The media have run me ragged for the last two weeks.  But I’m not complaining; it’s a great experience, and I’m learning as I go.  The single best point I’ve heard boils down to “nudge for kids.”  It goes something like this:

Sure, repeatedly pushing a kid to do an activity he knows he hates is a bad idea.  But pushing kids to try activities is very different.  Even if a kid hates most of the things he tries, the cost of trying is low, and the upside – discovering an activity he loves – is large.  On the plausible assumption that kids underestimate the expected value of trying new things, parents can make their kids better off by making them try more things – even if they don’t want to.

The main problem with this argument (like libertarian paternalism generally) is that it’s easily abused.  Big issues:

1. How long does the experiment have to last before you’ll accept your child’s negative verdict?  Five minutes?  An hour?  A week?  It’s all-too-easy for parents to keep telling themselves that “He’ll come around” when it’s never going to happen.  Parents have biases, too; they dwell on the rare, vivid times their nudges work.

2. As a child grows up, he gets better and better at forecasting his verdicts.  Consider food: You don’t have to be an adult to accurately use its smell to predict its taste.  Forecasting your enjoyment of activities isn’t quite as easy.  But when a kid says he won’t enjoy a birthday party, he’s probably right – even if it is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I often suggest books, games, movies, and t.v. shows to my kids.  But in my experience, mandatory experimentation is neither necessary nor fruitful.  My kids try a high enough fraction of their options that they never run out of novel experiences – and the best way to change their minds is to back off and let them mature.  Of course, that’s N=3.  Does your experience – as a child and/or a parent – differ?