Bryan Caplan  

Temper, Temper: How Kids Grade Their Parents - and Parents Grade Themselves

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My favorite section in Ellen Galinsky's Ask the Children has children separately grade (A, B, C, D, or F) their moms and dads in twelve areas:

1. Being there for me when I am sick?
2. Raising me with good values?
3. Making me feel important and loved?
4. Being able to attend important events in my life?
5. Appreciating me for who I am?
6. Encouraging me to want to learn and to enjoy learning?
7. Being involved with what is happening to me at school?
8. Being someone I can go to when I am upset?
9. Spending time talking with me?
10. Establishing family routines and traditions with me?
11. Knowing what is really going on in my life?
12. Controlling his/her temper when I do something that makes him/her angry?

Then moms and dads self-grade on the same questions (with the pronouns changed, of course).

Note: The kids and parents are two distinct samples, so we can't compare what e.g. my kids say about me to what I say about myself.  However, we can compare what the average kid says about his parents to what the average parent says about himself.  What do we find?

First: The relative rankings of parents and kids are highly consistent.  If you calculate the GPA that parents give themselves for all twelve questions, and compare it to the GPA that kids give their parents, the correlation is .8.

Second: Kids give parents lower grades than parents give themselves, but everyone gives dads lower grades.  Here are average GPAs broken down by grader (kid or self) and gradee (mom or dad):

Moms Dads
Kid 3.14 2.98
Self3.59 3.40

Here's a simple summary regression.  ADULT is the GPA that parents give themselves on a question; KID is the GPA that kids give parents; MALE is a dummy variable equal to 1 for questions about dads, and 0 for questions about moms.


galinsky.jpg

For me, though, the most interesting result is that there is one question where parents always earn the lowest marks: Controlling their tempers.  In fact, this is the only question where both parents and kids give parents a GPA<3.0.  Kids give their moms a 2.5; moms give themselves a 2.7; kids give their dads a 2.6; dads give themselves a 2.8.

I'm tempted to say that this shows that parents and kids would be better off if parents focused more on themselves.  Parents would feel better about their lives if they gave themselves a break; kids would indirectly benefit because their parents would express less anger toward them.  "See a movie on your way home from work - and smile at your kids when you get home," would be my slogan.  But the fact that parents agree that they have an anger problem makes me wonder.  What do you think?

P.S. I've posted GPAs by respondent for all questions below the fold.

Question

Kid

Male

Adult

1

3.69

0

3.84

2

3.6

0

3.83

3

3.41

0

3.86

4

3.39

0

3.65

5

3.32

0

3.64

6

3.31

0

3.73

7

2.97

0

3.54

8

2.86

0

3.7

9

3.05

0

3.55

10

2.83

0

3.415

11

2.73

0

3.57

12

2.515

0

2.7

1

3.06

1

3.52

2

3.5

1

3.69

3

3.26

1

3.67

4

3.17

1

3.44

5

3.25

1

3.59

6

3.3

1

3.65

7

2.74

1

3.17

8

2.6

1

3.45

9

2.92

1

3.24

10

2.83

1

3.22

11

2.605

1

3.3

12

2.55

1

2.815


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TRACKBACKS (1 to date)
TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/1673
The author at CORRUPT.org: Remaking Modern Society in a related article titled Can studies using fictional averages help you parent? writes:
    My favorite section in Ellen Galinsky's Ask the Children has children separately grade (A, B, C, D, or F) their moms and dads in twelve areas […] Note: The kids and parents are two distinct samples, so we can't compare what e.g. my kids say about me to [Tracked on April 1, 2009 8:51 AM]
COMMENTS (11 to date)
RL writes:

I'm not sure why the fact that parents agree they have an anger problem would dissuade you from your answer. Is it because if they see they problem, they should have already come across the solution? I would tend to disagree. Even parents who recognize they might be better parents if they had more time to themselves could be guilted by society into not taking time away from the kids.

DWAnderson writes:

There is ambiguity in the nature of the question "Controlling his/her temper when I do something that makes him/her angry?" At first read, it implied to me that a less than perfect grade should accompany any show of anger by a parent, a not very useful standard in that there are some times when it is useful to show anger. On second read (after Bryan's comment) I read the question as referring to a loss of control by the parent. A parent is in a better position to know when they have lost control than is the child, who is more likely to read all instances of anger as loss of control rather than strategic behavior intended to drive home a point.

In any event although I am an advocate of parents devoting more time to themselves, it is pretty hard to draw a direct connection between that behavior and these poll results!

mobile writes:

Did you also notice that the temper question was the only question where dads got a better grade (both from themselves and from their kids) than the moms? My hypothesis is that dads who spend more time at work and less time with their kids may have a greater store of patience when they deal with their kids. I wonder if there is a difference in this result between families with working/non-working moms.

Parents may also want to pay attention to the questions "Being someone I can go to when I am upset?" and "Knowing what is really going on in my life?" Those two questions that had the largest discrepancy between kid and parent scores.

von Pepe writes:

I suppose at one point in Bryan's life he actually did economics. I remember reading his macro notes when I was in grad school.

You need to look in the mirror and ask what you are doing with these silly little puzzles whilst the macro economy needs deep thinkers. David Henderson posts a complete parallel with economic facism and you are playing survey games.

Please post on current events and economics.

lukas writes:

von Pepe: This is economics.

Thaddeus McMonster writes:

Isn't there an alternative explanation?

All the other questions prompt the kid/adult to remember a time when they did something good. The last question prompts the kid/adult to remember a bad thing.

The Cupboard Is Bare writes:

"But the fact that parents agree that they have an anger problem makes me wonder. What do you think?"

Parents who expect their children to behave like mini-adults are most likely to experience frustration. The average 2 year old can only be what they are...a toddler.

Parents who can recall what it's like to be a child have more realistic expectations and therefore experience less frustration when their child engages in age-appropriate behaviors.

Going to the movies by yourself may not be the answer. Instead, I would recommend that you take your child to a movie of the "Finding Nemo" genre and rediscover what it's like to be a child by laughing yourself silly. It can be very relaxing and an awful lot of fun. And your child will love you for it. You might even get a higher test score. :)

Steve Roth writes:

It is darned interesting that anger is such an outlier.

My belief has been for a long time that when people get really mad at their loved ones, it's not just because they want them to act a certain way; they want them to be a certain way--to see the world in a certain way.

So the widespread belief among parents that they can affect their children's basic way of being--when they, in fact, can't--results in unfulfilled/unfulfillable expectations that result in frustration and anger. That's a prime source, I think, of the kind of seething anger people still feel after leaving the room, as opposed to the momentary "goddamit pick up your mess" kind of stuff.

Michael writes:

Please don't act on von Pepe's comment. I found this a very interesting post. I've saved it so I can find it later, and I plan to talk about it to others.

Frank Azzurro writes:

Couple of problems I see with this:

* Kids grading parents probably isn't a good idea. They are being disciplined at an age where they don't respond well to it; so what does this data do for us?

* Fictional averages do nothing for parents. Every child is different, so using math and averages to determine how parents should act is insane. Garbage in, garbage out.

I wrote more on the topic here if anyone's interested in following this up.

Cory Chomic writes:

when i first came across this article I was really suprised because I have never an article about kids grading there parents according to a set of guidelines. Before reading the article I always believed my mom and dad had done a great job raising me but upon reading this article I couldn't help but think that my mom and dad had a copy of these guidelines and that was there basis of raising me and my brother. One of the first guidelines is raising with good values which is a very important subject according to this article and to my parents because they always expressed that I should treat others as I want to be treated and to this day I still believe in that. My parents averages would be high after grading them according to these guidekines because they have loved me and my brother from the day we we were born and they have always been there whether to come cheer us on in basketball or just to sit down and have a converstaion about what is on our minds.

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