Unorthodox Parenting Techniques That Work
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Parenting 1011 of 8
From giving your kids bizarre names to bribing them to do their math homework, New York University sociology professor Dalton Conley has some unorthodox ideas about parenting. In his new book Parentology, he recounts his scientific approach to raising his own kids. Read on to find out more about his creative "experiments" in fatherhood.
What's in a Name?2 of 8
Names like North and Bear may strike you as strange, but Conley argues that the weirder the better. He named his daughter E (as in the letter), and his son Yo, full name Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Jeremijenko-Conley. The reason? According to research, "Having a weird name makes you more likely to have impulse control since you get lots of practice biting your tongue when bigger, stronger, older kids make fun of you." What's more, impulse control is tied to delayed gratification—skills that "are even more important than raw IQ in predicting socioeconomic success."
Reading the Fine Print3 of 8
In today's my-kid-is-smarter-than-yours culture, the younger your tyke is when they start reading, the bigger your bragging rights. But Conley isn't impressed. When his 4-year-old son Yo scored poorly on a reading test, he was unfazed. He cites research that shows that "early reading … was only weakly correlated with later verbal ability." So don't panic if your child is a late reader—Conley suggests that reading comprehension is more important in the long run.
Story Time4 of 8
Conley's a big advocate of reading to kids. Part of this stems from what he calls his own "parental enervation" (translation: he was tired and reading to his kids was easier than running around with them). More importantly though, reading was a way for Conley to expose his kids to new words and complicated ideas. In the case of reading aloud and its benefits, Conley's evidence is mostly anecdotal. In addition to Yo scoring in the 99th percentile on his fourth-grade English Language Arts exam, he also yelled, "I wish I could articulate how furious I am with E."
Special Consideration5 of 8
While most parents might be reluctant to have their kids placed in special education classes, Conley sees things differently, knowing that the "special classes" had two teachers plus aides, while regular classes had a single teacher. As Conley writes, "If there is one factor that matters in school—with randomized trials to back up the claim—it is low student-to-teacher ratios. So having more adult attention always trumped consideration about peer quality or stigma in our minds."
Something Sweet6 of 8
Turns out that it may not be such a bad idea to bribe your kids with candy and computer time. To get his own children to tackle their math homework, Conley turned first to gummy bears. Research shows that the promise of a reward (or positive reinforcement) can help when it's offered for completing complicated tasks—like solving equations with imaginary numbers.
Pet Project7 of 8
It's no secret that kids are often walking petri dishes of germs. And maybe that's not such a bad thing. Conley invokes the hygiene hypothesis, the idea that heightened cleanliness may weaken our immune system. For proof of this theory, he writes that "the rates of allergies are highest in the most developed nations and the lowest in the poorest countries, where there is a greater disease burden." As a result, Conley can hardly refuse his kids the potentially immune-strengthening benefits of having a pet guinea pig—or six.
Good to Be Bad8 of 8
Conley borrows from what he calls the "Italian fatherhood style." For him that means talking about real issues, showing affection, allowing for a little ribbing and having a high tolerance for bad language. "I let Yo curse at me," he writes. "And sometimes I use profanities with them—though not directly at them." Part of this parenting approach also entails, as Conley puts it, "calling [his kids] out on occasions when they did something stupid," in an effort to avoid "the ill effects of the American 'cult of self-esteem.'"