Review: Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina

26 Mar

Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina is one of the best parenting books I’ve read. Not only does it give great advice and explain the science behind that advice, but it is enjoyable to read as well. So many parenting books have a dogmatic tone – “do it MY way or your child will be sad, friendless, stupid, anti-social, fat, etc.” and their advice is backed up only by the author’s view of how the world works and some anecdotes. The information in Brain Rules for Baby has both been published in academic literature and also reproduced. And because Medina is a true scientist, in his introduction he makes clear that:

  • Scientists don’t know everything, and the name of the game is to maximize your chances at raising smart & happy children. (That is, there are no guarantees!)
  • “Every kid is different”
  • “Every parent is different”
  • Children are strongly influenced by their peers
  • Most data shows association (links) rather than causes

I find this honesty very refreshing because not many parenting books speak these truths.

Brain Rules for Baby has five chapters: Pregnancy, Relationship, Smart Baby, Happy Baby, and Moral Baby. Each of those chapters is divided into Seeds (“nature”) and Soil (“nurture”). At the end of the book is a sixth chapter called Practical Tips that is a great summary of those five chapters.

Smart Baby was my favorite chapter because it confronted several parenting myths head on and was very practical. One of the myths that Medina demolishes is that “helicopter parenting” or “hyper-parenting” is good for children. Some ways that hyper-parenting is harmful:

  • extreme expectations stunt higher-level thinking
  • pressure can extinguish curiosity
  • continual anger or disappointment becomes toxic stress

This makes me feel much better about my gut reaction to avoid the academic extracurriculars, and instead, let Daisy have vast amounts of imaginative play and pursue her own interests. However, in the Happy Baby chapter, Medina reveals that the one helicopter parent favorite – starting music lessons at a young age (before 7) – is excellent for training children to hear the subtleties of emotional speech.

My least favorite chapter was the Pregnancy chapter because, first, I am no longer pregnant, and second, I found much of the advice to be pretty common-sense or well-covered in other books.

If you are looking for a parenting book that is a pleasure to read and also helpful, give Brain Rules for Baby a try. The material is fascinating and the presentation is deft.

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One Response to “Review: Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina”

  1. Theresa October 14, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Love love love this book. It forms the basis of how I spend time with my son.

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