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The Cherry Tree Run Amok

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Sarah Bowman: Po Bronson's new book, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, debunks the worthiness of praise, preaches that sleep is a critical piece of learning, and -- most devastatingly -- sets forth the notion that 98 percent of all kids lie to their parents (it's a great read, as long as you have a strong cocktail by your side).

mother holding son thinking sucker

Bronson, a handsome SFO writer with several bestsellers under his belt, blithely outlines multiple studies proving that parents of very young children have no idea when their little darlings are lying. Each page I turned drove the knife deeper into my shoulder blades, as I imagined the proficiency of my 8th grader (let alone his savvy 11th grade sis) at pulling a few stories over on good old mom. It's heartbreaking enough that his feet bear no resemblance to the fat toes of yesteryear. Now, I have to worry that he's not telling me the truth about the homework being done? Or stress that she's not really just 'stopping at the mall for dinner' on the way home from school?

If Bronson is correct, our kids lie to us regularly and have been at it for such a long time that it comes as naturally as breathing. They have so completely ingested our values that they adjust their stories just to please us. The last thing teens want to do is let their parents down; unfortunately, this primal instinct is diametrically opposed to the pulse of the outside world. Translation: much of what they are merrily doing in their lives would really bum us out. They think they are being considerate by bending the daily truths of their lives.

I squinted to remember being 14 or 16. Not surprisingly, my parents are mere sideliners in my high school memories, which feature friends, teachers, sports teams, and summer trips. I don't remember lying, nor do I remember getting caught at it -- although I am sure there were a few George Washington moments that I have suppressed. Today, my parents are regular consultants to their grandchildren's development, so despite whatever slippage of truthfulness went on during those primal rites of passage, we came out as allies on the other side. Maybe truthfulness is elastic as it comes of age, and old George never got caught swinging his axe during puberty.

But the short view is not so easy. Just last week at dinner, when I brought up the Bronson book, my darling teens grinned at me and declared, "We're really good liars!" How delightful that they are separating from me so successfully.

next: Feedback: Dad Buys 4-Year-Old a Gun!
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Ashley W. March 29, 2010, 11:06 AM

I’m a psychology major and I’m reading this book for my Infancy and Childhood class. I love it! I’m not a mom (i’m 19) but this is definately going to be in my bookshelf when I am a Child Psychologist and a parent later on in life (preferably AFTER grad school). I’m learning so much, including stuff about my childhood and how relevant this book would have been if it was out when I was a kid.

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