Take racism or other forms of prejudice--those aren't attitudes that people are just born with. They're learned. Which means tolerance is learned as well. As parents, we can still do a lot of good, but most of the good we can do is pretty much done before our kids are even conceived. If you're a decent, tolerant, polite person, odds are good your kids will be, too.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Heller

    I heard Bryan Caplan on the Freakonomics podcast and knew I had to read this book. He posits that, contrary to modern popular opinion, it is actually pretty fun to have kids, and it's more important in the long run to be nice to yourself and your kids (which includes making sure they behave themselves so they don't make you miserable) than to inflict a lot "for your own good" activities and rules. This is based on a body of twin adoption studies, and suggests that in the long run, nurture genera I heard Bryan Caplan on the Freakonomics podcast and knew I had to read this book. He posits that, contrary to modern popular opinion, it is actually pretty fun to have kids, and it's more important in the long run to be nice to yourself and your kids (which includes making sure they behave themselves so they don't make you miserable) than to inflict a lot "for your own good" activities and rules. This is based on a body of twin adoption studies, and suggests that in the long run, nurture generally has less of an effect than nature--*assuming* that you are in a middle class family in a developed country with good health. Basically, if an adoption agency would likely consider you as a potential parent, and your kids are in good health, they will be fine even if you aren't Amy Chua or her ilk. You likely have some questions about his conclusions and methods, and so he includes a panel discussion with critics that covers that ground and admits areas where reasonable people might disagree. But I still think it's worth a read--if nothing else, shows the data that "parents are less happy" and "women hate taking care of their kids" tropes are based on are not as dramatic as the media portrays them.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    While I was looking to be persuaded that having more kids would be a great idea, I found Bryan Caplan's arguments and the scientific research he uses to back them up to be unconvincing. I am not schooled in statistical interpretation or in genetic research, but I looked at the numbers he presents as proof that nature completely overrides nurture and parenting has absolutely no effect, and I came up with somewhat different conclusions, from the exact same numbers. Although it also seemed to me th While I was looking to be persuaded that having more kids would be a great idea, I found Bryan Caplan's arguments and the scientific research he uses to back them up to be unconvincing. I am not schooled in statistical interpretation or in genetic research, but I looked at the numbers he presents as proof that nature completely overrides nurture and parenting has absolutely no effect, and I came up with somewhat different conclusions, from the exact same numbers. Although it also seemed to me that nurture has less of an effect than parents assume (so why worry so very much about all the education and classes and television-watching?), I didn't interpret the numbers as meaning that nurture has no effect at all. I also found his insistence that his interpretation was final and conclusive to be odd, unscientific, and damaging to his argument. Twin research and the idea that parenting and parental stress are irrelevant seem to be the foundation of Caplan's argument, but he also repeatedly returns to the argument that if you want more grandchildren, you should have more children and he seems to think that everyone else wants lots of grandchildren. Frankly, I do hope to have grandchildren, but please let me survive (and learn to enjoy) giving birth to (something Caplan doesn't have to do, I'd like to point out) and parenting babies, toddlers and teens first; I'd prefer not to determine the whole course of my life based on how many grandchildren I'd like when I'm in my 60s or 70s (as an older parent, I expect to be an older grandparent). The book is strangely organized, jumping from twin research, to how getting pregnant is more technologically possible than ever before so why are you stopping now, to the idea that, well, if you don't have more children, then you have less of a chance to giving birth to a genius, to a whole chapter for grandparents on persuading their own children to have more children, and finally, a transcript of a conversation between people who had the same problems I did with Mr. Caplan's arguments. While I was somewhat mollifed that my concerns were at least addressed, I felt that if the book had been well-written, there would have been no need for that strange addition to try to win people over. I was also never quite sure why Mr. Caplan wants to convince people to have more kids - is it just altruistic desire for people to have "more fun" or does he have some other hidden reason for feeling the need to make this argument? I couldn't shake the feeling that it was the latter, but I never figured out what that reason might be. Maybe he just wanted to publish a book. Ultimately, I did come to the conclusion that overall, yes, it's a good thing for parents to stop worrying so much and cut themselves some slack and even let the kids watch television while they take some time for themselves, and thus, if you are on the fence about having more kids, then maybe taking the pressure off yourself is just what you need to convince you that it would be a good thing, but I found this book to be mostly a half-organized muddle of flimsy ideas.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I was excited to read this book after hearing an interview of the author. The thesis of his book is that parenting style does not matter – at least not for a middle-class family in the developed world. Extensive twin and adoption studies show that parents have almost no effect on who their children become as adults. Genes have a small to moderate effect, while unknown variables (or “nonshared environment”) account for the rest. So instead of focusing on their children’s future success, the autho I was excited to read this book after hearing an interview of the author. The thesis of his book is that parenting style does not matter – at least not for a middle-class family in the developed world. Extensive twin and adoption studies show that parents have almost no effect on who their children become as adults. Genes have a small to moderate effect, while unknown variables (or “nonshared environment”) account for the rest. So instead of focusing on their children’s future success, the author argues that parents should instead focus on being happy, treating their kids with kindness, and creating fun memories to last a lifetime. This was the good part of the book. Unfortunately, like all parenting books, this one also gives its share of pointless and biased advice. The author’s love for the Chicago school of economics and his right-wing libertarian views come through loud and clear. In the book he recommends out-sourcing surrogate mothers from impoverished countries, defends genetic engineering, and at one point even tells the reader, “You’re not trying to raise a communist.” It was bad enough to make me question his summary of the research. While I found parts of the book thought-provoking, it was overall a disappointment.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Skylar Burris

    "Selfish Reasons to Have Children" more or less makes the following argument: (1) Modern day parents make parenting costlier than it has to be (in terms of time, energy, money, and worry). (2) They don't need to do this because, as the research shows, the way you parent doesn't really influence the way your kids turn out as adults. (3) If parents didn't do #1, more people would be willing to have more kids, and (4) More people should have more kids. I agree with (1), though this concept was alre "Selfish Reasons to Have Children" more or less makes the following argument: (1) Modern day parents make parenting costlier than it has to be (in terms of time, energy, money, and worry). (2) They don't need to do this because, as the research shows, the way you parent doesn't really influence the way your kids turn out as adults. (3) If parents didn't do #1, more people would be willing to have more kids, and (4) More people should have more kids. I agree with (1), though this concept was already fairly well covered in another book I've read, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry. I am increasingly becoming convinced of (2), though primarily because of the better substantiated argument made in another book I've read, The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. Still, my doubts linger. (More on that later.) I agree with (3), as the costliness of children is a primary reason why people limit them. As for (4), I, as most people, don't like to be told I should have more children than I think I want. (If you think you want none, he says, then have one; if you think you want two, have three.) That said, I do not buy into the Malthusian myth that overpopulation is a problem. I am aware of the immense value of human capital, and the economic problems modern advanced societies face due to an overall decline in population. I am aware that per capita income has risen with population, and that resources have not declined but evolved. And I don't think more people are necessarily bad for the environment, as that human capital typically results in new, more efficient technology as well as the discovery and development of new, more efficient resources. So I can agree human kind might benefit from more people having more children, I just don't want to be told what to do. Caplan surveys the collected research data (particularly with regard to twin studies) and concludes that how parents raise their kids has very little measurable effect on how those kids turn out in the long-term (in terms of worldly success, health, and even ethical choices). Parents can influence the present-day behavior of their children within the home, but they have no influence over how the child will act outside of it when he is grown (that's determined by genetics, personality, and peer environment). The only *lasting* impact parents have is the impression they leave on their children – whether good or bad – of the kind of parents they were. Ruling out extremes (such as saying, for instance, "You never have to go to school," or "You can eat nothing but sugar for the next month,"), there's no long-term benefit, Caplan argues, to pushing your kid to do things they don't want to do or forbidding them from doing things they do want to do. There's no need to spend great effort pushing them to excel academically or extracurricular and no need to spend large swathes of "quality time" with them. Have a cup of coffee and read a book while they entertain themselves. Let them cry it out as babies – it won't warp them, and you'll have better sleep in a few weeks. If it's easier and more pleasant for everyone involved, just let them watch Sponge Bob instead of going to Tae Kwon Do practice. Because in thirty years, it won't make one lick of difference that you forced them to go to some activity or that you didn't let them cry in their crib or that you refused to stop reading your book to play Candy Land with them. Don't do something, as a parent, because you think it will affect how your kids turn out or the type of person they will be at thirty. It likely won't. Do something for the purely selfish reason that it makes your life (the parent's life) better. Don't make them clean up after themselves assuming they will be cleanly and disciplined as adults. Make them clean up after themselves if it makes your eighteen years of living with them easier. Don't read to them assuming it will make them better students and more intelligent as adults. Read to them if it you enjoy reading to them. Otherwise…don't sweat it. While your actions don't affect how your children turn out, they do affect what your children think of you and what kind of relationship you have with them. And if you go about parenting in a sacrificial sort of manner, pushing your kids to achieve and presumably become better people even when it is unpleasant for you to do so, you're probably going to be more irritable than you would otherwise be, and your relationship with your family is going to be less pleasant than it would otherwise be. So just making parenting pleasant – do what feels good for your family, and not the tedious tasks you think you have to do to help your kids along in life. Don't read so many parenting books, and don't try so hard to get it right. It really doesn't matter that much. You don't have as much power as you think you do. Just enjoy your today with your child, because you have no control over his tomorrow. How do I feel about this argument? Well, after reading much on the subject, I feel the sociological evidence is pretty strong that parents really do NOT have the kind of vast long-term influence they'd like to think they have. That said, I suspect they have more influence than mere charts and numbers imply, because charts and numbers can't measure what might have been. Research can only compare existing people to existing people; it cannot compare the person who is to the person who might have been. For example, if Twin A has adoptive parents who challenge him academically and Twin B doesn't, and Twin A still turns out to be as much of an academic failure as Twin B, I still don't know how much *more* of an academic failure Twin A *might have been* if he had instead had Twin B's parents. In the end, belief in parental influence comes down to faith in the unknown. Modern day parenting is a kind of religion, with its own sects and varied prophets and diverse scriptures. This prophet says to relax. Take it easy. You're not really in control. Enjoy your kids. Don't knock yourself out trying to turn them into good, intelligent people. Because you can't. And when you realize how much easier it is to raise kids this way, go ahead and pop out another one. It won't be much trouble, and then you up your odds of having grandchildren, who you can trouble about even *less* than your own children. Stylistically, the book is a light, easy, but rather repetitive read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    The basic premise of this book is "most of your kids' outcome is genetic, so don't sweat it." Caplan draws on twin and adoption studies to prove that most of the things we want for our kids (health, success, happiness) is determined from birth. (Incidentally, I think he should alter this book for a dating book, too. He has one off-hand comment where he says that women who are attracted to "bad boys" are setting themselves up for another dimension of disappointment when their kids share character The basic premise of this book is "most of your kids' outcome is genetic, so don't sweat it." Caplan draws on twin and adoption studies to prove that most of the things we want for our kids (health, success, happiness) is determined from birth. (Incidentally, I think he should alter this book for a dating book, too. He has one off-hand comment where he says that women who are attracted to "bad boys" are setting themselves up for another dimension of disappointment when their kids share characteristics of their deadbeat fathers. This is haunting and terrible. The costs of having kids with a guy that you aren't proud of are high for you and your children. It's better to divorce or, if he'll let you, get a sperm donor.) This isn't to say that Caplan thinks only super-star genes should have kids--he says that if you'd be a good candidate for a typical adoption agency, you're a good candidate to raise kids. If you're proud of yourself and your reproductive partner, you'll probably be proud of your kids, especially as they enter adulthood. Everything we add on--guilt about bedtimes and discipline schemes and allowances and screen time--is just making our jobs harder, making it, in economic terms, more "expensive" to have kids. If you think you need give up all of your money, time and happiness in order to shuttle one kid to planned playdates and expensive extra-curriculars, then you are never going to want a second. Crikey, you might never want the one. But if kids are "cheaper," succeeding on feeding and watering, then you can have more than you think--maybe even as many as you want. And that's the other economic insight Caplan gives to parenting: consumption smoothing. He never uses the phrase (although I have no idea why--heaven knows he gives us appendices with formulae and regressions), but consumption smoothing traditionally relates to how we balance out the highs and lows of our changing economic lives. Consider, for one classic example, the pro football player. He might make millions of dollars a year, but his career is probably only going to last the average of 6 years. If he spends like a millionaire all six years, he will go bankrupt by the end of his career --as many pros do. Instead, the pro player should live like a "thousandaire," investing some of those millions to live off of once his career is over, denying some pleasures to his current self in order to take care of his future self. With having kids, Caplan argues, we are all like football players. When we're in our thirties, kids are expensive both in real (babies and schoolkids need our money to stay alive, as well as a lot of time and attention) and opportunity costs (our careers need a lot of attention right now, and parents of newborns famously lose a lot of sleep). But much like those pro football players, we can't see past the next six years...or eighteen or thirty. Because when we're in our sixties and seventies, our careers are on autopilot (if we're still in them), and, with few exceptions, our adult children don't make any demands on our time and money. It's all joy. (Even better if they have grandkids, which are the best kind of kids to have, everyone agrees.) So when you're in your thirties, you might be able to stomach one kid, but in your sixties, you'd want to have four or five so that they can light up your life by turns. Caplan says that, like the football player, we should smooth out our "consumption" of having kids by compromising between our present and future selves--maybe having three kids, so you're busy early, but more satisfied later. As a good libertarian, Caplan isn't saying that everyone should have kids--if you really hate cartoons and amusement parks, you might not have fun with any kids--but that you can "afford" to have more kids than you think. They are, as the subtitle says, "less work and more fun than you think." And the fun is a big park of it. As much as I liked All Joy and No Fun , Caplan does a better job selling the low-key fun of being around kids. You get to enter into kid worlds, from park swingsets to funny questions. Parenting, he argues, is enjoyable in its own, and much more so if you aren't stressing about parenting as something instrumental, because it teaches some kind of skill that will set your kid up for success. Because, as long as you're doing an okay job, the kids are going to turn out okay.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Steve Carroll

    Brilliant. Best parenting book I've read to date. Even if you don't plan to have kids this book presents a simple compelling argument that you are probably sucking all the fun out of parenting for no reason. To summarize, twin research suggests that on most of the dimensions that parents actually care about and for any reasonable parenting style that wouldn't be interpreted as abuse, nature completely destroys nurture in the long run. Parenting does matter in the short term so modify your style Brilliant. Best parenting book I've read to date. Even if you don't plan to have kids this book presents a simple compelling argument that you are probably sucking all the fun out of parenting for no reason. To summarize, twin research suggests that on most of the dimensions that parents actually care about and for any reasonable parenting style that wouldn't be interpreted as abuse, nature completely destroys nurture in the long run. Parenting does matter in the short term so modify your style to produce strong bonds with your children and stop beating yourself up in status competitions with other parents that don't really effect the children. Parenting having less effect in the long term than most realize is a hard pill for many to swallow because it injures our self-images (just read some of the goodreads reviews) but even if you don't accept the strong form of the advice here and stop worrying altogether and enjoy the ride, I advise most parents to move at least somewhat in this direction. There is some simple advice here that can make a big difference. Think about whatever the activity you signed up your kid for is. Do they really enjoy it? REALLY? Great. Now cancel it and spend that time doing something you both enjoy. They are never going to learn whatever skill you were trying to teach them unless they want to anyways! If people ever asked me for a curriculum for parenting (and they don't :)) I think I would pair this book up with "The Power of Positive Parenting" by Latham. That book is by a hardcore behaviorist who believes that NURTURE > NATURE. It turns out that the two books can be quite compatible because as Caplan acknowledges parenting does matter quite a bit in the short term and in your ability to enjoy your life with your kids.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I was intrigued by the title of this book and my friend Mary's review. One of the main takeaways is that as long as you provide adequate parenting (good enough that an adoption agency would approve), there's not a large benefit to going above and beyond in terms of extracurriculars and stressing about TV time. And if you can lower your standard of parenting (for average middle-class American homes), you might enjoy parenting enough to have more children. I liked how the book was reassuring, but I was intrigued by the title of this book and my friend Mary's review. One of the main takeaways is that as long as you provide adequate parenting (good enough that an adoption agency would approve), there's not a large benefit to going above and beyond in terms of extracurriculars and stressing about TV time. And if you can lower your standard of parenting (for average middle-class American homes), you might enjoy parenting enough to have more children. I liked how the book was reassuring, but at the same time the author's tone seemed overly confident (maybe even condescending). I love the idea that there are selfish reasons to have children, just because I consider it such a selfless act. But if I change my perspective, maybe I could enjoy parenting more?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    One of the big maxims of parenting that I (we) took into this whole adventure came from a couple whose rationality and values we really respect—plus I just like the way they summed up a key idea: “the goal of parenting is to produce a successful adult.” Heavily drawing on a fascinating review of genetics versus nurture studies, The author convincingly argues that while you can hyper-invest in parenting in the short term to affect your child, in the long term, genetics have an inordinate say in th One of the big maxims of parenting that I (we) took into this whole adventure came from a couple whose rationality and values we really respect—plus I just like the way they summed up a key idea: “the goal of parenting is to produce a successful adult.” Heavily drawing on a fascinating review of genetics versus nurture studies, The author convincingly argues that while you can hyper-invest in parenting in the short term to affect your child, in the long term, genetics have an inordinate say in the success (or challenges/pitfalls) of the adult that you are raising. Anything that provides a sanity check on modern American approaches to parenting is valuable, particularly something as difficult to push back on as science :-) What I also found unexpected and interesting was the perspective that, at the end of the day, it’s not just that you’re producing an adult, but that, if the actuarial statistics smile on you, your relationship with that adult ultimately is going to long out-distance the span of time you spend raising them. I think anyone who has a second kid has instinctively sussed out the short term version of this: the insane nursing, diapering, no sleep period doesn’t actually last all that long relatively speaking, and they get more fun and interesting by the year. Hence the attraction of another one. But I found it very interesting to hear this reframed on a much longer time scale, with him focusing on the rewards of grandparenthood as contrasted with parenthood. Ultimately, ironically, this book had zero effect on my thinking regarding family size. That said, it made me very happy that it exists, even if it is a little on the long/repetitive side towards the end, because the anti-natalist narrative in some fora these days weirds makes me out to no end, and I think this provides a wide range of pushback on that narrative. Plus, the twin studies are just such fascinating science.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    I really liked this book. I think it's interesting to think about deciding the number of kids, from an economic perspective. The title makes it sound like something it's not, which is a book that's trying to get you to have as many kids as physically possible. Rather, it's just trying to get you to think about your parenting differently- it doesn't have to be as painful as we sometimes make it. For example: If your kid doesn't like to practice or play their instrument, you have to constantly nag I really liked this book. I think it's interesting to think about deciding the number of kids, from an economic perspective. The title makes it sound like something it's not, which is a book that's trying to get you to have as many kids as physically possible. Rather, it's just trying to get you to think about your parenting differently- it doesn't have to be as painful as we sometimes make it. For example: If your kid doesn't like to practice or play their instrument, you have to constantly nag them to practice it, you are paying for lessons and driving them to the lessons and you have to drag your kid out the door... why are you doing this? If they hate it, they'll never keep up with it anyway. You're just straining your relationship and wasting money. STOP. I really wanted to write this review with the book in hand, but my husband had to return it to the library, so I even stayed up late finishing it. Basically, Caplan studies and discusses adopted twin studies to determine if all the things we want our kids to have- success, money, happiness, good job, education, smarts etc is affected more by nature, or nurture. The findings are astounding. Parenting doesn't have as much affect as you might think. They do affect the kids a lot, while living at home, as far as behavior is concerned and in the areas they tested (Some I can remember are: income, amount of education, religion, political affiliation, religious activity, political activity, health, longevity, IQ, alcohol and drug use, when virginity is lost, maybe more... ) but once they leave home, the kid will go through what Caplan calls "fade-out" in which the nurtured traits that aren't there genetically will slowly fade out and by their 30s, they will just be the kind of adult they are genetically, despite what you've taught them growing up. The only things the children DO keep with them, is the religion they feel affiliated with (though activity is unaffected) and the political party they feel closest to (and again, activity is unaffected) and finally, how fondly they look back at their childhood. I guess the moral of the story is, it's worth it to try to get them to be polite and behave well, since you want to live with people like that, but that doesn't mean they will stay well-behaved and polite into adulthood. (However, if you are polite and well-behaved, the chances are they will get your "well-behaved" and "considerate" genes.) It's also worth it to try and give them a pleasant childhood (that doesn't mean they must be spoiled...) if you want to be involved in their grandchildren's lives. So, lay off all the "IQ-building activities" unless everyone actually enjoys them- you're probably wasting your time and money. One final point I will bring up, is he tries to get people to think about the future. Raising kids is really only a 20-year ordeal, and most people live for 4 times that! More of your life will be spent with grandkids than kids, and if you want lots of grandkids (which most people do- they're much more fun and less work, right?) you should think about the other half of your life and maximize your grandchild potential by having more kids.

  15. 4 out of 5

    AnnaMay

    Ahhh...I can breathe easier as a parent now and my kids will, too. This book has done more to cut down on the second-hand stress my kids and husband receive than anything else I've read or done lately. By cutting down on the second-hand stress, I'm not only making my life happier, but the trickle-down effect takes hold and their lives are happier as well. Parenting doesn't need to be as painful or difficult as we make it. This book is about striking a balance and feeling good about it. Somehow, r Ahhh...I can breathe easier as a parent now and my kids will, too. This book has done more to cut down on the second-hand stress my kids and husband receive than anything else I've read or done lately. By cutting down on the second-hand stress, I'm not only making my life happier, but the trickle-down effect takes hold and their lives are happier as well. Parenting doesn't need to be as painful or difficult as we make it. This book is about striking a balance and feeling good about it. Somehow, reading the twin research studies and having him explain them really contributed to my understanding that taking 'me' time is important. His approach of teaching had way more 'take hold' effect on me than any book or talk touting the importance of 'filling my jar so I can fill others.' His book's message, and is more true I think, is 'fill my jar and so others aren't inhibited by filling their own.' It helped me see myself and my children as individuals and my job is to feed, clother, and love them...and enjoy the journey. They're already who they are and my influence is best directed in having positive interactions with them and the rest falls into place (within my good reason...I'm not saying it's okay to neglect their care.) I love the scientific evidence mixed with humorous quotes and witty debates. Caplan's writing is very readable and organized in a fashion that worked well with my way of thinking.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I heard the author interviewed and was intrigued with his ideas, but I didn't think they would change the way I saw the world. I checked it out as a fun read and for parenting inspiration, and because I basically agree with the title. I was surprised when I read it how disturbed I was by the twin studies that he used to assert that much of what we do as parents has little lasting effect. Most of how our children turn out as adults is due to genetics and their own free will. The best things we ca I heard the author interviewed and was intrigued with his ideas, but I didn't think they would change the way I saw the world. I checked it out as a fun read and for parenting inspiration, and because I basically agree with the title. I was surprised when I read it how disturbed I was by the twin studies that he used to assert that much of what we do as parents has little lasting effect. Most of how our children turn out as adults is due to genetics and their own free will. The best things we can do for our kids are to choose wisely who you decide to parent with and to give them happy memories of their childhoods with security and kindness. That really does put a different spin on parenting--and it made me appreciate my own parents.. It was also interesting to see him take an economists' argument that therefore, children are a relative bargain and you should stock up on them. You should decide how many children you would like when you are 60, not how many you would like right now. I did like that perspective of taking the very long view. After all, children are a long term investment in anyone's book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jon Senn

    Caplan presents a bundle of data suggesting that in most ways that parents try to improve their children's lives, they have surprisingly little lasting impact by the time the children become adults (at least normal first-world parents). Basically "LOL nothing matters," so, he argues, today's parents should make their jobs much, much easier. The data he presents is eye opening, though I think he slightly overstates his case (some of the effect sizes which he considers small, bordering on negligibl Caplan presents a bundle of data suggesting that in most ways that parents try to improve their children's lives, they have surprisingly little lasting impact by the time the children become adults (at least normal first-world parents). Basically "LOL nothing matters," so, he argues, today's parents should make their jobs much, much easier. The data he presents is eye opening, though I think he slightly overstates his case (some of the effect sizes which he considers small, bordering on negligible, I would consider significant enough to discuss further). I find his overall argument fairly persuasive, though by temperament I definitely started out a lot closer to his camp than average.

  18. 5 out of 5

    danelle

    I love the title and the synopsis of this book. Kids can me fun, don't stress about being a bad parent and just enjoy your children before they grow up in to the people they were going to be anyway. Great advice. But he alienated me the whole way through his argument. Example; one of his reasons to have more kids was essentially that your wife would be doing all the work anyway. I didn't trust his research and he sounds like a jerkstore. I love the title and the synopsis of this book. Kids can me fun, don't stress about being a bad parent and just enjoy your children before they grow up in to the people they were going to be anyway. Great advice. But he alienated me the whole way through his argument. Example; one of his reasons to have more kids was essentially that your wife would be doing all the work anyway. I didn't trust his research and he sounds like a jerkstore.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Roslyn

    -This book is the man's version of the Three Martini Playdate. Three Martini Playdate is funnier though. -Claims that shortness isn't contagious and neither is low income. Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Groups and How They Shape Our Lives shows the complete opposite and is much more convincing. -Mindset--anyone can learn anything is far more convincing than this DNA determinism. Here is the blog post I wrote about this book (roslynross.blogspot.com)--though it takes this book more seriou -This book is the man's version of the Three Martini Playdate. Three Martini Playdate is funnier though. -Claims that shortness isn't contagious and neither is low income. Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Groups and How They Shape Our Lives shows the complete opposite and is much more convincing. -Mindset--anyone can learn anything is far more convincing than this DNA determinism. Here is the blog post I wrote about this book (roslynross.blogspot.com)--though it takes this book more seriously than it should be taken. The truth is, some books are too lame to deserve a review. And this is one of them! If the subject weren't interesting, I would not have thought twice about it at all. I recently read: The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility and Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think. Both argue the nature/nurture question and side with nature. I thought both books were pretty bad (too long, extremely uncreative in the exploration of possible reasons for their findings, and not convincing) but they did provide some fun food for thought--hence this post. First, a summary: In Surnames, Gregory Clark attempts to prove that if social mobility is studied by surnames, the rate of social mobility is always around .75. This means social mobility is much slower than was previously believed, and is much slower everywhere, even in places with massive government intervention like Sweden. Both rich and poor families always move, however slowly, toward the mean. (With or without government intervention, the poor get richer and the rich get poorer.) Therefore, says Clark, social stature is mostly nature, if not all nature. In Selfish Reasons Bryan Caplan concurs. Twin and adoption studies show that it is nature and not nurture that will most determine a person's income, educational achievement, health, happiness, character, and values (at least in middle and upper class America). Second, the purpose: Both Clark and Caplan offer two kinds of advice (provided you accept the premise that nurture is largely irrelevant): advice to parents on how to maximize their breeding success and advice to public policy makers on how to make the world a better place. For parents--if nurture is irrelevant: Clark says, in order to maximize your chances of having The Best Children, invest a great deal of time and energy in the selection of your mate. The only way to have successful offspring is to mate successfully. I agree that mate-selection should be taken far more seriously. I also agree that DNA should be taken seriously. But I disagree that the proper mating goal should be to maximize education/income/occupation or social status of offspring. I have found little correlation between social status and happiness after basic needs are met. Moreover, psychologists generally agree that the number one determiner of happiness is physical health, then relationships, then income/occupation. So if I were mate-selecting, the most important thing would not actually be the social status DNA of my potential mate, but rather, his physical health (straight teeth without ever having had braces, no acne, no glasses, no allergies, etc). After that I would look for great communication skills and secure attachment. Only then would I start to look into his income/education/occupation. Selecting based on this order would ensure that I maximize my chances of having a happy spouse and happy children. They may not be doctors and lawyers, but who cares about that if they're not happy and healthy? Moreover, a far more convincing book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, shows that happiness and depression are highly contagious. Which means I maximize my own chances of happiness by selecting my mate first according to physical health, then relationships skills, then education/income/occupation. (And yes, the evidence shared in Connected directly contradicts both Surnames and Selfish Reasons on the nature/nurture question.) It is this same value issue I have with Caplan's book in which I am instructed to spend less of my time and money on my kids (since nurture doesn't matter) and to have more kids since that will maximize my chances of having at least one total success of a child. But for me, success is based first on physical health. In order to maximize the physical health (DNA expression) of my offspring (and my own health) they should be spaced 4 to 5 years apart and ideally wouldn't be born after I am 35. After maximizing physical health I would focus on relationships. As a nanny I learned that when there are more than 2 kids, there wasn't enough of me to go around--someone always ended up starved for my attention. Perhaps in a different parenting world, one with more community in which there were more adults around with whom the children can bond, 2 kids wouldn't take all the attention I had to give, but in this parenting world, it's hard for me to imagine that attention-starved kids grow up to be securely attached individuals with high-quality relationship skills. If I had 2, one age 10 and one age 5, and thought that I had enough attention to give a 3rd, I would totally do it (and a 4th!) but in the mean time, I don't plan to have only 2 kids because I am a helicopter mom or because they need to attend private schools as Caplan seems to think, but rather because quality relationships with my children come before having trophy children. And I guess that is the major problem I have with both of these books. Children are people, that's all they are, new people for us to have relationships with. Those relationships will be satisfying or unsatisfying depending upon how respectfully we relate to one another. Starting a relationship with the premise that a child ought to meet some expectation that I have about "what is successful" is a pretty controlling and disrespectful way to start a relationship. This is one of the main epiphanies I had while working as a nanny: parents destroy their children when they treat them as something other than people; children are not trophies, prizes, puppies, puppets, or toys. I did think Caplan had a good point about grandchildren though. When people are in their 30's their ideal number of children is often zero or one, but by the time most people are in their 70's their ideal number of children is 5 (because that way they definitely have someone to hang out with and grandkids). My sister-in-law worked in an elderly home for many years and she made a similar conclusion: when you are 90 you will not care at all about whatever career you had, you will only care about your grandkids. This is confirmed whenever I read the Wesleyan University magazine that arrives in my mailbox periodically--the oldest alums stop talking about career achievements. Their paragraphs are always about their grandkids. (Note for Objectivists: this means that my real-life observations do not coincide with the fictional characters after whom Ayn Rand invited me to model my life--I would welcome any real-life evidence from readers supporting Rand's point of view.) I also think this perspective is rather inconsiderate of the children. Yes, if you have five kids you may have maximized your chances of having at least one with whom you feel deeply connected. But what about the other four?!!! Shall we do like they did in the 1500's and throw the other four to the wolves? I would rather have two kids and put a great deal of effort into creating relationships that will last a life time. Moreover, I would never "try to get" grandkids, but the following parenting choices that I would make either way, I believe, will contribute to me getting grandkids: a) focusing on health--infertility is skyrocketing. b) focusing on respectful relationships--people who love and enjoy their families are far more likely to want to have a family of their own. c) proper child spacing combined with homeschooling--children who grow up knowing how to relate to people of many ages (a 10-year-old who plays often with his 5-year-old sibling, helps care for the baby, and spends a lot of time with young adults at his father's office) will likely find it easier to envision a life with children than the 30-year-olds who have only ever hung out with people their own age and know nothing about babies. d) unschooling with a focus on the future--children who own their lives and who don't have to wait until they are 22 to pursue their dreams can get their 10,000 hours in a given field by the time they are 15 or 16. Which means they could have quite a bit of money put away and career success by the time they are 22. Which means they may be ready to have families of their own much younger than Standard American Children. And even if not-- e) parental help--books on evolutionary theory make it clear that we live as long as we do only because it is beneficial to offspring i.e. grandparents exist because they help care for the young. My son gets holiday gifts from his grandparents and that's it. Upper class friends of mine get insane amounts of free babysitting from their parents, some as much as 60 hours a week for 2 years. I hope to be able to offer insane amounts of free babysitting to my own grandkids--this should make it easier for me to get more grandkids and make parenting more fun for my kids. f) including children in the world--the world for parents and children sucks right now (see my lecture 2). By creating a world that includes children, it would make having children a lot more fun. I am not convinced nurture is irrelevant though. -In Surnames, for example, the graphs of DNA winners and losers do not work for my family. I don't look at my genealogy chart and see a story of poor people moving ever so slowly toward the mean with some dips back into poverty, nor do I see a story of wealthy people moving ever so slowly toward the mean with some blips into extreme wealth. It doesn't matter what line you follow, my genealogy is more like: poor immigrant begets middle class man begets extremely wealthy man begets total financial failure begets middle class man. When I look at my genealogy chart and focus on education I see: farmer begets minister begets doctor who marries a fellow doctor and they beget a high school drop out. Am I just this anomaly with a combination of win/lose career-DNA or, more likely, are most of us DNA mutts? Don't most people have a poor relative and a rich one or is it really just me? Because I am inclined to argue that DNA purebreds don't make sense. -Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives shows that social behaviors are contagious, from happiness to obesity. We will become the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. Couldn't this be the explanation for the wealthy dynasties falling inexorably toward the mean rather than their failure to properly screen potential mates? When I think of the extremely wealthy people for whom I worked during my 20's--who were the five people with whom their children spent most of their time? Never their parents. And never wealthy people. Even if you send your child to the most exclusive private school in the world, his teachers will still not be members of the social class which his parents hope he will one day join. Nor will his nannies. Nor will his piano instructor or personal trainers. Nor will his college professors. What I see is wealthy people failing to raise their own children. Many wealthy people genuinely believe that middle class teachers or super nannies have more to offer their children than they do. I think the opposite is true. Wealthy people who want their children to be wealthy like them need to be the primary teachers of their children. Want your children to think the way you do, the way a successful, wealthy person does? Don't have them taught to think by middle class teachers. In A Mother's Job: The History of Day Care 1890-1960 I read about the white, protestant, upper class women who started daycare and pushed for free, compulsory public education. The goal was to reshape the children of the poor. The goal was for the children of the poor to be raised by middle class people so that they would acquire middle class values. What ended up happening is that all children are raised by middle class people. Isn't this a more plausible explanation as to why both rich and poor families generally rise or fall to the mean? -Caplan claims that political values are nature, not nurture. I mean--WHAT??? So in 1770's there was just a lot of Libertarian DNA expressed and today, randomly, nothing to do with the liberal takeover of education, it's Fascist DNA that happens to be expressed? -Both Caplan and Clark mention that nurture is far more influential than nature until children are four years old and only then suddenly nurture becomes irrelevant. And yet it makes more sense to both of these scholars that our DNA suddenly turns on at four than that school has replaced nurture in American society? Or school plus seven hours of television a day? To me it is clear: it's not that nurture is actually irrelevant, it's that nurture is simply not part of the equation any more when it comes to American parenting. The Standard American parent has been replaced and is kidding himself/herself to think that his/her paltry few hours on the weekend stands a chance against the combined nurturing/indoctrination/brainwashing forces of school and television. Which brings me to my conclusions from these books: 1. Raise your own children. Occasional babysitting, yes. But no nannies, no daycare, and definitely no school public or private. Especially if you are wealthy. The wealthier you are, the more important it is to not hire out the raising of your children. Which means not only that you need to learn how to raise children well, but that one of the focuses of your children's childhood should also be learning how to relate to children well so that they will be great parents too. 2. And consider this: occupations run in families. Hollywood poo-poo's taking over Daddy's company--and that is very unfortunate. What if one of the greatest keys to success in business is doing the same or similar occupation of your parents? It takes 10,000 hours to be world-class at something. What will your child get his hours in just because of his childhood with you? Today we do the best we can to keep kids out of the real world. It's as if we are trying to ensure that they have no real-world skills by the time they are 22. Yet, when look at my own life, even though I was so focused on school, I still managed to get a leg-up in my parent's occupations--farming and writing from my father and wine from my mother. Had a school counselor sat me down when I was eighteen and said: Look, if you are super passionate about something else, by all means go do it, but if you could be happy working in wine, you will have a much easier life and you will find career success at a much younger age. You can go to college, study something new, get a bunch of debt, and spend your 20's and 30's acquiring the social network and skills required to do a new line of work and you will be successful--just much later (your 50's rather than your late 20's) and with much more strife. Do you like this other career SO much more than wine that you are willing to make that trade? I am not saying that kids should do what their parents do or that parents should push their kids to do so, just that if it works out that way, it would be very advantageous. Outliers points out that it is very rare for children who grew up in poverty to become very wealthy, but it is very common for them to make it to the middle class. Children who grow up in the middle class are more likely to become very wealthy--which is exactly what my family tree shows. Which is to say: a truely successful career may require three generations. I notice that in Hollywood. Failed actors have children who are working actors and they have children who are successful. I'm not arguing that this is The One Rule, there will always be anomalies, but this idea that building something amazing takes more than one generation was common knowlege for farmers in the time of Laura Ingles Wilder. The pioneers were going to have it rough and they knew that going in. But their children would have it easier and their grandchildren even easier. The farm would get better over time. Doing a career other than what your parents did is like being a pioneer. It may be unfortunate that we idealize, as a culture, "getting out" of our hometowns and not following in Daddy's footsteps. This knowledge is equally valuable for the father who hates his job and hopes his son does not follow in his footsteps. Don't want your kid to do your job one day? Make sure he gets that leg-up from an uncle or one of your friends. Because if you don't plan otherwise, he will wake up at 25 and realize that doing what you do is the easiest route to take. For Public Policy Makers--if nurture is irrelevant Poor people who work hard get to switch social classes and always have been able to do so--our ideas about the repressive feudal times are inaccurate. Social mobility as always been .75! Woot out! Ambitious people have always found a way and will always find a way! And unambitious people won't. All of Sweden's government interventions haven't changed their social mobility. DNA (or something in nature) is destiny. So don't bother with the nurture. Stop wasting your time trying to teach poor people and their children to fish. They never will. This is great news, both Caplan and Clark insist. We don't need to worry anymore. Or try so hard. Leveling the playing field didn't work so we can stop trying. Now, the authors obviously can't go Hitler, so they go Harrison Bergeron--leveling the playing field doesn't work so we are going to have to level the players. DNA is destiny, so even though the smart folk still have to do the work to acquire their income, it should be taken from them and given to those who lost the DNA lottery. [Here is a link to the amazing 80's film based on Harrison Bergeron--https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvqsv...] As the awesome story Harrison Bergeron points out, the only reason anyone thinks this is okay is because they are only thinking in terms of money. But financial success isn't the only lottery we can win when it comes to DNA. Why are poor people the "less fortunate who should be compensated" and not the crappy athletes? What about lessening the blow for the ugly people? There are a lot of ways for life to be unfair. If I gotta share my IQ-related-wealth, then I think the pretty girls should have to wear masks and the good athletes should have their legs broken so their backs hurt as bad as mine. That sounds fair to me! I am not joking. And if you think the above is insane, please reread the last paragraph and watch Harrison Bergeron. From a public policy perspective, the only other option is the eugenics route--and if I read between the lines, I think this is how both Caplan and Clark really feel, they just can't say so. If nurture doesn't matter, if the poor cannot learn to fish, if DNA determines everything, as these writers claim with absolute surety, why should we, as parents, or as a society, invest anything in loser DNA? Especially considering that those with the loser DNA tend to have more children than the winners. Goodreads won't give me any more space so the rest of this post is at: http://roslynross.blogspot.com/2015/0...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Respectable

    I started writing the review and it got quite long and I noticed it had nothing to with the book but simply my own ideas of parenting. So I've split the "review" in two. The first part is the actual review. The second half outlines my idea of parenting. This is a terrific book. I would suggest all expecting parents to read it. Even if you disagree with the thesis of the book (which I summarize in the bullet points below) the logical structure of the book makes it possible for you to determine at I started writing the review and it got quite long and I noticed it had nothing to with the book but simply my own ideas of parenting. So I've split the "review" in two. The first part is the actual review. The second half outlines my idea of parenting. This is a terrific book. I would suggest all expecting parents to read it. Even if you disagree with the thesis of the book (which I summarize in the bullet points below) the logical structure of the book makes it possible for you to determine at what point you disagree with it, and also help you advance your own thinking about the "why" in such a case. 1. Parenting in the 21st century is widely thought of as a nightmare. The root cause is that we have so many expectations about ourselves as parents and from our kids are obedient pupils willing to collaborate (without throwing tantrums) in the project of turning their lives into a success (with the hidden assumption that this success is defined by us as parents) or still worse attempting to mould them into "better version of ourselves". Such notions are not outlandish. 2. This begs the question - does parenting really make a difference? Are life outcomes significantly affected by more involved parents? 3. This is a classic nature versus nurture problem. How can we correctly attribute life outcomes of people to the correct causes? Is it because of their genes (nature), is it because of their environment and parenting (nurture), or is it because of random chance (everything else)? As kids are raised almost always by the biological parents who gave birth to them it seems impossible to tease this causes apart. 4. Surprisingly, science can shed light on this question by way of adoption and twin studies. The reason is quite simple. If an adopted child grows up to be more like their adopted parents then we have one piece of evidence for nurture. Similarly, if identical twins (who share 100% of their genetic material) grow up to be two times more like each other than fraternal twins (who share only 50% of their genetic material) then we have one piece of evidence for nature. The mind-blowing thing is that for a wide variety of measurable traits (say longevity, intelligence, character, income, etc.) there are hundreds of twin and adoption studies since about 50 years ago. 5. The research bears out the truth quite clearly - nurture doesn't really matter, while nature does, and significantly so. This statement has only one caveat, which is that we assume "nurture" includes a provision of the basics - food, security, love, etc. - all of which are of course to be found in any family considering adoption, who are likely to be well-off financially as well. In other words, parents have the capacity to ruin their kids lives (by bringing them into a world of poverty and having limited means to protect against disease, illness, and starvation; or by being abusive alcoholics; etc.), but they are much less capable of affecting their life outcomes in the long run significantly let alone turning them into superstars despite their arrogant belief in doing so. In other words, nurture is necessary but not sufficient. Once there is enough of it (and it is much less than we think these days, especially because how affluent we are today) nature takes over and there is little you can do. 6. So, as a parent, if this is news to you then you should have more kids than you previously thought you would (assuming you wanted any at all) because they are less costly to you now because of lesser involvement (in a good way). * One major point is that helicopter parenting (or too much involvement, bossing around, sermonising, etc.) is extremely tempting for parents because they do indeed have strong effects - but crucially, it is only in the short term. If you berate and shame your kid for getting poor grades at school, chances are that they take greater interest in their studies in the near future, but as soon as the pressure goes away (they leave home, say) they are unlikely to keep up the pretense, for it is hard work to be at odds with our nature! One of my favorite bits of the book is a calculation which we can personally make to arrive at the right number of kids we should have. The book overall is really well-written. It is often funny as well. And as the points above show - it is enlightening and backed by solid research. So what are you waiting for! Go read it. --- Somehow we have stumbled into a time where parenting has become complex, unpleasant, and seemingly impossible to get right. Our conception of a good parent or what it means to raise kids right seems to have absorbed the expectations and wishes in an age where the idea that anything is possible is constantly being hammered into us. The latter--worthy of its own separate analysis--is of course a symptom of who we look at and unconsciously compare ourselves against in the new and (without exaggeration) highly connected world wrought by, of course, the internet. I think it would (or at least should) surprise no one that parenting was not always collectively thought about in such ways. Today the first thing a prospective parent would hear (either from friends or as a voice in their own head) is likely the countless hours of lost sleep in the first years and more varied, elaborate, and sustained sacrifices until the child becomes a "grown-up". Sure enough, no eyebrows would be raised in framing the conversation in such a manner as we really think of expecting parents as soldiers leaving for war - one that will never end soon enough. What went wrong? When did we cook up all these ideas about parenting? This timely book addresses the main problem with how we think about parenting in the 21st century: our ridiculous and impossibly narcissistic idea that our kids are in effect a science project which we must carefully monitor, manipulate, and push around in order that they simultaneously avoid a life of destitution and achieve life successes which parents think their kids have a real shot at. There are at least two things wrong with that. First kids are people - so treat them with respect, which means to trust them to think for themselves and make the right decisions and not abuse them by giving them unsolicited advice or impose your life wishes on them. Second it is perfectly arrogant to think that parents' interference in their children's lives will affect the attainment of positive life outcomes in the expected manner. So just leave the kids alone. Parenting is very simple. Ensure that your kids get all the basics - food, shelter, security, affection, warmth, and humongous boatloads of love. Build beautiful relationships with them, enjoy their childhood years, go on vacations, and really just have fun with your kids. It's not hard because they want the same things too. Duh! It's possible to misinterpret what I'm saying as some kind of lax, laissez-faire parenting where kids are not taught boundaries or given everything they ask for. No. If you kid sticks his finger in a power outlet or wants to eat cheetos for breakfast you tell them why they can't do it. Hello! That is what parenting is about. All the rest - driving your kids to taekwondo classes twice a week in some misguided attempt to build character or enrolling them in piano lessons because you think it improves their attention while they are kicking and screaming the whole way is not fun for anyone and is also (as the book's research shows) useless in the long run. I mean look at yourself. Are you doing anything today that your parents pushed you to when you were a child? So really, just leave the kids alone. Basically, parenting is supporting the child's development (I'm speaking of the years past the toddler years - when they're toddlers yes, you need to take care of them so that they don't do stupid things and die). Children already know deep inside where they're headed. Your job as a parent is just to enable them. If you notice they take an interest in reading or find them singing all the time, don't deny them books or signing lessons because they are expensive. And always - don't take more interest in shoving them any which way more than they do themselves. If they really care about something, trust them that they have the good sense to come to you with it. As a practicing Buddhist I feel compelled to condense this advise into a nugget that you can remember it by: You can only (and have the responsibility to) water the plant. The plant will decide how it grows. These ideas sit well with me for my own experience as a child corroborates the thesis presented in this book. My parents were about as far away from being helicopter parents as one can imagine. They never forced any extra-curricular activities upon me, never pushed me to read books, or even ever cared about what grades I got at school. I mean they did have expectations that I would do well and they did tell me how important a career was but for the most part their parenting would appear to any well-meaning, upwardly mobile, middle-class Indian parents as bordering on outright neglect. Much of my childhood was spent pottering around the house playing with legos and pokemons, reading books, creating board games, playing tons of video games or outside playing cricket and badminton. And none of these things was executed with any focused attention or intention - I wasn't training to get anywhere or become anyone in any of these activities. I was just having fun! I'm turning thirty soon and I can say without a doubt my parents that are proud of me - or even more accurately, they are yet more proud of themselves for having raised me to turn out the way I did. And it's not just delusional, objectively they have reason to be. And almost none of the specific life advice they gave me at any point in their life was of much use either in the moment or soon after. To conclude, just leave the kids alone!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    This is a pretty good argument that within a limited set of circumstances (middle class first world families) there isn’t much to be gained from the absurdly over intensive parenting of the past ~40 years, and that by relaxing expectations, it becomes reasonable to have marginally more children. He presents arguments that future-you would prefer to have had more children (probably valid for many people), but some of his arguments about the net utility of “left side of bell curve” people to socie This is a pretty good argument that within a limited set of circumstances (middle class first world families) there isn’t much to be gained from the absurdly over intensive parenting of the past ~40 years, and that by relaxing expectations, it becomes reasonable to have marginally more children. He presents arguments that future-you would prefer to have had more children (probably valid for many people), but some of his arguments about the net utility of “left side of bell curve” people to society seem pretty weak — Japan is doing quite well. One thing I found interesting was how even small ($500-4000) cash payments to prospective parents increased the number of children they had.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Suhrob

    I wish there were more books like this - picking a relevant, interesting topic, bringing together research from multiple disciplines (genetics, education, psychology and economics) in a non-dogmatic, well-written way. I was familiar with the thesis and most of the results from twin studies, so this was more like a nice summary / refreshers. I think there is still some room for parental effect studies on dimensions not captured here - but I also believe that on the metrics discussed here, the resea I wish there were more books like this - picking a relevant, interesting topic, bringing together research from multiple disciplines (genetics, education, psychology and economics) in a non-dogmatic, well-written way. I was familiar with the thesis and most of the results from twin studies, so this was more like a nice summary / refreshers. I think there is still some room for parental effect studies on dimensions not captured here - but I also believe that on the metrics discussed here, the research is currently already very solid. Caplan than draws important parental policy recommendations. Highly recommended.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

    The truly interesting part of this book is the one about behavioral genetics, which allows future parents to feel relaxed about the outcome of their parenting (if they're not complete morons to their children). Definitely, it gives you a different perspective about being a parent, and truly encourages us to bring more kids to the world. The truly interesting part of this book is the one about behavioral genetics, which allows future parents to feel relaxed about the outcome of their parenting (if they're not complete morons to their children). Definitely, it gives you a different perspective about being a parent, and truly encourages us to bring more kids to the world.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    Different than I was expecting. I wouldn’t recommend it. I found the central argument compelling - twin and adoption research shows that moderate variations in parenting don’t have much influence on outcomes in adulthood. When the book reached beyond that central premise, though, I found the arguments a little thin, and many weren’t based on evidence. Another book that probably should have been an article.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kater Cheek

    This is a great title, in that it enticed me to pick this up, and it's a bad title, because it would be more accurately titled "good reasons to have more kids." Most of this book is what you think it is--reasons why having more children is a good idea. Some of it, however, is a trickle of the much awaited (by me) backlash against hyper-vigilant paranoid overparenting. If you put this book and that Tiger mom book in the same room, they'd probably bind together with subatomic force, that's how opp This is a great title, in that it enticed me to pick this up, and it's a bad title, because it would be more accurately titled "good reasons to have more kids." Most of this book is what you think it is--reasons why having more children is a good idea. Some of it, however, is a trickle of the much awaited (by me) backlash against hyper-vigilant paranoid overparenting. If you put this book and that Tiger mom book in the same room, they'd probably bind together with subatomic force, that's how opposite these schools of thought are. This hit me a few years too late to influence my more-kid lobbying efforts, but I could see people reading this book and deciding in favor of having a larger family. His arguments are complelling. For example, his main argument is that your kids are going to turn out just like you no matter how you raise them, so don't fret too much. As long as you're an adequate parent, you're fine. He uses twin studies to back up this theory. This, of course, will grate with the people that think that their parenting efforts have significant impact on their children's development. Which school of thought you fall into will likely influence how spurious or compelling you find his argument. The part of the book I enjoyed the most talked about how much safer life is for people in general and children in particular since 1950. I cheered (silently) because I hate the people who silently (and not so silently) condemn me for allowing my children to have a small measure of independence (walk to grandmommy's house, eg.) because "it's just not safe anymore." People watch "CSI--Horrible Child Sex Torture Edition" and they forget that it's fiction. They see whatever horrific crime CNN has dredged from the sludge and they think that it's prevalent, just because CNN manages to find one every couple of weeks. Here are the facts: It's safer to be a kid now than a kid in 1950. The third tier of his argument is that having kids is a huge upfront cost that will pay for itself later. Ask yourself not how many kids you want now, but how many kids you want when you are 60. He also offers having lots of kids (and providing bribes for the one you have) as a strategy for having more grandkids. This, I know from experience, has limited success.* The reason why the title is inaccurate is that "selfish" is not a word that I associate with "good and compelling." There are, as Caplan provides, reasons why having a child makes the world a better place. Here's the most compelling one, that is obvious but that most people don't consider: unless your life is horrid, you're probably glad you were born. Having a baby is good for the baby. It gets to live. So, if you're glad to be alive, thank your mom. (Thanks, mom!) The last part of the book was my least favorite. In it, the author has a dialog with several other people who either partially agree or strongly disagree with him. I found the format (that of a talk show or script) to be unnatural, and I eventually just stopped reading at that point. One aspect of the author's writing that I did enjoy was that he used a breezy, conversational style for the first part of each chapter, and then back-loaded it with the stats and research. Even if you're not in a position to increase your family size, this is an interesting read because of the safety stats and the twin studies. If you are in a position to increase your family size, and are on the fence about it, this might be a good read because it will likely get you off that fence. *Dad, I know you're reading this. Don't get your hopes up. I'm not pregnant.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Boyd

    A very freeing argument: genetics and individual environment mean that kids will turn out how they will turn out and parents' efforts have little long-term effect. Love the argument about the power of parenting. Parents can at least control what kids remember about them. Kindness and respect, enjoyment of family time, etc. will be the memories of your kid's childhood. Love the quote from Judith Harris: "People sometimes ask me, 'So you mean it doesn't matter how I treat my child?' They never ask A very freeing argument: genetics and individual environment mean that kids will turn out how they will turn out and parents' efforts have little long-term effect. Love the argument about the power of parenting. Parents can at least control what kids remember about them. Kindness and respect, enjoyment of family time, etc. will be the memories of your kid's childhood. Love the quote from Judith Harris: "People sometimes ask me, 'So you mean it doesn't matter how I treat my child?' They never ask, 'So you mean it doesn't matter how I treat my [spouse]?' and yet the situation is similar. I don't expect that the way I act toward my husband is going to determine what kind of person he will be in ten or twenty years from now. I do expect, however, that it will affect how happy he is to live with me and whether we will still be good friends in ten or twenty years." However, I can't help getting confused over two pieces of this argument. 1) He says "give him the gift of life, feed and water him, don't lock him in a closet and life will take care of the rest...Step back and trust in your genes." This completely ignores the day-to-day necessities of living life with a kid. Not parenting, necessarily, but the need to buy groceries, get to work on time, keep bugs and dirt out of the house, etc. Parents and kids (especially small kids) do not have the same daily goals and needs. Half of parenting advice is less about the long-term (happiness, wealth, health) and more about the short-term (how can we live in a peaceful household where everyone is getting the necessary things done?) Stepping back and letting genes take over would mean that my kid would do whatever he wanted, which would mean he'd be playing Legos naked instead of getting ready to walk out the door with me for school and work. 2) He also ignores the importance of teaching. Not teaching core traits like character, health, etc., but teaching small things like how to cross the street, how to behave in a restaurant, how to brush teeth and put dishes away, how to whistle, how to wipe your butt, how to clean up after your messes and how to make pie. All humans learn from example and not just from parents. But saying that what a parent teaches has no effect makes no sense. I wouldn't know how to drive unless my dad had taught me. I wouldn't know how to clean the tub or make a to-do list without my mom's example. Plus all the reading, the math and the critical thinking learned in school. Does all of this teaching of skills and new ideas have no effect on how I function in life (not saying that it affects who I am)? Or are all the things you learn and teach just part of the "individual environment"?

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany Wacaser

    I gave this book five stars because I thought Bryan Caplan utilized far more interesting arguments than any author I've ever read to convince people that they CAN have more children than they think. I think books that are pro-family and in particular counter-act arguments about small families being better are important to read. (Of course I'm biased!) First, Bryan Caplan, an economics professor, looks at the family in economic terms--applying economic principles to families. Secondly, the author I gave this book five stars because I thought Bryan Caplan utilized far more interesting arguments than any author I've ever read to convince people that they CAN have more children than they think. I think books that are pro-family and in particular counter-act arguments about small families being better are important to read. (Of course I'm biased!) First, Bryan Caplan, an economics professor, looks at the family in economic terms--applying economic principles to families. Secondly, the author closely analyzes the data and results from studies that show people are less happy when they have children. (Surprise the happiness percentages or so small that they are almost insignficant)! Third, Bryan Caplan counters claims about overpopulation and the environmental impact of larger families. I found this section particularly riveting because I find a lot of the logic and rhetoric about overpopulation to be misleading and faulty. National Geographic has been writing a monthly series about this very issue nad it drives me crazy!I find myself arguing, out loud to myself, about the articles. Fourth, Bryan Caplan questions the current parenting practices of middle to high income families--i.e. that they drive themselves crazy supplementing education and intelligence when the payoff is rather low. Fifth, Bryan Caplan discusses nature vs. nurture by looking at the extensive body of research done on twins and adopted children--suggesting that in the short-term parents do make a difference, but the long-term effects of parenting (on things like education, intelligence, behavior, etc.) aren't as signficant. Before you think the author is saying parenting doesn't matter, you have to realize that he IS saying that if you and your spouse are good, decent human beings with decent intelligence and education, it is very likely your kids will turn out the same way--but not because of the extra activities, but because genes (and personal choice) matter very much. Sixth, Bryan Caplan talks about the payoff of grandchildren and that people do regret not having children and especially grandchildren. Having more children guarantees a better outcome of having grandchildren. The author urges people to consider long-term instead of considering the temporary costs (lack of sleep, time, etc.) that children initially bring. I could go on and on, but in the end, I do think this book deserves a close look for what it offers families today--a different take on the number of children they have. This adds a little balance to the never-ending debate slanted in the fewer or no kids camp favor.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Seriously! I couldn't make it past page 37! My husband heard part of an interview by the author on the radio and thought the subject matter sounded interesting. So did I. It's not that we need any convincing of the premise; we have 6 children (among which are a set of twins) whom we adore. But, for a man who has barely begun child rearing to try to promote a parental strategy merely from an economics standpoint is absurd. If I was nervous about having more children the first chapter would have s Seriously! I couldn't make it past page 37! My husband heard part of an interview by the author on the radio and thought the subject matter sounded interesting. So did I. It's not that we need any convincing of the premise; we have 6 children (among which are a set of twins) whom we adore. But, for a man who has barely begun child rearing to try to promote a parental strategy merely from an economics standpoint is absurd. If I was nervous about having more children the first chapter would have sealed the deal for me. I honestly kept waiting for the punch line, sure that the first part of the book was some kind of reverse psychology ploy to catch the readers attention. I think the only thing I agreed with, in the little that I read, was the word "selfish". The author even divulged in the opening tributes, that his wife thought he was sometimes over the top. I'd have to strongly agree with the poor lady. I'm no child rearing expert. Two of my six are adults and I sometimes still feel like a fledgling parent, but statistics are certainly not the guiding light for parental success. After all, anyone who has ever taken a stats class knows you can "prove" just about anything with number crunching, and if "The Corner of Shame" and "The Simpsons" as babysitters and the idea that it-doesn't really-matter-what-you-do-as-parents-because-your-kids-are-going-to-end-up-the-same-in-the-end-anyway are the results of that, I'm not buying. Sure, as parents we can be too tightly strung--too busy for our or our children's own good. Lightening up a bit on ourselves is always a good idea, but I have experienced the tremendous joy and happiness of large families all my life, and I doubt this book will give any true insight into that journey.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    This book is supposed to be for everyone who is at least mildly interested in kids, but even though I generally agree with the conclusions, I think this is probably actually only useful to women who want kids and need help persuading their white libertarian male partners. It's also yet another book where the main points would be sufficiently conveyed in a blog post or two. The biggest problem is that Caplan writes his argument as though his audience will accept it as a math proof. I am someone wh This book is supposed to be for everyone who is at least mildly interested in kids, but even though I generally agree with the conclusions, I think this is probably actually only useful to women who want kids and need help persuading their white libertarian male partners. It's also yet another book where the main points would be sufficiently conveyed in a blog post or two. The biggest problem is that Caplan writes his argument as though his audience will accept it as a math proof. I am someone who actively strives to be more rational but it's obvious even to me that while talking about the calculation of having kids as a math or economics equation is interesting, most people are much more emotional in how they approach these kinds of decisions. He just casually dismisses the pressure people feel from others on expectations of how much to pour into parenting, when it's obviously a huge driver of a lot of behavior. If people could easily just...decide...not to feel bad about being parent-shamed, wouldn't most people just do it already? Other missed explorations of why people spend more on parenting these days: * as our lives have gotten easier and better, we're letting ourselves become less resilient, more loss averse even though it doesn't matter, etc. * the additional startup costs may not necessarily just be absorbed, like if it's overwhelming enough that a divorce happens. * while disease and safety outcomes have improved a ton in the last century, that seems to also suggest that a greater proportion of potential negative outcomes for your kids are less obviously something you can't control. There's no discussion at all on the strong motivation to avoid feeling guilty in the future if your kid does in fact get abducted by a stranger. I also have a hard time just accepting his interpretation of the twin and adoption studies. It might as well also just be, "most people from and raised in middle class homes turn out fine, on average" and while that is somewhat reassuring, it's not actually that helpful for figuring out where to draw the line. It makes more sense to talk about how people who went to Ivy League schools are not reliably better off in life, how kids do not need to be kept occupied or entertained all day every day, that it's normal and perhaps healthier to let them whine about being bored rather than jumping in to fix their problems, etc. Assuming you have already been exposed to the idea of free-range (/French/Swedish etc.) parenting and that it isn't necessary to be a helicopter parent to raise civilized human beings, the best point made in the book is that your ideal number of children to have changes over time. Kids have a lot of startup costs but try not to let yourself be short-sighted and make decisions now that limit your future grandkid potential, for example. I think there could have been a lot better discussion on why as a culture, we have such a Manichaean* approach to describing parenthood--either there's too much idealism around what the daily experience is actually like or there's so much complaining about how much work and loss of freedom it is for the adults involved. Not to mention why we've accepted that we must maximize every single thing, when the evidence doesn't justify the striving. Rather than relying on the twin/adoption studies, a simpler argument of "a lot of parenting advice is given with undeserved confidence in its importance and effect" would have worked better. In conclusion, what I really want is for Megan McArdle to write on this topic instead. I want someone logically examine why people are hesitant to have bigger families without religion or politics being a part of it. *Sure, I could have just said "black-and-white," but one must take advantage of opportunities to use one's liberal arts education. Notes: * "I'm not trying to convince everyone to have kids. I'm trying to convince people who are at least mildy interested in being a parent that they should have more kids than they originally planned." * "Parenting is stressful, but much of the stress is unnecessary. Parents can have a much better life without disadvantaging or endangering their kids. In any case, you should not let the short-run stress of an extra child dominate your decision. Many of the benefits of children come later in life. If you are wisely selfish, you will not allow a few months of sleepwalking to stand between you and your future as a parent and grandparent." * "By the standards of the Sixties, modern dads do enough child care to pass for moms--and modern moms do enough child care to compete for Mother of the Year." * "From a practical point of view, however, it doesn't make much difference whether parenting is impotent or just backfires half the time. One story says, 'Your efforts won't work.' The other say, 'Your efforts are equally likely to make things better or worse.' Either way, parents can't reasonably expect their extra effort to pay off." => but we would judge you as a "bad parent" for not trying. * "Cutting-edge studies of the children of twins find bigger effects of parenting than traidtional twin and adoption studies." * "Won't other parents severely harass and badmouth the first family to relax? But peer pressure is overblown. Most parents are too exhausted by their own overparenting to pay much attention to yours. Even if you do pop up on other parents' radar, they'll probably keep their opinions to themselves to avoid conflict. In any case, if other parents openly disapprove of you, the consequences are mild." => this is the section that makes me almost disbelieve he has any children at all, and seems like it could only have been written by a somewhat insensitive man. * "The most effective way to get the kind of kids you want is to pick a spouse who has the traits you want your kids to have." => still seems more like modeling behavior can have a big impact, rather than just genes. * "parents have a noticeable effect on how kids experience and remeber their childhood. While this isn't parents' only lasting legacy, it is the most meaningful." * "Conditions today aren't merely better. They improved so much that government statisticians changed their denominator from deaths per 1,000 to deaths per 100,000." * "three nonstandard factors strike me as more important: changes in values, changes in self-imposed rules, and changes in foresight." * "the great paradox of parenting is that we yearn to change the people we unconditionally love. Accepting our kids are they are is easier said than done. Deep down, most of us prefer to unconditionally love a certain kind of child."

  30. 5 out of 5

    Max Nova

    I feel conflicted about giving this book 2 stars. On one hand, it's written in an awkward, pandering tone and many of the arguments are very hand-wavy. On the other, this book may be responsible for a huge increase in my quality of life if/when I have kids (now isn't that a terrifying thought?). The book's basic premise is that modern parents "over-parent" their children and make both themselves and their children unhappy. Caplan tries to convince the reader that the nature/nurture debate has bee I feel conflicted about giving this book 2 stars. On one hand, it's written in an awkward, pandering tone and many of the arguments are very hand-wavy. On the other, this book may be responsible for a huge increase in my quality of life if/when I have kids (now isn't that a terrifying thought?). The book's basic premise is that modern parents "over-parent" their children and make both themselves and their children unhappy. Caplan tries to convince the reader that the nature/nurture debate has been resolved by science - in the short term, nurture has a large impact (e.g. a "time-out in the naughty corner" will temporarily improve behavior), but in the long-term these effects are negligible and nature has an overwhelming influence on long-term behavioral/economic/health outcomes. The upshot is that you can basically be pretty hands off with your kids and it's almost guaranteed that they'll end up just fine. So instead of being paranoid about kidnappers or being a piano lesson Nazi, chill out and your kids will grow up to be normal people without you having to do much about it. Caplan tries to make the argument that because raising kids is a "low-cost" proposition and having kids/grandkids when you're older is awesome, you should have more kids than you think you want to have when you're in your twenties. I'm far from convinced, but it's certainly an interesting perspective. Full review and highlights at https://books.max-nova.com/reasons-more-kids/

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