Thursday, February 11, 2010


What an interesting read NurtureShock was!  For more information look at their Nurtureshock website.  It is chock full of information. 

Here are some excerpts from their book:


1. The Inverse Power of Praise
Sure, he's special.  But new research suggests if you tell him that, you'll ruin him. It's a neurobiological fact.

Praising their effort is what is important.

Book explains: While we might imagine that overpraised kids grow up to be unmotivated softies, the researchers are reporting the opposite consequence.  Dweck and others have found that frequently-praised children get more competitive and more interested in tearing others down.  Image-maintenance becomes their primary concern... Students praised for intelligence choose to find out their class rank, rather than use the time to prepare... Of the kids praised for their intelligence, 40% lie, inflating their scores (in a do-it-yourself report card sent to another school).  Of the kids praised for effort, few lie...  Students turn to cheating because they haven't developed a strategy for handling failure.  The problem is compounded when a parent ignores a child's failures and insists he'll do better next time... A child deprived of the opportunity to discuss mistakes can't learn from them.

2. The Lost Hour
Around the world, children get an hour less sleep than they did thirty years ago.  The cost: IQ points, emotional well-being, ADHD, and obesity.

Book says: According to surveys by the National Sleep Foundation, 90% of American parents think their child is getting enough sleep... The kids themselves say otherwise: 60% of high schoolers report extreme daytime sleepiness.  A quarter admit their grades have dropped because of it.  Depending on what study you look at, anywhere from 20% to 33% are falling asleep in class at least once a week... Every hour of weekend shift [of sleep]costs a child seven points on the [standardized] test.

3. Why White Parent's Don't Talk About Race
Does teaching children about race and skin color make them better off or worse?

Book says: It was no surprise that in a liberal city like Austin, every parent was welcoming multiculturalists, embracing diversity.  But Vittrup had also noticed, in the original surveys, that hardly any of these white parents had ever talked to their children directly about race.  They might have assserted vague priniciples in the home - like "Everybody's equal" or "God made all of us" or "Under the skin, we're all the same" - but they had almost never called attention to racial differences... They wanted their children to grow up color-blind.  But Vittrup could also see from her first test of the kids that they weren't color-blind at all.  Asked how many white people are mean, these children commonly answered "Almost none".  Asked how many blacks are mean, many answered "Some" or "A lot".  Even kids who attended diverse schools answered some of the questions this way... Most disturbingly, Vittrup had also asked all the kids a very blunt question: "Do your parents like black people?"  If the white parents never talked about race explicitly, did the kids know that their parents liked black people?  Apparantly not: 14% said, outright, "No, my parents don't like black people"; 38% of the kids answered, "I don't know."  In this supposed race-free vacuum being created by parents, kids were left to improvise their own conclusions - many of which would be abhorent to their parents... Nonwhite parents are about three times more likely to discuss race than white parents; 75% of the latter never, or almost never, talk about race...

Preparation-for-bias is not, however, the only way minorities talk to their children about race.  The other broad category of conversation, in Harris-Britt's analysis, is ethnic pride.  From a very young age, minority children are coached to be proud of their ethnic history.  She found that this was exceedingly good for children's self-confidence; in one study, black children who'd heard message of ethnic pride were more engaged in school and more likely to attribute their success to their effort and ability.

4. Why Kids Lie
We may treasure honesty, but the research is clear.  Most classic strategies to promote truthfulness just encourage kids to be better liars.

Book says: A number of scholars have used variations of this temptation paradigm to test thousands of children over the last few years.  What they've learned has turned conventional assumptions upside down... The first thing they've learned is that children learn to lie much earlier than we presumed.  In Talwar's peeking game, only a third of the 3 year olds will peek, and when asked if they peeked, most of them will admit it.  But over 80% of the 4 year olds peek.  Of those, over 80% will lie when asked, asserting they haven't peeked.  By their 4th birthday, almost all kids will start experimenting with lying.  Children with older siblings seem to learn it slightly earlier... Parents often fail to address early childhood lying, since the lying is almost innocent - their child's too young to know what lies are, or that lying's wrong.  When their child gets older and learns those distinctions, the parents believe, the lying will stop.  This is dead wrong, according to Dr. Talwar.  The better a young child can distinguish a lie from the truth, the more likely she is to lie give the chance... In studies where children are observed in their homes, 4 year olds will lie once in every 2 hours, while a 6 year old will lie about once every hour.  Few kids are an exception.  In these same studies, 96% of all kids offer up lies...

... it's lying that is the more advanced skill.  A child who is going to lie must recognize the truth, intellectually conceive of an alternate reality, and be able to convincingly sell that new reality to someone else... Indeed, kids who start lying at 2 or 3- or who can control verbal leakage at  or 5- do better on other test of academic prowess.  "Lying is related to intelligence," confirmed Talwar, "but you still have to deal with it."...

In Talwar's peeking game, sometimes the researcher pauses the game with, "I'm about to ask you a question. But before I do that, will you promise to tell the truth?" (Yes the child answers.)... This promise cuts down lying by 25%.  In other scenarios, Talwar's researcher will read the child a short storybook before she asks about the peeking.  One of the stories read is The Boy Who Cried Wolf... alternatively... George Washington and the Cherry Tree... The story ends with his father's reply: "George, I'm glad that you cut down that cherry tree after all.  Hearing you tell the truth is better than if I had a thousand cherry trees."... The Boy Who Cried Wolf... actually did not cut down lying at all...George Washington and the Cherry Tree reduced lying a whopping 75% in boys, and 50% in girls... Little George receives both immunity and praise for telling the truth... according to Talwar, parents need to teach kids the worth of honesty just as much as they need to say that lying is wrong.

5. The Search For Intelligent Life in Kindergarten
Millions of kids are competing for seats in gifted programs and private schools.  Admissions officers say it's an art: new science says they're wrong, 73% of the time.

Book says: Regardless of what is being tested, or which test is used, they all have one thing in common.  They're all astonishingly ineffective predictors of a young child's academic success... To give you a hint of the scale of the problem - if you picked 100 kindergartners as the "gifted", i.e. the smartest, by 3rd grade only 27 of them would still deserve that categorization...

Consider South Carolina... Despite revamping the admissions process to increase minority participation, the program remained disproportionately white (86%).  But even more disturbing was the number of kids in the gifted program - regardless of race - who weren't functioning as gifted at all... In math, 12% of the gifted kids scored as having only a "basic" ability level.  Another 30% were merely "proficient".  In English, the numbers were far worse... the twenty largest public school districts in America... not one district waits until 3rd grade to screen the children... what stands out as problems are: the districts who don't give late-blooming children additional chances to test in, and the lack of objective retesting to ensure the kids who got in young really belong there... Back in SC, they've actually instituted new rules to protect low-performing kids in the gifted classes... The Palmetto State isn't the only one... rooted in a belief that if you're ever gifted, you're gifted for life.

6. The Sibling Effect
Freud was wrong.  Shakespeare was right.  Why siblings fight.

Book says: By growing up with siblings, a child has thousands upon thousands of interactions to learn how to get along. According to this theory, children with siblings should be massively more skilled at getting along than children with no siblings.  Yet they aren't... [Kramer] points out that in many sibling relationships, the rate of conflict can be high, but the fun times in the backyard and in the basement more than balance it out.  This net-positive is what predicts a good relationship later in life.  In contrast, siblings who simply ignored each other had less fighting, but their relationship stayed cold and distant long term...

The most common reason the kids were fighting was the same one... sharing the castle's toys.  Almost 80% of the older children, and 75% of the younger kids, all said sharing physical possessions - or claiming them as their own - caused the most fights...

Parents imagine that the difference in age between siblings is an important factor..."Relative to other factors," said Kramer, "age spacing is not as strong a predictor. Nor is gender.  There's many other things to be concerned about."... One of the best predictors of how well two siblings get along is determined before the birth of a younger child...  It has nothing to do with the parents.  Instead, the predictive factor is the quality of the older child's relationship with his best friend...  The kids who could play in a reciprocal, mutual style with their best friend were the ones who had good rapport with their younger siblings, years later... older siblings train on their friends, and then apply what they know to their little brothers and sisters... Which is why, in a sense, what Kramer is really trying to do is transform children's relationships from sibship to something more akin to a real friendship.

7. The Science of Teen Rebellion
Why, for adolescents, arguing with adults is a sign of respect, not disrespect - and arguing is constructive to the relationship, not destructive.

Yikes... give me 10 more years before I even read this chapter.

8. Can Self-Control Be Taught?
Developers of a new kind of preschool keep losing their grant money - the students are so successful they're no longer "at-risk enough" to warrant further study.  What's their secret?

After reading this chapter, I couldn't go to sleep - this kind of learning through narration  role playing came naturally to our son.  Does this really work?  I just needed to research more about Tools of the Mind and look for ways to apply this more at home.  FYI, they only sell curriculum to State schools, but you can buy the book for more information.

Book says: A typical Tools preschool classroom looks different... The wall calendar is not a month-by-month grid, but a straight line of days on a long ribbon of paper.  Gone is the traditional alphabet display; instead, children use a sound map, which has a monkey next to Mm and a sun next to Ss.  These are ordered not from A to Z but rather in clusters, with consonants on one map and vowels on another.  C, K and Q are in one cluster, because those are similar sounds, all made with the tongue mid-mouth.  Sounds made with the teeth or the lips are in other clusters.

When class begins, the teacher tells the students they will be playing fire station.  The previous week, they learned all about firemen, so now, the classroom has been decorated in four different areas - in one corner is a fire station, in another a house that needs saving.  The children choose what role they want to take on... Before the children begin to play, they each tell the teacher their choice of role.

With the teacher's help, the children make individual "play plans".  The all draw a picture of themselves in their chosen role, then they attempt to write it out as a sentence on a blank sheet of paper to the best of their abilities.  Even 3 year olds write daily... Then they go play, sticking to the role... for a full 45 minutes, with the children, staying in character, self- motivated.  If they get distracted or start to fuss, the teacher asks, "Is that in your play plan?"  On different days of the week, children choose other roles in the scenario.  During this crucial play hour, the teacher facilitates their play but does not directly teach them anything at all...

Later, they wil do what's called buddy reading.  The children are paired up and sit facing each other... one... flips through a book, telling the story he sees in the picture.  The other listens and at the end, asks a question about the story.  Then they switch roles.

They also commonly play games, like Simon says, that require restraint.  One variation is called graphic practice; the teacher puts on music, and the children draw spirals and shapes.  Intermittently, the teacher pauses the music, and the children learn to stop their pens whenever the music stops...

After pilot-testing the program... in these classrooms 1/3 to 1/2 of the children were poor Hispanic students who began the year classified as having limited English-language proficiency; the were starting kindergarten effectively a grade-level behind.... The results were jaw-dropping. The children from the Tools classes were now almost a full grade-level ahead of the national standard.  In the district, only 1/2 the kindergarteners score as proficient at their grade-level.  Of the Tools children, 97% scored as proficient... [in another pilot Tools preshcool program] it was the kids' behavior ratings that really sold the schools principal on the program.  From the teachers in the regular classrooms, the principal got reports of extremely disruptive behavior almost everyday... But those kinds of reports never came from the Tools classes...[In Neptue school] the average reading scores for the school district translated into the 65th percentile on the national spectrum.  The Tools kindergarteners (on average) had jumped more than 20 ticks higher, to the 86th percentile.  The kids who tested as gifted almost all came from the Tools classes.

9. Plays Well With Others
Why modern involved parenting has failed to produce a generation of angels.

Book says: The more educational media the children watched, the more relationally aggressive they were.  They were increasingly bossy, controlling, and manipulative.  This wasn't a small effect.  It was stronger than the connection between violent media and physical aggression... Ostrov theorized that many educational shows spend most of the half-hour establishing conflict between characters and only a few minutes resolving conflict...

Cummings recently has shown that being exposed to constructive marital conflict can actually be good for children - if it doesn't escalate, insults are avoided, and the dispute is resolved with affection.  This improves their sense of security, over time, and increases their prosocial behavior at school as rated by teachers.  Cummings noted, "Resolution as to be sincere, not manipulated for their benefit..."  Kids learn a lesson in conflict resolution: the argument gives them an example of how to compromise and reconcile - a lesson lost for the child spared witnessing an argument...

We thought that aggressiveness was the reaction to peer rejection, so we have painstakingly attempted to eliminate peer rejection from the childhood experience.  In its place is elaborately orchestrated peer interaction... We've segregated children by age... Unwittingly, we've put children into an echo chamber... This has created the perfect atmosphere for a different strain of aggression-virus to breed - one fed not by peer rejection, but fed by the need for peer status and social ranking.  The more time peers spend together, the stronger this compulsion is to rank high, resulting in the hostility of one-upmanship.  All those lessons about sharing and consideration can hardly compete.  We wonder why it takes 20 years to teach a child how to conduct himself in polite society - overlooking the fact that we've essentially left our children to socialize themselves.

10. Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn't
Despite scientists' admonitions, parents still spend billions every year on gimmicks and videos, hoping to jump-start infants' language skills.  What's the right way to accomplish this goal?

Basically, it's not just the vast vocabulary heard at home, but more importantly, how fast, how many times and how accurate a parent interprets and responds to an infant who is trying to communicate.

1 comment:

  1. Definately thought provoking information, thank you so much for sharing! I look forward to exploring Tools of the Mind more with our preschool cooperative.