What is “Parentology”? Bring Your Questions for Dalton Conley

9781476712659Last year, we talked to NYU sociologist Dalton Conley and his two children, E and Yo, on our podcast “How Much Does Your Name Matter?” Their names — E Harper Nora Jeremijenko-Conley and Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Jeremijenko-Conley — are a bit of an experiment:

CONLEY: Of course it’s hard to separate out cause and effect here until Kim Jong-Un allows me to randomly assign all the names of the North Korean kids…but my gut tells me that it does affect who you are and how you behave and probably makes you more creative to have an unusual name.

Conley’s approach to naming his kids is certainly interesting (and highly unusual), to say the least. As it turns out, Conley has the same approach to parenting. He chronicles his unorthodox, research-inspired parenting in his new book Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Science of Raising Children but Were Too Exhausted to AskThe book is out today, and Conley has agreed to answer blog reader questions about the book, so ask away in the comments section below. As always, we’ll post his answers in short course.

Here’s the table of contents to get you started:

Parentology 101 Syllabus

Preface: “Parentology” Defined                                                       

1. What Not to Expect When You’re Expecting

2. Tying the Knot (and I Don’t Mean Marriage—or the Umbilicus)

3. But Maybe You Should Name Your Boy Sue:What’s Not in a Name

4. The Best Thesaurus Is a Human Thesaurus: How to Read to Your Kids

5. Practicing the Delicate Arts of Extortion and Bribery (How Else Are American Children Supposed to Catch Up to the Finnish People in Math?)


7.  Shut the F* Up, Dad! Discipline (or Lack Thereof) 

8. Turn Your Feral Child into a Nice American Capitalist (You Know You Want To)

9. If It’s Organic, Don’t Panic—and Other Tips I Learned in Berkeley for Drugging One’s Kids

10. Go Ahead and Get Divorced—Your Kids’ Genes Will Never Notice


What is the single most important rule of thumb to stick by in parenting which you believe will lead one's child being a stable, successful and healthy member of society?


How do we get out of the entitlement trap ("I want it all, I want it now, and I want you to give it to me')?


I did not write Parentology, but I'm going to hazard a guess that it has something to do with using the word "No", early and often.

Eric M. Jones

I can see it now: A cop trying to write a ticket on the side of a busy highway.



Where do you fall on the Nature vs. Nurture scale. If it's 50 / 50, it still holds the best thing you can do for your kids is procreate with someone as far better looking and smarter than you as possible. If it's 80 / 20 or higher, nurture strategies seem like using a bucket rather than a cup to change oceanic levels.

Still, we don't get to change the nature part after the fact (so far...), so give us nurture tips!


What do you think of the freakonomics promoted idea that who you are when you have kids will determine more about your children than what you do? Your children's happiness, the percentage chance they will graduate from college and the chance they'll go to jail is much more correlated with who you are than the things you do.

Do you think that's true a broad idea? I find it to be disturbing yet also calming. It's disturbing because parents like to think that all the little things they do will have profound impacts on our children's happiness and sense of fulfillment. It's calming because it reduces the anxiety of parenting to some extent.

Experimental Dad

The other day, I was struggling to get my two - year - old dressed and ready to leave the house. He likes to run away while I'm trying to put his shirt on him and on this particular occasion, I decided to let him have his way. We got his shirt on just enough to cover his face before he took off. I let him run ...right into the dog - which he tripped over - and fall to the floor. He ended up with a pretty big bruise. I picked him up afterwards, hugged him and explained that his injury happened because he was running with his shirt over his fool head and couldn't see and that we must take care.

My question is, where do you feel the line is between protecting kids from harm and letting them get hurt for the sake of learning a lesson?

Incidentally, my child's name is Quest. ;)


Why should we consider your limited sample size "study" to be anything more than anecdotal? How do you justify it as "science" and not simply "story telling"?


For those of us who have waited to have children and have now spent 30-some years with nothing depending on us, pristine white carpets, and a full bank account, what is the best way to prepare for the hectic and surprising aspects of parental life in order to not feel completely lost? Or perhaps the best way to come to terms with those feelings?


Be afraid, be very afraid!

nino schillaci

Is it a good idea to move out of the city to raise a child?


Staying married for the kids vs getting divorced: which is the lesser of two evils?


Does it matter how much time I spend with my kids? If not, who else should I get to spend time with my kids? South Korean kids are in school for much longer than the world average, how great will my kids turn out if I stick them in afterschool school?


What results of your research based parenting have been the most surprising to you?

Caleb b

What is the best age gap for the development of multiple children?

What common characteristics do close siblings have versus rival siblings?

Any science on gender combinations yielding certain results? 3 girls 1 boy = a sensitive boy or a macho boy?

Day care vs home mom, which kids test better?

Spanking vs not, any science either way?

Picky eaters, cave and let them eat what they want, or force them to try new foods? Will one method or the other make my kid a druggie failure?

Any science on downward social mobility? I've seen lots of examples of successful people with loser kids, is this trending?

Science of sleep: when is the right bedtime for infants & toddlers?


What are your thoughts on the value of keeping your kids guessing? By that I mean keeping them off balance just enough to make them unsure they can get away with some behavior. For example, when I got the obligatory "I hate you" from my child, I responded with a grin and "Good. That means I'm doing my job." It worked and I only got one more half-hearted attempt at emotional manipulation.


Should I just let my picky eater keep on being a picky eater? She's growing and she's healthy. As long as we monitor junk vs. healthy, what's the big deal?

Grand Prairie, TX


How can I encourage my child to read instead of watching TV/playing video games/spending too much time in front of a computer?

Is it reasonable to refuse to have a TV/video game system/computer with non-academic software in the house? Is it socially crippling?

When should a child be allowed to have a cell phone/a smart phone/a laptop/a Facebook account?

Robert Stark

Hi Dalton,

Good to see you sharing your practical experiences, great table of contents!

RJ Lavallee (@documentarian)

Assuming a child falls under an APA broad-stroke definition of "normal," for whatever that is, is it possible that the amount of effort parents put into directing the behavior of their children disproportionate to the results? In other words, is it possible that if parents were relatively laissez-faire regarding parenting, do little more than making sure the kids didn't kill themselves, and adhered to simple rules within the home of respecting each other, that regardless of screen time, or grades in school, eventually the kids would find their way, and become perfectly fine and productive members of society (again, for whatever that means)?