A Mother Far from Home

on becoming supermom

“Nurture Shock” book review {is praise actually harmful?}

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Nurture Shock was such an intriguing book that I’ll review it in various sections. Many times I’ll read a book and think “oh no, I’m doing everything wrong, my kids are going to end up mass murderers.” This book, however, left me feeling at least partially competent. Particularly this section. Hence, my desire to review it first.

The authors devote one chapter to the idea of praising a child for their intelligence. I won’t try to take glory from the book by giving too much information, but there are tons of studies done, examples given, and shocking stories that really make you think.

Some thoughts:

1) Praising your child is not bad. The titles in the book are good for shock value, but the thesis is not that praise is bad. Obviously. We all can imagine how bad it’d feel to grow up without ever having been praised. So, we can move on knowing that foundationally, praise is important. The way we praise and what we praise is critical, however.

2) How your praise your child is what’s important.There should be positive words and emotions being communicated from parent to child. Praise should be intentional and specific. “You’re a good boy” is vague and doesn’t let the child know what they did well. They want to know exactly what makes them good. You know why? So they can do it again. It does make us feel good to be good. Say “you are so helpful when you put your toys away, mommy really appreciates it” communicates the same positive sentiments but gives them a behavior they can return to in order to please you. The main idea was that we should praise children for their effort, not their intelligence. I wrote on this very thing a while back in the article called The Difference between Excellence and Perfection. Praise them when they try, even if the result isn’t stellar. This communicates the idea that effort is good and, luckily for them, effort is a variable they are in control of. Their intelligence is not.

3) Effort and intelligence together are strong predictors of success. Just because someone has a high IQ doesn’t mean they’ll succeed in their endeavours. In fact, many people with high IQ’s may not  be considered “successful” by the world’s generally agreed upon definition of the word. If we tell our children they are smart they will think that everything should come naturally. It’s easy to me, I’m so smart, things should be easy. According to their research, telling kids they are smart will decrease their performance significantly while those children who are told they are hard workers will have improved performance. Children who hear they are smart all the time will – surprisingly – start to divide things into two categories. Things that come natural and things that are hard. And, not surprisingly, they will shy away from things that seem hard because trying something and it not coming naturally to them will be a sign of failure. Having to put forth effort will be further proof of their failure. Instead, we should praise effort, effort, effort! This variable is in their court. If the result wasn’t stellar at first, but they are used to giving effort, they will be less likely to give up. Also, it isn’t just intelligence or just effort that predict success. Effort coupled with intelligence exponentially increases the likelihood of academic success. Life isn’t measured by academic success alone, but those who are used to succeeding in school generally want to succeed at the next step.

A great read. Mamas, this is a super interesting book. Of course, we must take things with a grain of salt. 30 years ago babies had to sleep on their stomachs. Today they have to sleep on their back. Research says one thing and research can also say the opposite. Some of the research presented seemed rather short-sighted (examples to come), but overall I think it was a don’t-want-to-put-it-down-and-everyone-around-me-got-sick-of-hearing-about-it type of book.

A Mother Far from Home

PS – for more book reviews go to the archives!

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Author: A Mother Far from Home

Around here we look at practical child-rearing and child-bearing issues. Look around and find down-to-earth parenting talk, tips, reviews, and some interesting lessons I've learned while navigating the waters of motherhood.

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