Challenging Assumptions About Children

In their surprising book NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, Po Bronson and Ashley Marryman examine the latest studies and findings about child development, and summarize in a highly readable fashion how many of our assumptions about how children grow and learn are incorrect.

While the book is not actually very prescriptive, it is thought provoking to consider how we parent in light of research.  Obviously studies and experiments can cause people to do the pendulum swing from one extreme to another, but at the same time I think it’s wise to study children if you want to be a good parent, and to thoughtfully examine our assumptions.  Although at first I wished the authors would include more suggestions for what to do now that our assumptions are turned on their heads, in the end I appreciated the lack of application, because it forces the reader to do their own thinking and draw their own conclusions.  Since different families have different values and priorities, I can see how different parents would use this research to work out different types of solutions.

NurtureShock covers the following topics:

  • Praise – Neurobiology suggests that children are actually negatively affected by the wrong types of praise.
  • Sleep – Adults can get by with sleep deprivation, but even one lost hour costs children IQ points, emotional and physical health, and causes ADHD.
  • Racism – Why well-meaning white parents and educators inadvertently fail to counter racism, and how black parents can be successful in teaching their children to overcome it.
  • Lying – How the usual strategies to counteract lying actually foster it.
  • Intelligence Testing – Why testing for giftedness should not be a one-time shot, and why the tests are wrong 73% of the time for kids under 3rd grade.
  • Sibling Rivalry – Why kids fight, and why you shouldn’t worry about it as long as they also play together.
  • Rebellion – Why teens argue with their parents and how that can actually be a constructive thing.
  • Self-Control – Why this habit is so important to social and academic success.
  • Friends – Why kids aren’t nice sometimes, and when not to worry.
  • Language Development – How gimmicks like Baby Einstein are actually counterproductive, and what really works.

I learned a lot from this book and found it to be an excellent source of thoughtful conversations with my husband.  I think it would be a great book to read as a couple, or for a parenting group or book club (if your book club is mostly parents or teachers).

If you’re a parent, what sorts of ideas did you start out with that experience debunked?


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

2 thoughts on “Challenging Assumptions About Children

  1. I really enjoyed this book, and reading it prompted me to read “Emotional Intelligence,” as well. Both have been helpful in day-to-day life with young children.

    Experience has graciously debunked many of my ideas, and in some ways (not just parenting) I’ve changed so much in the last 5 years that it’s hard to even remember I used to think about things so differently. 🙂 (In which experience gives me reason to be gracious to everyone.)

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