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NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children | [Po Bronson, Ashley Merryman]

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

NurtureShock is a groundbreaking collaboration between award-winning science journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. They argue that when it comes to children, we've mistaken good intentions for good ideas. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, they demonstrate that many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring - because key twists in the science have been overlooked.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Starting with the introduction, in a loving, but firm voice, journalist and author Po Bronson delivers the bad news to parents: everything you know about parenting is wrong.

Bronson and collaborator Ashley Merryman willingly indict themselves, along with all of American society, in that collective "you", as they confront again and again our abundant misconceptions about parenting and the nature of children, when exploring the newest research findings in the science of child development.

Bronson and Merryman do not debate the existence of a biological imperative to nurture. in fact, they wholeheartedly accept that all parents possess the innate instinct to "nurture and protect" their kids, and even report that current research supports the location of this impulse in the brain with physical evidence. instead, the book, and its title, are meant to invoke the shock most new parents experience when they open up their bundles of joy, eager to get started — and realize the manual is missing.

As a guilty participant in many of the contemporary parenting practices referred to in the book, it was a pleasure to receive my verbal spanking in Bronson's nebbish and neighborly tone, rather than the authoritative and detached voice of yet another social scientist detailing the 10 new ways i'm failing as a mother.

Perhaps because he himself admits to being "father knows less", rather than best, i was better able to withstand his slaughter of a wide range of our current parenting sacred cows, such as:

  • kids are positively powered by praise (then why do so many run out of self-esteem?)
  • too much TV makes children fat (actually, it's too-little sleep), but at least today's gentle programming is making them less aggressive (wrong, again!)
  • and my child is color-blind when it comes to race (blind maybe, but not deaf or dumb)

Bronson's steady and measured narration moves the serious subject matter along nicely and creates an atmosphere of inclusion and intimacy for the reader not easily achieved with nonfiction. We can share his sincere surprise, evident in his voice, when confronted with the many 360-degree reversals in thinking that the latest research demands.

i do wish Ms. Merryman had shared in the narration of the book, if only for a glimpse into her personal feelings on each topic. But it's easy to believe their assertion that they were moved to change their own parenting and teaching practices inspired by their findings. i've already made subtle changes in dealing with my seven-year old based on Chapter 4, "Why Kids Lie", with remarkable success. —Lisa Duggan

Publisher's Summary

In a world of modern, involved, caring parents, why are so many kids aggressive and cruel? Where is intelligence hidden in the brain, and why does that matter? Why do cross-racial friendships decrease in schools that are more integrated? If 98% of kids think lying is morally wrong, then why do 98% of kids lie? What's the single most important thing that helps infants learn language?

NurtureShock is a groundbreaking collaboration between award-winning science journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. They argue that when it comes to children, we've mistaken good intentions for good ideas. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, they demonstrate that many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring - because key twists in the science have been overlooked.

Nothing like a parenting manual, the authors' work is an insightful exploration of themes and issues that transcend children's (and adults') lives.

©2009 Po Bronson; (P)2009 Hachette

What the Critics Say

"A provocative collection of essays popularizing recent research that challenges conventional wisdom about raising children...[Bronson and Merryman] ably explore a range of subjects of interest to parents... Their findings are often surprising." (Kirkus)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Carin CHARLOTTE, NC, United States 11-17-11
    Carin CHARLOTTE, NC, United States 11-17-11 Listener Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I liked it and I don't even have kids."

    True, I don’t have kids. But I also don’t have dogs and I read Cesar’s Way, and I don’t cook but have read lots of food books. I am frequently forced to interact with children, and plus this book is almost more of a sociology/science book than a parenting book. I do plan to give it to a few friends who are parents, and if I were a parent there are certainly bits of advice in here I’d be taking, but it’s predominantly about parenting theories and then scientific studies done to see if they’re accurate (or not, mostly not) and why.

    One issue I have with audiobooks is that I don’t get a table of contents. (I also don’t understand why I can’t get a photoinsert for histories/biographies but this book didn’t have one – that I know of.) But I did look up the ToC today so I could have a reasonable time writing this review. These are the topics the book addresses:
    The Inverse Power of Praise
    The Lost Hour – Sleep loss and its affects
    Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race
    Why Kids Lie - Most classic strategies to promote truthfulness just encourage kids to be better liars.
    The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten – pre-K testing
    The Sibling Effect
    The Science of Teen Rebellion - arguing with adults is a sign of respect, not disrespect
    Can Self-Control Be Taught? TOOLS classes
    Plays Well with Others
    Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn't

    The ones I found most fascinating were about sleep (a 1-hour loss each night over a week makes 6th graders test on a 4th grade level. In other words, it has the same impact on their intelligence as lead exposure), lying (seriously, all kids lie. And when you teach them to tell white lies to be polite, they learn that all lying is okay), and the effectiveness of a school program for the very young called TOOLS which has an enormous impact on kids in nursery school and kindergarten. I actually first heard about this book though a front-page article in Newsweek titled “Is your baby racist” which was about the chapter on race. (No, babies aren’t racist, but while trying to figure out the world they do classify objects, including people, according to categories they can easily suss out, including by skin color. And classifications they don’t see all the time – including any race that doesn’t include their parents – gets classified as “unfamiliar”.) The lying chapter had also gotten a lot of press when the book first came out. Kids start lying as young as 4 though it’s not usually until 6 when they get effective (pre-6, they’ll often lie about something the parent saw and not get why that’s ineffective.) The next chapter also discusses why teenagers lie (and goodness, how often!) and how when they argue with their parents, it is actually a sign of respect. It means they think their parent might listen and they have a shot at convincing them. If they consider their parents unreasonable or inflexible, then there’s no benefit to arguing and instead they’ll stick to lying. The chapter on language acquisition has the simplest suggestions that are easy and very, very fast to add to ones repertoire. One other easy thing I might mention to my parent friends is how a lot of educational TV shows actually contribute to children’s antisocial behaviors. For instance a show about how an older brother and his friend exclude a little sister, while it does always have a good resolution, that’s only 2 minutes of the show while 20 minutes have been teaching the children new ways to exclude and insult siblings. Of course that’s not the intention of those shows, but that’s the effect. When they are imbalanced in the time devoted to each part of the story and the majority is spent on the poor behavior, that’s what’s been emphasized to small children.

    One quibble about the audiobook: 3 times, the author (who was also the narrator) said things such as “while doing research for this audiobook we found….” No, you weren’t researching an audiobook. You were researching a book. Would you change the word from book to paperback book when the trade edition comes out next year? No. You also shouldn’t change it for the audiobook. Then not only is the text not exactly the same as in the print book, but it’s really jarring. Took me out of the listening experience and I lost a couple of minutes of comprehension while I was silently fuming about the pointlessness of that edit.

    Otherwise, the book was fascinating and eye-opening. Several times I found myself gasping and saying “no way!” Half-way through I met up with three friends who are all mothers, and I just couldn’t stop talking about the book. Parenting instincts are pretty fallible, and now that there is a book that has analyzed, collated, and drawn inferences from a ton of scientific studies on different parenting theories, it seems like a no-brainer that this will be an easy primer for what to do and not to do to supplement the more conventional parenting guides. While Nurtureshock doesn’t tell you how to get your kids to sleep or when to be worried about late talking, it does tell you the consequences of children getting little sleep, and tips for how to encourage language acquisition (respond immediately when your baby makes a talking noise. Not for a cough or a giggle, but when a baby says “dat” or “oooo”.) I think this book will prove incredibly useful for years to come. As an added bonus unlike conventional parenting book, this one is also interesting and a good read.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric Millbrook, AL, USA 12-09-09
    Eric Millbrook, AL, USA 12-09-09
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    "Eye Opening"

    Is as advertised, a very thorough look at the psychology of children. Sacrifices some of the child psychology sacred cows. Points out that many of the best approaches to child rearing are counter intuitive, at least in the view of our modern liberal child rearing environment.
    The only complaint I would have is with the organization of the material within the book. It is somewhat disjointed in the way that it jumps from age group to age group. It can't be read in chronological order by age group. All that being said, the book is well worth the investment for parents of children young and young adult. It also teaches us nearly as much about parents and our assumptions.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    AAW 10-14-09
    AAW 10-14-09 Member Since 2005
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    "Statistics, Statistics, Statistics"

    Not a bad listen, but you can get overwhelmed by all the statistics and studies that the author writes about. He states one study then contradicts the findings by another. The information is good, and can be useful, but I am having a hard time listening to the book and taking it in. I would find this book to be better suited for me as a reference (hard cover) rather than a good listen.

    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shawn Cuyahoga Falls, OH, USA 06-15-10
    Shawn Cuyahoga Falls, OH, USA 06-15-10
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    "Excellent listen for parents"

    I have a one year old and a four year old, and my only regret is not finding this book sooner. It was very informative and I am looking forward to putting these suggestions into effect with my children.

    I would highly recommend this book for any parents of younger children out there.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian Fremont, CA, USA 12-30-09
    Brian Fremont, CA, USA 12-30-09 Member Since 2005
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    "data rich and enlightening"

    The book is chalk full data and has a stress on "scientific" confirmation of theories. If your into into the details you will love this book...AKA Outliers or Freakanomics. If lots of data and info bores you the book may be a challenge. I loved it and am reading/listening a 2nd time!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pamela Eastchester, NY, USA 10-31-09
    Pamela Eastchester, NY, USA 10-31-09
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    "Nurture Shock is enlightening"

    The book openned up the readers mind to look at child rearing differently and also blew open some of the myths that have captured our culture. I feel as if what feels natural is what works...and so much of what we have done really was unnatural and did not work as we would have exprected. Good read if you are a parent ....

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lui 12-02-10
    Lui 12-02-10
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    "Insightful"

    As a new parent, I found this book brings new prospective on parenting. Although my daughter is only 6 months old now, I am sure I will listen this book again to ensure I am not fall in some "traditional thinking". Po has been successful to translate the research results in layman terms. I am not a native English speaker, but I find this is an easy listen book. The narrative by Po is very good that I enjoy the listening very much.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kenneth Fullerton, CA, USA 09-22-09
    Kenneth Fullerton, CA, USA 09-22-09
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    "great"

    enlightened. a must read for every parent, teacher, and physician.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ziles 12-08-13
    Ziles 12-08-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Research that made me laugh, made me almost cry.."

    The authors have done a far amount of research into current child psychology and published it in this book (or audio book, as Po kept referring to it). The results they found are sometimes counter intuitive and sometimes so obvious I'm surprised it's not common knowledge. The research is divided up into theme or age group for each chapter. The sections on younger children was interesting and personally applicable to me as a parent. The section on teenagers made me laugh out loud in the car - who knew we were all such psychos as teens. Later in the next chapter on why kids lie, it was actually pretty sad.

    This book is has a lot of great insights. Definitely recommend it because it is interesting and can be applicable to even adults. Only annoying thing was the author who read the book seemed arrogant at times although I'm sure he meant well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeremy NEW YORK, NY, United States 06-13-13
    Jeremy NEW YORK, NY, United States 06-13-13 Member Since 2010

    This is the kind of styles I like: good pace, cerebral, well-documented, meaty, mind-bending.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Yeah, I kind of knew that already.."

    As a new parent, I felt like reading about children even though I find the general purpose of this unclear given that knowing what to do is the easier, but doing it is a different story.

    NurtureShock is sold off as "new thinking" but, to be honest, there's nothing very new about anything there and I was telling a friend about what the book said and that person wasn't surprised. Certainly, praising a child's intelligence might increase the fear of failing. Sure, indifference can be worse than fight. And, yes, it's good to interact/speak with baby.

    This is not so much new thinking, as mainly everybody knows what is there, but a question of whether parents are really willing to do it; as I said, knowing something does not mean you would like to do it. Most parents might want their kid to feel good about themselves, not maximize intellectual prowess, or do not want to be facing constant fights between siblings, or do not want to be constantly exchanging with baby. I am not saying that that these are good things, but that presenting these as grand insights are like teaching that eating burgers every day is probably not the best diet choice.




    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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