The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do Hardcover – 29 Oct 1998
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|Hardcover, 29 Oct 1998||
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Harris' theory believes that children's' experiences outside the home determine the sort of people children will become, with parents have little influence over them. Harris concludes that many of the previously cherished notions on parenting have been tested and that sincerity and hard work do not guarantee success.
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Friends and peers play a much bigger part in our children's world than we want to believe.
Introducing our children into beneficial and helpful groups cannot be underestimated. I now actively seek sporting groups to help socialise my children because they are going to "hang out" in groups whether I want them to or not.
It also helps "scaffold" rules, acceptable behaviour, excitement and aggression (sport I'm talking about) and creates friendships based on teamwork and shared common experiences.
This is a book where you keep getting "aha" moments, is really well written and flows nicely. It can also change the way you look and feel about being a parent in less than an hour - which is roughly the amount of time it took to hook me into wanting to not put the book down.
As someone who has studied psychotherapy where they place a massive influence on parental upbringing it is refreshing to read something which makes lots of sense and is from a completely different viewpoint.
This book is well worth buying...
Harris starts out with a simple truth we all know and rarely "see". All children are different. They differ from parents and each other. Even identical twins, those mythical examples of matching traits, turn out to exhibit variations in taste, dress and habits. Clearly, she notes, there is more to child development than genes. On the other hand, why, she asks, are parents under such stress to "make children behave" [or submit, or learn the piano, or . . .]. Harris demonstrates that an outside force, one poorly perceived and often unrecognized, leads children along unexpected paths.
Her first clue was language. She notes immigrants to North America who adhere to their original language and culture norms produce children who adhere to values here from an early age. That was the pointer leading her to create the idea of "group socialization". A child's playmates and school chums can communicate at levels parents don't understand. Playground or street values aren't home values. As children progress through school or a work environment, peer forces can guide them in new directions. Parents may have some impact, but they lose much of their influence very early.
Harris recognises the novelty of her concept. There are years of study by "socialization researchers" who have arrived at various conclusions, often widely accepted, about the impact of parenting methods on children. Harris argues most of these are flawed in method or misleading in conclusions. Even one of its most recognized practitioners ultimately admitted the published findings were unsubstantiated. Of greater concern was that these studies have produced heavy guilt feelings in parents. When the recommended methods don't produce anticipated results "it must be my fault". Harris wants to set those troubled minds at rest by understanding the real forces involved.
The author doesn't absolve parents from influence on development. She merely recommends a new approach based on the new information. Peers may drive behaviour in unwanted directions, but parents still have the responsibility and power to set limits. Peer groups can be "chosen", chiefly through school choice. The evolutionary roots of a child's "normal" group of siblings and close relations has been broken down by modern society. Harris reminds us that the "nuclear family" is a recent, artificial concept. Modern social structure distinctly departure from long-established group forms. Parents must adapt to these new forms, chiefly through greater attention to how to place their children in supportive environments. It can be done; it has been done. We only need to shed long-held beliefs of parental inadequacies and take charge.
This book has, of course, proven contentious. Anyone overthrowing cherished beliefs, no matter how poorly founded, will be resisted. Her findings, however, fill a niche long unidentified or misunderstood. She's fully aware that not all the information is to hand. How big does a group have to be to influence a child? What makes a group leader? A follower? These remain unanswered questions. The value of this book is in asking such questions and demanding answers. That value will remain undiminished until the research is done. Read this book and learn the questions. It is the lives of children that are at stake. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada.]