Paternomics: Levitt's Parenting vs. Mine
I can’t believe how much I disagree with Steve Levitt’s goals as a father. Here’s a line-by-line contrast:
[Steve] I care most about raising kids who are happy and successful as adults, even if that happens to mean that they aren’t very happy as children.
[Me] I care most about raising kids, who, like me, believe in enjoying every single day of life.
[Steve] I want my kids to like me when they are grown up, but I also want them to do what I tell them to do, the first time I tell them to do it.
[Me] I too want my kids to like me when they are grown up. But I’m happy to amicably negotiate with them except on issues of imminent danger and daily routines.
[Steve] I don’t want my kids to be sissies, the way I was — I want them to be tough, and able to take whatever criticism and misfortunes the real world has to offer.
[Me] Laugh if you like, but I want to give me kids a better life than I had. I don’t want them to be bullied or mocked by teachers or other kids. Since adult life is far more civilized than childhood, sheltering your kids is not “delaying the inevitable”; it’s skipping pointless suffering.
[Steve] I also want them to be creative, and to take risks (but not too many risks).
[Me] For once, Steve and I almost agree. I hope that my kids are creative, and I hope that they take intellectual and social risks. Why? Because they’re intrinsically valuable, and instrumentally profitable. At the same time, I hope they avoid physical risk-taking, because they’re neither.
Awkward question for discussion: Suppose you could have either me or Steve as your dad. Who would you pick – and why?