Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Review: Brain Rules for Baby

Brain Rules for Baby

My best friend from grad school was this cool guy who I believe is still the most articulate, thoughtful, well-read, critical, and accepting person who I know.  So when I saw a picture of him reading Brain Rules for Baby to his newborn son, I knew that I needed to buy the book.

In the book, author John Medina essentially answers the question "how do I get my kid into Harvard?".  By no means am I pushing Ella to go to Harvard, but I do want to help her to be curious, happy, and well-adjusted (besides, my tuition discount only works for our in-state schools...and her uncle went to Yale instead of Harvard).  Medina is a development molecular biologist, but yet he is able to tune down the science in a way that even I--with my educational background--can understand.  He uses a lot of personal stories as examples to help clarify and explain the research findings from a variety of tests and experiments--thus turning rather complicated topics into a fairly easy read. 

Medina offers these various "rules" or "pointers" for parents on how to raise a child who is smart (ie, praise the effort instead of saying "you're so smart!"), happy (ie, helping them to recognize and name their emotions), and moral (ie, kids respond better when the rules and expectations are explained).  I also really appreciate that he starts with the pregnancy (ie, no products claiming to boost a pre-born baby's iq have been proven to work, so don't buy them), and also addresses the significance of the parental relationship (ie, hostility between parents can effect an infants development; but making up in front of them after fights occur is vital to the child's emotional development as well).  As I read through the book, I found that I could give myself a pat on the back for some of the things that I had been doing all along (ie, breastfeeding), and cringed a few times at areas where I now see that I can make some changes (ie, no tv before the age of two...oops). 

And yet I love that in the conclusion, the author states:
"A family based on every suggestion in this book is fantasy.  The real-world experience of parenting ranges from waves of exhaustion to oceans of love and ripples of laughter."
I was left with a sense that I learned some new tricks for how I care for Ella--along with the science behind them--but that it would still be okay if I missed the mark on some of them.  We have definitely applied some of the ideas--like helping her to identify and verbalize her emotions, and it seems to be "working", in the sense that she's handling disappointment really well (like when Mommy didn't know that the swimming pool apparently closed on August 1st...whoops!). 

Would I be thrilled if she went to Harvard?  Absolutely!  (I don't know how I would pay for it, but that's beside the point).  But ultimately, all I have ever wanted is for her to be curious, happy, and well-adjusted--and I feel that Brain Rules for Baby addresses each of those points, and so much more. 

Today's blessing is that Ella has been talking about the "Army work" that my husband does.  He had Army Reserve drill this weekend, so she and I talked about why he was away from the house.  I know that he is proud of his service, and it's even more special to him now that his daughter can understand a bit of what he's doing.  On that note, he also just learned this weekend there is a possibility* that he might deploy in Fall 2013, so please be praying for us as we look ahead to what that might mean for our family.

*This is not the first time that there has been a "possibility" that he might deploy, and I have learned not to get too worked up about anything until he actually has orders.  Though I dread the thought of him being away, I know that this is important to him.  I trust that God will provide for us.

1 comment:

  1. I would love to see Ella attend Harvard or Yale or Berkeley or wherever, but mostly I want her to be encouraged to do the best that she can do and to be the best that she can be--whatever that will mean for her. I am dealing with a friend who just had a baby with a Downs-type of syndrome, so that helps put things in perspective for me. I pray that God and you and Doug and others in her life will help her to be the best person she can be.


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