1,346 of 1,379 people found the following review helpful
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 "manuals." In other words, the science behind the thinking was weak--they were often politically charged or reactionary.
The blurbs about this book intrigued me, but I was also skeptical--until I read the first chapter on the inverse power of praise. Parents and guardians--just get ye to a bookstore and read the first chapter. I think you will be galvanized by its immediacy and logic (as well as back-up data) and it will inspire you to continue. It all clicked when I read about our praise-junkie tendencies, and how it has a paradoxical effect. The authors never condescend to us; they maintain that all of us want to make the best and most informed decisions. For instance, most of us start telling our babies, from the cradle "You are so smart" as almost a mantra of parenting. The authors do not criticize positive praise--they are revealing the data for specific types of praise. Telling a kid he or she is smart rather than specifically praising them for their efforts will eventually backfire. The child will have a tendency to not put out a lot of effort when they are challenged because they are stymied by the feeling that they have to stay smart, or that they must be NOT smart if they can't solve a problem or puzzle. Telling a kid (s)he is smart is praising an innate feature that is out of the child's control. Praising them for each genuine effort (whether they solved a problem or not) will have a better outcome. I cannot convey to readers the way that these authors channel and support this information--the statistical data and the entire beautiful logic of it--you must read it for yourselves.
The chapter on race relations also woke me out of a deep slumber of complacency. Too often, parents try to teach their kids equality just by placing them in diverse environments or showing them videos of multicultural friendships and cooperation. The book explicated a longitudinal study done by Dr. Bigler in Austin, Texas that revealed the lack of actual parent/child discussion on racial equality. That is the key ingredient to integration. Silence is not golden--(silence is black and white, and never the twain shall meet)--it is the wrong kind of colorblind. Just read this chapter and it will open your eyes.
Each section is such a wake-up call to parenting that I found myself reflecting on the blind spots in my own methods--not in an immolating way, but rather in an "aha!" manner. It isn't guesswork or just someone's opinion. The longitudinal studies, ongoing tests, data compilation, and control studies are explicit. But, more than that, you will feel a light bulb go off--it is seriously the most intrepid book I have ever read on parenting. No exaggeration. I can apply the book's information to my own parenting experiences and trials and realize how on the mark these studies are.
There is a chapter on sleep--its bearing and consequences on child performance, on obesity, and on mood. This section alone is worth the price of the book. I learned which parts of the sleep cycle are integral to the storage of which information. They describe the parts of the brain being affected when information is received and when sleep is disrupted. But, more importantly, the authors lay out the pitfalls of losing just 15 minutes or an hour of sleep--so many teenage problems are associated with this that some trailblazing schools are finally arranging the hours of education based on these studies. But more schools need this call to action. And we need to encourage a positive sleep pattern with our children. I know this sounds de rigueur and obvious. But this chapter on sleep is way more comprehensive than anything I have read before, and profound. Almost everything in the quality of your children's lives depends on it.
One of my favorite sections was the one that is like a riptide into everything you thought you knew about your child's language acquisition. Baby Einstein? Fuhgettaboutit. And don't try teaching your children a foreign language by popping in a Spanish DVD and parking them in front of the TV. Not going to happen. As a matter of fact, it will have a deleterious effect. A child needs a "live" person to learn. Additionally, it is the call and response between parent and baby that is the key to increasing their vocabulary and comprehension. Baby Einstein videos are like disembodied voices that do absolutely zip for their education. Sesame Street in Spanish is just as ineffective. Please read the chapter--the whole controversy is revealed when the studies proved that these baby videos are empty and hollow forms of education.
Perhaps my personal favorite is the chapter on teen rebellion. I recognize the arguing and lying of children in a whole new way now. How and why children cultivate what we think of as egregious behaviors usually stems from a psychologically astute and desirable place in their hearts and growth. It is the same with arguing. We need to shed our preconceptions and outmoded concerns about teen compliance, obedience, and integrity and understand the necessary steps in their development. There is a paradox about child/teen lying--it is expected, but it still must be dealt with.
And there is more--sibling rivalry, IQ testing, testing for elite schools at an early age, self-control, and playing well with others are covered immaculately.
Yes, it will blow the lid off, turn upside down just about everything previously advocated in parenting books. But not in a confounding way. That is an important ingredient to consider. This book, the way I perceive it, is not intended to upset or horrify you or derail your parenting experience. (Although, by its very nature it does derail previous long-held concepts, but in a compassionate way.) As a matter of fact, it provided clarity into numerous bogus concepts and the pious conditioning that we have been hanging onto for years. Additionally, it offers specific practices and interventions that can be measured rather swiftly in your own home with these changes to your personal parenting skills. As much as this book "shocks," it is not intimidating or finger-pointing at parents (although it does point a finger into disingenuous studies). The accessible and engaging flow of narrative is dotted with levity, lightness, and always benevolence. I read this book in just a few sittings and I retained the information well. It is easy to go back and reference what you read, as the chapters are laid out in an explicit, user-friendly manner.
Slide your other parenting books to the side of the shelf and place this one squarely in the middle. I acknowledge this book as a parenting imperative. Read it and leap.
435 of 465 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2010
NurtureShock, Bronson and Merryman's book about misplaced assumptions in the rearing of children is a worthwhile read for any parent. More a guide for critical thinking about our somewhat whacked out approach to child raising in America (reserving spots in elite preschools before a child is even born) than a guide to raising children, the book presents fresh data, surprising conclusions, and frequent cautions about old assumptions.
NurtureShock joins a new mini-genre of literature that sells by turning old assumptions on their heads, and making us question what we once thought was surely true. Also in this category is Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.) and Outliers: The Story of Success.
The book is highly entertaining, and impossible to read without a number of "Ah Hah!" moments, but does have limitations. While presenting powerful evidence that it is best not to dole out generic praise by the boxcar load to children (it actually impairs their performance) the book is at its best. Teachers, by the way, have known this for decades, and good teachers transformed long ago from non-specific cheerleaders (You're doing great!!) to more specific statements ("I like the way you stuck with that math problem until you figured it out"). Similarly, teachers have been acquainted for years with another theme of the book: academic skill testing done prior to the third grade correlates very poorly with academic performance down the line.
The authors question many of the programs that have been used to ramp up child performance, such as the Baby Einstein materials, and in doing so demonstrate how little evidence (if any!) provides a foundation for products that hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on. What the authors don't question is the concept of performance enhancement itself. In the area of language development, the authors spend a considerable amount of time describing flawed and ineffective (but expensive)programs to get babies on the fast track to linguistic mastery. They then go on to propose that there are a bunch of NEW ways to stimulate language development, giving only weak evidence that transferring from the old and goofy ways of getting babies to articulate precociously to the new and spiffy ways (based on the inevitable fMRI studies of brain function)has statistically significant long term beneficial results. Though the authors don't discuss it, there is good evidence that one of the simplest of interventions of all, having family dinners together every night with the TV off (only about 20% of American families regularly do this now) has a very measurable effect on fluency AND on reading and writing skills.
Again, the book is a great read, and obviously quite inspiring to many of its readers that have posted five star reviews. It runs the risk, however, of perpetuating the notion that children will end up working at McDonalds for a profession instead of becoming a neurosurgeon if parents don't man the neurobiological/behavioral battle stations from about ten weeks after fertilization of the ovum onward. While the authors shred older concepts of ramped up child rearing, they then jump in with both feet on their chosen NEW concepts of ramped up child rearing. What does a ten thousand foot overview of childhood development strategies say? The best evidence implies that the book you want to read if you want your child to become a highly functioning and happy adult is....To Kill a Mockingbird. Raise your girl like Atticus Finch raised Scout, and your boy the way he raised Jem: have dinner with them every night. Discuss current events. Read to your children at bedtime. Speak clearly about your values (compare Atticus Finch's approach to the problem of racism to the methods suggested in NatureShock). Make them play outside on a regular basis. Make them go to bed on time, after you make them do their homework. Not very glitzy, is it? A bit labor intensive, maybe? But find a mentor teacher, or a great pediatrician, and my bet is they'll place their money on Scout and Jem to succeed best in the long run.
The so-called Greatest Generation, which built the world's most powerful economy, made American Nobel Peace Prizes a matter of routine, and vaulted the U.S. to superpower status, did it without the benefit of scripting every verbal encounter, restructuring a walk in the park to an opportunity to improve vocabulary, and becoming adept at responding to a baby's babbles with a predetermined choreography of behaviors. Our drive to be the best parents that we can be is powerful and admirable. We want to do it right. To date, the most effective way of getting there appears to be setting some rules and sticking to them (the authors do discuss this), regular quality communication, quality AND quantity time spent together, frankness regarding values (e.g. racism)and carefully allowing experiences that are painful or challenging enough to cause growth. Atticus Finch used these techniques, and single parent though he was, gave us Scout and Jem.
207 of 222 people found the following review helpful
I learned to cast a suspicious eye toward some who are regarded as childhood "experts" after getting to know the adult offspring of a few prominent figures in the field who were navigating adulthood with considerably more difficulty than the average person. So I particularly like the holes that Bronson and Merryman poke in some of the previously accepted academic theories and trends in child development. I also think that some of the "new" academic data presented in the book is something that many parents will simply (and hopefully) recognize as common sense.
The chapters in the book are all very interesting, covering babies and teens and much of the in between. The chapter on testing for giftedness, which has become a hot button topic of late, is very thought-provoking. I agree with the authors that most gifted programs have run badly amok, but as one who had many years of experience at a private school for highly gifted children, I know that there are children who, in an average school environment, would be teased mercilessly for their ability to relate better to numbers and books than to their classmates. For highly gifted girls in particular, a school such as that can be a very safe place for them to be very smart.
The chapters on false praise, sibling rivalry, teen rebellion and overly-involved parenting speak more to an affirmation of common sense wisdom than to academic breakthroughs, but the research and studies are fun to read nonetheless. The chapters on race, sleep and lying are quite thought-provoking. Overall, the book is well written (not in florid or garbled academia-speak), very well researched, and the authors succeed in offering quite a few new, and fun, things to learn about children.
216 of 239 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2009
Disclaimer: I do not have children. I am very curious myself to hear what parents with children will think of this book. I got this book because I teach college, and in the last two years it seems that the students have really changed--stuff that used to work no longer does. I'm looking for answers.
For example, this book discusses why adolescents lie--a problem I've run into many times. *Part* of their argument (I don't mean to oversimplify their point) is that teenagers have learned that a)telling the truth will get them in trouble b) getting away with lying saves both them and their parents from aggravation and c) there's really no worse penalty for getting caught for doing X *and* lying about it than there is for doing X--thus there's no harm in trying, at least, the lie. This makes absolute sense with the scenarios I see semester to semester. Now that I know where it's coming from, I can consider better how to manage it--as in, make clear that the penalty for lying in this class will be much worse than just getting a zero on the paper.
This book has also, though it wasn't a main point of the book, reinforced to me something I've felt for a long time: that education should shape the whole person, beyond academics. Schools are were young people spend most of their time and have most of their social interactions--it makes perfect sense that schools should also get involved in teaching 'good human being' skills.
The surprise in this book comes from the fact that all of our old notions of how to create good human beings are apparently completely unsupported by science. We think praise is good--turns out indiscriminate praise can actually cause students to underperform! We think arguments are all bad--turns out they're not! We think violent TV programs are the ones we want to shield our kids from--turns out that more schoolyard cruelty came from groups who watched 'safe' cartoons like "Arthur."
What I appreciated was that this book didn't (to me, at least) take an alarmist tone--stop that, you're ruining your child!!! Instead it shows the assumptions, challenges them, brings in science and then goes on to humanize the results--Bronson's little discussions with his son in the race chapter were insightful and awfully cute, and really drove the points home. His open discomfort with the praise issue hit all the points I'd imagine I'd go through in 'praise withdrawal.'
One thing I wanted, simply, was more! More science! They kept the science parts as short and general-readership-friendly as they could, which is a great choice to sell books that will reach the largest audience, but me, I wanted more than little blurbs of studies. Not that I wasn't convinced, but I wanted to see a bit more for myself.
I am planning on passing this book on to my friends (especially those with young children) and having some really great discussions about it. This would be a great pick for a bookclub or discussion group.
47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2010
A portion of this review appears in the comments section under a one star review by Achilles. I just finished reading this book and was curious about what others thought. Evidently, the majority of readers enjoyed it as much as I did and for a variety of excellent reasons. The few one star reviews were surprisingly strident, imperious, patronizing and overbearing. They pronounced the book as "biased" ~ which merely means that it had a point of view, as most non fiction books do, but that was not a reason for one star; another said it was a "waste" because they felt the authors made assumptions about who would read it ~ in my opinion, such assumptions are only logical when you expect to make money on the book ~ in marketing we like to know our intended audience ~ but again, surely not a reason for one star; yet a third felt the conclusions were "facile" but for all the wrong reasons; while a fourth angrily focused on merely 3 pages. Achilles, your review requires a category of its own. It seems a few brave souls have addressed you with their comments. What struck me was that some of the arrogance, rage and fury over this book seems disproportionate to its content ~ which is clearly stated in the preface: "as a society, collectively, we never recognized..." as the real thing that "many important ideas have been right under our noses". The introduction tells us that the book will discuss "why our instincts about children can be so off the mark". This invites us to indulge in a good read and think about what they say. It doesn't impose radical concepts upon us ~ but an offer to contemplate some ideas. As a parent I found this very intriguing and felt that the authors generously presented us with some well written, engaging and at times compelling information.
As Shannon Davis pointed out in her comments, this was "not meant to be a child rearing guide". As E.W. Price states, "the authors are journalists presenting information in a fairly narrow area of research and they do not pretend to be experts". It appears to me that most of the one star reviewers have spent a great deal of time behind a desk engaged in academic pursuits but have not spent a whole lot of time in the trenches actually raising children.
I'm a mother of 7 children (they're not all mine but I parented all of them). The youngest is 25 and the oldest 40. I have also been a TIRELESS volunteer at everyone's school, clubs and athletics as well as chaperoning their social groups. I feel I have a rather ample supply of experience from which to draw my conclusions about a book like this.
In many instances the book accurately reflects my experiences although in some cases it does not. For example, the Baby Einstein DVDs came out long after my children were too old for them. However, I could easily grasp the premise as all of my kids were born and raised overseas. They are all multilingual (English, French and Spanish). The 25 year old was born in France where we lived for 5 years. His first caregiver was Chinese, his second Polish and his third Moroccan (Arabic speaking). All three of these languages are rather complex and not Latin based. The family and friends spoke French or English to him. He came to the States at 6 years old. It appears to everyone that he has a "gift for sounds" and accents. Without dwelling on this, I think you can see where I'm going here. The DVDs would have been equivalent to mindless background chatter while his caregivers spoke directly to him offering him a greater opportunity to fully grasp the sounds. The results are evident. Hence, the disappointment by many with the DVDs. This is dealt with in the book.
My 4 older children did not have the questionable "benefit" of Sesame Street, that purple Dino cartoon or an endless supply of cheerful videos. My oldest daughter is exceptionally assertive and argumentative; the two younger daughters are sweet and gentle while my oldest son is mellow. The youngest son who had all of the above media input and tons of violent video games, computer games and jolly children's shows has an astounding supply of empathy and has revealed not a shred of aggressivity ~ he happily volunteers at animal shelters and is active in the Big Brother program. He cries over sad movies and wrote and self published his first novel at 19. He has never shown the slightest belligerence despite the author's contentions. Only one child was somewhat aggressive (the oldest) and she was always like that ~ it was simply her temperament. The book draws other conclusions about heavy American style media input but I didn't see that in my youngest son or in his many friends. They could be exceptions of course.
There may be some basis for the author's conclusions but my point here is that the majority of people who would even bother to read a book like this are likely discerning readers and read for the pleasure of adding to their knowledge. When they decide that something just "ain't so" in their opinion or doesn't apply to their situation they can pass it over. That's how most people read anyway. We're not buying everything published as concrete and the authors don't expect us to ~ especially as each child is as unique as a snowflake.
I could write reams and reams and reams about the chapters on The Inverse Power of Praise, Why Kids Lie (they ALL try it) and the Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten. In fact I was laughing with delight at the many personal examples of evidence I could recall in just about every chapter but I also frowned at a few things too. Whether an hour less sleep is behind ADHD, obesity and lost IQ points is not for me to decide, there is no question at all that more sleep is better, period! Any mother could tell you that. So much the better if the kids could so easily avoid other problems at the same time.
The chapter on the Science of Teen Rebellion was informative. However, I don't agree that arguing suggests respect ALL the time. Sometimes perhaps, but often it's just a challenge they pursue as part of their need to grow away from us and create their independence. It's a necessary part of their development, that's all. I have been lucky ~ my kids were all easy ~ ahhh, mmmm, maybe one wasn't but she's alright now. I'm currently volunteering on the streets with a non-profit that helps homeless teens and I don't think that most of them would agree that their arguing shows respect either. Most of them come from cruel situations ~ parents on drugs or alcohol or serious abuse. Their arguments would likely have been extremely riveting since it would frequently mean their very life or something close to a battering and total humiliation. The chapter on Self Control was right on. My youngest son, the only one who has been to American schools, was the ONLY child in his school to ever have failed DARE. He was feeling cynical and patronized ~ his actions were quite deliberate and I agreed. Despite some misgivings I'm relieved he hasn't the slightest interest in drugs as opposed to all of his mates who DO (or rather did) ~ it was awhile ago. We KNOW he tried marijuana a few times as he came home and told us. He's 25 now, working 30 hours a week and putting himself through college (after two years volunteering with various programs). He drinks a beer with my husband occasionally and enjoys some wine at dinner when I serve it.
The kids essentially feel that DARE is stupid and DOESN'T really "work". Neither did that moronic Nancy Reagan idiocy "Just say No" ~ talk about someone with precious little insight into human behavior! Most of my homeless kids ARE or WERE on drugs and they all went through DARE.
The "Tools" program (I've forgotten which chapter), on the other hand, IS INDEED PHENOMENAL and DOES work. You really should take an opportunity to view it in action or at least buy the book and read about it. People need to be aware of such programs so they can observe them and lobby for them at their schools. This is one reason I have recommended this book to a large number of women. I think they're thoughtful enough and decidedly wise enough to "know" instinctively what is right for their individual children and what to pass over. This book offers information to savor, digest or disregard if you choose to. This is an excellent book for those with a brain who know how to read such books. As for the those clinging to their over-intellectualized (in some cases) one star reviews, you have not successfully argued your points and I strongly recommend to potential readers of this book to completely ignore them. I suggest you read the book, think for yourself and jolly well form your own opinion. You will surely learn some fascinating things from it. Thank you.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
The recent easy availability of science news has been a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we get the breaking news every time someone publishes anything even remotely interesting. On the other hand, it is even harder to perceive the consensus in scientific fields. We get the feeling of things changing and new data coming in, but not a good sense of the overall patterns and how they affect existing theories, because the process of consensus building in science happens over decades, not weeks.
The scientific consensus on child development and parenting has been gradually but insistently shifting over the past decade or so. The overall picture can't easily be seen from individual news stories, so books like NurtureShock which give some insight into the big picture are very important.
NurtureShock to me represents the second huge bombshell in child development theory applicable to the average person. The first was presented in The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, Revised and Updated, whih argued persuasively and shockingly that most differences in parenting made little difference to long term outcomes in their children's lives. Harris insisted that children instead were mostly raised by socialization in their peer groups.
NurtureShock doesn't argue the Nurture Assumption viewpoint at all (in fact it is largely consistent with Harris in most respects), but it focuses instead on the areas where parents really might be able make a difference.
What is the emerging new consensus according to NutureShock? The term is intended to reflect the shock that new parents feel when the fountain of natural wisdom about caring for children that they expect to serve them just doesn't appear. Our instincts are to love and care for our children, not to automatically know the right things to do. So we often turn to child development research. What does that tell us?
NurtureShock tells us that some of our commonsense is actually right afterall, and that some of the popular assumptions made about children are wildly off the mark. In particular, two big "myths" are identified. First, children are not just small adults, and we can't just apply the same principles to them that we apply to adults. Second, there are no supertraits that confer only good things: emotional intelligence, intelligence, gratitude, happiness, self-esteem, honesty, fairness, and so on can all have their dark side as well as their positive side. Negative elements can and do co-exist with high levels of positive traits.
For example, measured analytic intelligence (IQ) appears stable in adults, but changes in fits and spurts during childhood. This has significant implications for the use of childhood standardized testing to predict later ability. Praising adults usually helps encourage them (as long as they believe it is sincere), but in children the effect is more often paradoxical. Children praised too much or for the wrong things actually end up worse off as a result. Similarly, the once-trendy and still popular obsession with self-esteem turned out to have very little evidential support, and bullies often turn out to have very high self-esteem.
Emotional intelligence is also not the panacea that some of its proponents originally suggested. Criminals appear to have a higher, not lower, level of emotional intelligence than the general population, and they use that ability to manipulate others. Popular kids in school use their skills at empathy not so much to be sympathetic, but to play social games that improve their status.
Even insisting on honesty is a mixed bag. Kids seem to learn to lie as a natural part of developing their thinking and social skills, it is related to intelligence. But you can't just ignore it because it is part of development, or it will become a habitual pattern for dealing with difficult social situations. Parents have to learn when and how to encourage honesty. Kids faced with the constant threat of punishment lie more to protect themselves rather than less, and they learn better to evade getting caught. They are generally more motivated to be honest to please parents than to avoid punishment.
The best thing about this book is that it doesn't just promote or adhere to a standard socio-political agenda for child raising the way many books do. This isn't just rehashed progressive or conservative childrearing strategies, it reinforces some of the best elements of each of the different models. We see that threats and punishment are a particularly ineffective way of dealing with dishonesty, but setting limits and enforcing rules is crucial to helping teens know they are cared for.
We find that, perhaps unsurprisingly, teens are particularly prone to boredom and often act out as a result, and that there is not too much we can do about it. They don't respond to small or moderate rewards, but then respond in an exaggerated way to large rewards. This extreme-based decision making pattern in teens varies greatly between individuals but in many leads to the distinctive kind of risk-taking judgment that teens often exhibit. Unfortunately, there's not much in the way of advice here, just perhaps a little understanding.
Among the most important findings in this book are those dealing with thinking skills, especially metacognition and "executive function" skills. Both educational research and brain science seem to be reinforcing the importance of helping children learn the skills for teaching themselves, controlling their own attention and motivation, and evaluating their own performance. Some of these skills are general, but many are specific to particular subjects, so teaching thinking skills cannot be separated from teaching subject matter, as was sometimes mistakenly done in the past. This is a very difficult topic, not one amenable to many easy heuristics, but it is crucial to education.
This is a very important book, rich with research examples and also practical examples from the authors. It will make you think twice about some of your instincts and some of the things you've accepted from popular belief, and that will in turn help make you a more flexible and skilled parent or teacher.
218 of 268 people found the following review helpful
Every chapter that I read in this book had some very interesting data and scientific results. But in almost every case, I came away with a "so what" feeling for parents. Great, so we now know the importance of a regular sleep schedule for kids and letting them sleep later, that it will have a marked improvement on academic results. So what, unless you are on the school board, your school's classes are still going to start at the same too-early time and underachieve. What about the chapter showing that IQ tests and other predictive intelligence or aptitude testing for preschoolers (or anyone before about 2nd grade) are wrong more often than they're right? Interesting to know but if you are a parent wanting your kid into an exclusive school or a gifted program, your kid still has to take the test at the age the school prescribes.
I guess in a way, the book's subtitle gets it right: "new thinking about children." It's not "new best-practices in children rearing" or "new ways to make a positive impact for children." It's just "thinking about."
All in all, much of the data is interesting: drug avoidance programs are popular but ineffective, too much non-specific praise is a bad thing, siblings who fight have better relationships than siblings who ignore each other. It's all very interesting to think about, but as a parent, there's very little prescription here for what to actually do.
One other thing worth noting: although the book is listed as 350 pages, the 10 chapters and conclusion make up about 240 pages. There are nearly 100 pages of reference endnotes to all the scientific research cited.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2010
I liked the arguments in this book and they made a lot of sense to me, so I am inclined to believe the assertions that the author made in this book even though I think some of the studies cited in support of their assertions have seriously flawed methodologies, thus calling into question the findings of these studies.
Just one example, in Chapter One of the book (I have the Kindle edition, thus I don't have the page numbers, sorry), where the authors cite a study where Dr. Florrie Ng studied American students at the University of Illinois and Chinese students at University of Hong Kong, he observed that the Chinese moms "actually smiled and hugged their children every bit as much as the American mothers (and were no more likely to frown or raise their voices)." This is the part of the study I'm concerned about.
I am Chinese myself, born and raised, and my parents were pretty typical Chinese parents, and I am just surprised that the author should not have thought that the Chinese mothers might have only put on a smiling face for the outsiders that were watching them on videotape. Keeping face is all-important in the Chinese culture. I know my own mother would never raise her voice to me in front of other people, however in private her anger and disappointment would be made a lot more...apparent...to me.
The scenario in Dr. Ng's study was very familiar to me: performing less than optimally on a test, getting yelled at at home, NOT in front of strangers. I bet all those Chinese children in the study saw their moms brewing up a storm on the way home from the scholar's office and knew what was coming. That is, unless their moms were told how their child really did, but the moms probably would have been disappointed anyway if their children didn't perform significantly ABOVE-average. That's the Asian way. Actually I think this would apply to ANYONE's parents almost: if you're going to yell at your kid you're a lot less likely to do it when you thought that there were important people (like PhDs doing a publicized study) watching you (on videotape!) Anyone who knew anything about Asian cultures at all would have thought about this effect, that Asian parents discipline their kids in private and want to appear normal and happy in front of strangers as if nothing is wrong. So I'm surprised that a scholar like Dr. Ng, with a name that seems to suggest that he's Asian himself, wouldn't have thought that taping Asian parents would change their behavior. This actually goes for the American moms as well, but they were less likely to yell at their kids to begin with anyway.
36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
I am a certified bilingual teacher; I teach English as well as piano lessons and do a generous amount of substitute teaching. So when I saw this book, I was eager to read it.
The book has a preface, introduction, ten chapters, and a conclusion. Briefly speaking, the chapters are:
1. THE INVERSE POWER OF PRAISE. The authors state that piling on praise to children about their intelligence may have an inverse effect on their academic progress.
2. THE LOST HOUR. The authors posit that lack of sleep could be responsible for children's and adolescents' academic struggles, moodiness and even obesity! (Surprised? So was I.) Also they mentioned the "Tools of the Mind" curriculum which is apparently doing wonders for kids' academic success.
3. WHY PARENTS DON'T TALK ABOUT RACE.. They claim that young children are more racially aware than we think and that parents DO need to talk to their children about it.
4. WHY KIDS LIE. This chapter debunks stereotypes we have about children's lying (e.g., girls lie less, little kids lie less, introverts lie more - all false). It's a revealing study into children's and lies and even shows how much of it they learn from us adults!
5. THE SEACH FOR INTELLIGENT LIFE IN KINDERGARTEN. This offers up the idea that we often test children for gifted and talented programs too early, and leave out the intellectual late bloomers. The information on the development of children's and adolescents' brains alone is worth the price of the whole book.
6. THE SIBLING EFFECT. This does a different take on the idea that "only" children are less socialized. And get this - they show that a child's relationship with his/her BEST FRIEND is often a good predictor of how (s)he will get along with siblings.
7. .THE SCIENCE OF TEEN REBELLION: The authors suggest that adolescents see arguments with adults as a sign of respect, not disrespect, and a sign of being honest. Some of their ideas about the most effective parents will be surprising.
8. CAN SELF CONTROL BE TAUGHT? The authors claim that the assertion of self-control being a "fixed" trait.may not be true - it may be something that can be developed.
9. PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS. This is a surprising study of aggression. They suggest that aggression is not always the exclusive property of bullies. In fact, the so-called "popular kids" will often use kindness and aggression in balanced forms to maintain control.
10. WHY HANNAH TALKS AND ALYSSA DOESN'T. This delves into why some children learn to speak more fluently and easily before others do. It questions the value of some of the "baby learning" programs on the market today, and discusses five ways that parents can help their children as they learn to speak.
The conclusion ties together many different ends together, and again, a lot of conventional ideas are challenged here. But the answers the authors give are logical when you think of them.
Having said this, I want to share some personal reactions to this book.
A. I agree that it can be counter productive to praise kids for their intelligence under certain circumstances. Even children with high IQs need to apply themselves and work hard to learn. Praising their efforts rather than native intelligence is better because it positively rewards something over which they have control (effort and persistence) than something over which they have less control (IQ in numbers). However, once in a while I think it's good to let a child know that you think (s)he is smart. It certainly is better than commenting on how "dumb" (s)he is, which, incidentally, a lot of parents DO tell their children. For some reason, this wasn't mentioned.
I was not surprised and the mention of the counter-productive emphasis on "self esteem." Yes, emphasis on self-esteem to the exclusion of responsibility can be wrong. But I was surprised that they mention Nathaniel Branden's book THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SELF-ESTEEM as the reason this all got started. Dr. Branden, a former associate of Objectivist philosopher-writer Ayn Rand, does not believe in short cuts to bolster a weak self-esteem. For Branden, self-esteem is the confidence made on the basis of conscious living, self-acceptance, responsibility for our experiences, healthy self-assertion as well as purposeful living with integrity. In fact, if we teach self-esteem the way Dr. Branden teaches it, I'm sure all children - including us grown up ones - would benefit greatly.
B. Their take on corporal punishment. They seem to feel that it doesn't always have a bad effect on children - which may be true. They mention, among other things, Dr. Dobson's approach. While Dr. Dobson's books on discipline have received many good reviews on Amazon, there have also been a lot of negative ones - and some of them by people who were raised according to his advice. Plain and simple, it works for some kids and not for others. Perhaps this needs to be researched more.
In all, I found NURTURE SHOCK to be a very worthwhile reading experience, and I plan to re-read it a lot. And the first thing I would like to do is to check out the TOOLS OF THE MIND curriculum. That sounds exciting!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Nurture Shock is a parenting book with a strong scientific foundation that's designed to have a big impact on breaking some of society's misguided conventions regarding parenting and education; which looks to be an exceptionally good thing. It focuses on a number of issues relating to parenting and education in which good science shows us a different view from current cultural assumptions.
Nurture Shock includes a fairly dense conglomeration of scientific studies on different topics which the authors have gotten heavily involved in. I loved how often they had actually sat down and observed studies conducted by experts in various micro-fields of child behavior while still sharing interesting stories about how their new-found knowledge had impacted their own families. Lots of cool stuff!
It's a book designed for the masses, so it's a relatively quick read, but weighty (and even gutsy!) nonetheless.
The thing that perhaps struck me most about the book was the utter honesty of the authors and scientists, who were sharing information even when it wasn't what they *wanted* it to be; they were incredibly up-front about their own biases. Among other things, this makes it sort of incomplete - in a natural and healthy and refreshing way. There's lots of stuff to stew on, some of which is quite paradoxical, and it's certainly a book I plan on re-reading and look forward to discussing with others.
Also, if you've read the New York Times' article "How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise" (And if you haven't yet, you should!), you'll get a little taste, because this article (which debunks conventional thinking about "self-esteem" in children and gives a more whole and complete sense of what children need in the way of praise and encouragement) is written by one of the authors of Nurture Shock and the subject matter of the article is part of what's covered in this book.
The following are the chapter titles with a little description of the content (each chapter stands on its own):
1. "The Inverse Power of Praise": Basically, the self-esteem movement was somewhat misguided in thinking that children would feel better about themselves and do better if we just told them they were smart. The truth is, children (and likely adults too!) work better with specific praise about things that they have some control over - like putting good effort into something.
2. "The Lost Hour": A collection of studies on why children, especially teenagers, need more sleep. The surprising thing is how big an impact this can have on their school performance. Fascinating!
3. "Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race": A very interesting discussion on the negatives of assuming that children will learn appropriate social behavior and attitudes simply from hanging around other children (and why we as parents need to get over our uncomfortableness in talking about certain issues).
4. "Why Kids Lie": An exposition on current research on lying and some helpful hints for parents - including the vital importance of truly acting like we value honesty. The comparison on various morality tales and how they impact children's behavior was quite fascinating.
5. "The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten": This chapter details serious flaws in the way (and especially the age) in which children are being admitted (and not admitted!) into gifted programs in both public and private schools. This chapter also provides some helpful background on the intellectual development of children.
6. "The Sibling Effect" (Delightfully subtitled: "Freud was wrong. Shakespeare was right. Why siblings really fight."): The basic point is that sibling fights are almost entirely not about struggling for more parental attention. You can read a little more about this chapter in an ABC News article entitled: "The New Science of Siblings".
7. "The Science of Teen Rebellion": This has a lot of information about the nature of arguments, some of which I'm still processing, but here's an interesting quote - a conclusion regarding a particular study - to give you a sense of it (Hurray for balance!):
"The type of parents who were lied to the least had rules and enforced them consistently, but they had found a way to be flexible that allowed the rule-setting process to still be respected."
8. "Can Self-Control Be Taught?": Many interesting insights from a new preschool program/method that's showing great potential.
9. "Plays Well with Others": This covers a variety of parent and family issues that have an effect on how children behave. One of the most important overall themes is that as parents, it's not our job to protect our children from conflict, but to help them learn to deal with it - in large part by dealing with it reasonably ourselves. Discussions of "zero-tolerance" and the paradox of "socially savvy" children (both primarily focused on the school setting) were particularly valuable. Here's a challenging paragraph:
"We thought that aggressiveness was the reaction to peer rejection, so we have painstakingly attempted to eliminate peer rejection from the childhood experience. In its place is elaborately orchestrated peer interaction. We've created the play date phenomenon, while ladening older kids' schedules with after-school activities. We've segregated children by age - building separate playgrounds for the youngest children, and stratifying classes and teams. Unwittingly, we've put children into an echo chamber. Today's average middle schooler has a phenomenal 299 peer interactions a day. The average teen spends sixty hours a week surrounded by a peer group (and only sixteen hours a week surrounded by adults). This has created the perfect atmosphere for a different strain of aggression-virus to breed - one fed not by peer rejection, but fed by the need for peer status and social ranking. The more time peers spend together, the stronger this compulsion is to rank high, resulting in the hostility of one-upmanship. All those lessons about sharing and consideration can hardly compete. We wonder why it takes twenty years to teach a child how to conduct himself in polite society - overlooking the fact that we've essentially left our children to socialize themselves."
10. "Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn't": Fascinating information on research about how babies learn language, and particularly, learn to talk. Basically argues for natural responses from reasonably attentive parents as the ideal.
Overall, I found it to be a very helpful and worthwhile read. It would be particularly good for reading AND discussion (at least with your spouse - perhaps with a little group as well).