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 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 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!!

Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children

It’s 7:15 on a Saturday morning and my youngest child has just gone off to take the SAT for the first time. The house is quiet and I’m wide awake so I decided to pick up the book Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children that I started two weeks ago. I admit to buying it out of curiosity after hearing a couple of colleagues say they didn’t completely agree with the authors. I also admit that I’m a parenting book snob – I have my favorites which I tend to recommend over and over again. So for me to read a new book and possibly make room for that book in my sacred circle is a bit of a stretch!!

I read the first three chapters quickly, highlighting practically every page. I was so charged up about what I read I wanted to share my thoughts with someone else who had read it, but since I hadn’t read the whole book I thought I should wait. Then I had the idea to blog about each chapter – kind of like ‘Julie and Julia’. Each chapter stands alone and thus far each one has spoken to me both as a parent and as a Parent Coach.

I hope you will join me in this conversation. My children are now young adults – like many of our peers we read all the popular books, watched all the parenting videos, attended parenting classes and yet, we still questioned our parenting daily. This was the one job we were the least qualified for – all of our training was in real time on the job!! It was like getting on a roller coaster for the first time and having absolutely no idea where you’re going or how you’re going to get there!

There is no one perfect way to parent your child. Each one of us brings something unique to the process. The combination of nature, nurture and popular culture all contribute to who they will become. What’s fascinating to me is that in the process of raising this wonderful human being you find that you’ve changed as well. You’re not the same person you were when you started this parenting journey. Like it or not raising children changes us – I definitely wouldn’t have felt qualified to be a parent coach or an advocate for children who learn differently if I hadn’t had this experience. For all I know I might have gone into politics or taken up golf (neither interest me right now, but stay tuned, my life expectancy is 109!)

Like Julie in ‘Julie and Julia’ I suspect I will look at parenting differently after reading this book. I have already changed how I talk about praise with my clients and that’s just the first chapter! And like Julia I love to try new recipes so I thought I would also include a recipe with each chapter (may be an old favorite or a new one – depending on how I feel about the chapter!). To start us off I’ll share the delicious Life’s a Poodle Poodletini Recipe. Be warned they are strong (we also have a non-alcohol version) so please slurp responsibly!

My next entry will be my reaction/impressions to chapter one: The Inverse Power of Praise.

Till next time,