I wasn’t surprised that Bryan Caplan’s Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids has the clearest explanation of the science of behavioral genetics that I have ever read (even clearer than the excellent discussions in Harris’s The Nurture Assumption or Pinker’s The Blank Slate.) Frankly, I was surprised that Bryan’s book is also the most useful parenting book that I have ever read. Selfish Reasons isn’t just clever, it is also wise. Bryan’s views on parenting are often simplified down to “parents don’t matter.” But that’s wrong. Bryan knows that parents matter for all kinds of things, most of all for how parents and children enjoy childhood. Here is some of Bryan’s wisdom:
Once I became a dad, I noticed that parents around me had a different take on the power of nurture. I saw them turning parenthood into a chore—shuttling their kids to activities even the kids didn’t enjoy, forbidding television, desperately trying to make their babies eat another spoonful of vegetables. Parents’ main rationale is that their effort is an investment in their children’s future; they’re sacrificing now to turn their kids into healthy, smart, successful, well-adjusted adults. But according to decades of twin research, their rationale is just, well, wrong. High-strung parenting isn’t dangerous, but it does make being a parent a lot more work and less fun than it has to be.
The obvious lesson to draw is that parents should lighten up. I call it “Serenity Parenting”: Parents need the serenity to accept the things they cannot change, the courage to change the things they can, and (thank you twin research) the wisdom to know the difference. Focus on enjoying your journey with your child, instead of trying to control his destination.