Friday, November 22, 2013


Nurtureshock analyzes some trends in child-rearing and refutes many commonly accepted notions. They use scientific studies to refute fads (which were started in part due to other scientific studies.)

One section talks about praise. It was assumed that praise helps kids to succeed, while criticism causes them to fail. However, it turns out that it is how it is done that is more important. Praising a kid for being "smart" will often cause them to give up earlier rather trying hard to learn difficult subjects. Praising them for being a hard worker is more likely to encourage additional hard work. Similarly encouraging them to analyze areas and self-improve will produce better results than simply praising for good work.

There is also plenty of analysis of our educational system. Gifted programs and private schools often use a cognitive test on young children to grant admission. However, these are very poor predictors at young ages. Programs also lack mechanisms for kids to "leave" the program. (What would happen if they just assigned random people to be "gifted".)

Early preschool programs are also shown to have minimal long-term impact. In the short-term, preschoolers see improvement. However, this improvement tapers off in the long term. (This is likely a case of confusing cause and effect. Kids that attend preschool tend to have more supportive parents and thus perform better.)

Lack of sleep has been shown to have an extremely negative impact on younger children and adolescents. However, in an attempt to help them to succeed, many parents are overscheduling their children, reducing sleep.

The analysis of spanking best encapsulates the book. Studies have shown that spanking has a negative impact on children. However, studies among black and evangelical Christians show no negative impact. It seems that if spanking is a normal part of the culture, it is ok. However, if the parents view it as a negative aberration, it is bad.

TV and media also have an unexpected impact. Some violent shows show a small increase in physical violence among children. However, peaceful "educational" shows such as Arthur often show an even more dramatic increase in negative relational behavior among children. They see the negative behavior modeled and duplicate it (yet don't grasp that they are actually supposed to be following the "solution" not the negative behavior.) These even extends to books such as Berenstein Bears that are supposed to be teaching positive traits, but spend much of the time modeling the bad trait.

There are many studies about raising children out there. However, children are a diverse group. What works for one may not work for another. There is also the matter of understanding the details. Fads often attempt to find the key "thing" that helps produce great children. However, it is often a complete package that is needed. With children it is often the case that "positive characteristics" and "negative characteristics" run perpendicular rather than on a continuum. Kids may have a lot of a "bad characteristic" as well as a lot of its "opposite". Increasing the good may not reduce the bad.

Perhaps using "instinct" to parent is not so bad after all - as long as it has not been corrupted by scientific studies.

No comments:

Post a Comment