Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Birthday Wishes for Happy Parenting

Today is the 23rd anniversary of my birth. Years from the land of my teens and seeing my own parenthood in the distance, I think it fair to say I’m older than I was yesterday. In light of this future national holiday, I decided to make the topic of this post relevant to the art of childrearing.

Responding to the fear that America will continue to follow in the footsteps of Europe and begin to have less and less children, economist Bryan Caplan makes the argument in An Economist's Guide to Happier Parenting that an extra child on average is beneficial, not harmful to a society. To encourage people to do so, he made a list of four things you can do to make parenting a more enjoyable experience.
1. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Don't plan three activities every Saturday, and wind up exploding at your kids' behavior in the middle of the third. It's far better for them and you to do one thing together that you can all enjoy, then let them watch t.v. Seriously.

2. If you can afford a nanny, get a nanny. If you can't afford a nanny yet, consider waiting to have kids until you can. If you're the typical person who isn't sure if he or she wants kids, you're well-educated and have good income potential. So if you can't afford a nanny yet, you'll be able to soon enough.

3. Don't let American prejudice against live-in nannies influence you: Live-in nannies mean you can sleep in, stay out, and get a break when you need one. Your best bet is to get a mature woman to bond with your kids when they're infants, and keep her happy. A little respect goes a long way.

4. Read Judith Harris' The Nurture Assumption. Don't worry about "moulding" your child for life; you couldn't do it if you tried. Realize, instead, that the purpose of discipline is:
a. To keep your kid in one piece.
b. To make your life easier - you count too!
c. To force your kid to sacrifice very short-run gains (playing ten more minutes) for short-run gains (not being cranky later today)
The main observation about parental unhappiness is this: The last 10% of parenting hours causes half of all the parental unhappiness. First two hours with your kids: a joy. Second two hours: pretty good. Hours 5-8: Tolerable. Hours nine and ten: Pain. Remaining hours: Anguish. There are few better illustrations of the law of diminishing marginal utility.


  1. Swirly9:51 PM

    In honor of your birthday, I got you an argument to this post. I know. Very thoughtful of me.

    So here you go: Points 2 and 3 are dumb. Point blank - YOU are not parenting if you're paying someone else is do it all of the time. Also, how many kids does this Bryan Caplan have? From my 30 second google search, http://www.gmu.edu/departments/economics/bcaplan/bureau.html , my assumption is zero. He can start dishing out advice after he has his own kids.

    Happy Birthday!! ; )

  2. Ha ha ha. Thanks for comments Cheryl. I'll admit my reaction was the same to the nanny idea. Especially for the situation Traci and I are in (her wanting and willing to stay home with the children), the idea of a nanny doesn't really make sense. But for those women who don't find it reasonable to stay home, a nanny could be better than day care... maybe.

    I was wondering about his own childfullness as well. It sounded like he only knew about it from hearsay.

    Thanks for birthday wishes and the smiley wink.

  3. That advice is terrible.

    Happy birthday, Brother!

  4. I don't know if I'd call it terrible. It surely isn't the best advice, but I think #1 especially is something to be thought about.

    Though I would probably substitute "then let them watch t.v." for read a book.

  5. Swirly9:53 PM

    Woah... Did we all almost just agree on something? I thought I saw a pig trying to fly earlier. Or maybe it was just a duck ; )

  6. The ducks are flying south for hell's winter.

  7. I meant the middle two, like Cheryl said.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.