Nurture Shock: Chapter 9 – Plays Well With Others

Welcome to chapter 9 – don’t forget to scroll down for This Week’s Recipe: “Grate” Zucchini Bread. This chapter jumps around a lot but there are some interesting tidbits especially around aggression. If I were to ask parents, “What causes children’s aggression?” most would likely respond, “Violent TV and video games.”  Surprise, surprise – researchers have found that the more educational media preschool  children watched, the more relationally aggressive they were i.e. more bossy, controlling and manipulative. In fact, the effect was stronger than the connection between violent media and physical aggression.

I haven’t watched kid’s TV shows recently, but apparently there is a huge amount of relational and verbal aggression in kid’s television. According the authors, 96% of all children’s programming includes verbal insults and put-downs, averaging 7.7 put-downs per half-hour. And rarely are these insults and put-downs dealt with on screen – 84% of the time there was either only laughter or no response at all. It may be called educational media, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is responsible media!

Other research cited by the authors points to the value of having an argument and resolving the argument in front of the children. I grew up in a home where I hardly never saw my parents argue or resolve an argument, so conflict resolution was not a skill I came by naturally. Witnessing conflict resolution, according to the research, helps kids learn how to compromise and reconcile.

There’s some interesting information about aggression, but generally I thought this section was very weak – anyone else have trouble with this chapter? The authors tell us that we have totally changed the peer dynamic by orchestrating play dates and after school activities – to the point that now our children are learning their aggressive socialization from their peers instead of adults. Continue reading

Nurture Shock: Chapter 8 – Can Self-Control Be Taught?

Thanks for joining me for the next chapter of Nurture Shock. Don’t forget to scroll down for this week’s recipe: Orange and Honey Chicken. Can self-control be taught? The authors begin by talking about the effectiveness of Driver’s Ed and the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. I have experience with both as a parent. Driver’s Ed is both necessary and beneficial, but not nearly as effective as the graduated driver’s license that delays the age at which teens can drive at night or with friends in the car. The D.A.R.E. program, however, was considered a joke among most of the kids. It did nothing to reduce drinking and drug use in our community so I wasn’t surprised when the funding was pulled. The authors are quick to point out that D.A.R.E. should not be singled out – of the 718 drug prevention programs receiving federal grants only 41 had a positive effect.

The remainder of this chapter is devoted to exploring the success of an emerging preschool and kindergarten program called Tools of the Mind. Aside from some additional training for teachers, this program does not cost a penny more than a traditional curriculum. After reading this chapter I think every parent should demand this program be implemented in their school. Here is a description of the program from the Tools of the Mind website:

Tools of the Mind is a research-based early childhood program that builds strong foundations for school success in preschool and kindergarten children by promoting their intentional and self-regulated learning. In a series of rigorous experimental trials, Tools of the Mind has been shown to have a significant impact on self-regulation of preschool children. The study also found these gains in self-regulation to be related to scores in child achievement in early literacy and mathematics.

If we could help children with self-control in preschool and kindergarten imagine how much better drivers they would be as teenagers! The part about this program that spoke to me was the fact that the students in the Tools of the Mind classrooms weren’t just better behaved –  they also were more self-directed and more self-organized. These are executive function skills, usually considered to be adult attributes. But executive function begins in preschool and the Tools program builds and strengthens those executive function skills. In one study the more a computer test demanded executive function skills the bigger the gap between the students in the Tools program versus those in a traditional classroom.

Another glowing benefit is motivation. Children who get to choose their own work as they do in the Tools program are more motivated and when children are more motivated they learn more. I wondered how this would work for my child with learning challenges. He was always very motivated when he was doing what he wanted to do, especially in preschool. His challenges came in Kindergarten when he was forced to sit and comply in a traditional classroom. We eventually moved him to a school that embraced the whole learner and he thrived. Not a specific Tools curriculum but one that accommodated for different learners. I am very grateful we had that option.

I’m curious – has anyone had direct experience with the Tools curriculum or been in a school that uses something similar? What about your child with learning differences? What kind of curriculum seems to work best with her learning strengths?

Next Week – Plays Well With Others


My sister sent this to me with rave reviews so I’m sharing it with the world – she’s a fabulous cook. Enjoy!

4 boneless chicken breasts
1 small onion  chopped
1-2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup chicken broth (reduced sodium)
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tbs. honey
4 tsp. cornstarch
2 teaspoons soy sauce or Worcestershire
small pieces of fresh orange (up to 2 oranges)
low fat sour cream  1/2 cup (more or less)
fresh parsley – optional

Rinse and pat dry chicken
In a baking dish, add all ingredients – blend cornstarch in well to avoid lumps
Add chicken and cover
Cook 350 – 375 for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours (if too liquidy, remove cover)

Note: Recipe calls for cooking in a skillet – but it is easier baked in the oven.

Serve over rice with a veggie

Nurture Shock – Chapter 7: The Science of Teen Rebellion

Teenagers lie and apparently they lie a lot more than even I realized – even after raising three of them! The story in the beginning of the chapter is a little unsettling though I think supports the notion that many teens are giving adults the impression that they are on a good path when in fact they are just ‘doing school’ (a term I’m borrowing from Denise Clarke Pope) and on The Race to Nowhere. In one study 96% of teens reported lying to their parents. The reason? The most common reason was,”To protect the relationship with my parents – I don’t want them to be disappointed in me”.

I see this as good news. It reinforces what other researchers have said – that for teens the relationship with their parent is the most important relationship in their life. This is a really great point to remember when you have a rebellious teen who is pushing every boundary you try to set. I always kept my eye on the prize, so to speak – and did my best to maintain a good relationship with my children. Sometimes it meant a lot of compromising, but in the end, really all that mattered was that relationship.

I’m bored – if only I had a dime for every time I heard that phrase. According to the authors the more controlling and enabling the parent the more likely the child is to experience boredom. I had the exception to that rule. We did not fill our son’s free time – because he rejected structure. But he also didn’t like down time. So he’d finish with one activity and want to jump to another right away. Tired of constantly hearing “I’m bored” we tried a little humor, “It’s nice to meet you, I’m Sally”. Wasn’t what he wanted to hear of course, but it helped me not feel like I needed to immediately come up with something else to fill his free time.

Teens are risk takers. We all know that either from parenting teens or being risk takers ourselves (guilty). Researchers in PA came up with a program called TimeWise to help teens understand risk, peer pressure and essentially be ‘architects of their own experience’. Initially it looked like a great program, but over time the class did not have a huge impact. And the reason has to do with the teenage brain. Some teens are just wired to take big risks. More specifically the teen brain is handicapped in it’s ability to gauge risk and foresee consequences. Another interesting tidbit – teens can think abstractly but not feel abstractly until they have had more life experience to draw on. So, what’s a parent to do? Create opportunities for safe risk taking – skateboarding, skiing and snow boarding, dirt biking, jumping on a trampoline, climbing walls, mountain biking, white water rafting – none without risks but it sure beats joy riding in a car with a brain that feeds on big doses of the thrill factorl!!

The last part of the chapter goes back to discussing lying and arguing. Those families where there was less deception had a much higher amount of arguing. Arguing was seen as good thing for the teens, not so much for the parents. Arguing wears us out – I know this first hand. I wanted to encourage negotiation, partly because I didn’t have that opportunity in my family of origin. But it’s a delicate balance knowing when to continue the argument/negotiation and when to zip it and stop engaging with your teen.

I absolutely agree that parents need to let their teen feel heard – even if you totally disagree. They need to practice on someone and a parent seems like the safest place to do that. The authors barely touched on listening. I think listening in this culture is one of our biggest challenges. In fact we only listen for an average of 17 seconds before wanting to jump in with a comment.

The most important lesson I have learned (and am still learning) as a parent of three teenagers is that listening, and truly being present while you are listening, is one of greatest gifts you can give your children. What were your teen years like? How has that experience informed your parenting?

Next Week: Can Self-Control be Taught?

This Week’s Recipe: Truffle Brownies from Bon Appetit (Reprinted from the Bainbridge Island Review )

I found this recipe today – I haven’t tried it, but I’m putting it out there for all you chocolate lovers. Enjoy!

truffle brownies 117

Truffle Brownies

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped, divided
  • 11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • special equipment

    9×9×2-inch metal baking pan

  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 9×9×2-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving overhang. Spray foil with nonstick vegetable oil spray. Combine 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate and butter in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate and butter are melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water and cool chocolate mixture until lukewarm, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Whisk sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt in large bowl to blend. Whisk in chocolate mixture. Stir in flour, then chopped toasted walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared baking pan. Bake brownies until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 26 to 28 minutes. Transfer pan to cooling rack and let brownies cool completely.
  • Bring cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add remaining 6 ounces chocolate to hot cream and let stand 5 minutes to soften, then whisk until melted and smooth. Pour chocolate ganache over brownie sheet in pan and spread to cover completely. Let stand at cool room temperature until topping is set, about 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.
  • Using foil as aid, lift brownie sheet from pan. Fold down foil edges. Using large sharp knife, cut brownie sheet into 25 squares, wiping knife with hot moist cloth after each cut. Arrange brownies on platter and serve.
  • The author recommends a sprinkle of sea salt for glamour and extra flavor.

Nurture Shock: Chapter 6 – The Sibling Effect

We’re reading Nurture Shock this summer and I’m also sharing my favorite recipes. This week’s topic is Sibling Rivalry. I’m behind my self-imposed schedule of reading and blogging about one chapter a week. First reason is the glorious weather we’re having in the Pacific Northwest. There really is no place I’d rather be in the summer. The second reason is cat-related – we had to put one of our 3 cats to sleep over the weekend and that has taken the wind out of my sails. Curiously her passing has reduced the sibling rivalry between the other two cats – at least for now! And the rivalry between my two daughters over this cat is legendary!!

Having lived with some of the most contentious sibling rivalry I’ve ever known I wasn’t too surprised by the research cited in this chapter. I did find the information on social skills interesting. Here the assumption was that children with siblings would be ‘massively more skilled at getting along than children with no siblings’ – they aren’t, and in fact the opposite may even be true – children learn poor social skills from those interactions just as often as they learn good ones.

But I love this stat – siblings between the ages of three and seven clash 3.5 times per hour, on average. Some of those are brief clashes, others longer, but it adds up to ten minutes of every hour spent arguing. That was my life. We lived by the clock. If the two younger ones were together longer than 30 minutes it was disaster. We practiced all kinds of mediation, but my favorite to this day was,”That makes me feel uncomfortable”. In a moment of desperation I came up with that phrase and for at least a year, maybe longer, whenever one of the children felt wronged they would say it to their sibling. This was when they were 2, 3 and 6. One of my most precious memories is hearing my 2 year old (who had a speech delay) say ‘At makes me un-umtable‘. And it worked. It gave them pause and as soon as I heard it I knew the situation had gotten to an escalated point of no return. Sometimes an adult did not have to step in but most of the time one of us did and that was our chance to process the event.

We were relentless in trying to change the quality of their interactions. We tried to control the amount of time they spent together; limit the types of toys; change out the toys by putting the offending toys away. And then there were balloons – the fast track to fights. I drew the line on balloons. I apologize to Mother Earth but if a balloon crossed our threshold it created pure chaos. If balloons came home from a party or the pizza restaurant, they had to stay outside! We read all the books about sibling rivalry, saw therapists, and spent most of our time running interference. It was exhausting.

Neither of us had had much experience with sibling rivalry. Our own siblings were either much older or younger and we felt ill prepared for this experience. Now that they are all young adults I can see there were some benefits to their constant bickering – they know how to work things out between themselves. They are amazing communicators, negotiators and mediators. But according to the authors sibling relationships and parents don’t influence future relationships as well as the relationship with your best friend. Interesting  – those play-dates are important after all! According to the authors ‘getting what you need from your friends is what forces a child to develop skills’. Geez, if I’d known that I wouldn’t have spent so much time trying to help them get along! What was your experience with your siblings? And what is your experience now raising your children?

Next Week: The Science of Teen Rebellion

This Week’s Recipe – Salmon with Dijon Basil Butter

3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh basil (loosely packed), thinly sliced
1 (1 1/2  to 2 pounds) salmon fillet, skin on
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Stir together butter, mustard and basil. Place salmon on a double layer of foil and season with salt and pepper. Pour butter over salmon. Heat grill to medium-high. Place salmon on grill and close lid. Grill for 7-12 minutes (depending on thickness of salmon), or until just cooked through. Alternately, bake at 450 degrees F. Serve hot.  Serves 4

From Town and Country Markets, Inc

Sometimes Good Parents Produce Bad Kids – Po Bronson Talks to NPR

When kids act out, it’s often the parents who get the blame.

Whether they’re getting in trouble in school or misbehaving with family, many parents worry they’re doing something wrong. But that may not always be the case.

Neil Conan of Talk of the Nation talks to Dr. Richard Friedman, professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and Po Bronson, author of NurtureShock.

Anyone with kids knows that every one is different. Some may be more creative, others more coordinated. Well, what about behavior? In a recent article in the New York Times, psychiatrist Richard Friedman pointed out that mental health professionals have long been trained to see children as products of their environment, intrinsically good until influenced otherwise, and he disagrees.

While there are all too many bad parents around, he argues, chronic bad behavior by a child does not necessarily mean bad parenting is responsible. Some kids are just bad seeds. He joins us in a moment.

Later in the hour, Superman turns 700, and the lead character in the comic book starts a walk across America. But first, are you the parent of a difficult child? Were you once a bad kid? Who’s to blame? Is it nature or nurture?

Click here to read the entire interview.

Nurture Shock: Chapter 5 – The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten

I wonder what would my mother would have said if she read this chapter? I have to say that this chapter and the research cited leaves me cold. What is the benefit of putting a young child – esp. a kindergartner – in a gifted and talented program? I think the benefit is for the parents, not the child.

This is another opportunity for me to talk about the movie The Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of the Achievement Culture. Our children are under a tremendous amount of stress in this culture. Why add to it? The other side is not pretty – depression, anxiety, eating disorders, dropping out of school. The trend has been to push push push our kids. Those who learn outside of the box and negatively affect the school’s test scores fall thru the cracks. Those children could be our creative geniuses. We need to find ways for those children to succeed. Creativity is lost in the public school system.

Some of our most creative giants in recent history had learning challenges: Walt Disney, Charles Schwab, Greg Louganis, Vince Vaughn, Henry Winkler, Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Paul Orfalea (Kinko’s), to name just a few. When do our children have time for creative pursuits? They are literally on the race to nowhere taking honors classes, then AP classes, participating in a team sport which means hours of practice and games. Why start the rat race in kindergarten?

One of my favorite books is Smart Parenting Revolution by Dawna Markova. I’ve had the pleasure of participating in two workshops with Dawna, a brilliant woman who completely embraces the different learner. Her book helps parents understand their child’s Thinking Talents and Mind Patterns. Instead of focusing on a child’s IQ, Dawna looks at how your child is smart, what are your child’s strengths and how can you best support those strengths? And her goal is to have a smart card for each child which will follow that child from to school to school. Every teacher would then know how that child is smart and what they would need to do to support that child’s strengths.

My oldest daughter tested into the Gifted and Talented program in 3rd grade. It wasn’t until I read Dawna’s book when she was 18 that I fully understood how her brain worked. Dawna used the research from Ned Herrmann, author of The Creative Brain, to describe the 4 quadrants of the brain: analytic, procedural, innovative and relational. After figuring out your child’s thinking talents and where they fall in the four quadrants, you will have a better understanding of your child’s strengths. It wasn’t until I read this book that I fully understood my daughter’s intellect. She has thinking talents in all four quadrants – only 3 to 4 percent of the population falls into all four.

I went on to map the rest of my family and that information has really helped me be a better parent. I suppose getting that information from a test at age 5 is valuable but it’s what you do with that information that matters. The emphasis should be on discovering the strengths and talents of all children especially those who don’t test well at age 5.

Next week – The Sibling Effect

This Week’s Recipe – Billie’s Tomato and Feta Salad (Billie is a fabulous cook who also introduced me to Dawna Markova)

3 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
12oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 small red onion, cut into 1/4″dice
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar
2 tbsp minced fresh basil
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

In a serving bowl, gently toss together all ingredients.  Serve immediately or chill, covered until ready to serve.  Makes 8 servings.

Nurture Shock – Chapter 4: Why Kids Lie

If you are just joining the conversation this summer I’m doing a Julie and Julia – sharing my impressions each week of a different chapter from the book Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children and sharing one of my favorite recipes. Be sure and scroll down for a better blueberry muffin! Chapter one was about praise. Chapter two focused on sleep. Last week’s post was about race. This week our focus is on lying, and what first caught my attention is what the research says about parents who think they can tell when their child is lying – they can’t. The research also shows that people believe girls are telling the truth more often than boys when boys actually do not lie more often. Other highlights from Chapter 4:

  • By their 4th birthday almost all kids will start experimenting with lying.
  • Children with older sibs tend to learn how to lie earlier.
  • Observations in their homes showed a 4-year-old lying once every two hours and a 6-year-old lying about once every hour.
  • Same studies showed 96% of all kids offer up lies.
  • Children are very literal when it comes to honesty. If Dad said he’d take Justin to the park and doesn’t for whatever reason – then Dad lied.
  • Lying demands both advanced cognitive development and social skills that honesty simply doesn’t require.
  • Children first begin lying to avoid punishment.

I can definitely relate to this last point. When I was a kid I lied to avoid punishment. We have observed our own children over the years do the same. Our dilemma was do we discipline for the bad behavior or the lie or both? Honesty has always been one of our most important family values as I’m sure it is for most families. Although we sometimes could not tell which child was telling the truth and which was not, we tried to use it as a teachable moment and discuss how we valued honesty. Which of course meant we had to ‘walk the talk’. Our kids were magnets for disception and we were often called on the carpet for our own ‘white lies’.

I was surprised by the research on tattling. According to the authors one of the largest teachers’ training programs in the US ranks children’s tattling as one of the top 5 classroom concerns – as disruptive as fighting or biting another classmate. Let’s face it – children who tattle can be annoying. But the researchers found that nine out of ten times a kid runs up to a parent to tell, that kid is being completely honest. One researcher found that parents are ten times more likely to chastise a child for tattling than they are to scold a child who lied. No wonder our kids are confused!

The research also found another important fact – the lies children tell early in their life can have a profound effect on them later in life. Pointing out lies when they occur is an important piece but also how parents react can affect how one processes that lie. “Dad didn’t seem to notice so I guess I can do this again” or “I got caught and still feel awful about it.”

What’s your experience?

Next Week – The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten

This Week’s Recipe – Better Blueberry (or Raspberry) Muffins
My daughter found this recipe in time for the 4th of July. We didn’t have any blueberries so we used raspberries instead and the muffins were delicious!


1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tsp sugar, divided
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats (not instant)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons lowfat buttermilk
1 egg
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries or raspberries washed and dried


1/4 cup blueberry or raspberry all-fruit spread
24 fresh blueberries or 12 raspberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, 1/2 cup of the sugar, oats, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk buttermilk, egg, oil, and vanilla. Toss blueberries (or raspberries) with flour mixture. Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture and stir gently. Line a 12-count muffin pan with paper liners (or spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray). Divide batter evenly, sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until tops are just set. Remove pan from oven; top each muffin with 1 tsp fruit spread and 2 blueberries (or 1 raspberry). Bake 3 to 5 minutes more or until golden. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and serve.

Adapted from Shape Magazine July 2010

Nurture Shock: Chapter 3 – Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race

I grew up in a homogeneous town on the east coast in the 50’s and 60’s. No one talked about race in my family. A lot of assumptions were made and my sisters and I were left to form our own opinions. I have fought stereotypes my entire adult life, but as a parent I think I fell into the same ‘assumption’ trap the authors report about. Not wanting to make race a big deal, we wanted our children and our family to be all inclusive. But according to the research cited in this chapter we might have missed an important developmental window when it is important to talk about race. Talking with first graders seems to make a difference, but ‘by third grade when most parents believe it’s safe to start talking a little about race, the developmental window has already closed.’

Another interesting conclusion is about the Diverse Environment Theory where the assumption is that desegregating schools works. Researchers have found that diverse schools don’t necessarily lead to more cross-race friendships – just the opposite. Duke University’s Dr. James Moody found that the more diverse the school, the more the kids self-segregate by race and ethnicity within the school. In junior high and high school the researchers found that many students have a friend of another race, but that far more kids just like to hang with their own.

How difficult is it to talk with children about race when they are very young? Researchers have found that to be effective, conversations about race have to be explicit, in unmistakable terms that children understand. And when those conversations can be incorporated into their school curriculum and take place around the dinner table it will seem more normal. When I was growing up race was the elephant in the living room. And I though I would like to think that has changed for my children’s generation I recognize we still have a long way to go in this country.

Since the day Obama announced his candidacy I have believed that he is a gift for our country at a time when we desperately need to heal deep wounds around racial discrimination. I don’t expect change to happen in just four years, but I am grateful and a little bit hopeful that his presence has raised the level of conversation about a difficult topic. Please don’t wait – seize this window of opportunity and begin those explicit conversations about race with your young children.

Next week: Chapter 4 – Why Kids Lie

This week’s recipe – Marvelous Marinade for Chicken Kabobs

I have my sister to thank for the original version of this recipe which I adapted for a marinade for chicken kabobs just in time for the summer barbecue.

1 cup yogurt (I prefer non-fat but any type will do)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp worchestershire sauce
2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 chicken breasts
Cut up veggies (cherry tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, red and green bell peppers, onions
kabob sticks soaked in water prior to building the kabob

Mix first 8 ingredients. Cut chicken into kabob-size pieces and add to the marinade. I prefer to put it all in a gallon-sized ziplock bag, but for the energy conscious any non-reactive bowl will do as long as the chicken pieces are completely covered.  Marinate overnight.  An hour before building the kabobs marinate the cut up veggies in your favorite italian salad dressing. Build the kabobs – put them on the grill and enjoy.

Nurture Shock: Chapter Two – The Lost Hour

This is a great chapter chock full of information about sleep and how important it is to the developing brain. I agree with it all. But what affected me the most is the research about the teenage brain.

All kids are affected by sleep loss, but the teenage brain presents a special challenge. During puberty the biological clock does a “phrase shift” that keeps adolescents up later. No surprise here – all three of our kids are night owls. Made it challenging when we had to get up early the next morning, yet felt compelled to stay awake to be “present” for the kids. I didn’t realize that adolescents produce melatonin on a different schedule than pre-adololescents and adults. When it gets dark outside our brains produce melatonin which makes us sleepy. But not the case for adolescents. Their brain doesn’t release melatonin for another 90 minutes so they may go to bed early but lay awake unable to fall asleep. When their alarm clocks go off their brains are apparently still releasing melatonin which can cause them to fall back asleep or nod off in first period. So now I have a greater appreciation for my son’s typical response to my question, “How was school?” His reply? “Not sure, I fell asleep in first period!”

I personally think the research is so compelling that all middle and high schools should shift their start times to accommodate the teenage brain. And driving to school half asleep is another good reason. A recent study in Texas showed a correlation between later start times and fewer accidents among teens. Our school district took the plunge several years ago and rolled back the start times for the middle school and high school to 8:45 am. Other school districts around the state and around the country have done the same. The authors highlight Edina, Minnesota, an affluent suburb of Minneapolis where they moved the start time from 7:25 to 8:30 am. SAT scores improved and overall the students reported higher levels of motivation and lower levels of depression. “In short, an hour more of sleep improved student’s quality of life”.

In a national study researchers at the University of Kentucky found that sleep decreases each year during high school. In their first year, 60% of kids got at least eight hours of sleep on average. But by the second year it was down to 30%. What’s most interesting to me is that their moods were equally affected,  “. . . dropping below 8 hours doubled the rate of clinical-level depression.”

While these numbers are stunning and should rock the foundation of every school board in the country, for various reasons change has been very slow – 85% of our public high schools start before 8:15 am, and 35% start before 7:30 am. This is a good time to mention The Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture, a phenomenal grass roots effort that has sparked a national conversation about the ‘pressures faced by American school children and their teachers in our achievement obsessed public and private education system and culture’ (borrowed from their website).  The Race to Nowhere is a call to action asking all of us to question the status quo in education and whether we are on the best path to raising healthy young adults who will eventually become contributing citizens. Please check out their website and see the film when it comes to your community.

This chapter also highlights the little mentioned link between lack of sleep and obesity, a national epidemic among our children. It’s not just fast food, lack of exercise and video games – it’s sleep, too.

Next week – Chapter 3: Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race

This week’s recipe:

I love chicken soup and currently I have two favorites:  The Barefoot Contessa has a great one but her book is already on everyone’s shelf. Greg Atkinson, a Pacific Northwest chef has possibly an even better recipe in his cook book West Coast Cooking. Enjoy!!

Organic Chicken Noodle Soup

Makes 6 servings.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium organic onion, peeled and cut into small dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large organic carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
1 medium stalk organic celery, cut into small dice
2 tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated on a Microplane grater (about 1 teaspoon)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 cups homemade chicken broth, or store-bought organic broth
1 pound organic free-range chicken breast meat, cooked and shredded into 1-inch pieces
2 cups (about 4 ounces) egg noodles
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot and sauté the onion, carrot, and celery until soft and just beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, garlic, thyme, pepper, and nutmeg and sauté for 1 minute longer.

2. Stir in the chicken broth and bring the soup to a boil. Cook until the vegetables are just tender, about 12 minutes.

3. Stir in the egg noodles and the cooked chicken meat, and cook until the noodles are tender, about 8 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the parsley and salt, to taste.

Nurture Shock: Chapter One – The Inverse Power of Praise

Chapter One – The Inverse Power of Praise

For the first time this spring the Seattle area had three amazing days of sunshine and warmth and I’ve been spending every minute of it outside in the garden. But now I’m back in my office thinking about my prior experiences with book groups.  I was generally the one who would wait till the last couple of days before the book group meeting and speed read the book – clearly not the most enjoyable way to read a book or participate in a discussion. Last year I did Oprah’s book club on Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth and I really enjoyed reading and processing one chapter at a time. Since the chapters in Nurture Shock seem to stand alone I thought I would try something different. It’s my hope that this approach will give you a chance to digest each chapter at a pace that works well with your schedule (and mine!).

Now to Chapter One – The Inverse Power of Praise. Praise and I have had a love hate relationship for as long as I can remember. Starting when I was a child I remember being constantly praised by my parents and their peers for my looks, my grades and my athleticism. Truthfully, I didn’t deserve half of it. And what I noticed as I became an adult and entered the work force was that I thought of myself  as more capable than I really was. The praise I received put me on a pedestal that didn’t have a solid foundation – almost as if the foundation was made of glass that could shatter at any given moment.

As a parent I have really struggled with praise and encouragement. As you might expect, given my upbringing, praise just rolls off my tongue – but adding those specific encouraging words has been my biggest challenge. Sometimes it was so hard that it felt like I was going inside my mouth to pull out the words. But this is where it gets confusing for me. Our oldest daughter was just like Thomas, the example in the book – she was identified as gifted in 3rd grade. At the advice of her teachers we enrolled her in the John’s Hopkins program for gifted students and she continued to score in the top percentile thru 5th grade. But we also noticed the same discrepancy – she was at the ‘top of the charts, but lacked the confidence to tackle routine school challenges’. One of her teachers in middle school described it beautifully – because she never had to work hard in elementary school she lacked the work study skills to tackle challenging work in middle school.

Of course we praised her. We were so proud of her accomplishments and her innate ability. But after reading the chapter and digesting Dweck’s research results I agree with the authors: “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control . . . . They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”

In my case praise felt shallow and without substance – my parents emphasized an innate talent that just wasn’t there. But because of that I went on to believe I was capable of more than I probably was and even today I continue to take on challenges that push me beyond my comfort zone (writing this blog is a perfect example). And I wonder . . . do I keep trying because I don’t have the innate ability and I have learned that effort equals results? Or am I still trying to live up to my parents’ expectations? (this could be a Dr. Phil episode) I do know that understanding the implications of this research has helped me better understand my daughter and helped me to realistically re-frame the way I talk with my clients about praise.

So, there you have it, my impressions of Chapter One. How did you react to this chapter?

I look forward to hearing from you,

This week’s Recipe

Last week I suggested the Poodletini. This week felt more like comfort food. Took me awhile to decide, but I finally landed on my daughter’s favorite breakfast – and it’s been her favorite since she was two years old! This is our variation on Jane Brody’s Cottage Cheese Toasties from her Good Food Book.

Sarah’s Favorite Cottage Cheese Toasties

Serves 2 to 4

1 cup to 1 1/3 cups low-fat cottage cheese
4 frozen waffles, preferably whole-grain, toasted
Cinnamon sugar
Optional: sliced fruit (e.g., banana, peaches, apples, raisins, mango, kiwi, dates)

1.  Divide the cottage cheese among the 4 toasted waffles, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle the cheese with the cinnamon-sugar.
2.  Place the toasties on a tray, and heat them through in a toaster oven or under the broiler for a few minutes (takes about 4 minutes in my oven. I know they are done when I see some steam rising from the cottage cheese.)
3. If desired top toasties with choice of fruit  and enjoy!!