Lissie's Reviews > NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

NurtureShock by Po Bronson
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's review
May 06, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: books-for-the-nightstand, relational, parenthood, books-to-make-you-think
Read in May, 2010

Whenever I read a non-fiction book that I give 5 stars I like to read through the reviews of those who give the book 1 or 2 stars to discover why they didn't like it. In this instance I'm dumbfounded by what they say because I just keep thinking, "did you not read the paragraph where they addressed that very issue?"

For instance in one review a complaint is made about the chapter on children needing more sleep. A solution mentioned in the book is that high schools start an hour later. Many school districts do not want to do this as it would mean having more buses. This reviewer remarked, "why don't they just go to bed an hour earlier?" Well the answer to that is on page 36, "In prepubescents and grownups, when it gets dark outside, the brain produces melatonin, which makes us sleepy. But adolescent brains don't release melatonin for another 90 minutes. So even if teenagers are in bed at ten p.m. (which they aren't), they lie awake, staring at the ceiling." (emphasis added) Or in other words going to bed earlier wouldn't get the teenagers the additional sleep they need - instead their wake time needs to be later.

A number of other reviews also complained that the authors say you'll ruin your children. The only (mild) instance I read of that is in the language acquisition chapter (10). The scientists involved have realized that when adults respond--either verbally or with physical affection--to a new (more advanced) sound in babies' babbling the child will notice and try to attract further attention by making the new sound more often. The warning was that adults learning about this might respond to any and all babbling in an effort to encourage the child and this would result in the baby making more sounds but not necessarily more examples of the advanced sound. There were several additional warnings in the chapter about overdoing efforts to improve a child's language acquisition. Basically, a child will acquire language as you interact with them. There were two other warnings in that chapter along the same lines--too much of a good thing is a bad thing--which boiled down to:

- Respond instead of initiating. Instead of "Hey, see this phone" respond when child reaches for, points at, toy phone by remarking, "Phone. Do you want the phone?" Or if a child is engrossed in staring at the shadows the leaves are making, "Do you see the shadow of the leaves?"

- Let the language learning ebb and flow. Essentially you don't have to be interacting with your child or responding to them all the time. Let the child have quiet time to practice sounds. Realize it's normal to be distracted while making dinner, thus not responding as frequently as when changing a diaper or playing with the child.

To be fair, there was one review that posited, "[the authors:] presented no evidence that there was any great benefit to having a child learn language a few months sooner," and there isn't any; aside from the realities of better communication with a child and relieving of the stress that your child might be backward. I suppose just gives the recommendation to let the learning ebb and flow more credence.

I could go through each claim that the reviews I read made but I'll spare you.

The other overall complaints about the book are that the authors went looking for experiments that backed their claims and thus don't present opposing viewpoints or only present the science; and that the book is dry.

Concerning the first, the opposing viewpoints are presented as the ones currently inherent in our culture (such as children are naturally race blind); also the authors point out when the cited experiments either don't have corroborating evidence or a sufficient body of data. For those who say, "just give me the science without your opinions" I wonder that they don't read scientific journals, even just the articles that the authors are basing their opinions off.

For the last, if someone thinks the writing is dry that's how they feel. Though I was thoroughly engrossed. Tangentially--I can't stand Moby Dick for the same reasons my husband can't stand Les Miserables (though I love it) which is that the book is bogged down in way too much detail and the plot seems rather blase.
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