Brain Rules for Baby

I liked John Medina’s Brain Rules, and my sister just had a baby, so I skimmed Brain Rules for Baby.

Unlike his other work, a lot of these recommendations aren’t sourced by research (some are, but the detailed experimental description isn’t always there):

(pre-birth) Mom should take folic acid around conception, and throughout (including breast-feeding) get omega-3 (best source: fish - just avoid mercury from high-in-foodchain tuna, mackerel, swordfish, etc.), gain the right amount of weight (300 extra cal/day), get the right amount of exercise (30 min walking, don’t overheat!), and be protected from extreme stress (or unpreventable chronic stress - figure out some way to feel in control of what’s bothering you). An 8 pound birth weight vs. a 6 or 9 pound weight is on average 1 IQ point (negligible). 

How smart a baby is predicts IQ at age 18.

No fighting, mom and dad. Seriously. If a baby has high stress markers in its blood, the parents are probably fighting and will probably split (causality is probably reverse - fighting harms baby). In order to avoid fighting, try dealing with someone’s complaints with 1. describe the emotion you think you’re seeing 2. guess what’s causing it (out loud). People like to feel understood. If you guess wrong, they still feel you care. Sleep loss is no joke - try to share the load and get both parents enough rest. Have sex.

Reconcile in front of kids if you fought in front of them.

Tapes of foreign language do nothing for a baby. Social interaction is needed to cause language acquisition.

American Sign Language lessons for first graders improved their IQ test scores. You could try some form of sign language with your kid.

Breast feed (+8 IQ). At least a year. Formula pushers are evil. 

Talk to your toddler, using a variety of words, in actual interactions. Reward with extra attention. Face to face. They imitate you; you, them.

Demonstrate. Speculate at motives for others’ behaviors - teaches kids to model others.

Slowed, melodic speech, and higher pitch, actually helps babies imitate/learn.

Dramatic pretend play with a partner is good.

Play with your kid. Opposite day (call things by their opposite). Imitation games. Don’t push if they’re tired/overstimulated.

Praise trying (“you worked hard on that!”), not being “smart”. If you praise for being “X”, they spend time worrying about how to preserve their image as “X”. 

No TV or “baby Einstein” for the first 2 years. The right kind and amount of movies/video games for the rest of life may be fine or even useful.

Get your kids exercising. Don’t feed them stuff that they become self-guided pleasure-overeaters of.

Help kids learn to dwell on what makes them grateful. Teach forgiveness of loved ones, and rewarding sharing of experiences (storytelling).

Make sure your kid has good friends. Or just has friends at all.

Demanding parents (that is, not controlling everything in the kid’s life, but explaining what’s actually required) who pay attention and respond to their kid’s emotions are the best. Parents should seem to notice and care about what the kid does.

Don’t punish/repress emotions per se - including in yourself. Behavior can be chosen, not emotions. Teach about what the emotion is. Teach about what behavior may help. Don’t try to band-aid (sad? ice cream! new toy!) a feeling, or give useless “toughen up” advice.

If your kid feels crowded, don’t crowd.

Describe your kid’s emotions, guess out loud at what’s causing them. Listen. Labeling helps communication and self-understanding. Describe your own emotions out loud (optionally - silent is fine too).

10 years of music lessons starting before age 7 - might help them pick up tone tells in verbal communications. Might have other benefits.

Use a crisis to teach: empathy first to calm. Express wanting to help.

Explain rules (give reason - bad consequence to be avoided); punish swiftly, but without making the child fear for safety. Praise for following rules. Praise for absence of rule-violation.

Don’t spank - let them suffer the natural consequences then offer succor, or remove a privilege/toy. Don’t punish with “I don’t like you” disapproval.

Watch videotape of yourself doing your usual parenting thing.