This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Friday, June 25, 2010

NurtureShock - New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

This was another book recommended by my friend Ann. She previously recommended that I read Into Thin Air and during a lunch time conversation, she talked about aspects of NurtureShock. That same lunch is where AudreyPodrey told me about Parenting Beyond Belief.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. This took me a little longer to read. It cites a lot of research and thus, not "fun" and "light-hearted" as a fictional novel would be.

But...this book is uh-MAZE-ing.

I don't know if I liked this book so much because it goes along with the way I like to think...or if it's because I work with people who rely on research...but regardless, this book just opened my eyes up.

Nurtureshock covers several areas about 'rearing' children. Not really 'rearing' like "do this, do that" but more along the research behind the reasons children think/act/do the things they do.

It's got some psychology, social psychology, and neuroscience all mixed in...with a little advice on what to do in those situations.

I could not stop talking about this book to my friends. I mean literally, I would not shut up. I was citing every chapter, revealing each study that I found meaningful, with the enthusiasm of someone who just found gold.

I would read, out loud, to Tim excerpts of chapters. I am begging him to read this now because, I just think, it is *the* handbook for parents.

So, what did I learn?

I learned that praise needs to be specific and not gratuitous. Hearing something like "You worked really hard to study your math" vs. "You are so smart" can help a child feel, not only that the sentiment is more sincere, but also more proud of their effort.

A study is cited where a group of children are divided into two groups and take a test. The test is relatively easy. One group is praised for being smart; the other praised for working hard. Both groups are then given an opportunity to take a harder test, or take one that was just as easy as the first. Of the group praised for their hard work, 90% chose to take the harder test; the majority of those praised for being smart chose the easy test.

Why? Because the "praised smart" children wanted to continue to live up to being smart vs. showing failure...where the "work hard" kids wanted to continue to show how hard they would work.

The next chapter goes into depth about why our children NEED SLEEP. Yes. I read a lot of articles on the need for teens to have more sleep, but this book reveals studies that show that kids losing just an hour of sleep each night actually regress two years. In other words, 'a sleepy sixth grader will perform in class like a fourth grader'.

Why is this? Well, there are many reasons...and these are based on biology: neurons lose plasticity; debilitation of extracting glucose, which affects the prefrontal cortex.

The third chapter, which is the chapter that Ann talked about during our lunch, deals with racism. This is one eye-opening chapter and if you are a parent that is afraid to say "black people" or want your children to 'not see' race but see us all as equal, well, you better find this book and get a different perspective on what you are doing.

In one study, children were asked if their parents liked black people. Since these parents never talked about race to their children -- because they wanted them to be "colorblind" -- the children answered either 'I don't know' or an outright 'No'. This being the very OPPOSITE of the intent from the parent!

I could go chapter by chapter and recite a study or two about what I learned from this book. Our children will lie, but it may be a sign of great intelligence. Or arguing with me is actually a sign of respect. And that what my child will fear most as a teen will be something like going to school with a new hairdo vs. vandalizing, getting drunk or some other risky behavior.

This book just revealed so much to me, from a scientific point of view, that makes me feel more empowered to understand my moody tween, or to contend with my feisty 7 year old.

Granted, I'm only human. I will have my meltdowns. But overall, I see my child in these chapters and I had those "A-ha" moments that the MRIs picked up, to sort of 'explain' why they say/do/act the way they do.

Now, if only I could do that for Tim, my life would be soooooo much easier....

1 comment:

  1. I'm not even a parent and I want to read this book now.