Standing behind the counter recently, I was drawn into a conversation with a couple who frequent the store. We began exchanging opinions on child rearing and our child-centric culture, both the positive and the negative. Soon two more women had joined the conversation and then an older man and his grown son. We heard anecdotes of “the good old days,” about “when my children were young” and, of course, “today child rearing is very different.” Everyone listened semi-politely and there was little, if any, interrupting, which was impressive because we were wading into a subject as sensitive and polarizing as politics. Everyone, it seems, has opinions on how children should be raised– especially those who don’t have them. I could see that our lively discussion could turn ugly quickly and, wanting to avoid bloodshed in the bookstore, I turned the conversation to a book about children, published last September, titled “Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.
I explained that instead of being a how-to book it’s more of a look at the new scientific research that really explodes some of the long-held myths and ideas about children. To give one quick example: Studies have shown that we are, on the whole, greatly over-praising our children and the result seems to be a gaggle of kids who resist a challenge because they are afraid of failure of any kind. Afraid, for example, of disappointing the parents who think every tiny thing their child does is worthy of a plethora of praise. Recent research cited in Nurture Shock shows that over-praised kids are less willing to risk a wrong answer in class, or experiment with a more challenging assignment, whereas the child who has a realistic view of his/her abilities is more secure in taking on something that will be a stretch to him/her.
The authors include chapters on why kids lie, why siblings really fight, why white parents don’t talk about race and how lack of sleep adversely affects kids’ learning and changes their eating habits, plus an illuminating examination of successful programs at work in schools today. It’s an incredibly entertaining, well-researched book with engaging anecdotes that help to further explain the concepts discussed. I think of it as an “Outliers” or “Freakonomics” about children’s issues. Read it and come join the discussion at our counter!
Posted by Donna