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Nutureshock: Why everything we think about raising our children is wrong
by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

Release Date: 4th Feb 2010
Publisher: Ebury Press
ISBN: 978 0 0919 3377 7
RRP: £12.99

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Makes your eyebrows raise and stay up there for a long time...

According to American journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, modern-day parenting techniques fail to take into account recent scientific research – in fact, in Nurtureshockthey argue that a lot of our assumptions on how best to raise our children are based on outdated or unproven theory. The main gist: we’re all getting parenting wrong - most of the time.

Delineated into clear, concise chapters heading up what they perceive to be the more controversial or illuminating examples of modern research in child development; Bronson and Merryman set about challenging our preconceived notions of praise, the importance of sleep, racial attitudes and how children are innately programmed to perceive colour, lying, sibling rivalry and several others. The concepts put forward are not always easy to swallow, with many feeling distinctly unpalatable and this is accounted for throughout with regular doses of understood cynicism highlighted in parental anecdotes.

Nurtureshock eases us gently in with “the inverse power of praise”. For some of us, the notion that praise can be just as destructive as it can be constructive will not sit well. For years we have been brainwashed into believing that we will somehow damage our children’s self-esteem if we give them anything other than positive reinforcement – the idea that this could be counterproductive leaves us cold. But thankfully, Bronson’s findings are not as stark as cutting out praise altogether: instead the emphasis is on the type of praise – that of rewarding effort rather than simply reiterating over and over how clever or bright our children are.

From thereon in, the shocks just keep pounding out at you – did you realise that allowing your child to stay up just that extra half an hour can have the same debilitating affect on his/her IQ as being exposed to lead? How about the fact that obesity is not down to the number of hours your child watches TV, but has direct correlations to the amount of sleep they are – or more specifically, are not – getting? White parents are more likely to end up with racial discriminatory offspring through a lack of explicit conversation about racial differences because they rely too heavily on the impact of sending their children to ‘racially diverse’ schools. Nurtureshock is like a parental Titanic. The unsinkable is sinkable; the unthinkable – thinkable.

This is serious journalism at its best – controversial, provocative and at the forefront of social change – backed up by substantive research, hard facts and scientific evidence. You may want to dismiss some of Bronson and Merryman’s conclusions out of hand for being ‘American’, but that would just be a cop out to save face. An invigorating, brilliantly conceived book that will shake the foundations of parents everywhere.

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