Monday, June 14, 2010

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Often I forget where I first hear of a book, or who recommended it. I usually just put holds on them online right away, and then by the time they come in I don't remember. But I'm pretty sure I first heard of this book from Kacy, whose blog is awesome. So of course I trusted her opinion. And, phew, this was a worthwhile read for me.
First complaint, the title. I understand it needs to be catchy, but I think the subtitle, New Thinking About Children, is more representative of what you'll find as you read. And there are lots of new ideas in here. Some are kind of obvious, but others are more surprising. Overall I found it very intriguing.
Sometimes it is hard for me to get through non-fiction books. Especially ones that deal with a lot of statistics and results. I really am interested in those things, but I'm skeptical. Like I have to think if those could actually prove something else, and if I really believe the results really show what the author is telling me they show. I felt that way especially when I read Blink, but this is a way better book.
So here are somethings I thought were cool:

When you praise children, make sure to emphasize their effort, which is something they can control. Like if your child does well on a math test, don't say "you are so smart at Math." Because then, if and when they do poorly, they will think it's out of their control, they just aren't smart enough. And even worse, they won't try hard things because failing will mean they aren't smart. But if they understand they did well because they studied and worked hard, then if and when they do poorly, they will think they just need to work harder and study more. Doesn't that make perfect sense? These studies were very cool to read.

I thought the info on why kids lie ( to avoid punishment and to make their parents happy) were interesting too. And especially the part about tattling, because isn't tattling the worst? But their studies show that kids actually only tattle once for every 14 times there is an offense. So maybe give them a break, they were trying not to.

Third grade is when public school curriculum gets much harder because kids are asked to reason through math problems instead of just memorizing, and read for comprehension and not just to learn how to.

The need to do intelligence testing at an older age (at least the end of 2nd grade), and to retest students was very interesting. When you test really young, like kindergarten, you are mostly testing social skills and good parenting. Well, that's over simplifying, but it's too hard to explain briefly.

The chapter that follows gifted education is about sibling fighting. Both of these are real concerns and interests of mine, so by this point in the book, I was totally hooked.

I especially like the idea that if siblings fight, but also spend lots of time playing together and enjoying each other, they will probably stay friends as adults. Phew! It's much better to be best friends/worst enemies, than to take no interest in each other. The latter kind of siblings probably won't be friends as adults.

I also like the explanations about teenagers risk taking. My favorite part was that when teenagers argue with their parents, it usually means they are telling the truth, and they think there's a chance they might be able to get you to change your mind. So if they argue with you it's more respectful than if they lied to avoid any conflict. Like they lie and then just do what they want. It's more intersting than I'm making it sound.

I have read the concept before that you should listen to your kids, and maybe be flexible to change your mind about something, or to compromise. This reinforces their ablity to stand up for their ideas and to present their case. But of course you should never give in just to get them to shut up! I really believe this, and with my obnoxious children, I usually have to remind them that if they want to suggest something or make a deal with me they need to talk to me politely and I would be glad to consider it. At least when I feel like being a good mom.
And then on another note, "being disciplined is more important that being smart...being both is not just a little better, it is EXPONENTIALLY better." I think that makes perfect sense. Being smart is nice, but you have to have self-control and work hard to actually accomplish anything. I think, and so does Po Bronson.

There is a great study of a new preschool/kindergarten curriculum called Tools of the Mind. I am totally going to have my kids set goals for what they want to accomplish each week this summer. Maybe have them write up play plans too. You have to read the book to understand what I'm talking about.

And lastly, the speech studies with the 9 month olds were so cool. Turns out it doesn't matter how much you talk to your babies, but how quickly you respond to their efforts to talk. Kind of made me wish I had an infant to try it out on.

Sometimes I had a hard time really getting the common thread of each of the chapters. They were all cool, and seemed like pretty fresh and new ideas, but not always inter-related. The Conclusion chapter finally helped me understand the authors' thoughts on what all these had in common.
Have you read it? What parts did you find interesting. I'm sure I've left out some really important parts!

1 comment:

Hayley's Comment said...

Interesting. Some comments from a school psych perspective.

1. When we give any kind of assessment we never praise how they are doing only their effort. I have a piece of paper with about 100 ways to say "you are working so hard right now"

2. For IQ testing it is against the Washington State law (WAC) and IDEIA (federal law) to use IQ scores for kindergartens and even first grade is pushing it. We must use them with caution. Oh and we aren't allowed to make a decision based on one score by itself!

So the author really did do his homework in most cases!