Book Review #2: Brain Rules for Baby

This brain book was interesting with a little tad of 'huh'? The author, John Medina, discusses how to raise a happy and healthy baby by presenting research on how both nurture and nature can affect little ones in the book Brain Rules for Baby. If I'm being honest, I absolutely loved much of the book and many of his points, but sometimes he lost me. When he was talking about how mirror neurons have an impact on empathy, I sort of tuned out. I tend to focus on things that I can have an impact on, rather than how my child is already wired. Don't get me wrong, I know I need to understand that as well, it's just not as interesting to me. But, I am sure there are plenty science loving Moms and Dads out there that would definitely appreciate those chapters.

Because I learn through quick, concise notes, I am going to bullet point my take-always from this book. I'm sure I missed a whole bunch of amazing stuff, but will hopefully find the time to reread someday.  I definitely think this is a great read for soon-to-be-parents along with parents of small children.

  • The four things that help a baby's brain:
  1. Breastfeeding. Medina suggests that moms breastfeed for a year, and longer, if possible.  I am blessed to be able to do this, but I know so many women who aren't able to breastfeed.  Formula has come a long way and I know Mommas who formula feed have and will continue to raise happy and smart babes.
  2. Talking to your baby.  I love to talk to Luke and Luke has gotten pretty good at talking back.
  3. Playing! Yay, this is super easy and fun!
  4. Praising effort instead of intelligence. As a teacher, I did this all the time, but as I was practicing this around Luke, I found it a bit challenging. "Luke, you are working so hard at being cute!" "Luke, you are using so much effort to grab that ring!" "Luke, I can see you are trying so hard to sleep well!" You get my point, but really, truly, this does take some effort and thoughtfulness.
  • One way to help your kiddo be happy and smart concerns Mom and Dad's relationship.  That includes reconciling regularly, balancing the workload at home, and using the empathy reflex.  Empathy is not the easiest thing to portray to your partner when you have a crying child at two in the morning, but studies show it works.  Medina also recommends reconciling in front of your children.
  • Making friends and keeping them is the single best way to predict happiness in children and adults. Medina urges parents to help their children make friends. It's officially on my to-do list!
  • Medina suggests helping your child be empathetic.  If making friends is the single best way to predict a happy child, empathy is the single best way to predict having friends.  We all know that people who display empathy are the best friends.  One way to practice this is to turning to empathy when your child (or anyone) is faced with a strong emotion.  Describing the emotion you see and then making a guess as to where it came from is a good way to practice empathy.  For example, "Luke, you look mad.  You sound mad.  Is it because I'm changing your diaper?"  Obviously, it is a little bit harder with a baby, but you get the gist.
  • Verbalizing your feelings or emotions is a way to model this behavior for children.  Children being able to verbalize their feelings will help with their self-regulation, and temper tantrums, and puberty, and discussions on dating, parties, etc., etc., etc.
  • Did you know people who make around $50,000 are the happiest?  Me either.  Medina suggests guiding your child to a $50,000 career ($50,000 in 2010 dollars).
  • When it comes to raising a moral child, rules are imperative.  Rules should be clear and delivered in a consistent and warm environment.  When the child follows the rule offer praise and also offer praise in the absence of a behavior.  Offering the rationale behind the rule also helps the child generalize the rule to other situations.  Makes sense, sure.  But, I have used this with my first graders and it doesn't always work.
  • When a rule is broken, punishment should be firm, immediate, reliable, and safe.  Sounds easy enough...
Medina wraps up the book by saying there is not a one-size-fits-all plan for raising kids.  I couldn't agree more.  All children are different and understanding your child is the best way to help them be happy and smart.  There it is, my take-aways from this book.  There was an extra special part at the back that was probably my favorite.  It included Medina's practical tips.  When I go back to reread, I will probably reread those.
You can find Brain Rules for Baby on Amazon for around $8 here.  
Now on to my next reading adventure.  I'm debating Nutureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman or Love and Logic for Early Childhood by Jim and Charles Fay.  Any suggestions?

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