FREAK-TV: Levitt May Not Even Be the Cleverest Person in His Own House

Video

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.

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  1. frankenduf says:

    he should then teach her the higher-order skill of throwing a game- this will: a- engender bonding through competition (I’m presuming girls are not as competitive); b- teach her how to hustle, so when the time comes she can extract even more $ from her foes

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  2. frankenduf says:

    he should then teach her the higher-order skill of throwing a game- this will: a- engender bonding through competition (I’m presuming girls are not as competitive); b- teach her how to hustle, so when the time comes she can extract even more $ from her foes

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  3. Rita: Lovely Meter Maid says:

    I hope Amanda gets over this, like…some day. Don’t worry; there are plenty of good therapists out there.
    (I’m Kidding)!!!!
    In all seriousness, though, I think Steven Levitt is *right* on when he says that creativity is the thing to encourage in kids (lord knows, schools can sure endeavor to stamp it out of them, sometimes).

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  4. Rita: Lovely Meter Maid says:

    I hope Amanda gets over this, like…some day. Don’t worry; there are plenty of good therapists out there.
    (I’m Kidding)!!!!
    In all seriousness, though, I think Steven Levitt is *right* on when he says that creativity is the thing to encourage in kids (lord knows, schools can sure endeavor to stamp it out of them, sometimes).

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  5. benschon says:

    My son, who was nearly 4 at the time, and I were playing rock-paper-scissors when he threw “key”. (Index finger extended.) Apparently, “key” pokes a hole through paper, disassembles scissors, but is bent into unusability by rock. It also is effective as a device for tickling.

    A proud moment.

    There is actually an elaborate “extreme” version of the game with many other hand signals.

    http://www.popculturemadness.com/Trivia/Bits/RPS-Extreme.html

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  6. benschon says:

    My son, who was nearly 4 at the time, and I were playing rock-paper-scissors when he threw “key”. (Index finger extended.) Apparently, “key” pokes a hole through paper, disassembles scissors, but is bent into unusability by rock. It also is effective as a device for tickling.

    A proud moment.

    There is actually an elaborate “extreme” version of the game with many other hand signals.

    http://www.popculturemadness.com/Trivia/Bits/RPS-Extreme.html

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  7. Eric says:

    While this is certainly a cute little story, I hope part of the NY Times blog package isn’t going to include incessant videos. I prefer to read a story, even a short transcription, to having to watch a video. Is this a new feature? To make videos an important part of your site?

    That said, it’s pretty funny that his daughter picked up on that. Maybe she’ll be a poker player eventually.

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  8. Eric says:

    While this is certainly a cute little story, I hope part of the NY Times blog package isn’t going to include incessant videos. I prefer to read a story, even a short transcription, to having to watch a video. Is this a new feature? To make videos an important part of your site?

    That said, it’s pretty funny that his daughter picked up on that. Maybe she’ll be a poker player eventually.

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