Tuesday, February 23, 2010

NutureShock by Bronson and Merryman

This book is touted as a readable review of new research on children; it’s subtitled New Thinking about Children. If you read the newspaper or keep up online, you’ll likely have seen some of the studies. The authors make the point, though, that there are so many new studies it is often difficult to determine what information or practices will really make a difference in your parenting.

For example, I did read about a recent study that suggested lying in a 4-year-old is actually a sign of intelligence. But what do you do with this information? The authors recommend not putting your young kids in situations where they lie to avoid punishment, otherwise they’ll just become much better at it. They discuss this in a chapter called “Why Kids Lie” that looks at preschool to early elementary age kids. They hit this topic again in “The Science of Teen Rebellion.” There are other points in this later chapter, but what struck me was research showing teens routinely lie to their parents on 12 of 36 different topics, and their parents have no idea.

Another chapter that I found particularly interesting is called “Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn’t.” I think most parents have heard that talking to your kids helps with their language development. The most current research says, though, that they’ll advance most if you respond to their sounds. That is rather than parent-initiated talk, it is really the baby-initiated babble and subsequent responses that lead to significant gains.

I found this book to be one of the most interesting parenting books I’ve read in the past few years. I really like the way the research findings are discussed in practical ways. Another topic considered is testing for gifted programs and reasons why all kids should really be evaluated after a few years and moved around. Some schools actually offer remedial help for gifted students. Wouldn’t it be much better to simply move them to a regular program? And, testing for gifted kids in kindergarten just doesn’t work.

“… if a school wanted the top tenth of students in its third-grade gifted program, 72.4% of them wouldn’t have been identified by their IQ test score before kindergarten.”

Other chapters address why you should explicitly talk to your kids about race and why watching Arthur is worse for your kids’ peer relationships than watching more physically violent shows like the Power Rangers. NutureShock reminds me of one of my favorite parenting books, The Scientist in the Crib, but it goes beyond studies done with babies and is also relevant for parents of older children.

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