NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

(Parenting is so hard that I go to great lengths to learn how to parent better. I found this audiobook at Indian River Library.) It challenged my thinking about several things related to parenting. The authors suggest that they looked at the data carefully and found that some strands of conventional wisdom around parenting may be faulty.

Here is what I think I heard as I listened to Po Bronson read me the book. You might want to listen (or read) to see if I am wrong.

• I thought I should praise Z often to help boost his self-esteem.

NutureShock says: General praise might do kids more harm than good.

• I hoped I could not go wrong by forcing Z to watch educational TV.

NutureShock says: Some studies showed that youth who watched educational programming tended to be more relationally aggressive than kids who watched violent programs like PowerRangers. Researchers said educational programming spent more time showing aggressive behavior and less time showing how it was reprimanded.

• I thought early to bed, early to rise.

NutureShock: Adolescents do better in high school when classes start around 8:30am rather than the traditional 7:30am. Something in their brains (melatonin) often makes it difficult for them to go to sleep early or wake up early.

• I thought I only had to worry about making Z fat if I fed him too much fast-food and too many desserts.

NutureShock: Sleep loss plays a role in obesity.

• The more diverse the school, the better, right? (Remember Beverly Tatum’s Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?)

NutureShock: The more diverse the school, the less cross-racial interaction amongst students. Color-blindness is a myth, even among children.

My favorite part was chapter 3’s, “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race,” description of what happened when Ohio State’s Jeane Copenhaver-Johnson went into a classroom filled with 6 & 7 year olds who listened to a book that depicted a black Santa Claus. The students debated about Santa’s race. Did white Santa only visit white kids, they wondered. Were there 2 Santas? they asked.

Other shockers: Spanking doesn’t hurt some kids’ psyches when spanking is a cultural norm.

I can’t say I believe (or agree with) everything I heard in the NutureShock audiobook, but everything I heard is worth thinking about.