Friday, July 9, 2010

Nurture Shock

This was one of the books I picked up when looking for a childhood development book. It just caught my attention. (As a side note, I didn't like any of the books I picked up on childhood development--either too scientifically intense, not scientific enough, and/or outdated--I want one that my husband would be willing to browse through--in other words, to the point and short. Anyone have any suggestions? Please?) But back to the book. I really didn't like it overall. It was written by a couple who were surprised from some research that has come out recently on different topics and they combined them all in one book. Some of it was interesting. Some not so much. And some, well, I'll get to slamming it later. Here's an overview.

Ch. 1 (My favorite chapter) Praise: The point of the chapter was that too much praise is bad for kids. They stop trying to do hard things for fear they'll fail and when they've only got praise all their lives, they don't feel comfortable with that. Research shows that under the age of 7 kids will take all praise at face value, after that kids are as suspicious of it as adults. By 12, most kids have figured out that adults will praise a kid who's struggling even more, and so react negatively to praise. A study from Stanford Univ and Reed College discovered that students exposed to liberal amounts of praise have "shorter task persistence, more eye-checking, and inflected speech such that the answers have the intonation of questions." Heavily praised students drop out of college classes rather than suffer a mediocre grade, and have a hard time picking a major--afraid to commit lest they not succeed. Also highly praised children are more image conscience, competitive, more likely to cheat, and more likely to tear other students down. In a study with Chinese parents and American parents, kids were given a test with a break in the middle, where the parents were told their kids were below average (not true), Chinese mothers were more likely to discuss the test and American mothers more likely to carefully avoid negative comments. Chinese kids' scores went up 33%, American kids' scores half that. Most significantly people praised less in the long run are better able to go through long periods of delayed gratification and score high in persistence. (As a side note to that, my good friend from England mentioned how insanely we praise kids in America--they don't do that in France or England. She'd often mock the parents that would praise their kids for swinging at the ball without hitting anything, for example, or even just standing at home plate and holding the bat.)

Ch. 2 (Also liked this chapter.) Sleep: Sleep matters in academic performance, emotional stability, ADHD, and obesity. Many hallmarks of the teenage years, moodiness, depression, binge eating, are now believed to be actually sleep deprivation more than anything else. On sixth graders a study showed that a loss of one hour of sleep a night is equivalent to the loss of two years cognitive maturation and development in their behavior and schoolwork the next day. Sleep disorders can impair a children's IQ as much as lead exposure. This is because what is learned the day is stored and connected while sleeping--different levels of sleep connect to different locations of the brain--since the brain is still growing and maturing in a child this is especially important for them. In fact their slow-wave sleep stage in which this occurs is 10x's the length of adults. Positive and neutral memories are processed in the hippocampus, negative ones in the amygdala. The hippocampus is hit harder by sleep deprivation, hence people tend to be depressed when sleep deprived because they remember more negative things. Students with A's averaged 15 mins more sleep than B students, and B students averaged 15 more mins than C students, etc. Also talked about starting high schools later because of teenage circadian shift. Also, a study done by the Univ. of Texas showed that obese children watch the same amount of TV as skinny kids, only they get way less sleep. In fact when kids had less than 10 hrs of sleep, their chance of obesity when up 80% with each hour missed. Sleep loss increases the hormone ghrelin which signals hunger and decreases leptin which suppresses appetite. Also it disrupts the release of human growth hormone which helps breakdown fat, and it elevates your cortisol levels which signals the body to store fat.

Ch. 3 Race: Basically kids can tell when someone is black, or white, or green, or purple, and not talking about it is not going to raise them color blind, and in fact it may have the opposite effect because they don't know your feelings on the subject. Talking to your kids about race in a meaningful way is the best way to improve their racial attitudes. And under six is the age to do it. On the flip side, minorities that talk about race and parents give preparation-for-bias warnings often vs. occasionally (which is good), the kids tend not to link effort to success and to write off failures as prejudice. Studies show kids are developmentally prone to in-group favoritism. Young kids never think groups are random. Also exposing your child to a diverse environment is not enough. In diverse high schools there's actually more in-grouping than at not very diverse schools. Basically they have increased opportunities to interact but also far more opportunities to reject each other. Also, kids at these schools who were darker skin toned tended to be more successful than minority kids with lighter skin tones, because their already have visible acceptance in their group, and are less likely to be accused of "acting white," while kids with lighter skin tones actually acted more in keeping with their image of the minority identity to solidify their status within the group.

Ch. 4 Lying: 3 yr olds rarely lie. 80% of 4 yr. olds lie (about once every 2 hours). 6 yr old lie about once every hour (but often grow out of it). If they're still lying frequently by age seven, then they're likely to continue. Parents rarely punish lying when kids are trying to cover up, they just punish the initial transgression. Young kids think any deception is wrong--mistakes are no excuses. As they get older they realize that some types are okay. Lying is related to intelligence, the smarter the kid the better the liar. Most lie to get out of trouble when little, at elementary level, it's more complex (telling secrets, attention, coping, etc.) Parents telling kids not to tattle is to stop power struggles among the kids. However, 9 out of 10 times a child tattles, they're telling the truth. Parents are ten times more likely to chastise a child who tattles vs a child who lies. For every one time a child seeks a parents help, fourteen instances occur where the child was wronged and didn't ask for help.

Ch. 5. Testing for Giftedness: People are pathetic--basically the whole chapter is about testing three year olds' IQ to get them into gifted preschools and kindergarten. Third grade is the earliest researchers recommend for any testing and really nothing is very final about a child's brain till 12. Once in a gifted program they rarely take kids out, so remedial classes have started in some schools for "gifted" kids, instead of just putting them back into a normal classroom. Lamesauce. Also emotional IQ is really overrated in kids. This is where the book started to go downhill for me, because personally, I wouldn't be pursuing a gifted preschool anyway--the authors were quite obviously the type of parents who would be.

Ch. 6 Siblings: Siblings mostly fight over things, not their parents attention. Siblings don't have to be polite to each other, and they have no incentive to be kind compared to friends. Sibling relationships are "remarkably stable," except when major life changing events occur. Net positive interactions vs. net negative interactions are what matter. Teaching a child proactive skills on how to initiate play that they both can enjoy is more successful than teaching conflict resolution. Age spacing is not a good predictor of future relationships, nor is gender--the best predictor is how well the older child gets along with his best friend before the younger child is born--because with friends they have to learn good mutual play--especially fantasy play.

Ch. 7 Teenage Rebellion: Traumatic teenage years is the exception not the norm. The type of parents who were lied to the least by teenagers had rules and consistently enforced them but were willing to be flexible. Parents sulk more after a fight than teenagers--teenagers find arguing productive. (In truth, I found this chapter sparse and the claims poorly backed-up--not that I disagree with his general argument of rebellion not being the norm, it was just didn't have the substance that the first two chapters had.)

Ch. 8 Self-Control: Self-discipline is a better predictor of kids' school performances than IQ. Children with above average IQ and executive functioning (self control) were 300% more likely to do well in math than kids with above average IQ alone. Also, it can be taught. (Again, this chapter was really sparsely detailed.)

Ch. 9 Aggression: There's a difference between relational aggression (bossy, controlling, manipulative) and physical aggression. And while physical aggression goes up with kids watching violent television shows, relational aggression also goes up with viewing basically any show (Arthur for instance) that shows name calling, siblings disliking each other, etc; and the correlation is 2.5 times higher for the relational aggression than the physical aggression. 96% of all children's programming includes verbal insults and put-downs, averaging 7.7 put-downs per half an hour. 67% of programs specifically considered prosocial still had insults. (This annoys me, he quotes that statistic than quotes Spongebob as an example--who ever thought Spongebob was prosocial??!? Bad example.) 84% of the time after an insult the response was a laugh or nothing--out of 2,628 instances in one study, only in 50 was the insulter reprimanded or corrected. (This is why I like Charlie and Lola, no insults, siblings playing happily. Love it.) Also mentioned that children seeing their parents fight (if not overly combative) is not bad for the kids as long as the kids see the resolution. Another point, 90% of American parents use physical punishment, and while spanking had been linked to aggression--in all of those studies only Caucasian families participated. When they finally studied minorities, they found this doesn't hold true at all. In fact, in one study of black families, the more a child was spanked the less aggressive they were (and the black families spanked a little more than white families but not much). Researchers concluded this was due to the fact that black families take spanking as an ordinary consequence, white families saved it for the worst offenses and usually when the parent had lost their temper--marking the child as deviant and deserving of a special punishment, hence affecting them more. The results of the black families was replicated in another study of Conservative Protestants that on average spanked their kids 3 or more times a week. No increase aggression there. Zero-tolerance for bullying is not really that helpful--it's been shown to increase the anxiety of kids--not of other kids, but of the rules themselves and authority figures. Also, most bullies are actually the kids who are the most popular, well-liked, and admired. Nonaggressive kids just generally lack the savvy and confidence to assert themselves more often. Relationally aggressive kids are extremely sensitive and and socially intelligent, hence being able to master his social network, be subtle and strategic. Aggressive behavior is coveted because it shows a willingness to defy grown-ups (especially true for tweens and teens) and they often use bi-strategic control--being kind and cruel. Generally the same kids are responsible for both prosocial and antisocial acts--they are just in the middle of everything, socially busy. And those kids are well-like by teachers too, and generally end-up very successful. Also because we segregate kids so much by age, and they're with their peers constantly (play dates, teams, texting) that social ranking has become increasingly important. Ave. teen spends 60 hours with peers a week and 16 with adults. And finally, "progressive" dads had poorer marital quality and rated their family functioning lower than dads who took traditional roles. Basically progressive dads were more inconsistent and permissive in their discipline than traditional fathers, with the result that children of progressive dads acted out as much as children with disengaged dads--traditional dads had the best behaved children.

Ch. 10 Speech Development: Here's where it really bugged me. First, a whole chapter earlier on how IQ is developing and indeterminable till age 11 at least, and then a whole chapter on how to get your kids to talk faster??? Umm. Ridiculous. But for those of you curious, Baby Einstein is about the worst thing you can show your infants. Kids watching regular tv develop speech faster than Baby Einstein viewers. Also, just talking a lot to your baby won't help either. Actually responding to your child cooing and gooing does help. Duh. Baby talk and using motion helps as well.

Sorry that was long. I am tired. Time to sleep--since now I know all the consequences of sleep deprivation.

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