Nurture Shock, by Bronson & Merryman (Book Review Pedcast)

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NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

Here we go. I’m once again firing up Studio 1E to bring my listeners another book review that will hopefully help you decide which books should be on your list to read. I’m your host and the creator of, Dr. Paul Smolen, a real Board Certified pediatrician with 32 years of experience. I’ve got to tell you, I love doing these book reviews, and based the audience response, you seem to enjoy listening. Today, with the help of my brilliant intern, Angela Solis, we are going to review an interesting book called NurtureShock. So sit back, crank up the volume, and see what our thoughts are about this interesting book addressing today’s children.

While not exactly a traditional parenting book, NurtureShock is full of interesting and useful information that parents can use. It may even change some of your basic assumptions about children! Unlike previous books reviewed on my blog that featured discussions of subjects like discipline, sleep schedules, or nutrition for babies and toddlers, NurtureShock is an intellectual, research-based book about what makes children tick. This book is not for the parent looking for a solution to address a specific parenting issue, but rather for those readers wishing to gain insight into how children learn, develop, and function. Written by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, both journalists and writers by trade, this book is an overview of the latest developments in child psychology and development.

NurtureShock is actually a compilation of essays written on various topics from sleep, racial attitudes, lying in childhood, and sibling relationships. The book is well written and accessible to most readers although at times may seem dense with examples and citations from many pieces of literature and research. Fortunately for the reader, there is minimal scientific jargon to decipher. The book is well written and we are impressed with the extensive list of sources and references used to write this book. The introduction and conclusion give an overall look at the layout of the book, and the reader may choose to jump around from chapter to chapter without interrupting the narrative flow.

The “Shock” in the title comes from the many counterintuitive conclusions about children that recent research offers. For example, in a chapter entitled “The Inverse Power of Praise,” the authors conclude that praising children excessively may actually hinder their progress and development of key virtues like grit and determination. Research reveals that children who are told repeatedly, “You are so smart!” often shy away from more challenging problems in order to maintain their appearance of “smartness” and continue to please adults. So much for the boosting-self-esteem-at-any-cost theory.  The authors also conclude that even mild sleep deprivation in children can cause major cognitive impairment, that children lie much more often than their parents ever imagine, that free, unstructured play is vital to a child’s healthy emotional development, and that an accurate prediction of intelligence in young children is impossible, even if you have a PhD after your name.

Although not a parenting guide, this is an entertaining and insightful read about some of the newer research on child development and psychology. We do not recommend this for a busy parent looking for solutions to address a particular issue but would recommend this to someone interested in what recent science says on these topics. As the book title says, many of the findings are shocking and contrary to what adults would find intuitive. If you have a little extra time, be sure to pick up a copy of NurtureShock. We think you will enjoy it. We give it four out of five Doc Smo stars.

If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out the many other book reviews posted in the book review tab at my website,  Until next time.