Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nurture Shock

Karen and I just finished reading Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It's a collection of some recent (and counter-intuitive) advances in child development research. Entertaining and surprisingly conservative in places, the authors touch on a plethora of topics ranging from sleep to self-control to teen rebellion. While none of the areas are considered in any kind of an exhaustive way, the book manages to be quite thought provoking. Parents will definitely benefit from the experience. A few tidbits:

Telling your child he is smart will likely encourage less effort on his part. Instead, try praising specific achievements focusing on the effort applied. Self-esteem is a red herring.

Kids are getting somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour less sleep each night than they used to only a decade ago. Loss of sleep causes problems for adults but it absolutely destroys a child's ability to function academically, turning sixth-graders into fourth-graders. There is also an amazing correlation between sleep-loss and obesity in children (more so than between diet or exercise and obesity).

Kids lie many times a day, and parents can't always (or even usually) tell when. Smarter kids lie better than other kids. They mainly lie to please a parent or other adult, not to avoid punishment.

Tests to identify gifted kindergartners get it wrong about 73% of the time. IQ is not stable in children and testing is meaningless until at least the third grade.

A teenager's need for autonomy peaks around age 14 or 15. It is higher at 11 than at 18. When adults hear disturbing phrases like "swim with sharks" and "bite on a lightbulb" they experience an immediate emotional aversion. When teens hear these phrases, they weigh the decision in the cognitive parts of the brain--they actually have to think about it! Their brains do signal danger during experiments involving sharing their tastes and preferences with peers. Arguments between parents and teens tend to indicate a lower level of dishonesty in the relationship.

Children who watch educational TV shows (like Arthur and Clifford) exhibit a higher level of aggression--they're even worse than Power Rangers! 96% of all children's programming contains verbal insults and worse. Spanking, when done consistently and not as a "nuclear option" is effective (though the authors can't bring themselves to recommend it).

Infant language development is not driven by the number of words the baby hears, but by the number of times the baby gets a response for making sounds. Baby Einstein videos are useless at best and could even be harmful.

As you can see, the list of topics covered is large and diverse. Even so, parents or those who work with children are sure to benefit from the many insights provided.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Cracked.com just said something similar.