NurtureShock (spoiler alert!)

So when I read that Po Bronson had (co)written a parenting book, I decided to give it a look. I’ve been a fan of Bronson for great books like ‘Bombadiers‘ and ‘The Nudist on the Late Shift‘, so I had high expectations. Happily, I can report that after reading ‘NurtureShock’ basically over the weekend (which is fast for me), my expectations were met, and exceeded.

The best encapsulation of ‘NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children‘ I have seen is Good Morning America (cringe) who describe it as “The Freakonomics of child rearing”. Bronson and co-author Ashley Merryman present a series of chapters, each synthesising the last ten years experimental research into a particular aspect of learning (and hence child rearing). The results are often counter-intuitive, and sometimes disturbing. They are also extremely actionable – both for parents and for teachers.

In short: go buy it and read it, some wonderful stuff in there.


For those who are curious, here’s a quick roll call of some of the insights/advice:

  • Praising traits (‘you’re so smart’) rather than action (‘you did that well’) is detrimental to resilience and self-belief
  • Sleep is vital to kids as there’s all this amazing brain activity going on to solidify learning during sleep
  • Teens actually have different sleep-inducing hormonal behaviour resulting in later sleeping and waking
  • Forming groups of similar kids and ascribing more positive attributes to your own group is a natural behaviour – ie. ‘racism’ can happen even if you don’t teach it
  • Kids don’t pick up on subtle PC approaches to educating on racial equality – we need to take an explicit approach as we do with gender equality
  • Lying is actually a useful, challenging cognitive skill, and one which we often value and encourage
  • Even if you really like IQ as a measure, testing that stuff as kids are entering preschool (or kindergarten) is too soon to pick up gifted students
  • The learned social behaviours of older siblings will set the tone of sibling relations
  • Teen rebellion may seem traumatic to mum and dad, but might seem constructive to teens
  • Fewer rules, justified and enforced, but negotiable
  • The popular kids are often the aggressive ones

Toward the end there is a fantastic chapter that presents a series of quite detailed findings on language acquisition which was probably my favourite. A couple of other interesting observations made throughout are that kids often aren’t the same as adults, and that sometimes people will ignore the evidence if an approach ‘feels’ right.



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