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Friday, March 26, 2010

NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

NurtureShock is a book that had me constantly saying, "Wow!" out loud as I read. It probably drove my poor husband crazy to have me constantly interrupting him so that I could read portions of this amazing book to him. But that's the sort of book it is, the kind that you will read and immediately feel the need to share with everyone you know. This book is an invaluable wealth of information for anyone who has regular contact with kids (teachers, caregivers, etc.), but especially for parents. It is the kind of book that has led me to make a conscious effort to change some of my interactions with my own children.
Though the book covers a variety of topics concerning child development, it has a central theme: children are not like adults. This seems self-evident, until you read the book and realize just how many of our adult world views we tend to impose on children. As a mother of two, I know that there have been times when my children's behavior has baffled me utterly. Thanks to reading this book, I now have a better understanding of why my children act the way they do.

However, this is no parenting manual. Bronson and Merryman are not offering a step-by-step guide for how to best raise children. What they are providing is a wealth of information about how a child's brain functions and cognitive processes are profoundly different from that of an adult, based on extensive research into various child development studies. The authors lucidly deliver a great deal of very scientific information in the book, but do so in a way that is chatty, palatable, and utterly fascinating. This is no textbook, and any layperson can easily read it, enjoy it, and use it to enhance their own interactions with children.

This is a very provocative book that offers some information that will make most readers raise their eyebrows in disbelief. Bronson and Merryman show how many of the beliefs most of us adhere to quite strongly--that violent TV shows make children more aggressive, that couples should never fight in front of their kids, that racism must be explicitly taught--are patently false. They do so by distilling reams of study results that prove just how mistaken we adults can sometimes be in our approach to child rearing.

This book should be on every parent and educator's reading list. It is rare that I read something that I feel is truly life-altering, but this book fits the bill.

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