In Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Parenting Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman examined commonly held beliefs about current parenting practices and the studies that surround the recommendations that our culture is inundated with. In the process, they found that some recommendations had already been disproven by research, some were being proven and some were still under serious study. In their own words, they state:
Today with three years of investigation behind us, Ashley and I now see that what we imagined were our 'instincts' were instead just intelligent, informed reactions. Things we had figured out. Along the way, we also discovered that those reactions were polluted by a hodgepodge of wishful thinking, moralistic biases, contagious fads, personal history and old (disproven) psychology all at the expense of common sense.
The first topic they discuss is the Inverse Power of Praise, the topic of the cover story that they wrote for New Yorker magazine. The conclusion here is that it does no good for a child to constantly hear words of praise. It neither builds their confidence nor increases the behavior adults wish to encourage. Instead, it seems, we should be praising effort, not results because children can control effort, but they can't always control results.
Other areas where they examine popularly held beliefs include: children and teen sleep habits, prejudice, lying, sibling fights, teen rebellion, self control, interpersonal relationships and speech development. As one who reads and participates in life with a Christian world view, I didn't find many of the results particularly surprising, but I am delighted that a larger community is examining some of the parenting and teaching practices that have become prevalent in North American culture.
Each chapter stands alone as a subject, so the book is easy to read in short bursts of time. The subjects discussed in the books are straight from the research files, however, the authors manage to make them somewhat engaging. I only wished that we could see into the future to find out what the kids are like in the long run - after all, the goal of parenting is not to raise kids, it's to raise functioning adults.
If you enjoy reading about our culture from a psychological or sociological standpoint, you will find this book interesting.