Review of NurtureShock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman


New Thinking About Children

by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman
read by Po Bronson

Hachette Audio, 2009. 7 CDs.
Starred Review

This audiobook was a fascinating one to listen to. I put a copy of the print version on hold, so I’d have some surprising statistics to quote for this review, but too many people want to read it and my copy still hasn’t come in, so I will have to go by memory of what I heard and be more general.

NurtureShock reviews studies on child development and breakthroughs in our understanding of nurturing children that have come in the last ten years, particularly studies that had results contradictory to prevailing belief.

The authors cover many different aspects of raising children and cover child development at all age levels. They begin with studies that show that too much praise is actually counterproductive for building a child’s self-esteem. They go on to studies about many other things, and cover each topic in great depth, explaining the implications of the studies and how the researchers approached their surprising results.

We learn about the importance of sleep for children — it’s much more important for children and teens than it is for adults. They look at the lies children tell, which happens much more often than their parents realize. It turns out that children know they are lying much younger than their parents realize, but it also serves a developmental purpose.

We learn that baby videos — with disembodied voices — actually slow down a baby’s vocabulary development, that responsiveness to the baby’s initiation is key. We learn that children’s programming like Arthur actually increases aggressive behavior. (The neat summing up at the end doesn’t seem to make up for all the unkindnesses portrayed earlier in the story.)

All ten chapters tell you fascinating things about children and teens and their developing brains. Not only do the authors present the surprising results, they also come up with plausible reasons for why those results are happening.

I highly recommend this book for all parents, and anyone who works with children or teens. People will also be fascinated who are interested in how the human mind works. Every chapter has interesting and surprising things to think about, and it may change the way you parent your kids. It would be nice if this book could even be used to change some school district policies.

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from the Fairfax County Public Library.

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