I have spent the last few weeks reading and absorbing an excellent book, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. I recommend this book strongly to parents of kids of all ages. It opens our minds to some interesting research on child psychology and challenges us to not just follow conventional wisdom on a bunch of child rearing topics but experiment with newer scientific approaches. As Dr.Medina points out in “Brain Rules for Baby” (another highly recommended book), parental instincts are not always right and sometimes there is more to being a parent than you would think.
NurtureShock is based on the premise that much of everything we do with our kids is built on assumedly proven methodologies and techniques when some or many of them are either completely off base or somewhat incorrect. It doesnt offer solutions to problems- that would make it no different than any other advise doling book and would really disappoint me. It instead makes us aware of a lot of child psychological research and neuroscientific studies on the matter and challenges us to open up to newer possibilities and a newer form of thinking. It tells us what science shows as working and what it shows as not really conducive. I walked in to the book as a sceptic and walked out informed and willing to challenge my own status quo in bringing up my 4 year old. Some of the ideas put forth in the book seem to work for me in the few weeks I have spent trying it on my son.
The book takes up a bunch of important topics, each one given a chapter of its own. The authors disemminate myths and assumed problem solving techiques on the matter and then outline what current research and scientific studies have to say on it. It then gives the parent some broad stroke ideas of how to approach the problem with the new knowledge. The topics covered in the book are as follows.
- How praising a child might not always be the best approach to help them get better and smarter.
- The value of sleep for kids of all ages, even teens and how lost sleep can adversely affect their daily routine and overall growth.
- How and more importantly, when to talk about race to kids.
- Why do kids lie and how parents can avoid making it any worse.
- Conventional wisdom of how to raise a smart kid and how and why it might not be valid.
- Why siblings don’t always result in understanding and sharing children and why single kids are not all that screwed up as it is popularly thought to be.
- Why do teens rebel and how to gently handle the situation.
- Can kids learn self-control and how can parents help in the effort.
- Some early signs and socialogical traits of an aggresive child and why it might not be what you think.
- Why do different kids develop at a different pace and how does parental communication with an infant and Baby Einstein DVDs make a difference.
Along the way, every major and minor worry that keeps parents up at night from teenage sex to peer pressure and from TV’s impact on kids to resolution of conflicts gets its fair share of attention. I found myself questioning my own handling of situations and making minor but potentially significant adjustments in how I deal with them moving forward. By no means is this a Bible for parenting. There is no such thing as a Bible for parenting as every parent is so well aware of. Parenting challenges are unique to the parents and their child. But there is more commonality in a lot of the problems parents face in bringing up a child in today’s complicated world that it makes sense to read a book like this. All this book does is give you a better perspective as a parent on what you are facing and what to expect. It also gives you a comforting feeling that not only are you not alone but there are solutions to problems as long as you are willing to put effort into understanding the root cause.
As an final note, I am not a big fan of psychology books. But this one is a great read that I can’t recommend it highly enough (some of you have already heard me wax poetic about it). If you have a local library, look for it. I am sure they have copies you can borrow. Or like me, you can buy it on the Kindle or as a physical book.