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Brain Rules for Baby (Updated and Expanded): How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five Paperback – April 22, 2014
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- Nina L. Shapiro, MD, UCLA School of Medicine
"An engaging and fun-to-read translation of the best research on child development and effective parenting. I gave Dr. Medina's book to my own son."
- Ginger Maloney, Ph.D, The Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy
"John Medina uses a very readable and refreshing style to present parenting strategies in the context of factual scientific information."
- Jadene Wong, M.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
"If you've no room for another brain-development title, weed an old one to make room for this. Covering such topics as pregnancy, relationships, and "moral" babies, the book will educate even the most learned parents. Medina's humorous, conversational style make this an absolute please to read."
- Library Journal
"We recommend this book to all of our new-parent groups. With a gift for storytelling, Dr. Medina marries the science with practical advice that helps make sense of it all. Sleep-deprived parents still find time to read Brain Rules for Baby and love it."
- Laura Kussick, Executive Director, Program for Early Parent Support
About the Author
Top customer reviews
Despite being a "developmental molecular biologist" by trade, Medina is a refreshingly savvy writer, opting to avoid much of the jargon that would make the book impenetrable for the untrained layman like me. The book is divided into five clear, topical sections:
- Pregnancy (how to help your baby develop while in utero)
- Relationship (how to avoid the relationship pitfalls many couples experience post-partum)
- Smart Baby (how to optimize your child's brain development and intelligence)
- Happy Baby (how to raise a happy, well-balanced child)
- Moral Baby (how to help your child develop and nurture their moral compass)
Medina does his best to base his recommendations on robust scientific research, which is a plus. As he states early in the introduction, "To gain my trust, research must pass my `grump factor.' To make it into this book, studies must first have been published in the refereed literature and then successfully replicated . . . Where I make an exception for cutting-edge research, reliable but not yet fully vetted by the passage of time, I will note it" (pp. 3). You can tell that he was very careful about choosing what material to include, later citing his distaste for research based on, "shoddy designs, biased agendas, lack of controls, non-randomized cohorts, too-few sample sizes, too few experiments - and lots of loud, even angry, opinions" (pp. 143). Medina knows his statistics, which makes it easier for me to trust that the recommendations he presents in the text have a solid foundation.
Perhaps inevitably, it's hard to read a book like this and not feel somewhat inadequate and/or guilty - especially if you already have kids. I couldn't help but think of how much TV I've already let my little boy watch, how much more I should be talking with him to bolster his language acquisition, etc. Fortunately, Medina readily admits that the ideal is not going to be the reality when it comes to parenting: "A family based on every suggestion in this book is fantasy" (pp. 254). Being a parent has its own learning curve, and we're never going to perfectly implement best practices. But if reading this book only makes me a _slightly_ better parent, it will still have been worth it.
So why not five stars? As much as I appreciate Medina's "grump factor" in filtering out unreliable data, there are two important topics I felt should have received much more coverage, considering their relative importance in a child's development: nutrition and music. Aside from nutritional imperatives for pregnant mothers, Medina has surprisingly little to say about nutrition beyond the breastfeeding stage. Perhaps he thought nutrition, one of the most controversial subjects out there, was intuitive?
As for music, Medina has a bit more to say, but I have mixed feelings about how he presented it. I counted only a couple instances where Medina had something positive to say about the effect of music on a child's development, and in both cases music is cited as helping children better perceive others' emotions, increasing their "ability to establish and maintain friendships" (pp. 273). That's it for the positive; otherwise, Medina is fairly snarky in his dismissal of pro-music research, such as the idea that playing classical music will have a positive effect on a child's development. While I respect his good intentions to clear up erroneous myths, I fear that parents might walk away from this book believing that music is non-essential at best, irrelevant at worst - a tragic conclusion either way, in my opinion.
Admittedly, I have a bias: I was raised by a mother who has been an advocate for music education and has proclaimed the positive effects of music on the brain for as long as I can remember (she even wrote a book on it: "Good Music Brighter Children"). Music has always been a major part of my life, and I intend to make it a priority with my own children. Considering Medina's admittance early on that, "Most of the data we have [regarding baby brain development is] associative, not causal," (pp. 7) it seems rather irresponsible for him to dismiss much of the positive research regarding music and brain development so flippantly. While music is certainly not a cure-all, I have good reason to believe, both from anecdotal experience and from the positive research I have read, that the effect of music on the brain goes far beyond simply helping children better perceive others' emotions.
Despite my qualms, I would still highly recommend this book for prospective parents. What Medina left out does not invalidate what he included. There are some really excellent, practical ideas that all parents could benefit from (the book even closes with a "Practical Tips" chapter that breaks down much of the research into applicable chunks). While I am not an expert on "essential" parenting books, I am inclined to keep Medina's work within arm's length as I work on raising my young children.