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Saturday, July 17, 2010

NutureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

NurtureShock: New Thinking About ChildrenNurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman is a must read for every parent.  It really made me think about some assumptions I've made about my own parenting and about how I would parent in the future.

This is the description from Publisher's Weekly:

From Publishers Weekly

The central premise of this book by Bronson (What Should I Do with My Life?) and Merryman, a Washington Post journalist, is that many of modern society's most popular strategies for raising children are in fact backfiring because key points in the science of child development and behavior have been overlooked. Two errant assumptions are responsible for current distorted child-rearing habits, dysfunctional school programs and wrongheaded social policies: first, things work in children the same way they work in adults and, second, positive traits necessarily oppose and ward off negative behavior. These myths, and others, are addressed in 10 provocative chapters that cover such issues as the inverse power of praise (effort counts more than results); why insufficient sleep adversely affects kids' capacity to learn; why white parents don't talk about race; why kids lie; that evaluation methods for giftedness and accompanying programs don't work; why siblings really fight (to get closer). Grownups who trust in old-fashioned common-sense child-rearing—the definitely un-PC variety, with no negotiation or parent-child equality—will have less patience for this book than those who fear they lack innate parenting instincts. The chatty reportage and plentiful anecdotes belie the thorough research backing up numerous cited case studies, experts' findings and examination of successful progressive programs at work in schools.

(Sorry, kinda long!) As I was reading, I marked a dozen passages that I might want to quote in my review, as well as having to call up a parenting friend to talk about it and I had to read whole paragraphs out loud to Mike.  This is one of the best books I've read this year and I recommend that you pick it up. (Plus, Amazon has a great price on it right now!)

One of the most fascinating chapters to me was that on lying. Of course all kids lie, but as the authors point out, all parents want to believe their kid to be the exception. (I do!)  But lying for a kid turns out to not be exactly what lying is for an adult.  "In studies where children are observed in their homes, four-year-olds will lie once every two hours, while a six-year-old will lie about once every hour. Few kids are an exception. In these same studies, 96% of all kids offer up lies." (Page 80) Wow.  The book goes on to explain how a kid learns to lie, and why. It goes on to explain that if you ask a kid why they shouldn't lie, it's because they get punished for it, not for any moral reason. This just leads a kid to get better at lying to avoid the punishment. It's all very fascinating.

One other interesting quote and then I'll let you read the book yourself. In the section about how kids play with others, there are a series of tests done on different types of aggression. Most people would assume that fighting shows (always the Pirate's first choice) would be worse to watch than educational shows like Arthur and Clifford, but this turns out not the be the case. In their quest to teach children a moral lesson, the educational shows spend half the episode setting up a moral conflict- which only teaches young children how to manipulate and insult their friends. Shows like the Power Rangers or Star Wars have physical aggression, but the studies show kids are more likely to increase the verbal aggressions than actual hitting and fighting. Suddenly I feel much better about the tv we watch around here!

For another opinion, go read Janssen's review. As always, her's are much better written than mine! In a nutshell, you really should read this one, it's fascinating.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
September 2009
352 pages

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  1. I won this a while ago, and look forward to reading it, even though we're past the child-rearing phase of our life. I do think there are areas that most parents (and that includes us) could improve in.

  2. I'm much more interested in this book now than I would've been in a former life. With a pre-teen who lies about whether he washed his hair or not and a new baby who will grow up to be another liar (yay!) I need to read this. lol Yours is the second review of it I've seen, and I'm surprised more people in my immediately bloggy crowd haven't jumped on it. Certainly can't wait to try it out.

  3. Andi, I thought it was kind of a cross between a parenting book and a book like The Tipping Point by Gladwell. Fascinating, but not really teaching you HOW to parent. I really enjoyed it a lot.

  4. I'm glad you liked this book. I read a review of it awhile ago and was interested, but might wait until I'm a parent (although that'll probably be quite awhile!).


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