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Mswas’ CBR-III Review #29 – NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

12/07/2011

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman was recommended to me by Yossarian and a big thank you to him. As the mother of two daughters, eight and twelve, I know we are in for some tough teen years. This compendium of  new studies in child development were extremely enlightening.

For example, I had heard about the need for a good night’s sleep, of course, and how some high schools were moving to a later start time to let their teens get an extra hour or more of sleep. NurtureShock lays out the details behind it. In children, the brain uses the hours of sleep to synthesize and store memories. With children today averaging an hour less sleep a night than children 30 years ago, this is a huge problem. In fact, many of the traits we associate with adolescence: irritability, lack of at wtention, and mood swings are all traits of sleep deprivation. We’re allowing our kids activities to eat into their sleep time.

For me, that means that I really need to be on the ball to corral the herd into bed in a timely fashion. I do find myself on the computer after dinner, leaving the girls to do what they need to do to get into bed on their own – which they are perfectly capable of doing – but they get distracted and lollygag.  Even an extra half hour of sleep is a bonus.

Another topic that I found very interesting is the effect of praise on a child.

“When we praise children for their intelligence,” Dweck wrote in her study summary, “we tell them that this is the name of the game: look smart, don’t risk making mistakes.”[During a later, more difficult test]…the two groups of children, divided at random at the study’s start, responded differently. Those praised for their effort on the first test assumed they simply hadn’t focused hard enough on this test. “They got very involved, willing to try every solution to the puzzles,” Dweck recalled. “Many of them remarked, unprovoked, ‘This is my favorite test.'” Not so for those praised for their smarts. They assumed their failure was evidence that they weren’t really smart at all. “Just watching them, you could see the strain. They were sweating and miserable.”

So,  I tried an experiment that afternoon. I had my 8 year old cleaning her room, really reorganizing the closet and under the bed. It was a big job. When she was done, I told her how proud I was and how I could see that she really worked hard. She piped up, “I’m going to find another hard project tomorrow!”

Sounds like the study is right on the mark!

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