Last week I read a great parenting book-Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five. This book has several points similar to my book Handbook to Joy-Filled Parenting. Dr. John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist, research consultant and author. I loved Dr. Medina’s insights that include teaching children self-control, empathy and morality. Several of his ideas correspond to concepts in my book. He advocates that happy children come from happy marriages and that face-to-face relationships (living in joy) are the key to being happy. Dr. Medina’s approach to discipline includes firmness and love.
When asked how to get their children into Harvard, Dr. Medina tells parents to go home and teach their children self-control. (Self-control is built in what I call the Joy Center of the brain.) Researchers did a lab test with children of various ages who sat alone at a table in front of two fresh chocolate chip cookies. The researcher told them that he was going to leave the room for five minutes. They could eat one cookie if they wanted but if they waited and did not eat either until he returned, they could eat both. It was funny to watch the children as they struggled. What was being tested in the children was impulse control, a brain function in the Joy Center that includes planning, foresight, problem solving and goal setting. The conclusion of the study was that these functions are a better predictor of academic success than IQ. The children that could delay gratification for 15 minutes scored 210 points higher on their SATs than children who lasted one minute. (pages 105, 106)
Dr. Medina’s insights on empathy are closely related to what I call synchronizing—being on the same wave length with or having the same energy level as another. With empathy, we can understand others’ motivations and behaviors. Empathy calms distress and builds bridges that help children make friends. Dr. Medina says, “Empathy works so well because it does not require a solution. It requires understanding.” Empathy helps us read other people’s emotions and moods, helps us see from another’s perspective and realizes that the emotions belong to the other person and not to the observer. Being empathetic helps othesr feel heard and understood. Noticing how others are feeling and seeking to understand will help prevent conflict. (pages 83, 84, 216)
On moral development, Dr. Medina says, “Families that raise moral kids follow very predictable patterns when it comes to rules and discipline—clear consistent rules and rewards, swift punishment, explaining the rules.” (pages 234-235) His details are well worth checking out.
I recommend this book because it has great ideas and concepts while taking into account how our brains and emotions work. It interested me because his answers for smart and happy children were not the usual things such as, playing Mozart while pregnant or learning algebra when three years old. He advocates firm discipline and boundaries. You can find the book in the library.
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6