Saturday, December 19, 2009

Nurture Shock by Po Bronson ***

Some challenging food for thought for all parents to consider. The first section deals with Carol Dweck’s Mindset – See . Another section reveals the surprisingly simple solution to making your kid both a near genius and fit at the same time; just let them sleep as much as possible. You’ll be surprised at how often, and why your kids constantly lie – even to your face. And you’ll learn to how to prevent it. Also, for you new parents, you can save a lot of money in not investing in those baby videos. It will only retard your babies development. Old fashioned interaction is what they need with a real live human being. And educational TV does educate after all. Except it teaches your kids to be verbally and physically aggressive as much or more than violent TV. Read on to learn more…

False praise doesn’t help

For college students on the verge of failing in class, esteem building causes their grades to sink further. Continued appeal of self esteem from parents is largely tied to parents’ pride in their children’s achievements: it’s so strong that when they praise their kids, it’s not that far from praising themselves. P19

Praising kids in the class can hurt

Children believe by age 12 that earning praise from the teacher is not a sign you did well – its actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement. They’ve picked up on the pattern that kids who are falling behind get drowned in [false] praise. P20

How we teach our kids to cheat

Students turn to cheating when 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. The child comes to believe that failure is so terrible, that the family can’t acknowledge its existence, depriving the child any opportunity to discuss mistakes or learn from them. P22

American mothers should be more fluent in Chinese mothering

In an experiment of Chinese and American mothers whose children were given a failing test grade, and then allowed to retake the test after speaking with their mothers, it was found that American mothers carefully avoided making negative comments to their children when they failed. They remained fairly upbeat and positive with their child. The majority of the time was spent talking about something other than the testing. But Chinese mothers said you need to improve your concentration, or lets look over your mistakes, and the majority of the time was spent discussing the test and its importance. After the discussion, the Chinese kid’s score the 2nd test jumped 33%, more than twice the gain of the Americans… The stereotype that the Chinese mothers were cruel or harsh didn’t hold up either. While the words were firm, the mothers smiled and hugged their children every bit as much as the American mothers, and were no more likely to frown or raise their voices. P23

No snoring in the back row

60% of high school kids report extreme daytime sleepiness… Studies show anywhere from 20 to 33% are falling asleep in class at least once a week. P30

Back to the 4th grade you dunce

A loss of 1 hour of sleep is equivalent to the loss of 2 years of cognitive maturation and development for 6th graders. P32

Sleep disorders can impair childrens IQ as much as lead exposure. P33

Hey C students, become an A student in just 30 minutes!

Teens who received A’s averaged 15 min more sleep that B students, who in turn averaged 15 min more than C students… Every 15 min counts. P33

A tired brain just can’t change

Tired children can’t remember what they just learned, because tired neurons lose their plasticity, becoming incapable of forming new synaptic connections necessary to encode a memory. P34

Because it doesn’t get enough energy

Sleep loss debilitates the body’s ability to extract glucose from blood. Without this stream of basic energy, one part of the brain suffers more than others – the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for “Executive Function”. So tired people have difficulty with impulse control, and abstract goals like studying take a back seat to more entertaining diversions. And a tired brain gets stuck on a wrong answer and can’t come up with a more creative solution, repeatedly turning to the same answer it already knows. P34

Seeing the glass ½ empty

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive and neutral by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdale. The result is that sleep deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine… Sleep deprived college students could remember 81% of words with a negative connotation, like ‘cancer’. But they could remember only 31% of words with a positive or neutral connotation like ‘sunshine’ or ‘basket’. P35

World's best, cheapest and proven SAT prep – way better than Kaplan!

The best known study is from Edina, MN where an affluent HS changed its start time from 7:25 to 8:30. In the preceding year, the math/verbal SAT scores for the top 10% of the schools 1600 students was 683/605. A year later, it was 739/761… While the evidence is compelling 85% of high schools start before 8:15am, and 35% before 7:31am p36

Watching TV doesn’t lead to fat couch potatoes

Obese kids watch no more TV than non-obese kids… Kids don’t trade TV for physical activity. If the TV is off, then don’t play soccer, they do some other sedentary activity. P40

How Sleep Loss makes you fatter

Sleep loss increases the hormone ghrelin, which signals hunger, and decreases its metabolic opposite, leptin, which suppresses appetite. Sleep loss also elevates the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is lipogenic, meaning it stimulates your body to make fat. P40

2 hours can make you 3 times as likely to be a fatty

All studies point in the same direction: on avg, children who sleep less are fatter than children who sleep more… In a study of Canadian, Japanese and Australian young boys, they showed that having less than 8 hours of sleep led to a 300% higher rate of obesity than those who get 10 hours… Among middle and high schoolers, the odds of obesity went up by 80% for EACH hour of lost sleep. P41

Lying like clockwork

In a study observing children in their homes, 4 year olds will lie once every 2 hours, while 6 year olds will lie once every hour. And 96% of all kids studied offered up lies. P80

The literal truth

Kids don’t believe a mistake or something forgotten is acceptable excuse. The only thing that matters is that the information is wrong. So if you promise to come to his game, and you get into an accident and miss it; you missed it and you lied about coming. Any false statement - regardless of intent or belief – is a lie. P81

Be proud of your budding little liar

Kids who start lying at age 2 or 3 do better on tests of academic prowess. Lying is related to intelligence. P82

Lying is addictive – because it works

Lying is a symptom – often of a bigger problem behavior. It is a strategy to keep themselves afloat… In studies of 6 year olds, many simply grow out of it. But if lying has become successful for handling difficult social situations, she’ll stick with it. And 1/3 of kids do. If they continue lying at 7, then it seems likely they’ll continue. They’re hooked. P83

Crying wolf doesn’t help anyone including the reader

Which story will have a bigger impact on preventing kids from lying? The boy who cried wolf, or George Washington and the cherry tree? 75% said the Wolf. But this story did not cut down on lying at all in a study, and in fact, kids lied a little more than usual. Meanwhile, the Cherry tree story reduce lying a whopping 75% in boys and 50% in girls. Why does that happen? The shepherd boy pays the ultimate price in being eaten, but that lies get harsh punishment is not news to children. When asked if lies are always wrong, 92% of 5 year olds say yes. And if asked if why they are wrong, it is because they get punished! Young kids process the risk of lying by considering only their self protection. It isn’t until age 11 that the majority demonstrate awareness of its harm to others. At 11, 48% say the problem with lying is that it destroys trust, and 22% say it carries guilt, but even then 33% still say the problem is being punished. P84

How to get your kid to stop lying to you

What really works is to tell the child ‘I will not be upset with you if you [did something bad] AND if you tell the truth, I will be really happy.’ This is an offer of both immunity and a clear route back to good standing. Young kids are lying to make you happy – trying to please you. So telling kids that the truth will make a parent happy challenges the kid’s original thought that hearing good news – not the truth – is what will please the parent. That’s why the George Washington and the Cherry Tree works so well. P86

Giftedness doesn’t seem to be a permanent condition

If you picked 100 kindergartners as gifted, by 3rd grade only 27 would still deserve that designation. P97

Oh brother, how we love to argue 18% of the time

Studies show that siblings between ages 3 & 7 clash 3.5 times per hour, adding up to 10 minutes spent arguing… Only 1 in 8 conflicts end in a compromise or reconciliation… Siblings made 7 times as many negative and controlling statements to their siblings as they did to friends. P120

And he just keeps coming back for more

Kids don’t have an incentive to behave nicely to their siblings, compared to friends, because the siblings will be there tomorrow, no matter what. Sibship is a relationship in which the boundaries of social interaction can be pushed to the limit. Rage and irritation need not be suppressed, whilst politeness and toleration can be neglected. P121

He who dies with the most toys is the winner after all

In a survey of 108 sibling pairs asking exactly what they fought about, parental affection was ranked dead last at just 9%. The most common reason was the sharing of toys by 80%. Nothing else came close. P127

Let them sort it out

Notes from p257: Scholars have found that parents’ intervention in their children’s argument can actually make things worse. Often their focus is on forcing the children to share a fought over toy, or to divert one child from the conflict – but then they deprive the kids of an opportunity to learn negotiation or respect for other’s needs. Even worse is when a parent just ends the argument with ‘That’s enough – I’ve had it with you two!’ Because the parent is then exhibiting the same sort of self centered, unilateral power play that the children are attempting.

They all lie, even the good students

96% of teens reported lying to their parents. Being an honors student doesn’t change these number by much, nor does being really busy. No kid is too busy to break a few rules. P139

Because they don’t want to hurt you

The most common reason for deception was ‘I’m trying to protect the relationship with my parents. I don’t want them to be disappointed in me.’ P139

Don’t be their friend. Be a parent.

Kids who go wild and get in to the most trouble have parents who don’t set rules or standards. Their parents are loving and accepting no matter what the kids do. But the kids take a lack of rules as a sign that the parent doesn’t care, that the parent doesn’t really want the job of being a parent. P139 Kids, even teens, want parental protection.

And face it, they won’t ever tell you EVERYTHING

78% of parents were sure their teens could talk to them about anything. However teens disagreed. To seek out a parent for help is a tacit admission that he’s not mature enough to handle it alone. Having to tell parents about it can be psychologically emasculating, whether the confession is forced out or if it is volunteered. It’s essential for some things to be ‘none of your business’. P140

Beware of your rebellious preteen

The big surprise is when this need for autonomy is strongest. It’s not mild at 12, moderate at 15, and most powerful at 18. It actually peaks at 14 to 15, and is in fact slightly stronger at 11 than at 18! P140

How you lead them to depression

For those unfortunate kids who have oppressively strict parents, the teens don’t rebel and are obedient. But they are depressed. P140

How to stay connected

Set a few rules over key areas of influence, and explain those rules. Expect your child to obey them, and support their autonomy outside these areas. The kids of these parents lied the least. P141

Controlling them leads to drinking and drugs

Studies confirm that kids turn to drinking and drugs because they are bored in their free time… But even the really busy kids could be bored, for 2 reasons. First they were doing lots of activities only because their parents signed them up – there was no intrinsic motivation. Second, they were so accustomed to their parents filling their free time that they didn’t know how to fill it in on their own. The more controlling the parent, the more likely the child is to experience boredom. P142

Argue alot and have a happy family

In families with less deception, there was a much higher ratio of arguing/complaining. Arguing was good – arguing was honesty… But 46% of mothers rated their arguments as destructive to the relationship, while only 23% of their daughters felt that way. Far more believed that arguing strengthened the relationship with their mother. They saw fighting as a way to see their parents in a new way, as a result of hearing their mother’s point of view be articulated… The daughters who rated arguing destructive had parents who stonewalled rather than collaborated. The daughters heard ‘Don’t argue with me!’ before even uttering a word. P149

Bend but don’t break

Parents who negotiate ultimately appear to be more informed about their children. Parents with unbending, strict guidelines make it a tactical issue for kids to find a way around them. P150

Why looking into their eyes and asking for the truth doesn’t help

Notes from p251: Study after study show that gaze aversion (look into my eyes and tell me the truth) has little if any relation to a person’s lying. Gaze aversion is even less of a signal for children: they frequently look away from a conversation partner when they are concentrating… Scholars hypothesize that gaze aversion comes from a different emotional state altogether: around the world, people look down at the ground as an indication of shame. Therefore, there’s an errant assumption that liars are ashamed of their falsehood and thus will look away.

Why driver’s ed is deadly

School districts that eliminated Driver’s Ed experienced a 27% drop in auto accidents among 16 and 17 year olds… States which delay the age at which a teen can drive at night or with friends decrease crashes by 20 to 30%. P158

The power of imagination

In a famous study, children were told to stand still as long as they could – they lasted only 2 minutes. Then a 2nd group was asked to pretend they were soldiers on guard who had to stand still at their posts – they lasted 11 minutes! P166

Why she can’t focus

One subsystem of the brain is supposed to measure how well you’re doing on whatever you’re supposed to be doing. When it senses you’re not doing well enough, it signals another subsystem, which allocates more cognitive control: it improves your concentration. Many children first subsystem is not well developed, and thus the child is not only not able to concentrate, she’s not even aware that she needs to concentrate. P172

It’s vital for children to develop an awareness of how well they’re doing and when their work is completed accurately. This sensitivity is required for the feedback system to function, and for concentration to be increased. P172 Kids should check each other’s work, and check their own work against scoresheets.

The adult brain has a specialized region in the frontal lobe devoted to regulating rules. This rules region allows people to be proactive: the recognize circumstances where rules will apply, as if glancing ahead in time, preloading the brain for what to do. School children however don’t yet have this region to draw upon; rather than proact, their brains react. Stumbling, trying to get the rules straight, their error rate is high. P173

How to get them addicted to self motivation

When a child gets to choose his own activity or work, they choose activities they’re motivated to do. This motivation is crucial. It is experienced in the brain as a release of dopamine, where it is spritzed onto large areas of the brain, which enhances the signaling of neurons. The motivated brain literally operates better, signals faster. When children are motivated they learn. P173

Steps to a better kid

Have your child write down a plan for how they’ll spend their day or afternoon. When they get distracted, refer them back to their plan. When children make an error, rather than correct it, point to the line or the page containing the mistake and ask the child to find it. This makes them think critically about what they’re doing rather than mechanically completing an assignment. When doing something repetitive (like writing practice) have them choose their best example to show you. When learning something new, especially for younger children, have them use private speech ‘Start at the top and go around to draw a C’. Use buddy reading, where you take turns reading from a book, and having the child describe what you’ve read to hone their listening and talking skills as well as reading. Lastly, prompt the child to encourage them to extend the imagination in play. When the child is playing, and comes to stop ask what they were doing earlier, and then encourage the scenario to continue by providing some good ideas. “Why don’t you wake up your baby now so she can go to school on a field trip?” This can lead to another hour of imaginative play. P174 Tricks from Tools of the Mind to encourage self directed play and work.

We should ban Sesame Street and Sponge Bob

The more educational media (TV/video) 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… In fact, watching education TV also increased the rates of physical aggression, almost as much as watching violent TV… The more the kids watched, the crueler they’d be to their classmates. This correlation was 2.5 times higher than that between violent media and physical aggression… Researchers theorized that many educational shows spend most of the ½ hour establishing a conflict between characters and only a few minutes resolving that conflict. Preschoolers have a hard time being able to connect information at the end of the show to what happened earlier. It is likely that the child doesn’t learn the overall lesson, but instead learns from each behavior shown. P180

Just pull the plug

96% of children’s programming includes verbal insults and put downs, averaging 7.7 incidents per ½ hour. Even 67% of ‘prosocial’ programs contained insults… Of the over 2628 put downs the team identified in their survey of shows, in only 50 was the insulter reprimanded or corrected – and not once in an educational show. Fully 84% of the time, there was only laughter or no response at all. P182

They know you don’t get along all the time so don’t pretend

The typical couple has 8 disputes per day. Spouses express anger 2 or 3 times as often they show a moment of affection. Children witness 45% of these disputes. P184

You have to make up – in front of them

In one study 1/3 of children acted aggressively after witnessing a staged parent conflict. But in that same study something else happened that eliminated the aggressive reaction in all but 4% of the children. What was that magical thing? Letting the child witness not just the argument, but the resolution of the argument. When the process was stopped mid-argument, it had a very negative effect. But if the child was allowed to see the contention worked out, it calmed him… If the parents pause mid-argument to take it upstairs – to spare the children – and then forget to tell the kids that they worked it all out – then may make the situation far worse. P185

Resolution leads to a better kid

Researchers have recently shown that being exposed to 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 the sense of security, over time, increases their prosocial behavior at school. But the resolution has to be sincere, not manipulated for their benefit – or they’ll see through it. Kids learn a lesson in conflict resolution: the argument gives them an example of how to compromise and reconcile. P185

Why spanking really hurts them

When physical discipline (spanking) was saved only for the worst offenses, the parent was usually very angry, and had lost his/her temper. The implicit message was ‘What you have done is so deviant that you deserve a special, harsh punishment, which is spanking.’ It marked the child as someone who has lost his place within traditional society. When spanking was done as an accepted practice in a culture, it becomes the normal thing, and the kid is not traumatized by being considered a deviant. P187

Why Disney’s Baby Einstein had to pay everyone back their money

Babies brains don’t learn to recognize foreign language phonemes off a video or audio tape [eg. Baby Einstein] at all. They absolutely do learn from live human speech. In an experiment, American babies were taught to recognize Mandarin phonemes in just twelve 20 minute sessions over 1 month with Chinese speaking graduate students. The babies were virtually as good at recognizing Mandarin phonemes as the brains of native born Chinese infants. But when American infants were put in front of audio and video tapes of Mandarian speech, their brains absorbed none of it. They might as well have heard meaningless noise. This was true despite seeming to be quite engaged by the videos… Why the difference? Studies have shown repeatedly that seeing a person’s face makes huge difference in how the baby learns speech. P202

Early response

Studies have shown that there is great variability within a sample, with some tots hitting some language development milestones far earlier, and others far later. The variable that best explained these gaps was how often a mom rapidly responded to her child’s vocalizations and explorations. The toddlers of high responders were a whopping 6 months ahead of low responders, saying their 1st words at 10 mos, and reaching other milestones at 14. p204

Don’t expect them to be thankful

Children will not experience gratitude unless they recognize 3 things about the bounty in their lives: that they are intentional, costly, and beneficial. Younger children may not be able to comprehend this, and thus may not show improvements in happiness from conducting gratitude exercises… Also, not everyone benefits from gratitude exercises as it turns out. Only those who are low in positive affect – or people who rarely experienced excitement, hope, strength, interest, and inspiration. In fact, for people who are highly positive, the gratitude exercises can make them feel worse or less happy. Why is that? Well, for people with a strong need for autonomy and independence, it might be demoralizing to recognize how much they are dependent upon others or grownups. P235