Much of what everyone knows about child development isn’t so, write Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman in Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children. Child development research develops over time, they write, leaving old ideas behind.
Kay Hymowitz summarizes in a Wall Street Journal book review.
And what do they show? That high self-esteem doesn’t improve grades, reduce anti-social behavior, deter alcohol drinking or do much of anything good for kids. In fact, telling kids how smart they are can be counterproductive. Many children who are convinced that they are little geniuses tend not to put much effort into their work. Others are troubled by the latent anxiety of adults who feel it necessary to praise them constantly.
Young children gain nothing from lessons that try to teach tolerance and promote diversity, Bronson and Merryman write. Older students may respond by becoming overly sensitive.
As for trying to increase emotional intelligence, the education fad of the 1990s, it doesn’t seem to promote “pro-social values” either. It turns out that bullies use their considerable EQ to control their peers.
Programs to prevent students from dropping out or using drugs have no effect, the book concludes.
Tests to determine giftedness in young children are unreliable because children change so much in the early years. Baby Einstein videos? A waste of money.
Not much of a shock, as Hymowitz writes, but good to know.
In Science of Kids, Wray Herbert focuses on Nurture Shock‘s essay on kids and lying.