Brain Rules for Baby

Published on March 8, 2015

Couple of years ago, I read Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.

It was an excellent self-help book with scientific reasonings.

When I discovered I would soon be having a baby, I bought the book sequel - Brain Rules for Baby.

It is once again another excellent book.

It teaches new parents how to raise a smart and happy child from zero to five (years old).

I shall abide my parenting methods from concepts in the book :)


  • Leave the baby alone
  • Don’t waste money on pre-born baby products
  • The only proven brain boosters are:
    1. Weight - Gain proper weight (correlates with higher IQ)
    2. Nutrition - Folic Acid, Omega-3 (from fish), and more fruits & vegetables
    3. Stress - Releasing stress hormones is like cruise missiles
    4. Exercise

Smart Baby: Seeds

  • Human intelligence has 2 essential components: ability to record information and capacity to adapt that information to unique situations
  • Genetic contribution is about 50%
  • Many ingredients make up the human intelligence stew
  • But these 5 are the main ingredients:
    1. The desire to explore
    2. Self-control
    3. Creativity
    4. Verbal communication
    5. Interpreting nonverbal communication

Smart Baby: Soil

  • Firstly, create an environment of safety. A safe harbour.
  • Brain boosters:
    • Breast-feed for a year
    • Talk to your baby a lot (2,100 words per hour)
  • No TV (or other digital devices) before age 2

Happy Baby: Seeds

  • Money increases happiness only when it lifts people out of poverty - around $50,000 a year would be sufficient, and any more would not help as much
  • Single best predictor of happiness: having friends
  • Learn to regulate emotions - will have deeper friendships
  • Emotions are incredibly important to the brain. They act like Post-it notes, helping the brain identify, filter, and prioritize.

Happy Baby: Soil

  • How you deal with your toddlers’ intense emotions is a huge factor in how happy your child will be as an adult
  • Acknowledge, name, and empathise with emotions
  • Only 1 parenting style product terrific kids:
    • Demanding and warm (Authoritative)
    • Warm parents communicate their affection
    • Demanding parents exert behavioural control e.g. rules

Moral Baby

  • Punishment has several limitations:
    • Suppresses behaviour but not the child’s knowledge of how to misbehave
    • Without guidance, the child won’t know what the replacement behaviour should be
    • Arouses negative emotions - risk counterproductively and real damage to your connection with your child
  • How to punish:
    • Be firm - not soften
    • Be consistent - administered every time the rule is broken
    • Be swift - immediately, not even 1 second delay
    • Be emotionally safe - administered in the warm atmosphere (that is you care about them)
  • Praise for good behaviour
  • Rules must be explained with rationale
    • If not, it will sound like a command
    • Helps them internalise moral behaviour
  • Hitting is a form of lazy parenting

Sleepy Baby

  • No one-size-fits-all answer for sleep issues
  • Science could not provide much answers to this area!
  • 2 styles:
  • Decide for yourself:
    • Do you think baby’s wants and needs are the same thing during the first year (when they cry)?
  • First 6 months there is no patten when they want to sleep
  • At 6 months, choose a plan (NAP or CIO), evaluate your efforts, and get ready to change your plan.

More Pointers..

  • Reconstitute a vigorous social structure eg. Parent Support Groups, hosts get-togethers
  • Training in empathy reflex with partner - verbalize emotions
  • If you fight in front of your children, reconcile in front of them
  • Create a Chocolate Factory (playroom)
    • Lots of choices
    • A place for drawing, painting, music, …
    • Anything where a child can be safely let loose, joyously free to explore whatever catches her fancy
  • Play “opposite day” - train executive function
  • Make play plans
  • Praise them for their hard work, not for being talented
  • Trade for digital time
    • Category I time is for recreational experiences - games, web surfing, video watching
    • Kids could “buy” a certain amount of Category I time with time spent reading, etc
  • Verbally speculate on other people - train in empathy
  • Read together
  • Expose them to music - helps in maintaining friendship