During this Covid 19 lockdown period, if you feel like you have nothing to do, perhaps you can try to make more babies.
What? Aren’t kids are nothing but trouble? Just imagine when they are babies, they cry at unholy hours and how sleep deprived you become. Just imagine how they rebel against you as they grow up to be teenagers( you can’t fire them after all, because they are your sons and daughters) . When they start attending school you have to supervise their homework, nag them to study with maybe only moderate or totally zero success. You spend lots of resources on them, so that they can grow into reasonable human beings who someday might become doctors and engineers and make you proud.
So if I am selfish, I would rather have no kids at all, how can there be any selfish reason to have them?
Here’s where Bryan Caplan, a professor of economics comes in. In his book, “Selfish Reasons to have more kids“, he makes case on why if you are a selfish and rational person, you should have more kids than you originally plan.
First, despite the hardship initially, most people don’t regret having kids. In economic parlance, there is no buyer remorse– if given a chance, they would still willingly go through the process. True, kids make you miserable in the short term, especially when they wake you up in the middle of the night, or when they rebel against you during teenage times. But they become your joy when you grow old. So, if you are rational, you won’t just consider the initial few years of suffering and consider it all, you would also take the later years of joy into account and make an informed decision based on an aggregate of them. And you will find that the years of joy are longer and more intense than the years of suffering, which makes having kids a good bargain.
What about parenting that we all dread? Having a kid is expensive, especially in a city, no less because the expectation is high. You want your kids to get ahead in terms of academics, good in terms of sports and musics, well-manner and decent, so you impose a strict form of parenting, you monitor your kids for their homework, you chauffeur them from one place to another for their tuition and music lessons, you yell at them when they speak bad words, you impose a strict form of parenting, so strict that parenting starts to feel like a dead chore… and yet your kids still fall short by comparison. They seem to bounce back to their dismal state the moment they grow up, which is depressing. What have I done wrong? You can’t help but wonder.
If you are these sort of parents, then Bryan Caplan would tell you to relax. Parenting is overrated, the book says. Decades of twin studies have conclusively proven that how the kids eventually turn out to have more to do with the genes of their parents, rather than the parenting style. In other words, nature trumps nurture, parenting style has no lasting effect on the kids. Your kids’ IQ, conscientiousness, agreeableness , life expectancy, health or even marriage or religiosity would remain more or less the same, regardless of how you parent them.
This is not to say that parenting has no effect whatsoever; parenting style does have significant effects when the kids are young, but as they grow old true nature wins out. So much for the hope to instill righteousness when they are young. If you constantly drill knowledge into your kids head, it will stick for a while, and your kids can appear smarter than those who don’t undergo the drilling operation, but the benefit are temporary. When they grow up, it’s their genes that will largely determine how smart they are, not your parenting style.
One area that parenting has an effect is appreciation, this time for long. How you treat your kids will affect how they remember you for years down the road. Good memories stay on.
But I think it’s important not to carry this conclusion too far. As the author stresses in the book, the lesson here is not that don’t do parenting at all or you can mistreat your kids; the caveat of the twin studies is that they are based on normal middle class families in first world countries such as US or Sweden, and may not apply if your neighbourhood is full of crimes and drugs and all other bad influences( for example).
The lesson here is that you need to relax, as long as the adoption agency considers you fit for adopting children, you already passed. There is no need to emulate tiger moms and put you and your kids under undue stress. Do yourself a favor by cutting you and your kids some slack, such as cut out the activities that both of you enjoy the least, or let them watch some TVs guilt free, or let them attend sleepover parties from time to time, or just let them develop their interest instead of cramming for exams…. Remember that appreciation is the only thing that has some effects long term, so you might want to fill your time with your children with happy memories.