Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
nurtureshock, a much-talked about book by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, is sub-titled Why everything we think about raising our children is wrong - and does indeed contain a whole set of thought-provoking propositions aimed at overturning a lot of our deeply held views on bringing up our children. When you start reading it, you'll probably not agree with anything it suggests. And when you finish reading it, you'll still not agree with everything it says. But I'm willing to bet you will find yourself surprised to be thinking, "yes, that does make sense" and "Ah, maybe that's explains my son/daughter's behaviour..."
nurtureshock is American and written in the easy-to-read but sometimes irritating self-help book style – complete with trendy lowercase title – but bear with it. Each proposition is backed up not just with real-life examples but also with an impressive amount of factual research, all referenced in detail. I guarantee that at least some of its radical new thinking will make you look again at the basic assumptions about how we bring up our children. The book doesn't just criticise existing approaches, in many cases it also suggests more effective ones.
The first challenge the book throws out is to possibly the most mainstream of our modern attitudes – the assumption that praise is supportive for children, reinforces their confidence and promotes better performance. This book quotes study after study which show that blanket praising of children's work does not improve grades and sometimes acts as a disincentive. Instead, the book proposes praising a child's effort rather than the result. This, it suggests, does work.
The advent of TV, computers etc have led to a situation where kids now get on average at least an hour's less sleep, per night, than kids did 30 years ago. Studies in the book show the critical importance of this sleep loss on children's developing brains and the adverse effects that it has on performance, moods and even weight gain. Re-introducing that lost hour could bring some really dramatic benefits for children and adolescents alike.
Other widely held beliefs and the challenges this book makes are:
Overall, though, while nurtureshock probably won't convert you to all its radical ideas, having a closer look at the apparent contradictions it mentions can bring about a deeper kind of understanding – children are quite mysterious and this book will open your mind to more of their possibilities.
And as for me, did I find any answers? Well, I'd definitely do a couple of things differently - I'd keep TVs out of their bedrooms before 14 years and I'd take up the suggesting of praising effort rather than performance. And I do feel a reassured that sibling rivalry is pretty much normal.
Published by Ebury Press, nurtureshock is available to order from Amazon by clicking the link below:
Nurtureshock: Why Everything We Thought About Children is Wrong