Saturday, December 26, 2009

Recently Read: Nurture Shock

Nurture Shock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

There is a widespread belief that a person who becomes a parent will instinctually know how to be a good parent. "Follow your instincts and your kids will turn out fine". This book went to the root of many of the instinctual claims of parents (and delved into the research that supported the claims) and discovered that many of the previously held beliefs and parenting practices are actually doing more harm than good. Research from the last decade (and this book is very well documented) will cause you to take a closer look at the way you parent your children.

"Nurture shock refers to the panic--common among new parents--that the mythical fountain of knowledge is not magically kicking in at all" (p. 6).

The subtitle of this book is "New Thinking About Children". This book was a very fascinating read and definitely gave me a few things to think about in regards to my parenting practices. If you don't want to read the whole book, you can check out this blog by the authors, which hits on some of the same topics of the book.

Here are my notes from the book:

Chapter One: The Inverse Power of Praise
Myth: If a child believes he's smart (having been told so, repeatedly), he won't be intimidated by new academic challenges.
-When we praise children for their intelligence, we tell them that this is the name of the game: look smart, don't risk making mistakes.
-those kids who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. In other words, telling your kid that they are smart gives them the idea that they should be able to rely on their smarts alone to get them through the world. If something is difficult for them, they give up before expending any effort.
The solution: Teach your children that intelligence can be developed and worked on. Base your praise on something real, on the process (ie. praise them for the hours they spend practicing their foul shot in basketball, don't just tell them they are awesome at basketball).
-teach your children: Your brain is a muscle like any other part of your body. The more you use it and exercise it, the stronger and bigger it becomes.

Chapter Two: The Lost Hour
-Around the world, children get an hour less sleep than they did thirty years ago. The cost: IQ points, emotional well-being, ADHD, and obesity.
Myth: A child can get by on less sleep, just like an adult can.
Reality: Teenagers need more sleep, and they're not getting it. Many of the undesirable characteristics of being a teen (moodiness, depression, binge eating) are actually just symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation.
-sleep loss impairs the brain, which is especially serious for the growing developing brain of a young person.

Chapter Three: Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race
Myth: If you don't talk about race with your children (or acknowledge that some people have dark skin and some people have light skin), they'll grow up not even noticing a difference.
Reality: Research shows that children notice the differences. Even very young children know that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. And they tend to favor the group that they belong to. Children (even as young as 3yrs.) are not colorblind when it comes to race.
The Solution: To be effective, conversations about race have to be explicit, in unmistakable terms that children understand. Start having these conversations young (ie. preschool age).

Chapter Four: Why Kids Lie
-Most classic strategies to promote truthfulness just encourage kids to be better liars.
-Most lies to parents are a cover-up of a transgression. First, the kids does somethings he shouldn't; then, to squirm out of trouble, he denies doing it. But the denial is so expected, and so common, that it's usually dismissed by parents.
-A child who is going to lie must recognize the truth, intellectually conceive of an alternate reality, and be able to convincingly sell that new reality to someone else. Lying demands both cognitive development and social skills that honesty doesn't require. "Lying is related to intelligence, but you still have to deal with it."
Reality: Kids want to make their parents happy. What really works is to tell your children "I will not be upset with you about ...., and if you tell the truth, I will be really happy." Parents need to teach kids the worth of honesty just as much as they need to say that lying is wrong.

Chapter Five: The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten
-Intelligence tests are being administered to young children, the results of which place the children in a gifted program or private independent schools. The problem is that all of the tests are ineffective predictors of a young child's academic success. In other words--IQ tests for young children don't really mean a thing. "The identification of very bright kids in kindergarten or first grade is not on too thick of ice. The IQ measure aren't very accurate at all. Third grade, yes, second grade, maybe. Testing younger than that, you're getting kids with good backgrounds."
-Giftedness is not something fixed.

Chapter Six: The Sibling Effect
-Siblings between the ages of three and seven clash 3.5 times per hour, on average (which adds up to 10 minutes of every hour spent arguing).
-Kids don't have an incentive to act nicely to their siblings, compared to friends, because the siblings will be there tomorrow, no matter what.
-A net-positive (more good times playing in the backyard than fighting) is what predicts a good relationship later in life.
Solution: Get siblings to enjoy playing together. You don't want them to ignore each other, but they need to learn to spend time together and communicate with each other, give them positive skills for interaction. Conflict prevention, not conflict resolution.

Chapter Seven: The Science of Teen Rebellion
-Adolescents who argue with adults is a sign of respect, not disrespect. And arguing is constructive to the relationship, not destructive.
-Teenagers lie to their parents to protect the relationship.
-"Parentsare more bothered by the the bickering and squabbling that takes place than are adolescents, and parents are more likely to hold on to the affect after a negative interaction with their teenagers."

Chapter Eight: Can Self-Control Be Taught?
-Young children learn abstract thinking through play.
-Teach children to think proactively. Develop a plan for their plan (or how they'll spend their time).

Chapter Nine: Plays Well With Others
-The more educational media the children watched, the more relationally aggressive they were.
-In many tv shows (PBS, Nickelodeon, Disney, etc). relational aggression is modeled at a fairly high rate. Many shows spend most of the half-hour establishing a conflict between characters and only a few minutes resolving that conflict. Children cannot attend to the overall lesson in the manner an older child or adult can.

Chapter Ten: Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn't
Reality: Watching baby videso (like Baby Einstein) does not make babies smarter! Infants need a live human speaker to learn language. Parents need to respond to their babies, have a conversation with them.