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 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

Preparation
  • 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

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: 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,

Sally