Have more kids!

Fascinating interview in the Times’ Ecomix blog with Brian Caplan, the author of Selfish Reasons to have more kids.  Obviously, Kim and I did not need much further encouragement.  Honestly, about the only people I know with four kids are also members of our Catholic church.  My friends all pretty much think we’re nuts.  There’s times I do to, of course, but kids are great– why wouldn’t you want more.  Given my long-time interest on parenthood and happiness, I found this little bit of most interest:

Happiness researchers consistently find that people with kids are less happy than otherwise identical people without. The result holds up, but there’s a lot more to the story. First of all, the “depressing” effect of kids, while consistent, is small. Married-with-kids is far happier than single-without-kids, but happiness researchers rarely bemoan the plight of childless singles. Second, kids do extremely well by another plausible standard: customer satisfaction. Over 90 percent of parents say they’d make the same decision if they had a “do over,” and over two-thirds of childless adults over 40 say they wish they had kids when they had their chance.

The finding that parents are slightly less happy is actually one of the main motivating facts behind my book. The problem isn’t that kids “ruin their parents’ lives,” but that parents need a little more tranquility and time for themselves. That’s why the evidence from twin and adoption research is such good news for parents: Parents can make their lives better today without making their kids’ lives worse tomorrow.

The point from the twin research is that what us parents do, ultimately doesn’t matter all that much– so stop stressing out about it.  I’m definitely there.  I like to joke that the best predictor of a child’s success is mother’s level of education and since Kim has a PhD, we don’t have to worry about anything.  Ahh, if only it was that easy with our kids.  Still, Caplan’s basic suggestions all sounds good to me:

A few of my favorite specific suggestions:

1. While parents often lose sleep for years, getting kids to sleep through the night is not hard. Real experiments confirm that the Ferber method — let your baby cry in his crib for 10 minutes, briefly comfort him, leave, repeat — works wonders.

2. Improving kids’ behavior isn’t hard either. Experiments confirm that clear, consistent, mild discipline — like putting kids in the “Naughty Corner” — works even on difficult kids. The problem is that if parents stop imposing discipline, kids soon revert to their old tricks.

3. If neither you nor your child enjoys an extracurricular activity, stop doing it. If the alternative is a little more TV or Xbox, that’s O.K.

4. Supervise less. Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids makes the case better than I ever could.

Sometimes when I get home and relax with the newspaper (yes, I do relax by reading news) while the kids are doing their own thing, I wonder if I shouldn’t be doing more to play with them, etc., but I think we’ve got it all worked out pretty good.

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