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Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  21,728 ratings  ·  2,913 reviews
In a world of modern, involved, caring parents, why are so many kids aggressive and cruel?  Where is intelligence hidden in the brain, and why does that matter?  Why do cross-racial friendships decrease in schools that are more integrated?  If 98% of kids think lying is morally wrong, then why do 98% of kids lie?  What's the single most important thing that helps infants l ...more
Published 2009 by Twelve / Hachette, (first published September 3rd 2008)
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4.05  · 
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 ·  21,728 ratings  ·  2,913 reviews

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Christine Cavalier
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
So far is one of my top 3 parenting books I've ever read. Scientifically backed studies on child development that go against everything you thought you knew was best, well not all of it was new -- but it was all still good.

FYI - this book was not written by child psychology experts, but by two journalists in the child psychology field whose "niche" is to report on studies that have gone unheeded.

There are ten chapters, each reading like its own essay:

1. The Inverse Power of Praise
2. The Lost H
May 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Things I have changed about my parenting after reading this book:

I have my daughter "read" books back to me after I read them to her.

We make a plan for the day complete with drawings and handwriting practice.

I tell my kids that I can tell they worked really hard on something, instead of just telling them that they are great.

I try to respond more often when my 10 month-old son makes a voiced noise.

I have stopped letting my kids watch Arthur or Clifford.

I had a conversation with my 4-year old abou
Jan 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book. There were a lot of interesting ideas, however, I feel more confused about children than I did before. I guess the point is to open your eyes. One theme throughout is that kids are different than adults and need to be understood differently. A few interesting points:

1. Praise specific achievements and praise effort
2. Regular lack of sleep is damaging to children's health
3. Naturally, we tend to racially segregated, so it's wise to take steps to help your kids learn not to be ra
Paul Eckert
Since I'm now a parent, I've been looking for parenting books that would interest me, something that was more than repackaged conventional wisdom and phoned-in encouragement. I wanted something scientific, not the new pop-psychology of the week.

Nutureshock met my expectations with its science, but that's also where it seemed to lose itself. There are some interesting bits early on in the book regarding praising children (e.g. studies show that telling kids they are smart, as opposed to praising
Fantastic at times and awful the rest of the time. Bronson and Merryman do a great job getting back to the "basics" in many areas. Noticing the inverse power of praise, the need to discuss race and the idea that self-control can be taught can't be mentioned enough in our culture. Yet, the authors completely avoid the heart of the matter. Child rearing, in their view, can be perfected if we are willing to do enough scientific studies and research to determine what is most effective. The studies i ...more
Nov 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education, mamalove
Originally a magazine article focusing on the science of parenting, this engaging (and highly readable) book looks at parenting from the realm of science.

Most important research findings:
Things do not work the same for children as they do in adults (and) positive traits do not ward off negative behavior in kids (a good kid still can be dishonest or engage in relational aggression).

In short:
A child who is dishonest is (also) showing signs of intelligence and social savvy. And, while praise wor
It was hard to decide on a rating for this book. NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children reminded me of a Malcolm Gladwell book in both good and bad ways. Surprising and fascinating information on the one hand; on the other hand, overstated conclusions with inadequate support. The word "shock" in the title is appropriate -- shock value appeared to be more of a concern than hard evidence.

I'm more forgiving of Malcolm Gladwell because although his information may change the way you look at thing
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, you had your 2.2 kids and read all the right books, listened to all the right experts, and now you’re an expert too, right? Think again. After raising four children (only one left to put through college) and sitting down to read an adult book or two, I thought there would be nothing new for me to learn about the joys and tortures of parenthood. And then I read NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.
This book will challenge everything you thought you knew about raising children. This
NurtureShock reveals how some traditional parenting "wisdom" is actually flawed. It presents and summarizes many scientific journal articles to reveal a bit of the psychology behind kids.

I'm not a parent, but I found this incredibly intriguing as a teacher, and I'm shelving it to re-read once a stork gets lost and lands on my front steps. Is that how it works?

Not all the information was new to me as I'd read some of the same, or similar research articles while in my education program, but it wa
Feb 13, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, race
A pair of journalists sum up recent research on childrearing. Some is seemingly obvious:
Praise efforts, not intrinsic qualities.
Make sure children get enough sleep, in a consistent pattern.
Talk about race with children, because they're noticing on their own and they may come to erroneous conclusions. (I actually really liked part of this section, because it talks about how children watch their parents for how to respond to others--and if white kids see that their white parents only have white
Michelle Cristiani
Mar 02, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Sigh. I really wanted to like this book. But the authors, who clearly were not trained in scientific research, confuse a lot of basic principles that those who practice research clearly see. Anecdotes make for great storytelling, but poor science. Studies aren't actually 'replicated' just because they're done by the same researcher over and over again. And results of any study are open to interpretation - the authors take only one line of interpretation (of course, the one that suits them) and r ...more
Jan 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
This book made me reconsider reasons why my son or students do certain things, such as lying, cheating, and reckless behavior. But to be quite honest, it didn't wow me like I had hoped it would. I found the reporting of the research lackluster at best, and from the limited information about the studies cited, I came up with more questions than answers. For example, one study cited the importance of sleep in boosting SAT scores by about 100 points. Data was collected on the same group of students ...more
This book is a well-researched freakonomics of parenting, upending the prevailing myths of childrearing. I'm only two chapters in and am hooked. It's good for starting conversations and makes me rethink my childhood and little things I could now to improve my life.
switterbug (Betsey)
Parenting books are ubiquitous. How to sift through and determine which are worthy? I have a teenage daughter and have read quite a few. Even when I thought I was impressed, there was always something nagging at me about them. I determined that many of the books had an outside or hidden agenda, which was to socialize parents according to a specific sheep-herding mentality. Often, a social consciousness or a reaction to a negative social consciousness about raising children informed these "manual ...more
Rachel John
Aug 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I really loved this book. I won it as a giveaway. I tend to avoid non-fiction because its so hard to get through, but this should be required reading for all parents, teachers and anyone interested in child psychology. Each chapter covers a different study of children which often caused unexpected results. In many instances, parents, teachers, government or scientists are putting a lot of well-meaning time, money, effort, and emotional deposits into ideas or programs which studies show do not pr ...more
Adam Crossley
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"When they get going, it's like a freight train. It's paralyzing." This from a frustrated mother in regards to her children fighting.

Why do children fight, lie, rebel, get along or learn self control? In Nuture Shock these topics are expounded upon, with each chapter having a specific focus.

Some of the chapter succeed admirably. The chapter titled "The Sibling Effect" is a fascinating explanation of how having a brother or sister can be make children better at playing with others but only if the
May 03, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: new parents and know-it-all friends of new parents
Recommended to unknown by: Donna
This book is clearly going for a Freakonomics vibe, in that it reads like a chapter from Freakonomics extended to book length. One of the less interesting chapters, too.

There's a lot of good, meaningful data, but it just isn't presented in a very interesting way. I need more colorful anecdotes in my pop psych books.
Nov 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book exploring the newest research on children and adolescents. I love Po.

Chapters and summaries:
1. The inverse power of praise—praise for effort, not ability. Be specific. Teach them their brain is a muscle, if they use it on hard problems they’ll make it stronger. Don’t let them believe that being smart means they shouldn’t have to exert effort. Be willing to talk about failure. Failure shouldn’t be taboo. Mistakes are part of how we learn and test theories. Give intermittent reinforceme
Lars Guthrie
Nov 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
‘Nuture Shock’ is a wonderful collection of essays on child development that carries more weight than you might think. On an initial glance, it appears to be another example of what Adam Hanft, in a review of Steven Johnson’s ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ (, called ‘pattern porn’.

Hanft defines the genre as ‘non-fiction characterized by a seductive thesis that is supported by an ingenious arrangement of scientific support—manipulatively cherry-picked, in th
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
"They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you."

-Philip Larkin, from This Be The Verse

A few years back, I caught an informercial for a product called "Your Baby Can Read.” Supposedly, the program can teach babies to read before they’re even able to talk, despite the fact that scientific evidence strongly suggests that babies can’t learn language from television. The product seems to have been pulled by
Oct 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think it'd be safe to say that I tend to believe things written in parenting books I read when they "ring true." In other words, I like reading books that confirm what I already believe, whether or not I already know it.

Nurtureshock is not that kind of book. In almost every chapter, there is a finding that doesn't make sense until the authors break down the data that shows that it does. It's a troubling book because it makes a very good case against "instinctive" parenting. Instead, what Po B
Nicholas Karpuk
Sep 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's kind of disconcerting to read a book that feels like it's talking directly to my childhood issues.

The first two chapters of "Nurture Shock" touch directly on issues I dealt with a lot as a kid. The first is all about how constantly commenting on a child's intelligence, even praising it, can often sabotage that child's ability to put forth effort. Essentially, if they're told that it's all about intelligence, then failure means they're not smart enough.

The second deals with just how badly s
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My principal at my school suggested that I look into this book, knowing my super-nerdy, knowledge cravings in the basic science of raising kids. I liked this book so much, I just might have to buy it. It confounded everything I thought about praise--now I tell Phineas and my students that they are hard workers, not that they're the best. It's more motivating to them. I learned about teenage rebellion which will help me understand the needs of my mia maids. It taught me about how language is deve ...more
Charlie Miller
Superb, everything I hoped it would be. A calm and collected walk through the stand-out findings in clinical studies on children in recent times. And, crucially, how these findings contrast with previous conventional wisdoms and scientific proclamations
Jun 25, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't really like this book overall, I mean some of the things were interesting, but it felt like the book was geared to parents at a certain socio-economic level, which I'm not at. I guess I mostly just felt that way because of the chapter on childhood intelligence, I definitely am not a parent that can afford to have my 3 yr. old's IQ tested for some ritzy preschool. Give me a break. And the chapter on worrying whether your child learns five words sooner or later is ridiculous--he had just ...more
Nov 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I am definitely not the kind of person who reads parenting books. Maybe because I had a terrific childhood and my parents produced three successful, “nice” people I guess I’ve assumed I learned (subconsciously) by example. Isn’t that what they say? Parents are models for behavior? Anyway, I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this book from multiple people so decided to pick it up. There are definitely some new revelations here. I’d heard before that too much praise can actually hurt self-esteem but th ...more
I am giving this three stars because it was a well-written and provocative book with some (perhaps) useful takeaways to use with my kids. But! Sometimes I wanted to throw it across the room. Because it's like a Freakonomics or maybe Malcolm Gladwell for kid-issues, it's constantly turning common assumptions upside down, often based on the results of A Study. I am never sure how much weight to give A Study, so ultimately I feel more confused than ever about things I should be doing/saying to my c ...more
Jan 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the most provocative pieces of non-fiction i've read, one I can relate to as a parent. It's not full of parenting advice, but rather studies and stats about child development and child psychology, which actually disprove a lot of accepted, or knee jerk parenting approaches. I have found myself relating tidbits from it to other parents, to teachers, to parents-to-be, and to friends of parents! Anyone who has wondered what makes a toddler lie, why siblings fight, how to strategize ...more
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Po Bronson has built a career both as a successful novelist and as a prominent writer of narrative nonfiction. He has published five books, and he has written for television, magazines, and newspapers, including Time, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and for National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Currently he is writing regularly for New York magazine in the United States and for ...more
“In taking our marital arguments upstairs to avoid exposing the children to strife, we accidentally deprived them of chances to witness how two people who care about each other can work out their differences in a calm and reasoned way.” 9 likes
“The more controlling the parent,” Caldwell explained, “the more likely a child is to experience boredom.” 9 likes
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