I stumbled across Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s book NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children after I was gifted a copy of Newsweek with their incendiary cover-story (September 14, 2009 issue) entitled “Is Your Baby Racist?” I should mention that a teenager gave me this particular magazine issue as a tongue-in-cheek gift at my baby shower.
In their Newsweek article, Bronson and Merryman cite research that shows that you don’t raise color blind or tolerant children by not talking about race. In fact, the opposite is true. I found the article so thought-provoking that I ran right out and read the book, where I found even more thought-provoking articles on different areas of research about how children learn and how they differ from adults.
One chapter in NurtureShock explores the neuroscience of why and how children and teens need more sleep than adults and what happens when they don’t get it. Another deconstructs the notion that praise is always good for children, and another challenges the assumption that some television programs may be better for children than others. They also take a look at how kids get into gifted programs and what may be wrong with our current system of deciding who’s gifted and who’s not. Other chapters explore such questions as: why do kids lie, why do teens rebel, why do siblings fight, and why do some babies learn to talk earlier than others?
Written in a very conversational style, NurtureShock presents its various topics and areas of research in an approachable way, which is no easy task in a book that debunks many assumptions about children and parenting. But while some parenting books seem to prey on your insecurity or just preach a cookie-cutter approach, NurtureShock is all about making you rethink and take a new look at what makes children (and teens) tick.
I truly enjoyed reading this book, talking about it with friends and thinking about the implications the research presented — and what I might be able to do about it as a parent. I must admit that I wish it had been a little more in-depth in parts. But it is a book I see myself returning to. I just hope they write more books on this subject, as there is sure to be more research over the years that changes and challenges the way we think about things today.