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. Dr Bryan Caplan, an academic and economist from George Mason University in Virginia, believes parents are working far too hard at bringing up their children. In his book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun than You Think, he recommends mothers and fathers take more of a backseat role and, crucially, abandon the hothousing. “What I'm trying to say is, if you are a person who likes the idea of kids, being a great parent is less work and more fun that you think. Right now, parents are 'overcharging' themselves for each kid,” said Caplan, who is a father of three – eight-year-old twins and a one-year-old.
He added: “Parents can sharply improve their lives without hurting their kids. Nature, not nurture, explains most family resemblance, so parents can safely cut themselves a lot of additional slack.” Caplan's style of “serenity parenting” comes in stark contrast to other models advocated, most prominently this year by Amy Chua, a Yale professor whose bestselling book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother extolled the virtues of tough love and hard work. Caplan believes, however, that “investment parenting” – piano and violin lessons, organised sports and educational games – doesn't have the slightest effect when the children move into adulthood. He suggests letting children drop sports and other activities unless they really love doing them.