NurtureShock, by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman, 336 pages, $24.99, published 2009 by the Hatchette Book Group.
by Mary Becelia
NurtureShock has a very simple message, "Much of what parents have been doing—with the very best of intentions, mind you--is wrong, dead wrong!" From over-praising our children in an effort to bolster their self-esteem, to sitting our infants down in front of "educational" Baby Einstein videos in hopes of giving them an intellectual advantage, we parents need to take a step back and look critically at the research and find out what is proven to work, rather than following the latest marketing campaign or "trendy" parenting technique that we hear of during playgroup, or read about in a magazine.
Since the average time-crunched and stressed mom or dad does not have time to analyze the research, Bronson and Merryman have done it for us and put the information in an accessible and informative book. With chapters on topics such as the importance of sleep, lying, the merits of gifted/talented programs and teen rebellion, there is something for nearly every parent, no matter the age or stage of their child(ren).
So maybe you are wondering, for example, "What about sleep after all?" A topic of obsessive interest during the infant stage, when nearly every new parent is terribly sleep-deprived and desperate to get their baby on a regular schedule, the issue of sleep slips to the back burner, in most families, by the time the baby grows into early childhood.
However, according to what Bronson and Merryman have discovered, this is a dangerous complacency. While you or I can get by on an abbreviated night's sleep and suffer minimally, kids need (repeat: NEED!) a solid night's sleep for brain development, proper metabolism, and a host of other important functions. Even 15 minutes can be important. Since reading this book, in fact, I've let my daughter sleep in an extra 15 minutes as often as possible. I used to think it was more important for her to have a bit of time to dawdle at the breakfast table prior to a long day at school but, no, the extra bit of sleep is actually more crucial.
Regarding the teen years...while my kids are not there yet, I know that our adorable babies, cute toddlers and generally agreeable elementary-school aged children tend to "disappear" for a few years during early to mid-adolescence. It's not just hormones—apparently their actual brains are functioning in a different way—a way that unfortunately encourages risky behavior because they are seeking a higher level of "thrill."
I remember spending a good deal of my teen years being "bored." It's a wonder I lived through them, in fact, and did not perish from ennui. According to this book, being bored is an entirely normal part of adolescence. Every day life is just not exciting enough during this developmental phase...Driving to a pizza parlor with 10 or more kids crammed in/on a car, on the other hand (as I recall doing one night—sorry mom and dad!) is just the sort of thrill-inducing activity that will appeal to a teenager.
The good news? By the later teen years, many if not most adolescents will actually start to revert their formerly more reasonable, less adrenaline-fueled selves.
This book has received wide acclaim from all sectors of the media, and ranked on more than one best-seller list, so consider my endorsement just one from the trenches, a regular mom who was blown away with some new information. It's substantive enough to keep you thinking long after you turn the last page, but easy enough to read while pedaling the exercise bike.