Your 4-year-old’s a Liar

It seems that I’ve been reading a lot of things about parenting in the newspapers lately — the way we do it wrong, that is.

Have you all read “NurtureShock” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman? I haven’t read the entire book, but I’ve read parts of it, read about it and I’ve seen the authors all over TV recently. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see what’s so earth-shattering about what they’re saying.

First, they say we over praise our kids. Duh. Kids aren’t stupid. They know when we’re being insincere and when we go too far with lavishing on the praise, it actually HURTS their self-esteem rather than helps it. And you all know the parents who tell their kids that they’re the smartest things ever, so they turn into the laziest things ever. They get the message that they’re geniuses, so no one can teach them anything. Those are, by the way, the worst kids to have in class. This one was kind of a no-brainer to me. No one likes insincere compliments, even kids. And when you hear something all the time, it loses its meaning. The lesson I took from this — save the praise for the real deal.

Speaking of smart, another point in the book is that IQ changes. In fact, an early IQ test is a pretty BAD way to predict future success in school. Before a kid is 10 years old, his or her IQ may rise or drop 15 points or more. (Darn, I’ve been holding onto the super high IQ score I had in first grade). So, all you parents out there who are anxiously testing your little geniuses, chill. Why are you testing your preschooler, anyway?

Oh, and then there’s the part of the book about lying. Did you know that, according to the book, your darling 4-year-old lies once an hour!? And teens lie, too. Not because they’re evil people, but because they don’t want to upset us. I thought that was kind of sweet.

The book also talks about Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, which has been a fairly recent fad. I know that I’ve gotten a couple of books in my office from publishers about EQ. EQ is a kind of social intelligence, an ability to get along and be sensitive to others. EQ experts say this is more important for success in life than IQ. Well, according to “NurtureShock,” bullies have considerable EQ and they use it for control of others.

So what’s a parent to do? I don’t know. Human beings are complicated. I think a lot of the stuff in this book is kind of common sense. I’ve noticed over the years that we parents tend to take a little information and go overboard. For example, we know from recent research that babies know a lot, and that their brains are developing at a rapid rate. So, what do parents (and smart marketers) do with that information? They play Baby Mozart, they put 2-year-olds in front of computers and start the flashcards at an early age. We went off the deep end. Those are not the things that make infants and toddlers smart. Experts know that lots of real interaction with adults, playing in age appropriate ways, exploring their environment — these are the ways that children develop into intelligent adults. Just because a 2-year-old CAN memorize and recite every English Romanticist writer and their works doesn’t mean that that’s the best way for the kid to be spending time.

So maybe it’s a relief that we don’t have to over-parent for our kids to turn out okay. And, hey, maybe okay is good enough. I think this may be the best thing to take away from this book. Maybe we have to look at ourselves and why we do these crazy things to our kids rather than letting them discover the world for themselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I do think we should take the job of parenting seriously, but maybe we shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously. Next time, I’m going to write about the article I read about the recent research on When Praise is Punishment and SPANKING.Ouch.

Categories: Editor’s Blog