11 Surprising (but crucial) Scientific Facts About Parenting

These facts come from Po Bronson’s book, “NutureShock,” a survey of the science of parenting. For a complete outline, visit the Book Outlines Wiki.

1. Self-Esteem Doesn’t Do Squat

None of the 200 scientifically valid studies on self-esteem showed that high self-esteem has any impact on grades, achievement, alcohol use, or violence.

2. Tiger Mothering Works
Controlled experiments showed that when a child did poorly on a test, American moms avoided the subject. Chinese moms emphasized the importance of the test and the need for greater effort, and Chinese kids’ test scores increased 33% in comparison to American kids.

3. Want To Boost Your SAT Score? Get More Sleep!
Pushing back school start times by an hour increased average SAT scores by 101 points. It also reduced teen car accidents 25%.

4. Want To Lose Weight? Get More Sleep!
The odds of obesity rise 80% for each hour of lost sleep.

5. Talking About Race Reduces Racism
In a study, children were taught about Jackie Robinson. Half were told about how he had been taunted by white fans. The other half weren’t. White children who got the whole story had significantly better attitudes toward blacks.

6. You Don’t Know When Your Kid Is Lying (But He Is)
96% of kids lie to their parents. In tests, parents and police were unable to tell when kids were lying (scoring worse than chance). Teachers did slightly better; they had a 60% chance of detecting a lie.

7. Kids Fight For Toys, Not Affection.
Only 9% of siblings said competition for parental affection was to blame for sibling conflict. The overwhelming reason siblings fight? 80% cited sharing physical possessions.

8. How To Parent A Teenager
The best parenting style is to pick a few important battles, and allow autonomy in less important spheres. You’ll be more likely to be obeyed. If you try to control every sphere, your teen will just go behind your back.

9. Why Your Teen Is Always Bored And Reckless
Teen brains require extreme stimuli to experience pleasure (in other words, they are predisposed to boredom). And when their pleasure centers are triggered, their judgment is biologically impaired. To boot, even under normal circumstances, teens don’t have the instinctive aversion to bad ideas that adults have. (Good luck!)

10. If You Fight In Front Of The Kids, Make Up In Front Of The Kids
When children witnessed their parents fighting, they were likely to act out. This effect went away almost entirely if the kids also witnessed the resolution of the conflict. So when you say, “Let’s finish this later,” you’re actually hurting your kids.

11. Baby Einstein? More Like Baby Jersey Shore.
“Educational” DVDs actually harm language development. Kids don’t learn from hearing language, they learn from having adults respond to their own attempts to speak. When it comes to language development, the children of attentive mothers develop are 6 months ahead of the children of inattentive mothers.

2 thoughts on “11 Surprising (but crucial) Scientific Facts About Parenting

  1. Completely fascinating. I'm crazy about sleep and quite casual about a lot of other things, so I find this list (particularly the first half) very validating!

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