NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

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In a world of modern, involved, caring parents, why are so many kids aggressive and cruel? Where is intelligence hidden in the brain, and why does that matter? Why do cross-racial friendships decrease in schools that are more integrated? If 98% of kids think lying is morally wrong, then why do 98% of kids lie? What’s the single most important thing that helps infants learn language?

NurtureShock is a groundbreaking collaboration between award-winning science journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. They argue that when it comes to children, we’ve mistaken good intentions for good ideas. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, they demonstrate that many of modern society’s strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring—because key twists in the science have been overlooked.

Nothing like a parenting manual, the authors’ work is an insightful exploration of themes and issues that transcend children’s (and adults) lives.

Discussion Questions:

1. What is the overall premise of Bronson and Merryman’s book? What do you think sets NurtureShock apart from other parenting advice books on the market?

2. In his introduction, how does Bronson compare the 1950’s paint-by-number hobby with parenting-by-the-book?

3. How does Bronson define the innate maternal instinct? Does he suggest instinct is a dependable guide for child rearing?

4. Given your discussion of Question #3, does Bronson contradict himself at the end of his introduction when he says that, given all the scientific findings, “the new thinking about children felt self-evident and logical, even obvious. . . .It felt entirely natural, a restoration of common sense”?

5. Chapter 1 discusses the value and consequences of praising your child. How do Bronson and Merryman suggest praising can backfire?

6. Chapter 2 talks about the prevalence of sleep deprivation in the current generation of children and adolescents. What do the authors suggest are the consequences of lack of sleep?

7. Chapter 3 offers some startling insights into racial issues regarding children. What are the authors’ findings about how to talk about race with children and about diversity in our schools?

8. Chapter 4 addresses truth and lying. What does the research indicate about encouraging children to be truthful?

9. Chapter 5 undermines the validity of testing results for intelligence tests utilized to place children in gifted programs. What surprised you the most about this chapter?

10. Chapter 6 challenges the ideas that siblings provide one another a path to healthy socialization. What does scientific evidence indicate about sibling rivalry and only children?

11. Chapter 7 focuses on teen rebellion. How do the authors view teenage arguing?

12. Chapter 8 talks about teaching children self-control. What do studies suggest about this area?

13. Chapter 9 is centered on antisocial behavior? What was surprising in their findings? What type of child becomes a bully? What happens when parents try to intervene and teach their children not to bully?

14. Chapter 10 revolved around language acquisition. What points do the authors make about jump starting your child to speak early?

15. Which findings in the book most surprised you? Which seemed most counter-intuitive or challenged the ways in which you have always thought about child-rearing?

16. Were there findings in the book that confirmed some of you prior understandings about children?

17. Some criticism of this book has centered on the fact that it points out problems but offers little guidance? Do you agree? If so, in which areas would you have appreciated more advice.

18. Given the plethora of child-rearing advice books, should this particular book be taken seriously by parents and educators?

19. If you do consider NurtureShock a serious book, what would need to change in your approach to child-rearing and/or education? How can you best maximize attempts to achieve effective learning, better socialization, and more confident children?

20. On the other hand, what do you feel you are doing correctly?

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