Sunday, June 27, 2010
Nurtureshock - Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman
This is like Freakonomics meets Dr. Spock - or challenging widely-held beliefs about child-rearing with interesting studies and fascinating anecdotes. This is a very quick read that will (hopefully) change the way people think about what children need and how best to engage children to become thinking hard-working members of society. I particularly enjoyed the chapter that focused on whether parents praise ther children too much. I did feel this "title" was a misnomer, because the chapter is about the benefits of encouraging the hard work of children, rather than the fact that they are "so smart." Recent studies show that focusing on the hard work it takes to accomplish tasks leads to children taking more risks, spending more time on a given problem, and in the end performing better, than children who hear reinforcement that they are only good at certain things because of some sort of innate intelligence. While this concept makes a great deal of sense to me, I still think that telling a child that they are hard-working, or that their preserverance led to their success is a form of "praise." So, I wouldn't say that we should praise our children less, just that we should praise our children in different ways. There were a few chapters I would have loved to read more about (I probably could if I'd just flipped to the bibliography!), such as one chapter about whether children are inherently color-blind when it comes to race. Bronson & Merryman answer "no" to this question, and encourage parents to have frank disucssion with young children about race - and that having such discussions leads to more accepting and tolerant individuals. There is no explanation, however, of what such a discussion would look like. There was also a criticism of children's books that present conflict between individuals - even if such conflict is resolved with a lesson at the end of the book - with the research demonstrating that children take in the examples of conflict, but don't always absorb the lesson. The Bearnstein Bears books, sadly, were pointed out as not a great model for sibling conflict. A suggested reading list of books that do teach children good values and lessons, without such negative effects would have been a nice addition. But, of course, this book isn't intended to be an all encompassing guide to parenting, it's intended to be food for thought, to help reshape our assumptions, and encourage all of us to be more thoughtful in our interactions with children.