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Po Bronson: One of the authors of “NurtureShock” tells us what the new science can teach us about parenting. The Babble.com interview by Amy Kuras.

What the new science can teach us about parenting.

By Amy Kuras |

Po Bronson

What the new science can teach us about parenting.

by Amy Kuras

October 5, 2009

 

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Rarely does a parenting book generate so much buzz that even the pre-publication reviews of it spin out into blog posts and dinner-party discussions. But that’s exactly what happened with Nurtureshock: New Thinking about Children, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Bronson says it’s not a parenting book so much as it is a book about ideas, backed by “tons of science.” Whatever it is, it’s turning much of the conventional wisdom about parenting on its head. Bronson spoke with us via phone from San Francisco, where he lives with his wife, son and daughter. – Amy Kuras

How did you come upon all the fascinating topics for the book?

We looked at things that surprised us. If we knew something, and we thought “I know this and everybody knows this, other people around us know this,” then we didn’t write about it. We looked for bodies of research that were telling us something we didn’t know already.

If I could turn the clock back three-and-a-half years, I would have thought it was important to praise your kids all the time. I would have told you that if you raise your children in a diverse environment, you never talk about race; you let the environment be the message. I would have thought my kids would grow out of lying eventually. I never would have thought sleep would have had anything to do with obesity. I know kids need sleep, but I wouldn’t have known it was so crucial. I would have thought, yes you can test kids for intelligence, that those kids who were bright at five-years-old will be bright down the road. You know, when my kids become teenagers they would be fine because we’re such buddies now, and that it’s important to expose your kids to a language-rich environment, that that is what will help them talk really well. I thought that when my kids were talking in full sentences at two it was a function of that. Every chapter is something that surprised me.

How did you choose conventional wisdom about how we raise children as a topic for the book in the first place?

We were working on a story about the science of ambition, interviewing really ambitious grownups, and then talked about how their attitudes formed. In that context we stumbled into Carol Dweck’s [seminal] work on praise. She has reproduced her work on everything from preschoolers to med school students – lots of populations.

What we were intrigued by was the fact that her work was published in 1994 [but it wasn't] getting out into the air. In an era of so much parenting advice why had really good convincing science not infiltrated the conventional wisdom?

After we wrote about the science of praise, we were supposed to get back to the science of ambition, but we were so curious: Were there other dimensions of child research that were not recognized as being as meaningful and substantive as they were? We started going to some conferences and were surprised at how much we found.

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About Amy Kuras

bcamykuras

Amy Kuras

Amy Kuras herds cats (along with one dog and 1.5 children) and juggles work, husband, house and family in the urban stew of Detroit. Journalist by training, blogger by choice, she regularly sounds off at blissfullybitchy.blogspot.com.

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6 thoughts on “Po Bronson: One of the authors of “NurtureShock” tells us what the new science can teach us about parenting. The Babble.com interview by Amy Kuras.

  1. Ali says:

    You cannot force chidlren to not segregate themselves. They tend to make friends with other children they have interests in common with. Kids from different cultures have different interests, like different music, have different idols. It is not bad to want to hang out with peers who like the same things you do. I think it is horrible to shame children into spending time with kids they dont like. I think it is a waste of time to even worry about this issue. Making white kids go to school with black kids will not help race relations. It just isolates this one white kid. I went to an almost all black elementary school. I had friends there. When I transferred to a mixed race school all of my close friends were white.

  2. GP says:

    I KNOW…I read the book and was really annoyed by the race chapter. We are open about race to the point of telling my 2 year old “We like black people”…she was brought into this world with the help of a black doula…HOWEVER, I agree its natural that people would gravitate toward those who are more similar to them, no matter what their color, but with color playing some role in people’s identity. All that aside, my best friend growing up (in our mostly white grade school) was a black girl. We got into lots of trouble together : )
    I was really dismayed by the Santa Claus story in the book. I mean, talk about loading fallacy upon fallacy. If there *is* a Santa at all, as in, a cultural/mythological figure (which is how my child will be taught) he most certainly was not black.

  3. OhBrother says:

    You two are a mess.

  4. fanisse says:

    @OhBrother  You said it!

  5. GP says:

    you lie to your kids, force them into all kinds of faux situations and machinations and wonder why *they* are a mess

  6. privilegeaware says:

    @OhBrother – tell me about it, I don’t even know where to START unpacking those comments.

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