There are a lot of ideas in here that I thought were spot-on. Some examples are the inverse power of praise, that children are significantly affected by a lack of sleep, etc. It is a very worthwhile read for parents and teachers. I have read some legitimate criticisms of this book, but I would take those with a grain of salt. Some reviewers have said that it lacks scientific support for the conclusions it draws, but I don't think this book claims to be an airtight meta-analysis. A book like this is meant to be thought-provoking, and it should not be taken as child-rearing Gospel. Nor should any other parenting book out there. For what it's worth, this book references way more decent studies than do most parenting books.
Po Bronson is clearly dedicated to the material he is presenting, but I think he did this book a disservice by not hiring a professional reader. His cadence is off-putting, and I swear that it sounds like he is baby-talking the listener half the time. Had I not been really, really interested in the content, I would not have finished listening to this. I would strongly recommend reading this book, not listening to it.
I am not a huge fan of reading educational texts, but this is a fantastic read. I am going to listen again to it, and I have bought the book as well. I never write reviews, but I had to in this case.
It's a very good book overall, with some good advice, but also some problems with no solutions, and a little seemingly conflicting advice.
Here is a summary of what I got from the book. If you enjoy it, I highly recommend Drive by Daniel Pink and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. They will give additional insight on both parenting and self-development
1. Give targeted praise regarding effort rather than general attribute praise (you worked really hard on that, rather than you're so great, you're so smart) to encourage them to try things that are difficult. (For additional reading, see Drive by Daniel Pink.)
2. Ensure that children get adequate recommended sleep, and avoid time-shifting sleep on weekends (letting them stay up late and sleep in). This will combat moodiness, lack of focus, obesity, and lack of energy and encourage higher academic performance.
3. Talk about skin color early, openly and candidly, because humans naturally identify with those visually similar to them and categorize by visual cues like skin color and hair (racism does not start as an artificially created phenomenon from society). Talking about skin color and race can counteract the natural sorting that children do.
4. Kids naturally learn to lie early and frequently. To combat this, emphasize the trust and happiness that comes from the truth, rather than punishment for lying. Be very careful about white lies around children, they see all lying the same way, regardless of intention or belief. Telling an adult about being wronged usually happens after a child has put up with a lot of mistreatment from a sibling or another child. Do not punish this or shame their telling the truth by labeling as "tattling". This is extremely destructive to their value of telling the truth.
5. School testing for gifted/advanced programs is generally done much too early, with no follow up testing for new entrants or to maintain eligibility. These early tests leave out tons of "late bloomers" who are trapped out of the gifted programs. No advice on what to do about it. This agrees with findings by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers.
6. Teens lie and rebel. A lot. Supposedly they lie to try to maintain a good relationship with parents. The solution is not to be ultra lenient and permissive, that just tells teens their parents don't care and they get into even more trouble. Being extremely strict and iron fisted is not as bad; teens don't get in trouble as much, but are more likely to be depressed. Best is to have a few areas of rules that are consistently enforced, and agree on areas autonomy for the teen. Teens see arguing with parents as positive, but parents see it as destructive. Arguing is a sign of respect; it means the teens trust that their parents will listen to a logical "argument". Parents should listen and make exceptions when it makes sense.
7. Many programs with good intentions make no statistical difference, like DARE, or can even make things worse, like driver's ed. The "Tools of the Mind" curriculum is shown to make a huge difference, because it focuses on proactivity, self directed play, and self discipline.
8. Child aggression (toddler to high school). 1 Educational children's shows are full of insults and put downs, and result in higher increases in social aggression than violent shows result in increases in physical aggression. The resolution of a social difficulty is usually a tiny part of such shows, compared to showing the social misbehavior itself. A related example is the time spend on "Hakuna Matata" (no worries, no responsibility, no consequences) in The Lion King. 2 Children seeing parents argue does not automatically contribute to child aggression, it can be constructive if it is mature, devoid of name calling, and especially if children see the sincere, loving resolution. 3 Apparently, zero tolerance bullying policies often lump in things that aren't actually bullying. Social aggressors are often very highly socially developed, not social rejects. Popular kids are the most active social aggressors. Kids of progressive dads show almost as much aggression as distant dads, since progressive dads are uncertain and inconsistent in giving correction or punishment. No solution given by the author.
9. Verbal development is determined (apparently) not by how much the parent speaks to the baby, but by how often they immediately react to the baby's babbling, gestures, and glances. This teaches them that sounds and words have meaning. More reactions equals higher vocabulary. But... Don't overdo it, give them breaks, give them mixed amounts of feedback, don't respond as much to simpler babble, or babies won't be pushed to develop more complex babble. What??
This book was very eye-opening. It's funny how counterintuitive the truth can be at times. I think all pregnant parents should read this book--very interesting.