Welcome to Your Child’s Brain – 3 Things You Should Know…

Quite some time back I bought a book on children’s brain development written by two neuroscientists – Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang – called Welcome to Your Child’s Brain. I had always planned to write about it but, as is usual in the life of being Mum, it sort of fell off the “to do” list and never found it’s way back on until I started reviewing it again recently. It is actually a really informative book and I recommend it to any couple planning to have a baby because there is a lot of practical information beginning with pregnancy.

Similar to Nurture Shock and Brain Rules, Welcome to Your Child’s Brain is supported by scientific literature. Aamodt and Wang have done an immense job of sifting through the scientific literature to bring the conclusions to parents in this book. Although somewhat dry at times with its technical explanations about the brain and how it develops, the practical information highlighted in boxes throughout the book is something I think many parents will find useful to know. Like Nurture Shock, this book is an interesting read because some of the information presented goes against the grain of what we instinctively believe to be true about how to parent a child successfully.

There is a lot of interesting stuff in this book so I recommend that you read it, but here are three points that hit closest to home for me…

Good enough is near enough

One of my biggest fears as a parent is that my efforts to properly raise my children may fall short – that somehow, somewhere along the way, I’m going to do something to irrevocably damage them for life. According to Aamodt and Wang, we parents can relax. Based on what they have found, most children get by with parents who are reasonably “good enough”. That is, as long as you’re not abusing or neglecting your children, they’ll be alright. Call it the survival instinct from evolution.

“children grow like dandelions. In Sweden, the term maskrobarn (dandelion child) is used to describe children who seem to flourish regardless of their circumstances. Psychological studies suggest that such children are relatively common (at least when rasied by “good enough” parents who do not abuse or neglect them). From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense; children who can make do with whatever time and attention their parents can spare are more likely to survive and pass along their genes under tough conditions. For many brain functions, from temperament to language to intelligence, the vast majority of children are dandelions.”

Now that’s a relief to know…

Shouting at your kids won’t scar them for life

Everyone has bad days. It’s bad enough when you have a bad day, but try it when you have kids screaming in the background, or constantly pestering you every thirty seconds when you’re trying to figure out how to solve a problem. We’re all human at the end of the day and most of us end up shouting at our kids.

With all the articles out there on being zen parents and keeping your head cool even while your body’s in a pressure cooker, it’s not surprising if you feel like you’re failing as a parent when you lose your cool every day of the week. Getting stressed about not being able to keep calm probably doesn’t help matters either.

Well, now you can take a break from beating yourself up on a daily basis. Your occasional rants and outbursts aren’t really going to have any lasting damage on your child’s psyche. Not that yelling at your kids is being recommended, but it’s a relief to know you don’t have to be a zen master of parenting to raise emotionally healthy kids. And now that you’re not stressed out about losing it, maybe it’ll be a little easier to get through those rough patches.

The best thing you can do for your child

After all that, you might be wondering if there is anything you can do to help set up your child for a successful future. Well, there is…

“Self-control preceded success” – said by one of my teachers when I was in school, but I can’t remember which one…

Yup. That’s it in a nutshell. The best thing you can do for your children is to teach them self-control and it will pave the way for a successful future.

The good news is that it isn’t hard to do either.

Child's brain
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. Imaginary play

  • Create an imaginary situation.
  • Take on and act out roles.
  • Follow a set of rules determined by those specific roles.

2. Learn a second language

Of the many benefits of learning a second language being bilingual also teaches children self-control. Being bilingual is like practicing the stroop test on a regular basis because you have concentrate on the language you are speaking in and suppress the interference from the other language you know. As a result of this daily practice, bilingual children development better cognitive control – they are better at handling abstract rules, conflicting cues, non-verbal tasks, and perspective taking.

Did you know?

Bilingualism protects the brain from cognitive decline with age.

If you’re going to teach your child a second language, then earlier is always better. I’m sure we all know that children learn a second language much more quickly and easily compared to adults. Children also learn it to a higher degree of proficiency – if they start learning in their first seven years of life, they are usually able to attain native speaker proficiency. In general, the older the child, the harder it becomes and the lower the proficiency.

3. Specific activities that develop self-control

There are also a number of activities highlighted by Ellen Galinsky in the book “Mind in the Making” that you can use to help your child develop self-control.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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