By Jamie Sterling
Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five is John Medina’s follow-up to his bestselling Brain Rules. It is an absolutely delightful read, full of parenting and even grand-parenting altering info!
This Seattleite and UW professor opens his book by debunking a few of the parenting myths we have come to believe. Taking on these preconceptions and misconceptions, Dr. Medina uses the latest in research (only peer-reviewed and successfully replicated) to fill the next nearly 300 pages with specific strategies towards raising a smart and happy child.
One thought-provoking and foundational insight having particular application to our Kindermusik classes is Medina’s proposition that the fundamental job of the baby’s brain is not to learn, but to survive! “We do not survive so that we can learn. We learn so that we can survive.”
Hence, our fundamental job as parents and teachers is not so much to provide a steady stream of baby educational dvds, flashcards or early childhood French lessons, as it is to provide an environment of safety where learning can happen. When the brain feels safe its busy neurons are free to complete the thousands of connections needed to fully wire the brain….but not until!
So what are some of the things that affect the safety level of our children?
- Attachment – From the birth canal babies are looking for attachments, their brains acutely attentive to the care being received. If essential needs are being met and healthy bonding (lots of touch and “face” time!) is occurring there is a positive outcome, if not, there is another outcome.
- Stress levels – A stressful environment (angry or emotionally violent, exhibiting relational/marital conflict) signals to baby a lack of safety. Dr Medina does a fantastic job of pinpointing and addressing particularly prenatal stress and marital conflict. He provides solid insights to bring about change to both areas.
In our Kindermusik classes our first and primary goal is to signal “this is a safe environment” to all children. From the welcome song where one discovers he or she not only “belongs” to this community, but is recognized as a valued individual, to the snuggle time where we turn back to receive the gentle care of a loved one, we sing and dance and snuggle our way to a place where learning can thrive and happy neurons connect at an alarming rate!