Nurture Shock Book Review

Nurture Shock is a 2009 book by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman based on scientific research about child development. The book is not really based on their opinions, it is a literature review of the most current neuroscientific and behavioural science from the last 15-20 years, put across in layman's terms.

I got it from the library because other mums at the park were raving about it so I read it. It has not re-invented the wheel in some areas (praise, discipline) but it has raised two very good points about our school systems: 1. Teens need a later start and 2. Young kids need to be involved in creative play more & not be inundated by traditional academics. Anyway, one of the mums who didn't want to read it asked me to do a quick review of the major points, so here they are:

1. Praise effort. Do not dish out unwarranted and false praise as it diminishes motivation.

2. Critical to get them to bed on time. Adolescents especially need more sleep. Sleep deprived kids are more likely to have low IQs, emotional problems, ADHD and obesity.

3. Talk to kids about race and culture. Ignoring the topic of race does not help a child form relationships with kids of different races. In fact it makes things worse. Putting a child in a diverse environment also doesn't help them interact, unless you talk with them about it.

4. By age 4, 80% of kids lie. Threats and punishments encourage them to be much better liars. Read books and tell stories about the benefits of honesty, like George Washington's Cherry Tree and not stories like The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Teach that lying is wrong but also reward honesty.

5. For every 100 "gifted" children identified in kindergarten, only 27% of them truly deserve that ranking by 3rd grade. Kids brains are still developing until 3rd or 4th grade. Those early tests mean nothing and are neglectful of many truly gifted kids.

6. Siblings fight because they do not want to share their toys/things, not because they are not getting full attention from parents. Kids with good friendships outside of the house treat their siblings better.

7. Teens lie to stay out of trouble and not disappoint parents. Parents who relent make things much worse. Consistent rules show a teen that they are loved and they go on to have good relations with the parent.

8. Teens do drugs & alcohol out of boredom.

9. Parents think arguing with their kids is destructive. Teens think it is productive. Parents "stonewalling" and/or giving-in does not work.

10. 96% of kids tv shows have verbal insults and put-downs, particularly the "educational" shows where conflict (bullying, not sharing, excluding a friend) makes up most of the program, with a very brief resolution at the end that kids do not get. Make-believe, fantasy, and superhero programs have significantly better effects on kids. Those shows will encourage imaginative play afterwards. Surprisingly, Power Rangers is better for kids than Arthur!

11. The relationship between mum & dad has a profound effect on the well-being of a child. If you argue in front of a child (which if moderate is ok) you MUST resolve the issue and make-up in front of them too. Do not move it to another room.

12. Spanking a child as a form of consistent, fair and loving discipline actually reduces aggressive behaviour in a child. Spanking inconsistently, spontaneously and angrily increases aggression. Black families tend to do the former, white families the latter.

13. "Zero Tolerance" policies in schools do not work. Stress levels in students are getting worse not better. Today's middle schooler has over 229 peer interactions a day. Couple this with sports schedules and play-dates and they are inundated with the constant stress of peer rejection, ranking and one-upmanship. It's no wonder they don't play nice!

14. Most bullies are not the "bad" kids, but are actually the most popular and well-liked by students and teachers alike. Bullies are in fact more sensitive, can be subtle, and know exactly which buttons to push and how to balance kindness and aggression to get their own way.

15. There is a strong connection between being popular and alcohol abuse.

16. Girls are as likely to bully as boys, but they are far better at relationship bullying (exclusion from the group etc.)

17. Baby DVDs (like Disney's Einstein range) actually hinder a child's speech & development. They get more from watching American Idol, because it is real people moving a real mouth. The other DVDs apparantley just sound like gibberish noise. Since all of this has come out, Disney have offered refunds on those DVDs (surprising to me!).

18. From birth: do more listening, responding and touching than forcing thousands of words, numbers, colours and unnecessary noise down their ears. Example, if a baby is holding up a spoon say "spoon" not "Are you hungry? Do you want food? Food?" This is called criss-cross labeling. Also, response through touch significantly increases a baby's babbling and desire to interact with. Interestingly, toddlers learn far more words if they learn from a wide variety of voices than 1 person teaching them the same words.

So anyway, I'm going to try and make some changes in what I do. I'll definitely be more careful with praise and limiting what they watch on TV. And I'm going to talk about race, drugs, bullying and anything else that might be uncomfortable for me but obviously important for them to know.


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