Friday, September 11, 2009

Recommended Reading: NurtureShock Sent Me to Bed Early

After Po Bronson's amazing 2007 article on praise, his new book on parenting research NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (co-authored with Ashley Merryman) mesmerized me long before I actually saw it in person.

The first chapter on praise (revised from the original New York magazine article) remains strong and fresh after repeat readings. I was poised to devour the book in an all night marathon read.

Enter Chapter 2: The Lost Hour. The research on sleep was so compellingly presented that I whined and shut the book at 1 AM (an hour earlier than my typical bedtime since late adolescence). Mr. Bronson, Ms. Merryman, you accomplished in one evening what my mother, and later, Jim have been trying to do for decades. I'm now in bed at least an hour and a half earlier (often more) each night.

The loss of late-night reading hours slowed my reading down, but the change of pace gave me more time and mental space to absorb the rich content of NurtureShock.

Like the new generation of social science books (Stumbling on Happiness, Outliers, Freakonomics), NurtureShock works to be informative rather than prescriptive. Unlike self-help parenting books which offer specific instructions for a perfect relationship/child/childhood, Bronson and Merryman discuss a huge body of research on child rearing and behavior (the bibliography and notes account for 83 pages).

While I could poorly reiterate the book's contents, I'm sure you'd benefit much more from reading it yourself.

The research on siblings gave me real pause. Things have been pretty rough between Ranger and the Raptor since she started crawling. Her mobility resulted in constant meltdowns and Ranger serving a lot of penal time in his room. NurtureShock summarized research on why siblings fight (or more importantly, get along). It's nothing like the theories I've heard. I called Jim at work after reading the chapter. "This may be what's going on..." Our situation looked rough. The research described our kids far too well as present and perpetual rivals. We talked about why siblings get along and committed to a 180 degree shift in our actions. In two days, Ranger's tantrums (regarding the Raptor) started fading. Two more days and only one tantrum. Things improved greatly as we thought purposefully about Ranger's interactions with the Raptor. We're all happier.

Bronson and Merryman carefully choose research that stands up to repetition and avoid the dangerous one-hit-wonders that grab headlines, but fail under long-term scrutiny. They aren't worrying about genius babies, prodigies, or delinquents nor are they pushing to create a super-achiever culture. They don't weigh on who sleeps where, offer dietary advice, or tell you how to punish your child.

The findings they report question underlying assumptions we have about our children, their character, and their development.

NurtureShock offers complex, but fascinating, perspective. I'm sure the ideas behind each chapter will get ample media coverage for months to come (Newsweek already excerpted the race chapter and NPR profiled the lying research in an interview with Bronson).

I hope it will be read by my family, friends, and community educators.

$14.99 at Amazon. $24.99 recommended price.

Baby Toolkit has no relationship with Po Bronson, Ashley Merryman, or their publishers (12 & Hachette Book Group)- though we'd gladly invite them all over for dinner any time. With two degrees in literature, Adrienne can be considered a professional reader (of fiction), but we have no credentials in child development. We bought the book through Amazon.


Chief Family Officer said...

Okay, wow, that's quite the endorsement! I read Bronson's first book and enjoyed it a lot, so I'll definitely have to add this to my next Amazon order.

Rob Dewhirst said...

I really need some specific, concrete examples of what is so compelling in their compiled research. What was the most unexpected? What contradicts/supports the other popular authors?

You've given me nothing to draw a reference on for how well this book might be in relation to other parenting books that talk about subject like sleep.

A new book a big time investment for the parent, and I need a better sales pitch.

Mimi-n-Moe's Mom said...

Any book you give review this highly will be put on my must-read list!

Thanks. And I will get back to you after I've finished it.


adrienne said...

Hi CFO: If you liked his earlier books, you're sure to like this one.

Hi otherinbox: If you click through the links to race, lying, and praise, you can get a great feel for the book's content.

I didn't summarize or preemptively reveal the book's conclusions as I could only water down/muddy some pretty fabulous thinking and writing.

NutureShock is to other parenting books what Reading Rainbow is to Word World. It embraces the why far more than the how. Most parenting books are manuals with a little theory and research
(shockingly little). This book is primarily research (and carefully selected 3rd party research at that) that outlines exciting new territory.

As the full-time caregiver for an infant and a preschooler I can't justify doing the kind of in-depth summation that professional journalists are producing almost daily since the book was released. (Even as I quickly type this response, my daughter has managed to pull down all the bills and two cds from my desk; this simply is not a hyper-productive period in my writing life.)

There are loads of other online reviews done by people who aren't being demanded by small people every waking moment of the day. This is from-the-trenches writing anything more on this web site is a sure sign of alien abduction.

Logan said...

I've been reading Rachel Simmons' "The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence." She's the same author who wrote the bestseller "Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Agression in Girls." Both were really interesting reads.

Maggie said...

I will be getting this book! I read some of the praise article, wow. Thanks so much Adrienne!!

I'm reading Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph right now, it's very interesting. A lot about testosterone and how boys brains are wired differently :) I think you would enjoy it, if you haven't already read it!

Francie said...

Glad to hear what was worth reading! I am also impressed if it's getting you to sleep more at nights!
I've been scanning another book that has some helpful stuff for me. Perhaps some of you would like it, as well: Is My Child Overtired?: The Sleep Solution for Raising Happier, Healthier Children by Will Wilkoff.
Thanks for sharing!