Nurture Shock was the best parenting book I’ve ever read. Admittedly, I haven’t read many. I don’t tend to like them, but I have read a few. On the cover, there is a quote from Good Morning America which calls the book “The Freakonomics of child rearing…”, with which I completely agree. If you liked the way Freakonomics challenged conventional wisdom (and conservative wisdom – ZING!) with science presented as a fast-paced, quippy narrative, then this book is for you. So, why didn’t I give it five stars? I gave it four stars because I felt there should have been more recommendations, given how many fascinating findings there were. However, I don’t think that recommendations were necessarily the goal the authors had in mind. Overall, I really liked the book, it challenged my way of thinking about children in some ways and reinforced things I believed on my own that are unpopular (such as Baby Einstein videos and “educational programming” for very young children is more than a waste of time, it is BAD).
Here are the brief version of my notes from this book (please don’t let having a list of takeaways discourage you from reading the book, because I think this is a VERY important book for parents to read and the notes below don’t even come close to capturing the most important points of the book):
1. Don’t EVER tell a child he is smart.
2. Praise has to be incredibly specific, and based on the child’s efforts.
3. Kids need more sleep than they usually get. Not having enough sleep messes up everyone’s brains, but in kids, it is exponentially worse.
4. Don’t let the sleep schedule slide on weekends.
5. Take a specific and proactive approach to discussing race with your child. Platitudes such as “everyone is equal” are useless at best. Talk about skin color specifically and how people discriminate based on that and why that, specifically, is wrong.
6. Effective lying demonstrates a specific kind of intelligence. Children often lie just to please their parents.
7. Intelligence testing / testing for gifted programs prior to second grade is completely, utterly useless and is far more likely to identify the wrong children as advanced at early ages.
8. Ignoring the fights between siblings is a really bad idea.
9. If your teenager argues with you, it’s probably a good thing.
10. You can teach a kid to have self control and focus, even at fairly young ages (such as kindergarten). How I wish my son went through the “TOOLS” curriculum they so lovingly discuss in chapter 8.
11. Watching Arthur will most likely cause more aggression in children than watching Power Rangers. Baby Einstein is not just useless, it’s often detrimental to a very young child’s vocabulary development.
12. Having a zero tolerance toward bullying and other acts of aggression is most likely ineffective and can cause some unwanted and unexpected results.
13. Talking to your baby is not as important as reacting appropriately and correctly to his attempts at vocalization.
14. Babies cannot learn language from any sort of recorded medium.
15. I loved learning about the “Hedonic Treadmill” theory, which was explained on page 228 as “… we have to keep working hard just to stay in in the same relative place in society. Even when our situation improves, the sense of achievement is only temporary, because our hedonistic desires and expectations rise at the same rate as our circumstances.” This means “…lottery winners are not any happier, long-term, than non-winners…”
16. Trying to get a child younger than 12 to do a gratitude journal in order to help them realize how lucky they are and how much they have to be thankful for can really freaking bite you in the ass. Don’t do that.