A provocative collection of essays popularizing recent research that challenges conventional wisdom about raising children.
An award-winning article, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids,” which advised parents that telling children they are smart is counterproductive, prompted journalists Bronson (Why Do I Love These People?: Honest and Amazing Stories of Real Families, 2005, etc.) and Merryman to dig further into the science of child development. Here they ably explore a range of subjects of interest to parents: adolescents’ sleep needs and the effects of sleep deprivation, children’s attitudes toward skin color and race, why children lie, the dangers of using a single intelligence test at an early age to determine giftedness, how interactions with other children affect relationships with siblings, the positive effects of marital conflict, how self-control can be taught, the effects of different types of TV programs on children’s behavior and the development of language in young children. Their findings are often surprising. For example, in schools with greater racial diversity, the odds that a child will have a friend of a different race decrease; listening to “baby DVDs” does not increase an infant’s rate of word acquisition; children with inconsistent and permissive fathers are nearly as aggressive in school as children of distant and disengaged fathers. Bronson and Merryman call attention to what they see as two basic errors in thinking about children. The first is the fallacy of similar effect—the assumption that what is true for adults is also true for children. The second—the fallacy of the good/bad dichotomy—is the assumption that a trait or factor is either good or bad, when in fact it may be both (e.g., skill at lying may be a sign of intelligence, and empathy may become a tool of aggression.) The authors also provide helpful notes for each chapter and an extensive bibliography.
A skilled, accessible presentation of scientific research in layman’s language.