We wrote quite a bit in Freakonomics about parenting, trying to figure out what makes someone a good parent. (Here’s an adaptation of one section, from USA Today.) A few weeks ago, Levitt and I were in New Orleans together for a lecture (where I embarrassed myself), and we sat for a bit afterwards while I forced him to tell stories into my video camera. (Levitt swears that this kind of thing makes him suicidal, but I think he secretly likes it.)
When I asked him to talk about his own parenting techniques, he didn’t hesitate for a minute. Rather than teaching kids the skills they’ll learn in school anyway, he said, he thinks it’s better to encourage creative thinking. His favorite teaching tool? The game of Rock Papers Scissors — which won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who’s been following posts like this one, this one, or this one on our blog. There was, however, a big surprise: the skill with which one of his daughters put a big game-theory smackdown on her sister.