Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five

Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five
Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five by John Medina

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my all-time favorite parenting book (to date, at least), and I'm astonished I didn't actually write a review when we finished reading it in January.

John Medina writes clearly and succinctly about how to raise happy, healthy, and moral children. Citing peer-reviewed, current research, Medina intelligently discusses what science knows about "nature," the "soil" (as he calls it) that is biology and genetics, and then reviews how parents can maximize their time with their children, from pregnancy and on.

Some of the best advice I gleaned from this book is to always validate a child's feelings. Sometimes it's so easy to go into auto-pilot with a baby, especially when they're fussy or crying for hours. Instead of telling my five-month old lady that "You're okay, it's all going to be okay," I now softly tell her that I know it's hard to be a baby, and try to guess at the possible discomforts an infant may have (and have you thought about these? there must be so many!). He gives the example of a toddler's fish dying in the book. It may be no big deal to you as an adult, but it may be a huge for a little kid, they might grieve for days!

Another gem: always praise effort instead of smarts/beauty/talent/etc. Apparently many parents in Asia do this (I learned this in a college psych course long ago). Essentially, praising a child for a trait, such as intelligence ("Good job, you're so smart!", encourages them to believe they have the natural talents to always do well in school (and life), and when they fail, they are more likely to assume the problem is with them ("I must not actually be smart because I got a 'C' on this exam."). Instead, praising their efforts ("Good job, you studied so hard and your work is really paying off.") lets a child know that success is often correlated with effort and doesn't tie so closely to self-esteem ("I got a 'C' on this exam but usually get an 'A', I must not have studied enough this time and will make more of an effort next time"). Of course this advice is good for children beyond five years of age.

I specifically appreciate the Medina takes the time to write that all of the research he cites is reputable, and that he refers to studies and scholars throughout the whole book. I haven't found another decent parenting book that does this, so it really pleased me.

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