Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think by Bryan Caplan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I was looking forward to this book, mostly because of the raving recommendation I got for it. I really thought that, given my view on having kids, it would really jive with me. However, the nature vs. nurture premise of it really bothered me. It's not that I don't believe the results of the twin and adoption studies that showed nature was more powerful than nurture--I'm sure there were such results as the author claims. However, I disagree that parents have little effect on huge things like alcohol and drug use and teenage sex and pregnancy. Parents have HUGE impacts on things like that and to say they don't, you might as well say, don't bother having rules or teaching morals or training your kids to work hard because nothing you do will count for anything. That goes against scripture, which says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he shall not depart from it." In church we are told as parents that what we do teach our kids matters a lot and I tend to believe what the gospel teaches parents over what some economist doing research finds on the subject.
There isn't a whole lot of detail in his research given about the studies, just that he found that the studies he looked at made it seem that parenting doesn't matter. And that wasn't what bothered me most--it was the fact that he went on for chapters and pages about nature winning over nurture but then he goes back and says that we should discipline our children. Why, if the lessons won't stick? A lot of what he is calling "nature" isn't nature, it IS nurture. If I was raised by parents who are very pessimistic and also very self-disciplined, and I turn out that way, it's not genetics that caused me to be that way, it's learning from how they acted to act the same way. Genetics don't cause you to be a pessimist or a perfectionist. That's learned behavior because it's behavior you CAN change if you put your mind to it. If it was truly genetics, it couldn't be changed, like eye color or height.
I did like the section where he talked about how the population and the economy have a reciprocal effect on each other and the section on grandparents was interesting. However, this book was rather a disappointment for me as I thought it would be taken in a completely different direction.
Again, if nature so rules over nurture, then what is the point of me doing the best job I can as a parent to teach my kids right from wrong (something they don't know when they come) and teach them self-discipline and hard work and how to manage money, etc. If nothing parents do matter, then nothing anyone else does either in the life of a human being and teachers can't affect a student and peers can't influence them either because "they are who they are". What nonsense!
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