Sarah Peck's Reviews > NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

NurtureShock by Po Bronson
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it was amazing
bookshelves: parenting-babies

Phenomenal. This reads like the wildly popular behavioral-economics book "Freakonomics," but for the psychology of human development. In ten chapters, I rethought my understanding of parenting and caretaking, children's development, and how humans grow up. From language skill development in babies to sibling dynamics to the benefits of aggression and confrontation in teenagers, I learned a tremendous amount about what we take as "normal" in childhood development, and then, what is actually happening.

The biggest myths that the authors identify are that (1) we assume children learn and behave like adults, and (2) that there's an either-or good/bad spectrum.

Through the ten chapters, they show that:

- Ch 1: Praising a kid by saying "you're so smart," doesn't have the effect that we want. Based on Carol Dweck's research, it's better to watch and listen, or praise effort and tenacity, not traits that they can't control.

- Ch 2: Children are getting far less sleep than they need. In the last 30 years, the average amount of sleep kids and teenagers get is an hour less per night than kids previously did. This is having catastrophic consequences, from inability to pay attention to increased rates of depression, and more. One hour less of sleep can result in 25% reduction in intelligence. Children NEED sleep, and we're not creating good habits for them to get it.

- Ch 3: We don't talk to our children about race, and it's not helping. Children can perceive differences in skin color and will make up their own rules and assumptions if we don't explicitly talk about it with them. Notable: multicultural classrooms and schools can have just as much, if not more, racial division as segregated classrooms of the 1950's, *if* we don't discuss the differences. Just mixing everything up isn't enough — we need to talk to our kids about race.

- Ch 4: Kids lie because it helps them. Unless we specifically ask them to tell the truth AND put a positive reinforcement for telling the truth ("I will be very happy if you tell me the truth," not "did you lie? TELL ME"), kids don't have any incentive to not lie. Parents were put through a study to watch their kids and determine when they lied, and a whopping majority of parents couldn't tell when their kids were lying or not.

- Ch 5: "Gifted and Talented" programs for kindergarten children is mostly bullshit. Kids aren't uniformly intelligent at this age, and a single marker on a single test has very little ability to predict the future. Some 75% of kids that get into G&T programs shouldn't be there after the first few years, but stay because the politics of removing them is too encumbered.

- Ch 6: Siblings fight, a lot. But it turns out that kids can be taught how to care for one another, and that's through friendships that they have a risk of losing.

- Ch 7: Teens rebel and argue, but it doesn't frustrate them the way it frustrates parents. This is part of teenagers learning to express themselves and push back — learning about their environment in the process (and often testing to see if parents care about them). While parents mark it as exhausting and trying, teenagers don't feel these same effects.

- Ch 8: A look into the "Tools of the Mind" program for preschoolers that is astonishing in how well it's done — it keeps losing grant money because the kids go from "in need" to top of the class within a year. The program teaches kids how to engage in prolonged play (by making a "play plan," to reflect on what they've done (by "reading back" a story), to listen, and to sustain attention. Gone are abstract symbols (world maps, calendars, alphabets) and in its place are the skills that little ones really need to learn to be successful later: how to sustain imagination, begin talking to themselves in a private voice, and understand how to reflect and analyze on what's happening — versus being told or instructed what to do. "Play" is imperative for children, because it's the foundation for abstract thought and symbolic thinking.

- Ch 9: Attachment parenting and segmenting children into groups of only like-minded ages has left children to their own devices in terms of civilization. Rather than learn from all ages, we've taught them only to learn from people their same age group — with negative results.

- Ch 10: Language development: while "Baby Einstein" videos never had the effect that the creators were hoping for, the follow-up studies did reveal an astonishing amount about how children learn language, and why seeing faces, hearing sounds, and responding to the baby are so important. In just 10 minute "interventions," researchers could change the nature of baby babbles simply by engaging with wherever the baby was starting. If the baby gazes in a direction, follow the gaze and explain what they see. If they make a sound, reinforce it by responding in sound or with touch.

Tremendous book. It's already influencing my parenting and my observation skills.
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Reading Progress

February 1, 2017 – Started Reading
February 7, 2017 – Shelved
February 7, 2017 –
February 8, 2017 – Finished Reading

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