One of my favorite thinkers, Bryan Caplan, was recently on the Honestly Podcast with Bari Weiss and a panel of parenting experts. I credit Bryan for convincing me that it was a good idea to have kids through his book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think.
In his book, he gives advice about parenting from twin-adoption research studies. His conclusion is that the way you parent matters a lot less than you think as far as long-term outcomes in life. So, you might as well enjoy your kids, and have more of them!
Caplan truly enjoys his kids and thinks being a parent is one of the greatest joys in life. He writes that parents are overly obsessed with forcing their kids to be in every type of extracurricular activity, which ends up making their kids and themselves miserable. He also gives some common sense advice regarding discipline: be consistent and don’t overreact.
Consistent discipline is much better than yelling or lashing out. For Caplan, the goal of discipline is not so much to mold your kid into what you desire, but rather to simply encourage them to be a decent person to be around.
You can read Caplan’s reaction to the other panelists on the podcast at Bryan Caplan’s Substack post or listen below.
I’ve transcribed part of the podcast where Caplan talks about his approach to disciplining kids:
“I don’t relate to any of the things about being terrified or overwhelmed. My kids are the greatest joy in my life. I love spending time with them. I love doing things with them. I also think that if I had let them walk all over me, it would be a bit different. In terms of the question of yelling, there’s pretty much no evidence that you are messing up your kids for life. The thing that I think you are doing is messing up your relationship with them.
A bit of yelling people can get over that. A lot of yelling, people probably won’t. Some people are very forgiving. I think about how my parents raised me, which was with a lot of yelling. They would tell me, “Oh when you’re a parent you’ll understand.” I still have no idea what they are talking about. I don’t think their behavior was acceptable. I think they should’ve kept their behavior under control and behaved.
I try to treat my kids with kindness and respect all the time. I do punish them, but I don’t punish them out of anger. I tell them look, you’ve broken a rule and now something is gonna happen to you. It’s just what I’ve told you was gonna happen. There’s no talking your way out of it. I tell them, “next time let’s be better.”
There’s an aphorim I have: never make people bend the truth at your funeral. When I die, I want people to say, “my dad was so great, he never yelled, he was always so understanding, and just a great guy”. That’s something that’s hard to shoot for, but still it does stay with me as something I’m going for.Bryan Caplan on Honestly Podcast with Bari Weiss