Brain Rules for Baby
John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist with a passion for the brain, has written a book I enjoyed called Brain Rules. But even better is his latest book specifically about children under five–Brain Rules for Baby. This book tells parents what science has really shown us about the developing brain and how to make your children smart, happy, and moral.
The first chapter discusses pregnancy. Most notable is the effects of a stressed mother on the developing fetus. Next, Medina discusses mom and dad’s relationship. This is a chapter that all soon-to-be-parents need to read. Bringing baby home rocks your life and marriage and I only wish I had read this good advice before becoming a mother. The final chapters dive into how to raise a smart, happy, and moral baby. The conclusion and practical tips at the end of the book do a great job of summarizing the most important information from the book. Highly recommended!
Here are a few fun tidbits from the book:
- Infants are placed in front of a checkerboard square. The longer the child is engaged by the pattern, the higher his/her IQ is likely to be. Measurements taken between 2 and 8 months of age correctly predicted IQ scores at age 18.
- Intelligence = the desire to explore, self-control, creativity, verbal communication, and decoding nonverbal communication.
- Executive function, which controls planning, foresight, problem-solving, and goal setting, is actually a better predictor of academic success than IQ.
- Children who could delay gratification (in this case, eating a cookie) for 15 minutes scored 210 points higher on their SATs than children who lasted one minute.
- Learning sign language may boost cognition (specifically, attentional focus, spatial abilities, memory, and visual discrimination) by 50%.
- Four brain boosting ingredients = breastfeeding, talking to baby a lot, the right kind of play, and praising effort not intelligence.
- Outside of work, the typical person hears or sees about 100,000 words per day. You want your baby to hear about 2100 words an hour (considered a moderate rate of conversation).
- Kids praised for their effort complete 50% more hard math problems than kids praised for intelligence. So don’t tell your children “I’m so proud of you. You’re so smart.” Tell them you’re proud of how hard they worked. It’ll help them develop a good attitude toward failure. Rather than ruminate over their mistakes, they simply perceive errors as problems to be solved.
- No TV before the age of 2!
- Since 1937, researchers for the Harvard Study of Adult Development have collected intimate data on several hundred people. And what made people happy? Researchers found that “the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” After 75 years of this study, what was found to predict people’s happiness the most was their friendships. And marriage is one of the most important friendships.
- Other things that predict happiness include a steady dose of altruistic acts, making lists of things for which you are grateful, and cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
- The two most important things your child needs to make friends are emotional regulation and empathy.
- Children who learn to regulate their emotions have deeper friendships than those who don’t.
- Help your child deal with his big emotions by labeling them. He has the physiological effects of emotions but doesn’t understand that what he’s experiencing comes from anger, or frustration, or jealousy.
- The best parenting style is one that combines high expectations with high responsiveness (aka, demanding but warm).
- Musically trained kids (those who studied an instrument for at least 10 years starting before age 7) respond much more quickly to subtle variations in emotion-laden cues, such as a baby’s cry.
- The most important attitudes a parent can have towards emotions include: not judging emotions, acknowledging the reflexive nature of emotions, knowing that behavior is a choice (while emotion is not), and seeing a crisis as a teachable moment.
- Be empathetic towards your children.
- In order to raise a moral child, set clear and consistent rules and rewards, punish swiftly, and explain the rules (we brush our teeth every night before bed to prevent cavities).
- Praise the absence of bad behavior.
- Punishment must be administered in a warm atmosphere of emotional safety. When kids feel secure even in the presence of parental correction, punishment has the most robust effect.
- Children are most likely to internalize moral behavior if parents explain why a rule and its consequences exist.