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Monday 24th October 2016

Are parents getting it wrong?

19th January 2010

Writing in The Independent, Clint Witchalls looks at a new parenting book.


In Nurtureshock: Why Everything We Think About Raising Our Children is Wrong, authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman make some controversial points.

Smacking can be good, lying is a sign of intelligence, too much self esteem in a child can be a bad thing, while praising can be a "poison chalice".

Research at New York City state schools shows that telling kids they are “smart” all the time makes them anxious and causes them to underperform.

While parents say they raise their children on instinct, Nurturshock suggests this is "polluted by a hodgepodge of wishful thinking, moralistic biases, contagious fads, personal history and old (disproven) psychology".

Maybe the authors of Nurtureshock, which is flying off the shelves in America, have got a point about the whole praise culture having gone a bit too far.

But praise is not always bad, according to Bronson. It is beneficial as long as it is specific and sincere.

A section of the book is devoted to the subject of smacking children. For awhile, it has been known that children who are smacked are more likely to be aggressive, though the reverse correlation has also been found – among black children and Conservative Protestant families - though Bronson says Nurtureshock is not "pro-spanking".

The authors saying bullying should always be addressed by parents but they are critical of a zero-tolerance approach.

They do, however, say lying is "a more advanced skill than truth telling".

How I deal with lying when it arises, I have no idea, because by that time the next parenting paradigm shift will be taking place.


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