article on relaxed parenting

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toothy35's picture
Joined: 02/20/06
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article on relaxed parenting

since tiger mom was wayyyyyy to aggressive for most of the's the other end of the spectrum

Parenting Is Overrated: Why the Secret to Happier Parents Is Doing Less

By Nicole Russell

May 5 2011, 10:05 AM ET 20
Listen up, Tiger Moms. Science tells us that being a parent is much easier than we think ... and should be much cheaper. Here is the economic case for hands-off parenting.
Like any multibillion industry, parenthood took a hit in the recession. A 2009 FindLaw study found one in five Americans are delaying "major life decisions" like getting married and having children because of the poor economy.
No wonder: It costs $190,000 to raise a child from infancy to high school graduation, according to U.S. government data. College, health insurance, and additional post-graduation expenses can easily double that bill. And then there are the emotional costs. In a happiness survey that appeared in Science magazine in 2004, mothers ranked their enjoyment in taking care of children below exercising and making meals and just above housework and working. Maybe that's why the number of women ages 40 to 44 without children has doubled in the last 30 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
[INDENT]Bad parenting won't keep your kids from being great, and good parenting might not make a difference. So relax and enjoy your kids!
[/INDENT]But parenting should thrive in an age of austerity, says Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University, and author of the new book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think.

The secret joy of being a parent, Caplan argues, comes from understanding the limited liability of parenting. Studies have found that child-rearing is, if you can believe it, a little overrated. In surveys of twins raised together and apart, behavioral scientists consistently found that nature overpowered nurture in almost all categories, from character and intelligence to happiness and health. Once you accept that bad parenting won't always keep your kids from being great (and good parenting might not make a difference!), it's easier to relax and enjoy the state of being a parent.
If the seeds of a good person are sown in a child's DNA, it follows that parents are probably paying too much to improve their children. Caplan suggests that parenting doesn't have to be so expensive. Kids don't need the latest gizmos or the ceaseless, and expensive, attention we provide them. You can easily raise a great kid on a modest budget.
Caplan suggests marginal improvements in four areas -- sleep, discipline, activities, and supervision - would ease the emotional and financial costs of parenting. Parents typically lose "three years of sleep per child," Caplan says. Instead of rushing parents should use the Ferber method to let children "cry it out" for a period of time before rushing to soothe them. He says discipline should be enforced - "[don't let] your kids run around like animals" - but put in perspective. Putting your child in the naughty corner for a spell might be the right message to send in the short-term, but "it doesn't mean it will change [children's] adult behavior."

In a direct blow to Tiger Moms around the world, Caplan excoriates the view that every child needs seven activities at once. If your kid hates soccer practice and you hate chauffeuring your son to soccer practice, stop it with the soccer practice, already! Go to the park. You'll both be happier.

If Caplan calls too much discipline overrated and too many activities overrated, guess what attitude he has toward too much supervision? (Hint: rhymes with overrated.) Citing statistics showing kids are safer now than they were in the idyllic 1950s, Caplan encourages parents to loosen the reins a little.

"Children are costly," Caplan acknowledged in an interview. "Everyone knows that." For families already struggling to put food on the table--let alone pay for college--it's not fair to say they can afford four kids if they just avoid expensive babysitters and high-tech strollers. But if you zoom out to the national level, more rugrats means more innovation. He reminded me that "there are long-term benefits for an increased population for progress. The key to progress is new ideas. Ideas are the cause of progress. Where do they come from? People! More people, more progress."

It's not just GDP that benefits from babies. It's older parents, too. "Many of the benefits of children come later in life," Caplan writes. "Kids have high start-up costs, but wise parents weight their initial sleep deprivation against a lifetime of rewards" ranging from grandchildren or valuable friendships with adult children. The Caplan Theory is a bit like the Ferber method writ large: If you stop worrying and let the kid be for now, everybody will be happier tomorrow.

Jennilynnjeff's picture
Joined: 06/11/07
Posts: 314

I liked that! Good reminder to just chill.... THX!

Joined: 03/16/15
Posts: 53852

I like this article. The over-analysis of parenting is one of my bugaboos. Even as I type, the kids are climbing on the car and digging for grubs in the dirt - and I am letting them be, lol. I spoke to a parent this morning who has two tutors for his 6-year-old, which horrified me. Let them alone already, I say.

shefrn1's picture
Joined: 08/28/07
Posts: 4148

i'm with you...let kids be kids...and the overanalysis drives me nuts...who cares what 'style' of parent you are...just be a parent!!!!!

thanks for the article coll....didn't really get a chance to read it in detail yet....just skimmed it...but hopfully will be able to read it without a kid climbing on me during naptime!!!!!

luangwa's picture
Joined: 06/29/07
Posts: 8898

I like this article too, the over all message of it is spot on. However 3 things struck me that I absolutely don't agree with. Of course, it's just my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions. Wink

If the seeds of a good person are sown in a child's DNA

Hmmm, not so sure I can completely agree with the 'becoming a good person is in the DNA". Almost every serial murderer had pretty crappy parenting where they were the child that was 'abused' and siblings were not, yet the siblings that were not abused were productive members of society.

Bad parenting won't keep your kids from being great

No not all the time, but I'd like to have Julie chime in with her work experiences on the percentage of juvenile delinquents and parents investigated by the CPS agencies. Bad parenting DOES contribute to 'bad' adults. Of course I'm talking extreme abuse/neglect. Not providing your elementary aged child with tutors, and music lessons, and dance class etc is NOT my definition of 'bad' parenting. KWIM?

In a happiness survey that appeared in Science magazine in 2004, mothers ranked their enjoyment in taking care of children below exercising and making meals and just above housework and working.

Really? Because I just have to say that the most enjoying, satisfying job I have is caring for my children. Even on tantrum days!!!! Reading this made me really really really sad.

Joined: 08/20/07
Posts: 1567

Great article - TFS!

Karrie5's picture
Joined: 05/29/08
Posts: 2993

I completely agree with everything Mel said. And especially about the survey results.

Joined: 03/16/15
Posts: 53852

I think those points were meant to be general, at least that's how I took them. Your DNA won't help you very much if your parent doesn't feed you or clothe you or locks you in a cellar for 20 years; nor will that kind of bad parent be off the hook for a person turning out less than great. I don't think the article was referring to those kinds of monsters, just more your "average" parent.

I didn't notice the part about the survey (reading too fast). My personal rating would not match that one; I would certainly prefer to clean than to cook, and to look after children rather than exercise! At the same time, I won't pretend that there aren't days when I'd rather not deal with the daily grind, INCLUDING kids - everybody can use a break sometimes - but that would be true in any job, whereas no other job would be as worthwhile to me.

Not every parent is going to feel fulfilled from their kids, unfortunately; some people like their kids better after they've left the baby stage, for instance. Or else some just need more "me" time than others; such freedom can be hard to give up, even after you've made your choices and it's too late.

I think that it is nice to see some acknowledgement that humans are flawed and therefore shouldn't be expected to parent perfectly; that they sometimes feel selfish, or occasionally mourn some of the things that used to define them before children. The suggestion seemed to be that letting go a little of the pressure to do more for their kids might alleviate some of the guilt they feel when they'd rather cook a fabulous meal than deal with Johnny's whining for one night. Johnny won't suffer if he whines alone while mommy makes a feast now and then - but that is nothing like making Johnny stay home alone while mommy paints the town, KWIM?

I think it was meant to be more light-hearted about your average grown-up than permissive about some of the horrors that do go on. (Puts me in mind of my SIL, you remember the super mom - she currently has three foster babies in addition to her own seven - the latest one four months old and being weaned from meth. :()

luangwa's picture
Joined: 06/29/07
Posts: 8898

Yes, I completely agree with you Karina. You know me, though. I'm totally black and white and can never 'comprehend' generalizations like those three things were doing. ROFL

Joined: 06/29/08
Posts: 1096

While I agree that there are a lot of parents out there that really need to lighten up. Personally, I'm not going to take parenting advice from an Economist, lol. Here's a discussion about the article from the NYT Motherlode blog:

(I read the stuff from the NYT before todays article and I take less offense at today's article, lol).

I don't know, I agree with he says - let the kids dig in the dirt, let them "free range," let them play and don't bother teaching them 5 languages - but something about it bothers me. And it's something that I don't think a woman - a mother - would ever say.

I do expect to sacrifice for my child. Sleep is one area, but there are others, too.

And I would argue that if ALL parents parented the way he says (which includes having more children because it's "easy") then that would change the economic effect that he's talking about.

I'm reading a book that's somewhat related - about kids being forced into classes and flashcards and stuff - but it talks more about the psychology behind it rather then the economics. It's called "Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How our children really learn - and why they need to play more and memorize less."

Joined: 03/16/15
Posts: 53852

That link is helpful, and I really enjoyed reading the discussion below it. Comment #3 (at my time of reading) rang true for me. I think the reactionaries who think it means everyone should have 12 kids and put their feet up are reading a tad too much into it, lol. I don't personally care if he is an economist or a brain surgeon or the corner grocer - that is just his job and there is no such thing as a professional parent. I think it is cool that it has generated an interesting exchange of opinions.

toothy35's picture
Joined: 02/20/06
Posts: 4578

i just liked the article cuz it had a chill mentality.......i by no means was going to use it as a parenting tool........LOL......i definately didn't read into it.....

i even laughed at the survey polls.......and thought.....i would definately put having fun with the kids, WAY above exercising, cooking or cleaning......

and i totally agree that having more kids is easier ;).....its just part of family dynamics or's all good over here and i let my kids be kids..i put a lot of hard work in the early years, and i think it totally has paid off.....and has allowed me to sit back and enjoy the ride!!!!!

Jumarse's picture
Joined: 02/27/07
Posts: 5219

Loved the article because I think way too much emphasis is placed on how someone parents...there are obvious things you might do to your child to "harm" them in some way, but good grief, just parent the best way you know how, do no intentional harm and stop trying to mold your kid into something they can't or don't want to be.

Joined: 01/18/06
Posts: 1626

Yeah, it was great! I loathe parenting titles. ESPECIALLY attachment parenting. I could go into a huge rant as to why, but seriously hate them.

Do what works, don't do what doesn't.

And I definitely subscribe to the relaxed parenting. Probably a bit more than I should sometimes, lol. My kids are healthy and happy and I don't want to be anywhere else, so seems all is as it should be.