Saturday, April 6, 2013

A review of the book "Nuture Shock" by Po Branson & Ashley Merryman

Another brilliant, cohesive, detailed, data and research backed book which takes you one by one on the core questions any parent with kids of any age have. "Nuture shock" is a term that refers to the panic one gets, when they realise that the mythical fountain of parenthood knowledge & maternal instinct is not magically kicking in at all.

Adolescence is traumatic, we simply need to talk a lot to our babies to kick start their language skills, our kids don't lie to us, having an only child may stunt his social skills, self control is a permanent trait that cannot be taught, IQ test can be taken when kids are as young as 30 months old and these results are permanent, for life.

Sounds familiar ? Well here's a book telling us that there have been several researchs done over the past few decades, that actually prove that these notions are at least partially wrong. There is more than what meets the eye.

The book takes you through a journey to fresh perspective. How the innate flaw in testing IQ AND social skills at the age of 5 is not with the tests but with testing kids too young. From the age 3-10 , two-thirds of the IQ test scores will improve or drop by more than 15 points. Also many kids who were fidgety & misbehaving at the age of 5 turned out to be good students and many kids who were well behaved at 5 didn't turn out into good students. schools that have these stringent admission tests and gifted students tests are still labouring under the premise that intelligence is innate and stable & by that ancient logic retesting at a later age is not necessary because an IQ score is presumed valid for life. The fact is that different children progress at different rates and if early childhood tests could predict as well as those taken at the age of 11, they'd identify the gifted student twice as accurately.

The chapter Sibling Effect focuses on how different is the social interactions of child who has siblings as against a "onlie". Do the thousands and thousands of interactions between the siblings have a net positive or net negative affect on how they will get along with each other later in life? And another pertinent question : what is the single most important factor that affects how an older sibling will interact with his younger brother or sister? We have a surprise answer here: the quality of the relationship with his best friend BEFORE the younger sibling is born. Yes best friend. Not parents, not general behaviour in play school. Isn't it easy to get what you want from parents? Well getting what you want from your friend is what focuses a child to develop skills.

Another interesting chapter was developing a baby / toddlers language skills.  I've known that we need to talk a lot to babies and that video programming is of no use, as babies need to see it coming from your mouth, see your face. I talk to my kid a lot and dutifully read books to him which he enjoys a lot. Yet my 16 month old doesn't speak beyond a few words such as cheese and hello. It didn't bother me at all considering his gross & fine motor skills had developed relatively early (he walked holding hands at 6 months and ran without support at 10 months) . I honestly feel that some spacing between motor & language skill development is healthy. And he does understand a LOT of what we say anyways. I know that not only because he points to things correctly when asked: eg: where's the dinosaur? Where is the sleeping horse? But he also follows instructions correctly : eg: throw that tissue in the dustbin: means he'll pick up the tissue, run to the kitchen, open the dustbin, throw the tissue and run back. But I had an "aha" moment when I came to this chapter. They say the variable that best explained why toddlers develop at diff ages is how often a mom rapidly responded to her child's vocalisations & explorations. "Toddlers of high responders were a whopping 6 months ahead of low responders".

pic: our baby bookshelf:
So wasn't I doing that , was I a low responder? Apparently yes! cuz what's also critical is that babies learn better from "object labelling" when a parent waits for baby's eyes to naturally be gazing at the object - and ideally a parent is NOT intruding or directing the child's attention- but following his lead! OMG, that's happened a million times when he'd pointed to things and I'd blissfully continued with my story telling! LOL, anyways, I'm learning now. And since I've been "object labelling" a  LOT in the past week, his little dictionary of words has been expanding rapidly! I dont know when will his babble, pointing & sign language turn into real words and sentences, but the communication now seems to at a different level altogether: we are verbalising everything he sees and he's understanding the meaning of the words coming out of our mouths. If you're interested in a quick snap shot by the authors on this topic, you may go through this article published on the ABC news website.

According to a study 96% of teenagers lie to their parents. Only 1/4th of the time it would be an outright lie to pull off a deception, 1/2 times parents hear only half the story and 1/4th time they avoid the topic altogether. Not surprising at all. What IS surprising is the difference in the perception of "arguments". Parents find arguments with teens destructive to the rship, stressful, disrespectful, whereas most teens think arguing is productive & strengthened the rship. Most parents having a teenager at home find it very stressful whereas most teens didn't find adolescence so traumatic!

The book also takes us through interesting topics such as how to teach self control. That we are bothered that our kid cant learn well cuz hes easily distracted but overlook the benefit that learning this skill to concentrate may be as valuable as math / reading ability. How research proved that the more "educational media" kids watched the more bossy, aggressive & manipulative they were. The cause being not just the stunning amount of aggression on kids TV but also the vast amount of time they invest in  establishing conflict rather than resolving conflict. How sleep is extremely important and a loss of even an hour daily can affect IQ points, emotional well being, obesity, ADHD in kids. How to promote honesty in children parents should offer both immunity from punishment and a clear route to good standing, that telling the the truth will in fact make their parents happy.

Overall the book is extremely informative. Some people may want to skip the pages explaining the research. But for some one like me , who finds a 10 point slide show on various websites annoying and will WANT to read the whole explanation to actually have some belief in these findings, it's a darn good read. It is quite similar to John Medinas book (which I highly recommend too!)  - except that Medina's covers ages 0-5 , this one covers beyond the toddler years. And also why this book is a couple of notches above is the articulation and organisation of topics. The only flaw in Medinas book I notice now after reading this one is that it has a lot of overlapping info in various chapters that feels a bit bungled up.


  1. Hello! Nice to see you so passionate about the little guy! Come to think of it the guy isn't that little anymore is he!! But he is coming out better than I would have thought. Although I don't know a thing about this... I do remember that I started speaking around 3-4 (I remember Blue Bells nursery) I also remember the part where the teacher (I don't remember who she was) used to cane us for every thing that you said was wrong... Eg. 4 times 4 is what? 9.... BAM!!! Never thought of it before but it did not inspire me to say what I was thinking but what she was expecting... Worked out ok in a way... But the little guy is just 1.5 years old, give him a break!! Let him enjoy the little joys of life before he meets his Nursery teacher!! But I know you know better! Maybe I'll be seeing you guys in a couple of months look forward to it...

  2. OMG I hope his nursery teacher is nothing like yours! Learning new words is a "fun"thing for him. I bought him a book of 1000 words with many pictures, he gets excited just as I take out that book. " Where is xyz" is a fun game for him!