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New Thinking About Children
Narrated by: Po Bronson
Length: 7 hrs and 57 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,383 ratings)
Regular price: $22.80
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Editorial 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

Audie Award, Personal Development, 2010

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

Critic Reviews

"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)

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Carin
  • CHARLOTTE, NC, United States
  • 11-17-11

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.

29 of 29 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Eric
  • Millbrook, AL, USA
  • 12-09-09

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.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Pretty good, but some conflicting advice

Where does NurtureShock rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It's a very good book overall, with some good advice, but also some problems with no solutions, and a little seemingly conflicting advice.

Any additional comments?

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??

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Shawn
  • Cuyahoga Falls, OH, USA
  • 06-15-10

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.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Brian
  • Fremont, CA, USA
  • 12-30-09

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!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Pamela
  • Eastchester, NY, USA
  • 10-31-09

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 ....

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars


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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Heather
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 08-16-11

Excellent Book, Not a Great Audiobook

I am a fan of Po Bronson's writing; turns out his reading... not so much. Still, if you're not going to read this book, you should at least listen to it, especially if you are a parent or teacher. The problem with Bronson's reading, and this may not bother other people, is that every single sentence has at least one word on which he puts great emphasis. Every single sentence. After ten or fifteen minutes, this cadence becomes a little annoying. And this book is eight hours long...

6 of 7 people found this review helpful