Book Review: NutureShock Part II

The next few chapters in Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman's book, NutureShock, are a tad bit controversial.  Or at least one of them is.  Before the chapter even begins, the title makes me (and I'm sure others) a little uneasy...'Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race'.  Hmmm, okay.  My uneasiness quickly subsided and my curiosity took over.  This chapter opened my eyes to a topic not many people want to tackle.  Here are my take aways from 'Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race' and Why Kids Lie'.

  • Does race need to be discussed in school and our homes?  If we don't point race out to children will they even see it?  Researchers say yes and yes.  Kids will see it and we need to discuss it.  Children developmentally like others that are similar to them.  These similarities can include liking the same toys, liking the same colors, liking the same foods, and yep, being of the same race.  
  • When and how do we talk about race?  Gosh, I'm so glad I read this chapter.  Bronson discussed how parents get embarrassed when their child blurts out statements about race or color that are not politically correct.  That would totally be me, shushing Luke if he made a comment about race, but instead of shushing, researchers state we should be explicitly discussing those comments with children.  Children tend to overgeneralize and when a child makes a comment like, 'only black people are good at basketball', it needs to be taken seriously and discussed.  The brain's need for categories in order to understand topics is stronger at age 7 than at age 5, so it might be better to start talking about race sooner.  Saying 'everybody's equal' is not explicit enough.  
  • As a teacher, I thought I could always tell when a child was lying.  Now, that I've read this chapter, I question how good I thought I was.  Dr. Victoria Talwar has been studying children and how they lie.  Bronson and Merryman sat down with Talwar to watch eight videos of kids telling a story about being bullied.  They had to decide whether the child was lying or telling the truth.  This same test was given to both parents and teachers and the average score is 60%, a little about chance.  So, maybe I'm not so good as I think.
  • Talwar warns parents: kids grow into lying, not out of it.  Kids that know the difference between a lie and the truth are more likely to lie.  Scary, I know.  Basically, longitudinal studies suggest that if lying becomes a successful strategy for six year olds (for example if it helps them in social situations), the child will continue to lie.
  • The million dollar question: how do we get our kids to stop lying?!  First, recognize when a child is lying and call them on it; even if they are lying to be polite in a social situation (i.e. white lies). Second, kids are parent-pleasing little humans.  If you suspect your child is lying, offer them immunity (if possible) and tell them if he/she tells the truth it will make you happy.
I just brushed the surface of what there is to offer in these two chapters.  These two chapters challenged my current beliefs and made me think, really think.

You can find the the first book review for NutureShock here.

Bronson, Po, and Ashley Merryman.Nuture Shock. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.

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