Go and mul­ti­ply, with­out guilt

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

In an econ­omy that has given one in five Amer­i­cans the lib­erty to de­lay lifechang­ing de­ci­sions such as mar­ry­ing or hav­ing chil­dren, Bryan Ca­plan’s book “Self­ish Rea­sons to Have More Kids: Why Be­ing a Great Par­ent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think” stands as a bridge across an eco­nomic and psy­cho­log­i­cal gap.

This isn’t your av­er­age par­ent­ing book spout­ing psy­chol­o­gist­laden bab­ble about the in­ner work­ings of the hu­man psy­che, in­her­ent self­ish­ness and bear­ing chil­dren. Rather, Mr. Ca­plan, an eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity, is a fa­ther of three, in­clud­ing twins, and he hopes to per­suade in­ter­ested par­ties that it’s not only bet­ter to have chil­dren in the first place, but to have lots, or at least more than the num­ber you orig­i­nally were plan­ning to have.

Mr. Ca­plan me­thod­i­cally and with a sur­pris­ingly cheer­ful, even hu­mor­ous tone, starts to build his case by an­a­lyz­ing the state of the Amer­i­can fam­ily — much of this we al­ready know. The “Amer­i­can fam­ily has dras­ti­cally down­sized. Women in their for­ties were about twice as likely to have one child — or none — as they were thirty years ago.” No one knows ex­actly why this is hap­pen­ing, but Mr. Ca­plan as­serts: “[W]e’re re­luc­tant to have more chil­dren be­cause we think that the pain out­weighs the gain.”

Any par­ent — or even prospec­tive par­ent — can at­test to this. Many times the mem­ory — or fear — of sleep­less nights, a tantrumthrow­ing tod­dler or re­bel­lious teen break­ing cur­few sends adults into a fe­tal po­si­tion. Mr. Ca­plan’s so­lu­tion? Par­ents should loosen up and let live. “Chil­dren cost far less than most par­ents pay be­cause par­ents over­charge them­selves.” Im­prove your child’s sleep (and yours) with Dr. Richard Fer­ber’s method: Pare down ac­tiv­i­ties to ones both of you love, be clear and con­sis­tent and en­force con­se­quences to main­tain dis­ci­pline, and look for cre­ative ways to su­per­vise your chil­dren less. They gain inde- pendence, and you get a well-de­served break.

If tak­ing your ac­tiv­ity-laden kid out of dance class in fa­vor of let­ting her watch Dis­ney sounds like the be­gin­ning of a life­long guilt trip, Mr. Ca­plan’s not con­cerned. He backs up his sug­ges­tions with the the­sis of his book: Ac­cord­ing to stud­ies of adopted chil­dren and twins raised to­gether and apart, the ef­fects of par­ent­ing are short-term. Mr. Ca­plan cities study af­ter study that shows na­ture over­pow­ers nur­ture re­gard­ing traits par­ents care about and slave over most — in­tel­li­gence, health, hap­pi­ness, char­ac­ter, suc­cess — though par­ents are able to as­sert some in­flu­ence on a child’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion level and re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal iden­tity.

Mr. Ca­plan claims con­fi­dently: “Kids aren’t like clay that par­ents mold for life; they’re more like flex­i­ble plas­tic that re­sponds to pres­sure, but re­turns to its orig­i­nal shape when the pres­sure is re­leased.” While this might sound un­be­liev­able, even de­press­ing to some par­ents, Mr. Ca­plan beck­ons his read­ers to view this with the kind of op­ti­mism that will lead them to in­creased fer­til­ity. “Be­hav­ioral ge­net­ics of­fers par­ents a deal: Show more mod­esty, and get more hap­pi­ness. You can have a bet­ter life and a big­ger fam­ily if you ad­mit that your kids’ fu­ture is not in your hands.”

The lat­ter half of Mr. Ca­plan’s book cov­ers a range of top­ics re­lated to par­ent­ing. From over­pop­u­la­tion — Mr. Ca­plan claims more peo­ple equals more in­ge­nu­ity, which does more good than the myth of too many peo­ple — to chap­ters that de­scribe strate­gies to be­come a grand­par­ent many times over and how to use the best of mod­ern science to achieve your newly formed fer­til­ity goals. These chap­ters aren’t as com­pelling as the first.

It’s hard to be per­suaded to ap­plaud hu­man cloning or store away ideas to “tact­fully re­ward your kids for each grand­child” when you’re still won­der­ing how you’re go­ing to pay the bills associated with each child you self­ishly de­cide to bring into the world — or you’re still mulling over what’s so re­ward­ing about an 18-year, gut-wrench­ing, all­out in­vest­ment in a child who ef­fec­tu­ally will be­come who­ever he was go­ing to be­come with­out your con­stant love, at­ten­tion and care. Mr. Ca­plan does not ex­plain why par­ents should choose to have one or more chil­dren if their par­ent­ing is so use­less in the long term. On the lat­ter, Mr. Ca­plan just claims if you and your child’s other ge­netic half are in­tel­li­gent, rea­son­able, de­cent hu­man be­ings, your kids prob­a­bly will be, too.

Ni­cole Rus­sell, re­cip­i­ent of the Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor Young Jour­nal­ist Award, has writ­ten for Politico, Na­tional Re­view On­line and the Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.