A while ago, I mentioned the book Nurtureshock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. This book has so many points to ponder, I would like to share some of them with you over my next few blog entries.
The introduction starts with expressing the feeling that all parenting books feel like “paint by number” recipes: If this, do that, and if that, do this. Do you share this experience? Do you feel that parenting authorities are forcing things on you that are not “intuitive” to you? Did you get to the point of tossing all the books aside, and deciding you are better off just doing what “feels natural” to you?
Nurtureshock says that the “throw out all the books” phase is actually a comforting point in the lives of parents. But there is a problem: When facts are checked, even a simple strategy of boosting the child’s self image, like telling him/her how smart he/she is, turns out to backfire. Children that were “instinctively nurtured” with such compliments were found, over time, to have less confidence and not perform to the level they potentially could have, as compared with children who did not get such messages.
So, what is a parent to do? On one hand, neuroscientists have found a center in our brain that gives us the impulse to nurture; but on the other, how BEST to do that is left up to us. And we apparently don’t have the tools to make the right choices.
What the authors uncovered is that how we nurture is a mix of intelligent informed reactions, many of which are polluted by wishful thinking, moralistic biases, fads, personal history, and old unproven psychology.
This is very uncomfortable for parents to think about. Parents have reasons to be who they are, and they do have the right to reject any parenting guru that wants them to “parent by numbers.” But common sense can be restored by carefully reviewing scientific observations of kids, setting aside ideologies. This can help parents regain their confidence and commitment to raise their children THEIR WAY.