In the spirit of Malcolm Gladwell’s popular books Blink and Outliers, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman have written a book about children that challenges many of society’s (and my own) assumptions.
Based on new research about the brain, they make a compelling case that what we think we know about topics — from praise, to teaching about race, to siblings and relationships — may not be correct. Their book NurtureShock is a great read for parents/educators, and a challenge to reexamine what we think we already know.
I can highlight many ideas from the book, but here are a few of the “new” insights I gained:
- We should be praising kids for their effort and not their intelligence — when we praise for intelligence, kids are far less likely to take risks out of a fear of being wrong. We need to praise the process.
- Kids are getting an hour less sleep than they did 30 years ago, and it is having a dramatic effect on academics and emotional stability. There is a likely link between the lack of sleep and the obesity crisis among young people.
- We should consider talking with children about race like we talk to children about gender. We can be more explicit at a younger age rather than just create environments where kids are exposed to many races and cultures.
- We need to give kids some immunity for telling the truth and offer them a route back to good standing when they lie. According to the research, lying is a sign of intelligence, and often those kids who lie do better on academic achievement tests.
- We shouldn’t be testing students for being gifted until Grade 3, and those that do the tests for Kindergarten are wrong more than they are right (okay, this wasn’t really new but it confirms what is largely the norm in Canada).
- Books and videos that end with a problem being resolved often have a negative effect on kids; if much of the book or show is spent on arguing, threatening, excluding or teasing, kids remember this and not the resolution.
- Teenagers arguing with adults is a sign of respect, not disrespect, so much as the arguing is constructive to the relationship.
- There are many programs that, on the surface, appear like they should be great, but have little effect on kids behaviour (DARE was cited as a primary example of this). The thinking is, since human behaviour is incredibly stubborn, it is extremely difficult for interventions to be successful with kids.
- When parents have a conflict, they are better to resolve it in front of their kids rather than continue it outside of their presence — this allows kids to see the resolution, and not only the conflict.