You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


I always knew that lack of sleep could affect children's academic performance, but I hadn't realized that an hour of lost sleep effectively lowered IQ by 7 points. And I used to think that young children would lie more than older ones, but it turns out that children lie more as they get older. In NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman discuss current research and scientific explanations for growing minds and bodies, and in the process blow away some old beliefs.

One of the biggest discoveries they include is the nature of teen rebellion. They look at research that turned the tables by researching teenagers' attitudes towards their parents instead of parents' attitudes about the relationship. It turns out that while parents are stressed out by arguing teens, the teens are less stressed and actually consider their home life in a positive life. The authors explain this by saying that teens are being respectful by arguing with parents instead of say, ignoring them or lying outright. It is a mark of adulthood that they can participate in the rule-making.

Some of the research they discuss simply takes a long standardized look at children as they grow. For example, in the chapter on intelligence testing, researchers kept track of children from early intelligence tests on through the higher grades. What they discovered is that the tests for private preschools, prep schools, and gifted programs were not very good at forecasting academic performance later in school. It turns out that intelligence grows in fits and spurts, and we are doing a disservice to young children by testing them before their minds have really grown. Late bloomers often do not get retested, and early bloomers by not do well in gifted programs, but there is a lack of followup testing. This is a bit counterintuitive, because educators want to provide advanced children with more motivation and stimulation, while slower children require more attention and training.

Other research consists of studies that took a new approach to a problem. They discovered that praise can often backfire. Children who are praised for being smart can come to fear the expectations, and may not try as hard a problem so that they won't be disappointed in the results. The conclusion is that children should be praised on their work and effort.

I found the chapter on sibling rivalry to most intriguing. This is a special concern of mine given that my own two children play very well sometimes but at other times fight terribly. The basic conclusions seems to be that siblings fight more than friends because they know the sibling will always be there, unlike the friend. So there is less motivation to be kind to a sibling. One of the studies they found discovered that one strong indicator of how well a child would treat a sibling was how well they treat their friends before they had a sibling.

Some of the discoveries are useful, like about praise, and some are less practical but still insightful. Learning why children lie is nice to know, but there is little practical advice on how to deal with it. The main takeaway is to encourage trust and honesty, including by being a good example (the best thing a parent can do for a child in my opinion). Still, it is nice having insight into children's growing minds and bodies. The authors have done a service to provide the well thought out research and discoveries to the public. B+

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Blogger S said...

Thanks for the review! I've seen a lot of talk about this book. Did the authors talk at all about the reasons behind children lying more as they get older? I'd read somewhere that it was because as the brain matures, it's able to make more (and different) connections. This enables the brain to connect things more randomly and is the basis for storytelling. In a sense, children aren't trying to be deceitful, but instead using their new connections to create stories. It's just easy to get caught up in them sometimes. It gave me a whole new perspective on lying.

12:03 PM, March 19, 2011  

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