Friday, November 27, 2009

Review: NurtureShock

I posted some quotes and discussion on chapters two, three, four, five, six and nine earlier, but wanted to comment briefly on some of the other chapters.

Chapter one took a look at praise and why it's not so useful after all, including when it is useful (when it's specific). I had read all that before and probably you have, too, but if not, check it out.

Chapter seven focused on teenagers and arguments with parents, explaining why arguments themselves may not be bad after all. They tend to show respect (as opposed to just going behind a parent's back). If given some respect of their own with concessions when they make sense, teens who argue are actually less likely to be in real trouble. I thought it was interesting, but it wasn't pertinent to our own family yet.

In chapter eight, you can read about an astounding preschool and kindergarten curriculum (though it seems to me more of a process) that is providing amazing gains for children in districts across the country (so much so that some have lost at-risk funding because the children no longer test as at-risk). If you are homeschooling young children, do yourself a favor and find a copy of this book. You can also read about Tools of the Mind here. With a few simple methods, children are focusing on improving their self-control, patience, and focus (avoiding internal and external distractions). Surprisingly enough, these traits prepare children better for learning in later grades than letter and number work (though they do some of that, too). Some of the techniques are easily adapted for the homeschool and we may be trying them out, though I think there are lots of ways to focus on the same skills in other ways outside the classroom environment. One of the aspects I most appreciate in the program is the 45 minutes they devote to sustained imaginative play.

Chapter ten discussed strategies for teaching our children the spoken language. I wasn't too surprised at most of the research presented as I think I'd read of much of it before, but I'm still always fascinated by it. Our three children have always seemed a little slow to get started when talking but seem to catch up in about a week near eighteen months. I did have to wonder how Second Daughter would fare on the standard survey of words, given that she says things like Jesus and chocolate but took so long to consistently say Mama. (I'm not worried about her language development, by the way. I expect she'll follow First Daughter's example, who said about five words at fifteen months and was speaking in complete paragraphs by eighteen months.)

If a parent is concerned about speech development, the most important thing seems to be responding to vocalizations made by the infant or toddler quickly and appropriately. One interesting quote:

[Y]ou might think kids need to acquire a certain number of words in their vocabulary before they learn any sort of grammar--but it's the exact opposite. Grammar teaches vocabulary.

The conclusion presents some interesting research on gratitude, happiness and general well-being in the context of a discussion on research on children's well-being in all areas of growth, giving two assumptions that have been incorrect time and again in the studies they presented.

The first assumption is that things work in children in the same way that they work in adults.

Later:

The second assumption to drop...is that positive traits necessarily oppose and ward off negative behavior in children.

This book is well-worth your time. It doesn't take very long to read and brings to light the kind of research going on right now that can benefit parents immediately (and they present clearly ideas you can use). Amazingly, they have over 80 pages of notes referencing actual research papers.

They mention in the introduction how cavalierly the media treat research like this. If there's nothing better (meaning more sensational) to report, a new research study will be noted, not in relation to its actual importance or usefulness, but dependent on how much space or time that needs to be filled. This book fills a need parents have for accurate information to counter what we may be reading in parenting magazines or the general media.

I had to wait in line for it at the library, but it was worth it.

2 comments:

  1. I'll be putting this on my library request list. After having 5 books come up all at once and having to get through them in 3-6 weeks, I'm in the market for some more ideas--this sounds like a winner!

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  2. Thanks for this! I put it on hold last week, but I was 39th in line, so it may be a while!

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