Parents have it all wrong.
We have good intentions based on progressive ideals. We simultaneously raise our children under the influence of logic and intuition, neither of which turn out to be completely adequate guideposts for parenting. There are many facts that parents have assumed based on an intense culture shift toward success and developmental advancement, but in trying so hard, many of us have fundamentally lost our way.
One of the things I learned from NurtureShock is that I shouldn’t be assuming that my daughters are naturally innocent cherubs. According to Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, kids are born with a tendency to segregate by race. My child came home from pre-school a few weeks ago telling me about a “brown” girl. I was startled to hear her identify someone by their color and quickly corrected her, but I should have used that as an opportunity to speak openly about race.
I’ll also have to deal with the fact that my child is a natural liar. It’s not her fault. All children seem to share that gift. After reading NurtureShock, I’ll be a bit more prepared, knowing that the fabled example of George Washington and the cherry tree is a far superior lesson compared to Peter and the Wolf.
Schools can learn quite a bit from NurtureShock too. Want to boost grades at your child’s school? Convince the school board to start school an hour later. Want a better pre-school and kindergarten? Convince the school board to adopt a Tools of the Mind program that focuses on planning, strategy, and self-control. Want a better way to test children into an advanced placement program? Convince the school board to stop testing for geniuses at kindergarten and wait until 3rd grade.
The last half of the book are extensive notes and cited sources. The book says a lot of unusual things like praise should be reserved for the effort and not the action, and I wouldn’t blame parents for being skeptical of such advice. But just because a book challenges our ideas of right and wrong doesn’t mean that it’s inaccurate. NurtureShock even commented on our own recent debate over spanking. Would you believe that my rare use of spanking as a special form of discipline leads to far more aggression than if I spanked them for every infraction? It was hard for me to wrap my mind around that until Bronson and Merryman explained the theories behind that fact.
I will grant that Bronson is a professional writer and Merryman is a professional lawyer. Neither of them are scientists (neither am I), but they seem to be placing their trust on scientific research and basing their opinions on extensive interviews with scholars and researchers. That’s all I can ask out of a parenting book. Every parent who believes that science trumps intuition, should buy NurtureShock, read it several times, and share it with a friend.