About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

#81 - NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman (New York: Twelve/ Hachette Book Group, 2010).

Jacket Summary: "The world of parenting is about to change.

"Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman have written what is destined to become one of the most provocative and influential books about children of our time.

"The force and wisdom of these award-winning journalists' work have been apparent since the publication of their cover story, 'The Inverse Power of Praise,' in New York magazine. Literally overnight, parents changed how they talked to children. Schools assigned the article as homework for teachers, while business leaders discussed how it would change the way they rewarded employees. Over 1,000 bloggers typed away, while legislators and religious leaders considered how the article could transform the larger society.

"But Bronson and Merryman's insight on praise is just part of the first chapter of NurtureShock. There are nine more equally groundbreaking chapters after that. Among the topics covered:
Why the most brutal person in a child's life is often a sibling, and how a single aspect of their preschool-aged play can determine their relationship as adults.
When is it too soon -- or too late -- to teach a child about race? Children in diverse schools are less likely to have a cross-racial friendship, not more -- so is school diversity backfiring?
Millions of families are fighting to get their kids into private schools and advanced programs as early as possible. But schools are missing the best kids 73% of the time -- the new neuroscience explains why.
Why are kids -- even those from the best of homes -- still aggressive and cruel? The answer is found in a rethinking of parental conflict, discipline, television's unexpected influence, and social dominance.
Parents are desperate to jump-start infants' language skills. Recently, scientists have discovered a series of natural techniques that are astonishing in their efficacy -- it's not baby videos, sign language, or even the richness of language exposure. It's nothing you've heard before.

"NurtureShock provides a revolutionary new perspective on childhood that upends a library's worth of conventional wisdom. Nothing like a parenting manual, NurtureShock gets to the core of how we grow, learn, and live."

Table of Contents:
  • Preface: Cary Grant is at the door
  • Introduction: Why our instincts about children can be so off the mark
  • 1. The Inverse Power of Praise: Sure, he's special. But new research suggests if you tell him that, you'll ruin him. It's a neurobiological fact.
  • 2. The Lost Hour: Around the world, children get an hour less sleep than they did thirty years ago. The cost: IQ points, emotional well-being, ADHD, and obesity.
  • 3. Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race: Does teaching children about race and skin color make them better off or worse?
  • 4. Why Kids Lie: We may treasure honesty, but the research is clear. Most classic strategies to promote truthfulness just encourage kids to be better liars.
  • 5. The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten: Millions of kids are competing for seats in gifted programs and private schools. Admissions officers say it's an art: new science says they're wrong, 73% of the time.
  • 6. The Sibling Effect: Freud was wrong, Shakespeare was right. Why siblings really fight.
  • 7. The Science of Teen Rebellion: Why, for adolescents, arguing with adults is a sign of respect, not disrespect -- and arguing is constructive to the relationship, not destructive.
  • 8. Can Self-Control Be Taught? Developers of a new kind of preschool keep losing their grant money -- the students are so successful they're no longer 'at-risk enough' to warrant further study. What's their secret?
  • 9. Plays Well with Others: Why modern involved parenting has failed to produce a generation of angels.
  • 10. Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn't: Despite scientists' admonitions, parents still spend billions every year on gimmicks and videos, hoping to jump-start infants' language skills. What's the right way to accomplish this goal?
  • Conclusion: The Myth of the Supertrait
My Take: A good read and (extra bonus points) a nice validation of some of the parenting decisions that I've made to boot -- though much of the ground Bronson and Merryman covers (Baby Einstein videos are bunk, overpraising kids can backfire, shielding kids from conflict and deluging them with "educational" media is neither necessary nor helpful, and there's little value to IDing the "gifted" kids in preschool) isn't exactly new to anyone who's reasonably well-informed about developmental psychology. I do agree with Pamela Paul's New York Times review that the authors present an overstated, almost-mythological faith in Scientific Research, but I still enjoyed the book.

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