Nurture Shock book review

January 12, 2011

nurture shock book review

nurture shock book review

nurture shock book review

I read Nurture Shock in February 2010; I really like the book. I have two young children and I am interested in child learning/development books.  You can’t help but  think about how you were raised.  The sections  on spanking/punishment and discussions about race were particularly interesting. I have assigned this reading to several managers at Shearer Painting.  I have included an outline:

NurtureShock by P.O. Bronson


Ch. 1 Inverse Power of Praise

-        Telling kids that they’re special could “ruin” them. They become lazy and only do things that they know they’re good at. They won’t try new things, because they’re afraid of failure.

-        Genius is 1% inspiration & 99% perspiration, or 1% inspiration, 29% good instruction & encouragement, & 70% perspiration.

-        Tell your kids that your brain is like a muscle, and it will grow when it works harder – it’s important to challenge yourself.

Ch. 2 The Lost Hour

-        Kids everywhere get an hour less sleep than they did 30 years ago. Now have: lower IQs, disturbed emotional well-being, ADHD, and are obese.

-        If high schools started later, scientific studies show that the average SAT score rises by dozens of points.

-        Teens & kids need more sleep than adults.

-        For kids, if they lose only 15 min. of sleep/night, that = a full letter grade lower.

-        You may want to come home from work at night and talk to your kids, but they need their sleep more.

Ch. 3 Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race

-        Kids are very aware of race, even if you don’t talk about it with them.

-        No one’s really “color blind.”

-        Parents should talk openly with their kids about race; if they say, “We’re all equal,” kids won’t understand that concept.

-        2006 Vittrup study: goal is to learn if typical kids’ videos with multicultural storylines have any effect on kid’s racial attitudes.

o   Asked: How many black people are nice? Almost all, a lot, some, not many, none?

o   Descriptive adjectives changed during test to adjectives like, “dishonest,” pretty,” “curious,” and “snobby.”

o   During this study, 5 families quit. 2 told Vittrup, “we don’t want to have these conversations with our child. We don’t want to point out skin color.”

Ch. 4 Why Kids Lie

-        All kids lie.

-        Kids learn how to lie from adults.

o   Even if you tell a “white lie” or give an approximation, kids view it as a bad, outright lie.

o   Broken promises are lies to kids as well.

-        Don’t punish lies (unless necessary) – try to praise honesty instead.

-        In one study, the average teen was lying to his or her parents about 12 out of 36 topics that were brought up.

o   Top Lies:

§  What their allowances were spent on

§  Whether they’d started dating

§  What clothes they wore outside of the house

§  What movie they went to and who with

§  Alcohol & drug use

§  What friends they hung out with (if their parents disapproved)

§  What they did while their parents were at work

§  Whether chaperones were at a party or whether they rode in cars driven by drunk teens

-        “Being an honors student didn’t change the numbers by much; nor did being an overscheduled kid.”

-        98% say that trust & honesty were essential in a personal relationship.

-        96 – 98% said lying is morally wrong.

-        How does it start? Young.

-        By the 4th birthday, almost all kids lie to avoid punishment. “A 3-year-old will say, ‘I didn’t hit my sister,’ even if a parent witnessed it.”

Ch. 5 The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten

-        Calling kids, “gifted” at 5 is ridiculous, because kids’ minds are still developing.

-        Schools in NYC start testing for gifted children before kindergarten.

-        Re-testing at older ages is essential for fairness – early testing can leave out truly gifted students, who just need more time to develop.

-        More correlation with later intelligence when kids are tested in 3rd grade.

Ch. 6 The Sibling Effect

“Freud was wrong. Shakespeare was right. Why siblings really fight.”

-        Teach them to have fun together and not fight – it’s easier than resolving conflicts.

-        The best predicator of siblings getting along is not age difference, but by how well they play with others. Kids learn from their friends how to play with siblings, not vice-versa.

-        One little boy lied and said he beat up his sister and said that he didn’t like her to seem “cool.”

-        Kids fight more with siblings than with friends, because if you mistreat a friend, they could stop being your friend. If you’re mean to a sibling, they’ll still be there tomorrow. You’re “sentenced” to live with them.

-        Siblings don’t really fight for parents’ attention – it ranks last in a list of what brothers and sisters say they fight over. (Freud’s wrong with his parental affection theory on fighting.)

Ch. 7 The Science of Teen Rebellion

-        For teens, arguing with adults is a sign of respect, not disrespect – & arguing is constructive to the relationship, not destructive.

-        All teens lie – but sometimes they’ll tell them the truth just to provoke a fight. They want to know that their parents care about them.

-        Lenient parents have worse kids & kids that lie more than parents with some rules in place.

-        Stick to basic rules & be flexible and sometimes compromise.

-        Teens’ hormones are going crazy, so they’ll do stupid shit just to feel something, e.g., they’re more likely to think swimming with sharks is a good idea, and/or will respond more slowly than adults when you ask them if they think it’s a good idea.

-        What they’re truly terrified of is asking a girl out or standing out in a crowd. The fear of humiliation is dominant in their minds.

Ch. 8 Can Self-Control Be Taught?


-        Ask a child to pretend to be a soldier vs. just asking him/her to stand still. They’ll stand still longer.

-        Teach kids background cues & control impulses. E.g., “Simon Says.”

-        “Tools” kids don’t distract easily.

Pre-frontal cortex governs:

1.      Executive function

2.      Planning

3.      Predicting

4.      Controlling impulses

5.      Consisting through trouble

6.      Orchestrating thoughts to fulfill a goal

-        Executive function begins in preschool.

-        Toss out old rule & adopt new rule = “attention-switching”

-        Inhibit natural rule

-        Hard for 3-year-olds

-        Computer randomly shows <3s and flowers – have to remember rules

-        Even 13-year-olds push wrong button 30% of the time

-        Success of “tools,” because they exercised kids’ executive functions.

Pre-fontal cortex – the part of the human brain that is the most different from ape brain.

Responsible for:

1.      Maintaining concentration

2.      Setting goals.

-        Having kids plan their times & setting goals warms up the pre-frontal cortex.

Cognitive Control: the child is trying to avoid ext. and int. distractions.

-        e.g., internal distractions = thinking, “I can’t do this.”

-        managing frustration

-        stifling anger

-        Adult brain has specialized region of frontal lobe devoted just for rules – rules of grammar, driving, etc. Allows people to be proactive.

-        Telling yourself what to do a step ahead of doing it.

-        Kids don’t have this; instead of proacting, they react, and make errors often.

-        Being disciplined is more important than being smart?

Ch. 9 Plays Well With Others

“Why modern involved parenting has failed to produce a generation of angels”

-        Children watched an average of 11 hours of television/wk.

-        The more educational TV the kids watched, the more relationally aggressive they were – bossy, controlling, etc.

-        Watching educational TV increased aggression as much as violent media – 2.5x higher.

-        “Authors are more dangerous for children than Power Rangers.”

-        “How do you sleep at night, knowing you’re a complete failure?” – SpongeBob Squarepants

-        While some cartoons will do an episode on hurtful insults, most don’t.

-        Spouses express anger to each other 2 – 3x more than affection; even if they try to hide fights from their kids, kids are witness to them 45% of the time (where they learn aggression & anger).

-        1/3 of kids acted aggressively after viewing a parental argument.

-        If kids see arguments get worked out, “Kids are ok with it.” It calms the aggression.

-        Parents who pause to “take it upstairs” to “spare the children” -  it’s actually worse unless you tell the kid later, “We worked it out.”

-        Even if you completely hide your arguments from your kids, the kids will still know that something is wrong.

-        Constructive parental conflict – good for kids as long as there’s conflict resolution – shows kids how to compromise, etc.

-        90% of parents use physical punishment at least once during their parenting.

-        In black families, the more a child was spanked, the least likely he/she would be aggressive overtime.

-        Spanking = bad for white children

spanking = good for black children

How does the parent act when giving a spanking?

Black:                                                                                                             White:

something every kid went through.                                                         unspoken taboo

-        Spanking represents that you lost your place in a traditional society.

-        Kids key off their parents’ rxn, more than the act itself.

-        Many modern parents are “trapped” in the “nurture paradox.” Parents’ natural instinct is to nurture, but we end up not teaching them life’s ups and downs.

-        Zero-tolerance for bullying: kids become fearful of breaking rules.

o   68% of American parents support  zero-tolerance.

o   In some areas, bullying = punishable fines

o   Most bullies are popular, well-liked, and admired

o   Ex: “Emma,” “Heathers,” & “Mean Girls.”

-        Connection b/t popular kids and alcohol use; kids who are popular drink and use drugs more – these kids are more likely to become drug addicts.

o   Research finally got funding

o   Leads to relational and violent aggression

-        Non-aggressive kids are still mean, just not as often.

-        *Aggression is the mark of a child that’s socially-savvy, not socially deviant.

o   Extremely sensitive – needs to be attack in a subtle & strategic way.

o   Socially intelligent – knows just the right buttons to push.

-        When a parent tries to teach their 7-year-old not to hit or tease, they’re taking away tools of social dominance; kids are rewarded for these behaviors in their peer groups.

Why do kids like aggressive behavior?

1.      A willingness to defy grown-ups.

a.      Seem independence and older – highly coveted.

2.      They’re not all devils.

-        Average teen spends 60 hours/wk surrounded by peers and 16 hours/week around adults.



-        Almost universally good phenomenon.

-        Better relationships & academics.

-        Played & supported more.

-        Poor marital quality, though – increased parenting practices/conflict.

-        Wasn’t as effective at backing up rules.

-        Finds punishing kid embarrassing – always trying something new and caving at wrong time.

-        These kids acted out just as much as disengaged dads’ kids.


-        Involved – but only at wife’s direction.


-        Kids act out.

Ch. 10 Why Hannah Talks, & Alyssa Doesn’t

-        Parents want to jump-start their kids’ language skills.

-        Kids who watched baby videos had less skills than kids who didn’t?

o   Disney spoke out (Baby Einstein)

o   Almost all other videos were fine for kids – just baby dvds were bad (UW study).

-        It’s because they used the dvd’s as an electronic babysitter – parents felt that they couldn’t provide for their kids, so they bought the dvds.

-        CDI words represent a range of vocab sophistication – 89 words infants should know.

o   If infants watched show 1 hr./day, they knew 6 words less.

-        At birth, babies are sensitive to sounds of language.

o   Brains become specialized (at 6 – 9 mos.) in their future native language.

-        Seeing a person’s face while they talk helps immensely. Babies lip-read as well as listen, to figure out how to talk.

o   If a baby hears a word while looking at an abstract shape – not the person’s mouth – it’s the same as if you’re speaking gibberish (that’s why the Baby Einstein dvds didn’t work). Even as adults, if we look at a person’s mouth while they speak, it’s the same as a 20 decibel increase.

-        600 words/hr. = welfare families

-        900 words/hr. = working class families

-        1500 words/hr. = professional families [complexity & variety]

-        Kids learn more nouns.

-        Babies contribute to conversations, too – they respond better to touch than to speech [ex: Marinello]

-        On average the 1st word a toddler speaks is before 13 mos.

-        If infant initiates a conversation, it matters more if the parent responds – i.e., an infant needs to know that his or her words illicit reactions.

Hannah’s mom is more responsive than Alyssa’s – so Hannah talks more, & Alyssa progressed slowly.

-        Encourage an infant with an affectionate pat when it makes a babble.

o   Kids sound 5 mos. older in the 2nd 10 min., than the 1st – kid wasn’t mimicking.

-        Babies learn better from object-labeling; parents should follow child’s lead.

o   Screw it up by:

1.      Intrude

2.      Ignore

-        Grammar teaches vocab.

-        “Infants born with syntax.” – Chomsky

-        Only 25% of language acquisition is due to genetic factors.


-        If you keep a “gratitude journal,” you’re less likely to get sick. You’ll also be happier, more helpful, supportive, and optimistic about the future.

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