7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

A fresh look at child psychology

Nurture Shock - New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman ... Twelve

As our families have become more nuclear and our social support networks weaker, parents are increasingly relying on the advice of childcare and child development gurus when it comes to bringing up their children.

Child psychology is also playing a hugely important role in our education systems and schools.

Everyone involved, from the earnest 'experts' to parents and teachers, are trying to get the best out of and for children.

By using research to mould the way we treat youngsters we should theoretically end up with well-balanced, happy and successful adults.

However, in this unsettling book Bronson and Merryman suggest that Western societies are getting it all wrong.

Far from achieving our goals, the current thinking may be undermining our children and their future.

The authors have caused quite a stir in the media, with various publications printing some of the more alarming excerpts and for once the hype is justified.

This is the product of meticulous research into some of the more scientifically sound studies on child development and neuroscience and will take many people aback.

It is not a manual for parents, teachers or education policymakers, but it should be required reading for anyone involved with youngsters.

Each chapter attacks a commonly-held belief, the most startling of which for me was the assault on the idea that children should be praised almost indiscriminately, in a bid to boost self-esteem and confidence, thus setting them on the path for success.

The authors argue quite forcefully that putting the theory into practice simply breeds nervous children who are terrified to get anything wrong and who are unwilling to put real effort into overcoming difficulties.

In other words, it sets them up to fail.

They also suggest that culturally and racially diverse schools encourage segregation rather than integration, point out that widely-recommended parenting practices are having the opposite effect than intended, that television programmes with social messages can be more damaging than violent shows and that gifted children are being failed by the current education system, because most of those identified as gifted, aren't.

No doubt there will be many who disagree with their assertions and I must admit that I felt that at times the authors appeared to be on a mission to unearth and champion controversial research, for the sake of it.

However, it makes for refreshing and thought-provoking reading.

You may not agree with everything, but it will make you look critically at your own deeply held beliefs on children and how they should be raised.

Nurture Shock is available to order through Bahrain bookshops and the Internet, priced $24.99 (BD9.400).

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