Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review: NurtureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Hachette Book Group, 2009.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About ChildrenForget everything you've read about child-rearing. And forget trusting your instincts. According to NurtureShock, everything you've learned (or felt instinctively) about how to raise your kids is wrong. But not to worry, if you read NurtureShock you'll finally be able to get it right! Lucky for us, the authors have collected all the scientific studies about child-rearing that have obtained real results, as opposed to those with dubious results but which have become inflated by the media and preached as fact (which, according to this book, is pretty much every popular study of the past 20 or so years).

Wow. This is quite a claim, and I was pretty skeptical as I started to read this book. But I have to admit the book contains some pretty convincing debunking of some popular child-rearing theories, such as the theory that you need to constantly tell kids how great they are in order to raise their self esteem. Not so much. Apparently it's better to praise kids for working hard, and for particular achievements, instead of just praising them in a more general manner, such as "you are so smart!"

So debunking. Yes. But I don't know about you, but I've heard this new theory of self esteem before. Possibly even in some popular parenting magazine. I've also already heard about how important sleep is for children, and how it effects their performance in school. And about how testing, especially testing of young children, doesn't really tell you much. So it seems that many of these theories are already out there. That NurtureShock's claim of "new thinking about children" might be a bit of a stretch.

Still, it's nice to have all these theories in one place, presented with the actual research that supports them. And the book definitely contains some new theories that I've never come across before. Here are a couple I particular liked:

"In taking our marital arguments upstairs to avoid exposing the children to strife, we accidentally deprived them of chances to witness how two people who care about each other can work out their differences in a calm and reasoned way" (p. 194).

"...the predictive value of self-discipline in many cases are better than those of IQ scores. In simpler words, being disciplined is more important than being smart" (p. 174).

"When I began this research, I would have thought the main reasons teens would say they lie was 'I want to stay out of trouble,' ... But actually the most common reason for deception was, 'I'm trying to protect my relationship with my parents; I don't want them to be disappointed in me" (p. 139).

So, do read NurtureShock. There is a lot of good stuff in here: research to support what you've already heard about raising kids, and maybe a few things you haven't heard before. And the book is nicely organized; the writing style clear and concise. Just try not to let the overblown claims in the introduction keep you from delving into the first chapter.


  1. This sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the thoughtful review. I like it when the reviewer admits to being skeptical. :)

  2. Lauren from 5 Minutes for Books reviewed it and said the same as you - Read It!

    I like the quotes you shared from the book as they give me added perspective. I think it IS a book I would like to read at some point as it seems to be chalk full of things to argue, think and talk about!

    Thanks for your review!

  3. Funny, my husband and I were just talking about marital arguments and that if we were to have any kids, I wouldn't want them to have to listen to our screaming/yelling (which doesn't happen often, but still, if it were to happen) as it can be quite distressing for the kids. So your quote on p194 gives an interesting perspective - though I have to say the key words there are "calm and reasoned ways" - which, in the heat of a moment, is difficult to do... but definitely something to think about if we were in that situations.

  4. Pretty much if I lied to my parents it was EXACTLY for that reason. Most of my teenage behavior was motivated by a desire to not disappoint my parents.