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Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think Paperback – May 8, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465028616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465028610
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #389,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Caplan's advice is likely to relieve the many busy parents who are often racked with guilt over how little time they can devote to their children." (Daily Mail) "The argument of this book is one of the most provocative and counterintuitive for a modern Western adult to absorb. The implications go far deeper than the notion that all your middle-class neurosis has been wasted, towards the idea of genetics as a driver of social class. Both make us squirm.... [but] what Caplan has learnt is the futility of forcing. If there is anything you can instill in your child, the studies show, it is fond memories of childhood." (The Times) "Amid the blizzard of books telling parents how to best raise their children, a new volume has shocked many middle-class families in the US. Its advice? Relax. Do less parenting. Let them eat pizza and watch more TV." (Guardian)"

About the Author

Bryan Caplan is an Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute. Caplan is also blogger and editor for EconLog, one of the Wall Street Journal’s Top 25 Economics Blogs. His first book, The Myth of the Rational Voter was named “the best political book of the year” by the New York Times, and made the Financial Times list of the Best Books of 2007. In addition, he has written articles for a variety of publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. He lives in Oakton, Virginia, with his wife and their three children.

More About the Author

I'm a Professor of Economics at George Mason University and blogger for EconLog. My first book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, was named "the best political book of the year" by the New York Times. My new book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, is on sale April 12. I've published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Economic Review, Economic Journal, Journal of Law and Economics, and Intelligence, and appeared on 20/20 and C-SPAN. An openly nerdy man who loves role-playing games and graphic novels, I live in Oakton, Virginia, with my wife and three sons.

Customer Reviews

The book isn't very well written and certainly doesn't meet academic rigor.
Aaron Thomas
Caplan's book is the perfect antidote to the zeitgeist obsessed with trying to be "perfect" parents in order to turn out "perfect" kids.
Jessica R. Manley
I'm not sure if I really will end up having more kids because I read this book.
Josh Gross

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

216 of 225 people found the following review helpful By Peas on Earth on August 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading the book, and then read through all the negative reviews. Basically, my sense is that all of those who wrote negative reviews misunderstood what the book is about, and instead focused on single statements taken out of context.

First: This book does NOT tell you that you should just put your child in front of the television all the time, because your parenting makes no difference. It also doesn't tell you that you should feed your kids fast foods, stop monitoring them altogether, or otherwise neglect them, because it won't matter. This is NOT what the book is about. The fast food and TV instances that (defensive sounding?) people seem to cling to like a last straw are given as examples in specific cases: If both you and your child are stressed out, and you're trying to force the kid to do something they don't want to do because YOU think it's important for their future (e.g. practice violin or go to ballet class), and you're stressed and screaming at them to do it, and no one's happy, THAT'S when the book suggests to relax, take an hour for yourself, and let the TV babysit. The idea is that a relaxed, happy parent, is FAR more important to a child's long term well being than an hour of ballet. And any parent who's ever been stressed (i.e., ALL parents), know that their stress does not rub off very well on the kids.

Second: This book doesn't say that parenting doesn't matter AT ALL. It says that REASONABLE parenting, with love, affection, attention, and fun times spent together is sufficient to let your child make the most of their potential. You do not have to be a SUPER parent, just a loving attentive normal parent, to achieve the same results.

Third: This book doesn't say everyone should have more children.
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95 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Zachary Gochenour on April 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I recommend this book to anyone who has ever thought about having children.

The central message of this book is based in simple economics. Right now you have some sense of the costs and benefits of having children, and you use this idea to determine the optimal number of children for your family. The book explains how and why most people are wrong about these costs and benefits: children are almost certainly less costly than you think, and they are probably at least as beneficial as you think.

Whether or not you're convinced to have more kids, this book contains practical parenting advice. Key to idea that having children isn't as costly as you think is that most parental effort intending to change a child's long-term outcome is wasted. Caplan cites decades of research in behavioral genetics to make his case, to borrow one of the book's best metaphors, that children are much more like plastic that responds to pressure in the short term and eventually returns to its original shape than they are like clay.

The curious but skeptical reader should be glad to know that Caplan devotes a considerable portion of the book to anticipating and responding to criticism. In the months of pre-release debates about the book I have not seen one criticism that isn't addressed in detail within the text. So even if the idea of the book seems nearly implausible to you, I still recommend giving it a shot: it probably addresses your objection directly.

On a personal note, reading this book convinced me that I should want more kids than before. For that reason I think it will end up being among the most influential books I've ever read in my life, without exaggeration. I hope it does the same for you, because (as also noted in the book) your children aren't only good for you, but they're good for the world. So go forth, get the book, be fruitful, and multiply.
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86 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Philip Maymin on April 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you do nothing else, just read the introduction. It summarizes everything, and is excellent. The book goes straight to the premise and evidence without any dancing or pre-selling. And the book concludes with hypothetical conversations with various real-world critics, which are also fun to read. More books should be structured in this way.

And in the middle, you get one jaw-dropping result after another that can be basically summarized as: RELAX. Your day-to-day parenting may have some short-term consequences but in the long-run, your children will basically turn out just like you. Want proof? You turned out like your parents, didn't you?

The book can be summarized with two results: one is that parental nagging or reminding or anything else DOES NOT AFFECT DENTAL HYGIENE.

This is pretty remarkable.

If you can't control your kids dental hygiene, a process that you can monitor and schedule and confirm -- meaning, if no matter what you do, the health of their adult teeth will ultimately be determined by genes anyway, unless of course you knock them all out -- then what hope do you have of affecting their grades or their IQ or their future income? Turns out those things too are genetic.

So Caplan's conclusion is, since your actions matter very little at the margin, just relax. Have some more kids and just hang out. Don't stress out.

I've read Freakonomics and Parentonomics and The Idle Parents and a bunch more. This is the clearest evidence-based parenting book that your actions don't matter (though the last two chapters of the original Freakonomics make essentially the same point about the importance of parenting essentially ending at birth, they do not go to the next logical step of recommending you have more kids).
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