NutureShock, a book by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, published in 2009, is definitely an eye opener for parents in the throws of raising their young children. The subtitle of the book is “New Thinking about Children”.
I would definitely agree with this subtitle as it brings up some very persuasive research for different subjects that will really cause many parents to do a 180 degree turn in the way they handle different areas of parenting.
A friend of mine from my swim team was raving about this book, and I just assumed it would be another parenting book rehashing what I have already read or experienced. I was wrong. This is different. Let me put it to you this way. I started implementing changes immediately as I gained a new tidbit of knowledge with each chapter I completed.
In this post, I want to share two pieces of research presented in this book that I found particularly interesting.
1. Research shows a better way to praise our kids’ efforts
Throughout my 10 years of parenting, I have tried to focus on my number one goal of creating an environment that will contribute to each of my kids developing a high self esteem. I have noticed through the years that if a child is not confident and secure with theirselves, then all sorts of problems can arise. Peer pressure, bad decision making, etc…
Because this is my goal, I praise my kids often. I still think it is important to praise our kids with positive feedback, but this book suggests doing it in a different way than most of us are doing.
One research example led by Dr. Carol Dweck at Columbia university gave a series of experiments to 400 fifth graders. Before this study, it was generally accepted that if we praise our kids by telling them they are smart, they will be confident and fearless when tackling a new academic challenge. It was Dweck’s hypothesis that this method of praising would not work when the children experienced failure or difficulty.
This study with the 400 students was research to see if Dweck was correct in her theory. There were four research assistants that ran this test. They were told to administer a nonverbal IQ test that was easy enough that most of the kids would do fairly well.
After the test, the kids were randomly praised either for their intelligence or efforts:
“You must be smart at this” OR “You must have worked really hard”
Then the research assistants gave the kids two choices for their second round of testing:
-they could choose a more difficult test, but were assured that they would learn a lot from attempting the puzzles
-they could choose a similar test to the first one that was fairly easy with no reward of challenging themselves
Results of the Praise Research
The results were stunning to me: 90% of the kids praised for their effort chose the harder test and the majority of the the kids praised for their intelligence chose the easier test.
Dweck’s conclusion was that “When we praise chldren for their intelligence, we tell them that this is the name of the game: look smart, dont risk making mistakes.” This is exactly what the fifth graders did – they chose the safe route to not risk being embarrassed.
Talk about eye opening!! I changed my method of praise the day I read this, because it just makes so much sense. It was like being hit over the head and having some sense knocked into me.
I have been telling my kids that they are smart when they bring home a great score on a test. I can now see how this is not going to help long term with their desire to take on new challenges. It is really more about the effort anyway. Even if a child is naturally intelligent, they have to apply themselves to reap the benefits. I just cannot believe I didn’t figure this out earlier! Glad I’m equipped now.
2. Sleep is so important for our teenager’s developing brains
Mary Carskadon from Brown University performed research outlining the differences in the teenager’s developing brain and why sleep is so important. She shows that during puberty, the biological clock (circadian system) does a “phase shift”. When the sky becomes dark outside, in kids and adults, the brain produces melatonin and it is this chemical that makes us sleepy.
For some reason, teenager’s brains do not start producing the melatonin until 90 minutes later than kids and adult’s brains. Therefore, typically, they will stay awake later. Since many high schools across the country start very early (7:30am), teens are awoken by alarm clocks while their brains are still producing the melatonin.
This causing their bodies to still require sleep to finish the production of the melatonin. This accounts for moodiness, falling asleep in first period, and tragically for more than half of the 100,000 “fall asleep” crashes that occur every year. Really, really sad, to say the least.
There were some school districts who took notice of this study and changed their time to start at 8:30 am instead of 7:30 am. One school mentioned in the book, is located in Edina, Minnesota. They started school an hour later to 8:30am after reading this study.
Real World Results from changing high school start time to One Hour Later
Because of this change, the verbal SAT scores of their top 10% went up by 156 points and the Math scores up 56 points!! I want to write my high school right now and see if this can be changed before my fourth grade enters.
There was another school district in Kentucky that pushed their start time an hour later and they found that the teenage car accidents in their area went down by 25% compared to the rest of the state still on the earlier schedule. Crazy!!
This just sounds like such a no brainer. But, it is not that easy. The early start time is for the convenience of the teachers and administrators to avoid traffic and to get out of school earlier at the end of the day. It is a huge shift to change the time by one hour.
The book also talks about a Mom with a son whose mood completely changed when their school implemented the later start time. This particular boy was very happy before high school, then became moody and disengaged. With the new start time, his test scores went up and he bounced down the stairs every morning ready for school, rather than being moody and non-communicative.
WOW. I cannot believe I was not aware of this and am so thankful I am informed now. The book points out that the typical traits of teenagers, “moodiness, impulsiveness, and disengagement” are all a result of chronic sleep deprivation!
The idea that we are actually creating teenage problems is very troubling.
This book is so chock full of great research based parenting advice and guidance, it should be a required reading (if that could somehow be possible ). The book covers many issues including why kids lie, how siblings affect each other, and whether it is possible to teach your kids self control.
I highly recommend this book, in case you were still wondering if I liked it. :)