The New Science of Parenting: Nurture Shock

My BFF recently brought this book to my attention – it’s called “Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children“.

About a year or so back I wrote about an article I read in Scientific American Mind that talked about how telling children they are smart can actually have a negative effect on their intellectual development.  Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, authors of Nurture Shock, wrote a similar article titled “The Inverse Power of Praise” in the New York Magazine which also reviewed the negative effects of telling a child he or she is smart.

Being a child who grew up being told she was smart, I have to concur that my behaviour has be exactly as described in the article.  Similarly, Gavin has displayed similar traits after being praised for being smart.  Instead of performing better, we become afraid of making mistakes and tackling difficult problems for fear of appearing “stupid”.  Being told we’re smart reinforces the idea that intelligence is finite and that things should come easily if you truly are “smart”.  When they don’t, we begin to fear that we are stupid.  Not wanting to display ignorance or stupidity, we opt out of tackling problems where the potential for failure is deemed too great.

It’s a scary observation when telling a child he or she is smart seems to be such a logical thing to do to build up their confidence, and yet it produces exactly the opposite effect to the one desired.

I have yet to get a copy of the book and read it but it certainly stirs some thought-provoking issues on the subject of parenting, such as:

  • Why the most brutal person in a child’s life is often a sibling, and how a single aspect of their preschool-aged play can determine their relationship as adults.
  • When is it too soon – or too late – to teach a child about race? Children in diverse schools are less likely to have a cross-racial friendship, not more – so is school diversity backfiring?
  • Millions of families are fighting to get their kids into private schools and advanced programs as early as possible. But schools are missing the best kids, 73% of the time – the new neuroscience explains why.
  • Why are kids – even those from the best of homes – still aggressive and cruel? The answer is found in a rethinking of parental conflict, discipline, television’s unexpected influence, and social dominance.
  • Parents are desperate to jump-start infants’ language skills. Recently, scientists have discovered a series of natural techniques that are astonishing in their efficacy – it’s not baby videos, sign language, or even the richness of language exposure. It’s nothing you’ve heard before.

Given the fact that all these points seem to relate to issues Gavin is currently facing, about to face, or relevant to him in some way, I feel an urgency to pick up a copy of the book to understand more.

You can find out more about Nurture Shock on facebook, keep up with the latest on twitter, or you can get yourself a copy of the book.  Alternatively, you can wait until I get myself a copy, read it and blog about it.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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