Ashley Merryman of NurtureShock
In this episode of The Lab, Daddy Troy interviews Ashley Merryman. Ashley, along with Po Bronson, is the co-author of the parenting book "NurtureShock". She shares some of the findings about praise that were discovered while writing the book. She also talks about the research process and emphasis on the book's findings being backed up by science. Find out the impact on education this book could have, and also discover what other authors and sources Merryman follows.
Ashley Merryman: Put your fingers together like this.
Daddy Troy: Okay, is this a test.
Ashley Merryman: Well no, kind of. Go ahead.
Daddy Troy: I got fingers together.
Ashley Merryman: You guys, you can do this at home.
Daddy Troy: Everybody follow along.
Ashley Merryman: Now I want you to look at your index finger, are they to the same length to the nearest hundredth millimeter. That is a point for correlation with your intelligence. Kindergarten IQ tests have a 0.4 correlation to their third grade achievement. But what I’m saying is would you want your third grader to walk in to a -- program, I don’t know and you qualify, oh yeah your fingers are pretty much the same length, you get in and you can’t.
Daddy Troy: Hey welcome back to DadLabs, I’m daddy Troy. Today I’m with Ashley Merryman, she’s the coauthor along with Po Bronson of NurtureShock and thanks for being here today, I appreciate it.
Ashley Merryman: Oh I’m very excited to be here.
Daddy Troy: This book has made such a splash in parenting circles and if you haven’t heard of it by now, you have to go out and get it. Its basic supposition is that we as parents try really hard to do some things that don’t always have the intended effect. For instance, we praise our kids and sometimes that doesn’t exactly build self-esteem, it might hurt it.
Ashley Merryman: And it kills it. It pretty kills it.
Daddy Troy: It kills it, wow!
Ashley Merryman: Yeah, in fact actually 85% of American parents think it’s important to praise kids for intelligence, say things like “Oh honey you’re so smart.” And we think that actually gives you the self-confidence to do more, right? You know you’re going to succeed because you are already smart, you’re already talented but actually it’s the other way around. Kids get so invested in these labels. They don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize it. So a kid who’s told they’re so smart because they get an A on a test is more likely to cheat off the kid next to him because then it wasn’t me, I could have got an A if I wanted to, I didn’t try. He’s the stupid guy, I’m smart.
Daddy Troy: And so what are the defining characteristics of this book? Because -- by amazing research. Not all parenting books are created equally. Can you tell us a little bit about the research process?
Ashley Merryman: We interviewed hundreds of scholars, we went to the conferences. We read thousands of pages of scientific articles and we constantly go back and forth and went to science -- so we really wanted every line of the science to be every -- you know, line in the book to be backed up by science and we really -- I think -- and we include 700 sources, if anyone wants to see what actual science is there, it’s right there in the book where exactly we got things from.
You can remember that you can be warm with your kids and in fact, we wrote in the book how a follow-up study -- was looking at American parenting and Chinese parenting and found that the American parents, after they have been told their kids bond and IQ test and then there was going to be a second part to it, that the American parents were saying these things like, “Oh honey, are you hungry? Do you want to have a snack? What are we going to have for dinner?” And plans the rest of their day. The Chinese parents would say, “Sit down here and we’re going to look at your tests and what did you do. Now everyone sort of had this idea that they were going to be strict in controlling, the Chinese moms were just as warm and supportive but they are actually looking at the tasks.
Daddy Troy: Because I’m really interested in educational reform and I think that starts at home, obviously but there are also -- will this book reach its way into institutional reform as well?
Ashley Merryman: Well I think there are a lot of teachers who are considering it and -- but there’s two sort of types of things going on. I mean if someone put stuff in their book like -- or sleep. I am all about sleep. I use to be asleep when your dad -- now I’m all about sleep. And those are things, how we deal with sleep can -- each family can do on their own, each teacher can do on their own. There are other things that I think are bigger and require more systemic changes.
Daddy Troy: Tell me some of the people that you follow and the parenting and -- the reporting on parenting and education and the science of education and parenting.
Ashley Merryman: It’s a great question. I think it’s sort of interesting that our book isn’t focused exclusively on parenting advice. We’re really looking at it in terms of the science and what are the new studies, what are the new findings out there relating to kids, education, parenting so those tend to be the people who I’m -- you know the most interested in their work. So certainly in terms of books and longer material, I’m not going to -- books I always find interesting. Other people, Alex Russo who blogs for scholastic.com, Isabelle at The New York Times do really insightful on trying to actually think of ideas and work them out both with readers and scholars. So those are the people I’m always keeping track of.
Daddy Troy: Well thanks. So we’ll put links to all of those over at DadLabs.com. You may be watching this video away from DadLabs.com, go over to DadLabs, come and get forms about books that we have on parenting, that we’ve read about parenting and great interviews with authors. So thanks so much for coming today.
Ashley Merryman: Thank you so much.
Daddy Troy: Okay.
Ashley Merryman of NurtureShock
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