Parental Economics and Risk: A Couple of Reading Suggestions
Last week, I raised a few proverbial glasses to my wife and two of my kids. It’s only proper that I continue with a few words on parenting.
While I’ve basically given up Facebook (I’m still cleaning out my friends list), there are still a few pages I follow. Sanctimommy is hilarious(HT Steve Horwitz) and a little disturbing because every post is just plausible enough that it’s not obviously a joke.
Steve has criticized what he calls “corner solution parenting,” or, in other words, parenting that tries to reduce the probability of a given risk to zero. He is inspired, as I am, by Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids, which is probably the best book I’ve ever read on how wise parents should approach risk.
My sense is that a lot of parenting books are filled with pure nonsense based on bad interpretation of data. Indeed, I went on the warpath about the abuse of statistical significance testing when we were expecting our first child because of reading passages in “so you’re expecting” books about the significant effects of this thing or that thing without any reference to magnitude.*
That’s why our very own Bryan Caplan’s Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids was such a welcome addition to this literature. He builds on Skenazy in some places but summarizes the literature on the effects of “nurture” in many others. In light of Caplan’s insights, my review was titled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just Love My Kids.”
My favorite “Christian parent” book is by Elise Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, and it’s called Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus (here’s the website). It’s a useful companion to Skenazy and Caplan because it questions the “good parenting” and “make your kids good” paradigms (see this blog post, for example). This book also helped me “stop worrying and just love my kids” while resisting the temptation every parent knows: to try to turn the kids into a project, or to try to turn them into vessels through which we live vicariously.
In this discussion with Stefan Molyneux, David Friedman points out that we can think of children as either “pets that can talk” or “small people who don’t know very much.” If we treat them as pets who can talk, then our goal is to teach them the right (moral or intellectual) tricks. If we view them as small people don’t know very much, we see that we have a much deeper responsibility not as masters and trainers, but as leaders and mentors–in other words, as parents. Do I have this all figured out? Not by a long shot. Am I making constant mistakes? You bet. Am I making fewer mistakes because of these three books? Just a few of those avoided mistakes alone have been worth the price of the three books.
And finally, as you go through these readings, I suggest that you look at one of the funniest pages on Facebook: Sanctimommy.