gDiapers, Parenting

The Economics and Genetics of Parenting

I am a big fan of Freakonomics. This just popped up on their site. I think I'm more relaxed as a parent now. Sort of. C'mon Johnny, grow faster, the NBA is in your future!

Economics, Genetics and Hippies By Bryan Caplan

Non-economists often take offense if you tell them, “You’re wasting your time.” But economists are more likely to respond, “Really? Please explain.” Effort is a scarce resource. Relaxing when effort doesn’t pay isn’t “lazy”; it’s a wise decision to conserve valuable effort. The catch is that the effect of effort is hard to measure. 

Every now and then, though, solid measurements fall into our laps. A case in point: People have argued about the effect of parenting on kids for thousands of years. But the “wisdom to know the difference” between genuine and counterfeit effects of parenting emerged only recently. As I explain in my new book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, adoption and twin researchers have spent the last forty years measuring the effect of parenting on every major outcome that parents care about. Their findings surprise almost everyone.

Health, intelligence, happiness, success, character, values, appreciation – they all run in families. But with a few exceptions, adoption and twin researchers find that nature overpowers nurture, especially in the long-run. 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.

The most meaningful exception to this flexible plastic rule is appreciation – how your kids feel about and remember you. One Swedish study asked middle-aged and elderly twins – some raised together, some raised apart – to describe how their parents raised and treated them. Twins raised together painted much more similar portraits of their parents than twins raised apart. If you raise your children with kindness and respect, they will probably remember it for as long as they live.

The upshot: Parents spend too much effort trying to mold their kids for the future, and not enough just enjoying life together. Vainly struggling to change your kids isn’t fun for you or them. And the struggle can easily hurt the main outcome where parenting really matters: the quality of the bond between parent and child. Neither economics nor genetics are known as touchy-feely disciplines. But when you put the two fields together and ask for parenting advice, they sound like a couple of hippies.

Parents need to love, encourage, and accept their kids. Stop trying to change them. Their future will take care of itself.


Diapers in Kindergarten?


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I more than most recognize the contentious topics related to parenting given the business I am in. As I cruise around the interverse, the proliferation of Mummy and Daddy blogs astound me. And the ability to post comments anonymously offers a potent mix for folks to judge like there's no tomorrow. 

Kim and I are vehemently for choice in everything. I don't think we have one friend back in Sydney who uses gDiapers. And that is fine by us. We're still friends! Your choice in diapers is so personal. gDiapers isn't for everyone. Parents are all busy and we have a million choices to make about child-rearing so why contribute to it all with yet more judgments?  We strongly advocate the "whatever floats your boat" approach to life. We think breastfeeding is great. It worked for us but we know it doesn't work for everyone. As someone says in the article below, better a happy parent using formula than a guilt-ridden one trying in vein to get their milk to come in. Just feed the kid!

So with that tee up, the Motherlode in the New York Times dropped a grenade into the parenting debate with the topic of potty training. The 63 comments are insightful about how vociferous we are about this particular subject!

For the record, our 5 year old son still has the odd accident…ugh.



I never, ever, ever give parenting advice. I mean never. But I will today.

Never take a story like say Pocahontas that you have been reading day in day out for months and on a whim decide to change character names. And their gender. And the era of the story.

Bed time got way messy last night…