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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Review: Nurture Shock

Someone suggested that I read NurtureShock after reading my review of Brain Rules for Baby. Coming in right after Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, this turned out to be excellent timing.

For instance, if you read Quora or other internet forums, it's filled with whining about being raised in such a hot house environment. The section on Praise explains why (contrary to the whiners) Asia isn't filled with suicidal overachievers:
the moms were told their child's actual raw score and were told a lie---that this score represented a below average result... The American mothers carefully avoided making negative comments. They remained fairly upbeat and positive with their child. The majority of the minutese weree spent talking about something other than the testing at hand, such as what they might have for dinner. But the Chinese children were likely to hear, "You didn't concentrate when doing it," and "Let's look over your test." The majority of the break was spent discussing the test and its importance. After the break, the Chinese kids' scores on the second test jumped 33 percent, more than twice the gain of the Americans. The trade-off here would seem to be that Chinese mothers acted harsh or cruel... While their words were firm, the Chinese mothers actually smiled and hugged their children every bit as much as the American mothers (and were no more likely to frown or raise their voices).
(Chua, in her book leaves out any reference to this literature.)
What about Chua's strict rules, like no sleepovers, etc? Bronson and Merryman dig a little further, and finds a couple of researchers, Drs. Nancy Darling and Linda Caldwell. Surprisingly enough, permissive parenting is actually less effective than strict, disciplinarian parenting.
Darling found that permissive parents don't actually learn more about their child's lives. "Kids who go wild and get in trouble mostly have parents who don't set rules or standards. Their parents are loving and accepting no matter what the kids do. But the kids take the lack of a rules as a sign their parents don't actually care---that their parent doesn't really want this job of being the parent."l... Pushing a teen into rebellion by having too many rules was a sort of statistical myth.
As with Brain Rules, the book's peppered with references to actual research and real studies about what's going on. A lot of it is counter intuitive. For instance, the section on childhood obesity pins the phenomenon neither on food/nutrition or exercise. The section on teaching self-control covers Tools of the Mind, a fascinating program for kids to gain control over their cognitive abilities, leading to incredible improvements in behavior as well as performance in school. Other chapters cover racism, lying, and IQ testing and its failures. One busts the stereotype that only childs are less socially capable than children with siblings. The book rounds off with research on how to speed up language skills in infants.

This is all fascinating stuff, and much of it is actionable. I consider it a good companion to Brain Rules, and a great follow up to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Highly recommended.

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