It’s been called “One of the most important books you‘ll read this year” by none other than Daniel H. Pink (great name!).
In case you haven’t found the time to wade through the 239 pages of text, I’ve got your back. What follows is a guide to three of the key take-away messages from the book.*
All That Praise Isn’t Telling Our Children What We Think It Is
When we say things like “Way to go honey, you’re so smart!” we think we’re bolstering our child’s all-important self-esteem, but what we’re really telling them is “It’s important to look smart. Better not take a risk, you don’t want to look stupid.”
Bronson and Merryman’s research suggests that it is much more beneficial to praise your child’s effort, as effort is a variable over which we have control. A kid can work harder if they choose to, but there’s not much to be done if you want to be “smarter”.
All of this is not to say that we shouldn’t praise our children, but that we should follow a handful of important pieces of advice when we do:
Be specific – Telling your child how much you appreciate their willingness to clean up their toys is much more instructive and meaningful than telling them what a good boy/girl they are.
Be sincere – Children know when they’re being put on. Empty praise can backfire. Psych research suggests that by the time kids get to high school they are so accustomed to praise that they perceive criticism to be a better indicator of a teacher’s belief in their ability.
Don’t over-do it
– Over praising can actually erode your child’s intrinsic motivation. One of my high school teachers called this phenomenon “jumping for yummies”. When you receive praise for every move you make, you become dependent on it and you lose touch with the intrinsic joy of doing something for the thing itself.
Choosing Not to Talk about Race Sends its’ own Message and it’s Not the one You Think
Race makes people uncomfortable.
Talking with their own kids about race seems to make most people really uncomfortable.
However, kids intuitively understand that when we don’t talk about something, that something is usually bad. This intuition combined with the child’s developmental tendency to attend carefully to differences of all kinds and categorize accordingly, means that when we pretend to be color blind our kids draw their own conclusions.
Making vague statements such as “Everybody’s equal” is not concrete enough to be understandable for young children. If we want our children to dwell comfortably in a diverse world, we need to talk explicitly about differences.
When your five-year old declares boldly in the grocery line that “Brown people are from Africa!” she is sharing something that she’s learned. Grabbing her hand, going red in the face and attempting to distract her with the candy display teaches her something else and it’s probably not the message that you would choose.
Sleep Isn‘t Just for the Weak
Children get an hour less sleep a night than they did thirty years ago.
An hour doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it? A lost hour of sleep is something that adults can manage with relative ease, but it is a different matter for children.
Children spend a greater proportion of their sleep storing and organizing memories than adults. The more children learn during the day, the more sleep they need at night. Without that sleep, their brains are less likely to store the new information. It is for this reason, that one scientist declared that
“Sleep disorders can impair children’s IQ as much as lead exposure.”
That’s a pretty bold statement.
As much as we want to cram as much as we can into each day, emerging brain science indicates that protecting our child’s sleep is one of the best ways to prepare them for the future.
Want to read more? Check out the website!
* Some of the other topics include lying, sibling friction, language development, teen rebellion and the utility of kindergarten entrance tests. They are also interesting and practically useful and perhaps I’ll write about them later. For now, I’m too tired from all of my Rabbit anticipation** to delve any deeper. 😉
** He’s HERE and you must go over and see the picture! You can find the loveliness here. You’re welcome.