If We Knew Then What We Know Now About Parenting!

While I like to think my husband and I have been good parents to our collective brood, I’m boggled as to why our sons have had any struggles at all over the years. After all, from both a material and an opportunity perspective, they have had so much more than we did growing up.

Whereas both my husband and I grew up in blue collar, sometimes dysfunctional families who had to work hard to pay the bills, our kids had their material needs met, grew up in a stable loving home, experienced the role modeling of solid values, were praised and encouraged, exposed to sports, recreation, and cultural opportunities that helped them explore their interests and skills, and had doors opened to educational opportunities.

So, while I may have thought we did all the right things, I just read a book called “Nurture Shock” that gently whooped me up the side of the head by providing a lot of research to discredit much of what I thought I knew for sure about parenting.

The authors, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, have written about the latest findings in child development. Pulling from research in psychology, sociology, neuroscience, linguistics etc, they reveal the groundbreaking work that too often is ignored by mainstream media because the results are not what we want or expect to hear. 

It began with the first chapter that talked about praise. Not having grown up with a lot of positive reinforcement, it’s true I might have gone too far the other way. However, the authors point out that while positive praise is good, there is danger in telling our kids they are smart. The research shows that if they try something and don’t succeed, it can make them afraid they aren’t smart after all, or that they won’t be seen as smart. Because being smart is an attribute beyond their control, they stop trying. If instead we praise them for their efforts, whether or not they succeed, they will keep trying and will therefore likely be more successful.

That little nugget of research was only the beginning. 

The authors also present research to show that it is critical to get kids to bed on time. Teens especially need more sleep and a later start to their day. Sleep deprived kids are more likely to have lower test scores, emotional challenges, attention-deficit disorder, and higher levels of obesity.

Parents won’t be surprised to learn that most kids lie. In fact, by age four, 80% of all kids lie.Unfortunately, punishing them for lying, simply teaches them to be better liars. Instead we can deter lying by rewarding and teaching them about the benefits of honesty. Also good to know that children lie more often to parents who are permissive than they do to parents who provide rules and guidelines.

While my mother told me my older brother fought with me because when I was born it meant he had to share the limelight, the research says it ain’t necessarily so. Siblings fight because they don’t want to share their material possessions, not because they aren’t getting the undivided attention of their parents. Kids also tend to treat their siblings worse than their friends because the consequences aren’t the same.  For instance, even if friends decide they don’t want to hang out with you, the siblings will still be there the next day. 

It was also interesting to learn that Baby DVDs (Like Disney’s Baby Einstein’s series) actually hinder children’s speech and development. Babies get more from watching real people moving a real mouth. Apparently DVDs just sound like gibberish.

As for teenagers who use drugs and alcohol, they’re 50 percent most likely do it if they’re bored in their free time. Also they lie to stay out of trouble and in order not to disappoint their parents. Parents who relent make things much worse. Consistent rules not only show a teen they are loved, they also contribute to good relations with their parents.

And there’s more…like the strong connection between being popular and alcohol abuse; that girls are as likely to bully as boys, but they are far better at relationship bullying (exclusion from the group etc.); and that intelligence test scores at kindergarten have only a .40 correlation with later achievement results. That means 73% of the gifted students in third grade wouldn’t have been identified by their kindergarten IQ tests because their brains developed at different stages. And, we need to talk to our kids about race and culture.  Ignoring it isn’t the answer and in fact is likely to makes things worse.

Bottom line? If you only have one parenting book in the house, this might be the one you want. While we have three terrific sons, I can’t imagine how much better our parenting would have been if we knew then what we know now.


Posted on 06-06-11


Great blog, Brenda!  I totally plan on passing this blog on to ALL of my friends who are parents.  Keep up the great research!

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  06/09/11  at  10:17 AM

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