Audiobooks Book Reviews Books for Adults

Nutureshock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

8 of 10: Interesting if you have children or frankly if you’re a human being, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children is full of information about how people react to different events and situations, particularly in ways that seem counter intuitive.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon this article (probably thanks to someone mentioning it on their blog) about how praising children can backfire in a major way. I read it to Bart, who said it exactly described much of his childhood attitudes toward school and other pursuits.

When I saw a number of positive reviews of this book online, I requested it from the library but I didn’t realize it was by the same authors as the article until I read the back of the CD case.

The idea of the article (and the first chapter of the book) about praise is that children who are praised for being smart are far more likely to rely on their natural abilities and less likely to make an effort when things don’t come easily. Instead, they reject new things, feeling that any failure proves they aren’t “smart.”

Kids who are praised for effort, on the other hand, tend to be far more willing to try new things and to put in effort to succeed.

The stories they share and the research they present are fascinating and often surprising. Each of the ten chapters is about a specific part topic related to children (sleep, lying, racial attitudes, sibling rivalry, etc) and what research suggests about how children naturally act on these topics, as well as how parents can deal with the issues.

I particularly appreciated that it talked about how to deal with these issues, rather than simply pointing out that, “hey, children naturally gravitate toward people like them, rather than being completely colorblind as we once thought. Good luck raising some non-rascist kids!”

The audiobook is narrated by one of the authors, Po Bronson, and he’s an excellent reader (reminded me of Malcom Gladwell). He has a child of his own and tested a lot of the research on his own son and talks about it when it’s relevant, which I loved.

This book is definitely worth reading if you have children of your own, but even without them, I think it’s all very fascinating, especially as you see your own experiences reflected in the research.

I’ll admit it wasn’t quite as gripping for me as Outliers was – some chapters were less interesting to me than others, and occasionally I found the research a little overly long, but overall it’s a great book.

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  • Reply Kelly J. March 9, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I have a love/hate relationship with these sorts of books. This is "real" psychology boiled down to one event. This book's basis is the idea of locus of control, whether it's internal or external. You'd definitely get a kick out of a little research into that aspect.

    I'll have to check this one out. I have a love/hate with Malcolm Gladwell for the same reason, but I can't keep myself away 🙂 I might audio this one, since it sounds promising!

  • Reply nancy March 9, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    My mom loved this book and has been try to get me to read it for awhile. Maybe I will give it a try.

  • Reply Peaceful Reader March 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I think I need to read this. I've read articles related to this and need to read more. Great review and perfect timing since you are just beginning your parenting role!

  • Reply smalldog March 9, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Fascinating stuff, practical physchology interests me. Another good book is called (I believe) the Lucifer Effect, it's about understanding why good people often do horrible things. Really made me think about ethics.

  • Reply Melanie March 9, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Fabulous article! I'm convinced.

  • Reply Lisa March 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    I read that article too, and have seen a few mentions of the book. I think I might have to see if my library is going to get it.

  • Reply Packrat March 9, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    I'm with Kelly J. on having a love/hate relationship with these type of books.

    Raising a child is all about dealing with different personalities. One can read and study and read some more, but when the actual moment comes to deal with a situation, you just do what you think is best right then (short of beating the child – even if you'd really like to).

  • Reply Packrat March 9, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    PS – I have always thought it not wise to praise a child too much. Encourage yes, compliment for putting in the effort (as suggested). I was just thinking of the problems of having a very bright child and a one with minor learning disabilities in the same family and the friction this can cause. Might have to read this book.

  • Reply Merrick March 9, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    This sounds super interesting. I'm heading over to the library website to request it right now 🙂

  • Reply Rachel March 9, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    I would like to read it.

    Labeling in general is a no-no to use for all people.

    We think it would be terrible to say "you are so dumb" but don't consider the consequences of the other "you are so smart (pretty, happy, unique, talented).

    SOO, we have to use more ords "Pumpkin Chunkin', it is nice to see you utilize creativity with your crayons" sounds so lame and therapy – But is far less labely.

    We could probably work to improve further but we try!

  • Reply Carly Jane March 9, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    My little nephew used to get mad when people would tell him he was cute… he'd respond, "No I'm not; I'm smart!" (he was two at the time). I am always conscious of what I call Raymond (I know, he's not even a year old!)… I'll catch myself saying "You were so good today" when I really meant he was quiet or happy or especially hungry. It takes a lot of effort to be specific! I'm sure I'll now catch myself with calling him "smart" when I mean something else!

  • Reply Miri March 9, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    I'm excited to look for this book now! I read Boys Adrift last year after I read about it on your blog, and it really made an impression on me. (I'm going to make my husband read it sometime soon.) This one sounds equally interesting.

  • Reply Jenna March 10, 2010 at 5:12 am

    I have this requested through interlibrary loan right now. I'm tearing through "Deliver Me from Pain: Anesthesia and Birth in America" and when I finish that I hope Nurture Shock is here for me to read. Did you enjoy the parenting related sections of Freakonomics? (I haven't read Super Freakonomics yet so I don't know if there are any sections relevant to parenting there as well).

  • Reply McCulloch Moments March 12, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    A friend of mine (who happens to also be a school librarian) 🙂 recommended this one to me and her review was very similar to yours. I have had it in goodreads for awhile now in my 'To Read' section, I'll have to read it soon.

  • Reply Kelly March 18, 2010 at 4:19 am

    Ooh, thanks for this review. I'd heard of the book but with there being SO many parenting books out there I wasn't sure whether to give it a try.

    The praise thing is something I've read a lot about, so it will be interesting to read what this book says about it. I'm reading "Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline", which has a chapter on praise gone wrong. And "Unconditional Parenting" is responsible for completely changing my outlook on praise/punishment!

  • Reply lifeofadoctorswife February 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Aha! You HAVE read it! I'm glad you liked it. I thought it was fascinating, and the subject matter was Gladwell/Freakonomics-esque in its interestingness… while being a bit more on the practical side.

    And this part of your review: "Interesting if you have children or frankly if you're a human being"

    YES. So true.

  • Reply Book Club Suggestions: 29 Best Book Club Books - Everyday Reading August 7, 2018 at 1:31 am

    […] Nutureshock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman – One of my book clubs picked this a few years ago and I loved the amazing discussion about sleep, racism, praising children, and a whole slew of other parenting topics. (Full review here) […]

  • Reply What I'm Going to Read: Round 18 - Everyday Reading September 6, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    […] Nurtureshock (review here) […]

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