Parentonomics: An Economist Dad Looks at Parentingby Joshua Gans Published 01 Mar 2009
|Parentonomics: An Economist Dad Looks at Parenting.pdf|
|Publisher||MIT Press (MA)|
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What every parent needs to know about negotiating, incentives, outsourcing, and other strategies to solve the economic management problem that is parenting.
Like any new parent, Joshua Gans felt joy mixed with anxiety upon the birth of his first child. Who was this blanket-swaddled small person and what did she want? Unlike most parents, however, Gans is an economist, and he began to apply the tools of his trade to raising his children. He saw his new life as one big economic management problem -- and if economics helped him think about parenting, parenting illuminated certain economic principles. Parentonomics is the entertaining, enlightening, and often hilarious fruit of his "research."
Incentives, Gans shows us, are as risky in parenting as in business. An older sister who is recruited to help toilet train her younger brother for a share in the reward given for each successful visit to the bathroom, for example, could give the trainee drinks of water to make the rewards more frequent. (Economics later offered another, better toilet training solution: outsourcing. For their third child, Gans and his wife put it in the hands of professionals--the day care providers.) Gans gives us the parentonomic view of delivery (if the mother shares her pain by yelling at the father, doesn't it really create more aggregate pain?), sleep (the screams of a baby are like an offer: "I'll stop screaming if you give me attention"), food (a question of marketing), travel ("the best thing you can say about traveling with children is that they are worse than baggage"), punishment (and threat credibility), birthday party time management, and more.
Parents: if you're reading Parentonomics in the presence of other people, you'll be unable to keep yourself from reading the funny parts out loud. And if you're reading it late at night and wake a child with your laughter -- well, you'll have some guidelines for negotiating a return to bed.
"Parentonomics: An Economist Dad Looks at Parenting" Reviews
I think another reviewer already pointed out that the book is neither a good parenting book nor a good economics book. However, if you go into reading this thinking you'll learn about parenting or economics, you'll be just as disappointed. I enjoyed the book much more when I put those desires aside and just enjoyed it for what it was: anecdotal stories about a family.
Hilarious and at the same time prepares one for parenting challenges :-) Enjoyed reading it. There are times when you want to read certain passages aloud to your spouse.
Gans, J. (2009). Parentonomics: An economist dad looks at parenting. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
I've never mind laughed so hard since reading #NeilHumphreys!
"Within months, a big event is going to occur. You only have to look around the room to get a sense of foreboding that accompanies a ticking time bomb." - on birthing classes
My wife: No leh.
Me: That's 'cos you were the time bomb.
"An anesthetist came by, and Mommy happily submitted to what seemed to be spinal surgery. She then fell asleep, leaving me to enjoy dinner in peace. I came away from that experience thinking that no time was too soon for drugs in labor. Perhaps at the onset of pregnancy." - on epidurals, p. 16
"I started asking the obstetrician trivia questions. What's the most deliveries you've done in a day? What's your largest baby? And so on. He was into it, but the midwives weren't. They were horrified. They could not believe how unsupportive I was. Indeed, 3.5 years later, we arrived at the same maternity ward for Child No. 3. My wife would introduce me: This is my husband, Joshua. Yes, we know him, came the contemptuous reply. It must've been thousands of babies later, and I was still infamous, my picture adorning their coffee room wall or dartboard." - on husbands being the designated comforter, pp. 17-18
"In the birth video, the baby was delivered. The narrator continued: And now Daddy can play a role. He is handed scissors and cuts the cord. My eyes rolled. This hardly looked like an important role. It was tokenism at best. To me, what also appeared pretty simple was the 'catching' job the obstetrician did. The baby came out; it was caught; everyone as relieved. Hardly rocket science. It was time for me to step up and propose something real tondo. Something necessary, involving potential risk, that I could actually savour as an important life moment. I wanted to catch." - on giving dads a more important role in childbirth, p. 19
"In my mind, sleep is a negotiation. We want sleep, and the baby wants attention. There is an inherent conflict here. The screams of a baby are like an offer: I'll stop screaming of you give me attention. And it's not a vague offer. Give the baby attention, and they crying stops. After only a few tries, a little baby can train its parents nicely." - on the value of sleep, p. 26
"When they're told it's time for the diaper to go, the expression on their face says it all. They appreciate the beauty and function of the design. Perhaps they also suspect teacher they'll be wearing one in 70 years' time. Why deny them in the interim?" - on weaning children off diapers, p. 56
"It is where all the correspondence we get, and potentially have to deal with, goes. Birthday invites, catalogs, bills, court summonses, and other stuff goes there. Everyone knows that if something is out in the pile of death, it'll never be seen again. If the children see us putting an invitation in the pile, they scream: "Nooooo! Not there!" They know their social life is doomed." - on how mail is sorted, p. 81
"For Child No. 1, there's no such thing as mere stuff she doesn't potentially need. She can construct a case to save every last thing from eviction.
"It's the cover from a pen."
"Why do you need it?"
"In case I find the pen."
"Didn't we throw out the pen last year 'cos it had no cover?"
"No, that was another pen. I can also use it as a small cup." - on hoarding, p. 83
"A number of common sayings refer to lice. Calling someone a nitwit is saying they've the intelligence of a louse egg (nit). Getting down to the nitty-gritty and nit-picking refers to the detailed work in removing nits. Describing someone as lousy implies they've lice." - on lice-inspired vocabulary, p. 84
"Ow, you're pulling!"
"I'm just trying to get through these knots to the scalp. And if you'd stop moving your head up and look down, that would help."
"But I can't see the TV."
"Well, I need to be able to see. Now just sit tight and behave yourself."
"I want to do something else. How much longer will it be?"
"It'll be over when it's over. Look, we have to do this. Don't you wanna go to work tomorrow?" - on getting rid of lice, p. 85
"I heard about that. How are you coping?" In a tone that suggests the funeral was yesterday.
"Do the kids understand what's happened?" Yes, their mummy has gone to a better place - a spa resort.
"What're you doing for food?" I'm dangling the two year old as bait outside to see what we can catch.
- on the mother being away, p. 114
Car seats maximizes the chances of a "no child injury" crash by 1.6%; there're myriad more effective ways to reduce accidents. - p. 130
"I'm standing here with my eyes closed, thinking of a suitable punishment. If by the time I open my eyes, you haven't done X, I'll tell you what it is." - p. 140
"My attitude toward playing games with children is simple: I play to win. I see no need to coddle my children in game playing. If they want that, they can go elsewhere, say, to their mother." - p. 162
"#ClubPenguin - like other games before it - has taken in my kids' mother. She too is obsessed with getting further in it. The entire family is now on ice." - p. 168
Tupperware parties for kids' birthdays - p. 174-5
Reward effort, not performance - p. 191
I read this years ago when my children were little and I felt I ought to read parenting books but couldn’t get into them. This was a very interesting alternative. A nice balance of humour and information, and very readable.
Joshua Gans's blog Game Theorist was first called to my attention on Freakonomics. It's a blog that accounts his attempts to use the principles of economics to get his children to do what he wants (i.e., "parenting"). It's very well written, so I eagerly anticipated the arrival of his book Parentonomics, which, I must say, took its sweet times getting to a library in Maryland (one contributing factor is that the author is Australian, and apparently such things matter, even though they do in fact speak English in Australia).
As a result, I had been following the blog for over a year by the time I read the book, so I was a little disappointed to note that I had already read much of the book, which was either a rehash of his blog, or his blog has been publishing excerpts from the book while I was waiting for it to arrive. (This was very similar to my experience seeing DisneyNature's Earth after seeing only a couple of episodes of the BBC's Planet Earth, of which it was apparently a rehash.)
But if you haven't likewise been reading his blog, this book is certainly worth reading.
I'm not entirely sure it meets its stated goals, though. In the introduction, he says that the goal of his book is to teach the principles of economics using concrete examples from an easily relatable topic, i.e., parenting. For example, how can you use incentives to get your children to eat healthy food? And while he does talk about incentives in regard to eating, toilet training, and punishment, most of the rest of the book is, in fact, just a memoir of parenting, and not especially economics-related. It's cute that Child No. 1 is a pack rat, but I'm not really sure what that has to do with economics.
An interesting idea - applying economic theory to parenting - and hopefully watching the hilarious results... Check out http://gametheorist.blogspot.com/ for the blog that spawned the book.
Really the idea of applying economic theory to everyday issues was done a couple of years ago by Steven Levitt in Freakonomics...
Applying economic theory to parenting is likely to lead to some different parenting styles (and lets face it if it doesn't then there isn't much of a book). Maybe as a result Joshua's parenting style, and views on many issues (breastfeeding, childcare, importance of literacy, dealing with crying, etc) does not gel with mine.
So it is critical that the book is funny to keep me reading. Was it funny enough? Well I got through the whole book, just. But I feel that to be truely hillarious the economic theory would need to be applied to the nth degree - which it wasn't in the book because the book reflected what Joshua claimed to actually have done - and lets face it the nth degree if played out in reality would probably have lead to child abuse charges!
For books based on blogs regarding amusing stories about parenting from a Dad's perspective I would be recommending "From Here to Paternity" by Sacha Molitorisz (http://blogs.smh.com.au/lifestyle/who...)