Die Welt Am Sonntag ran my first German-language article a couple weeks ago.  It’s an original piece, written by me in English, and translated by their staff.  Some highlights in English:

Modern parents see their children as their most important investments.  They want their children to succeed in the competitive world of the future – and know that success isn’t cheap.  Before your kids can succeed in the world of work, they must first succeed in the world of school.  Massive parental investment of time and money seems crucial.  Without it, won’t your children fail in both worlds?  Indeed, parenting seems so important that parents appear to face a tragic trade-off: To ensure your children’s academic and professional success, you often have to push them so hard that they end up resenting you.


The surprising lesson of the science of success is that parents’ toil
bears little fruit.  Your kids would have been about as successful in school and work if they’d been raised by a very
different family.

This doesn’t mean that severe child neglect or abject poverty is harmless.  Twin and adoption studies focus on normal families that meet their children’s basic needs.  Researchers’ don’t ask, “Would this child have turned out differently if he were raised by wolves?”  They ask, “Would this child have turned our differently if he were raised by one of the other families we studied?”  When researchers report “no effect of family income on education,” this doesn’t mean that hungry kids learn as well as kids with full bellies.  It means that even the poorest families under observation were good enough to allow their children to reach their potential.

The life lesson to take away:

Twin and adoption research seem like handy excuses for lazy parents.  But scaling back misguided investments isn’t “lazy”; it’s common sense.  If your children’s future success is largely beyond your control, riding them “for their own good” is not just wasteful, but cruel.  The sentimental view that parents should simply cherish, encourage, and accept their children has science on its side.  Modern parents need to calm down and reconceive family time as leisure, not work.  Having fun with your children may not prepare them for the future, but there are few more rewarding ways to spend your time.