NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
For the past week, I’ve been talking nonstop about this book to friends, even those who don’t have children. This is one of those titles that should be on every bookshelf, regardless of breeding status. Really. Because it’s as much about relationships with all people, even as it focuses on the parent/child relationship.
“Like most parents, my wife and I bought a few baby books when our son was born,” Bronson writes in the introduction. “After the first year, we put them away … We agreed that we didn’t parent ‘by the book,’ nor did we want to. We parented on instinct.” That pretty much sums up most parents I know, us included. But what happens if our instincts – Bronson’s, too – turn out to be “so off-base?” So-called ‘instinct,’ Bronson argues “conveys the collective wisdom gleaned from our experiences raising kids.” Thanks to those books, the media, grandma’s best advice, our “‘instincts’ can be so far off-base because they are not actually instincts.”
That’s the first shock, and many, many more follow in some of the most fascinating – and extremely well-documented – insights about raising today’s children. I even took copious notes, so I could hope to accurately share a few … but not too many because this is definitely a title to be read over and over again. We’re even thinking of getting our teenage daughter to read it!
Shocker: Constant glowing praise about your child’s intelligence can undermine and limit that child’s motivation, effort, and performance. Alternatively, criticism “conveys the message that he can improve his performance even further.”
Shocker: Today’s children get an hour less sleep than children did 30 years ago. “The cost: IQ points, emotional well-being, ADHD, and obesity.” A Minnesota high school changed start time from 7:25 to 8:30 a.m., which affected the school’s top 10% students the most, resulting in a shocking 56-point verbal/156-point math increase in SAT scores (average 739/761) just one year later. A one-hour later start time in Kentucky resulted in a 25% decrease in teenage car accidents!
Shocker: Even babies have an in-group preference – familiarity breeds comfort. So if you don’t talk to your kids early on specifically about race, no matter how much you model equity and equality (or worse, so-called color-blindness), you’re going to get the kids self-segregating by the time they get to the lunch room.
Shocker: We teach our kids to lie early on and don’t even know we’re doing it. “Thanks, Grandma. I love this [ugly] shirt!” Smarter kids lie better. Kids lie to please their parents. Chilean kids lie the most.
Shocker: The relationship between siblings “has nothing to do with the parents. Instead, the predictive factor is the quality of the older child’s relationship with his best friend … before the birth of the younger child.”
Shocker: Arguing is a sign of respect. Parental conflict in front of the kids is actually good, as long as you show the kids how you make up – that’s modeling a healthy relationship. Rebellion begins at 11, peaks at 14-15, and actually starts to peter out at 18. Bored kids – and no amount of ovescheduling is going to keep boredom at bay – turn to drugs and sex.
Shocked? Intrigued? Go order the book. [The audible version is persuasively read by Bronson, too.] Then come back and tell me what you thought … and the little ways you changed [because you definitely will] your life because of it.
Tidbit: I think I’m always the last to know these things (now I’ll have to hunt down a paperback version of the book!) … this just in (June 27, 2012) from a long-lost friend: “… I just got a paperback book as a gift from a colleague. The book is NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children. I’m flipping through the first pages, reading those pullquotes from The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, the Daily Mail … and BookDragon. I read the pullquote and see it’s attributed to “Terry Hong, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program.” “Terry Hong!” I say to myself. I haven’t seen that name since NAATA! So I looked you up online and here I am, in your inbox, saying Hello! and how are you! Random, huh? 🙂 .”