Book: Brain Rules for Baby

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I loved the Brain Rules book. The original discussed why the brain works the way it does (including the studies) and gave specific activities one can do to boost the efficacy. An example: the brain is a major consumer of oxygen, so scientists have found that intense exercise improves function by getting more oxygenated blood to the brain.

I need to re-read it as it has been a decade. I recently got the baby one.

Some quotes:

Having a first child is like swallowing an intoxicating drink made of equal parts joy and terror, chased with a bucketful of transitions nobody ever tells you about.

This is 1,000% true.

As a scientist, I was very aware that watching a baby’s brain develop feels as if you have a front row seat to a biological Big Bang. The brain starts out as a single cell in the womb, quiet as a secret. Within a few weeks, it is pumping out nerve cells at an astonishing rate of 8,000 per second. Within a few months, it is on it’s way to becoming the world’s finest thinking machine.

Some notes I took.

  1. Perception begins at weeks for most senses. And memory persists after birth, but stimulation too early is harmful and later not going to make a genius.
  2. Everything is a balancing act. During pregnancy especially weight, nutrition, stress, exercise.
  3. Chronic or acute stress passes those hormones through the placenta and children seeing it stunt brain growth observing it. Husbands need to keep their wife not stressed. Happy is the ideal, but at least not stressed. This can be 8 IQ points.
  4. Exercise can reduce pushing time and reduce the time baby is without oxygen and reduce stunted brain development.
  5. Kinds of intelligence:
    1. Record information, aka crystallized intelligence.
    2. Improvisation
    3. Desire to explore
    4. Self-control
    5. Creativity
    6. Verbal communication
    7. Decoding nonverbal communication
  6. Ingredients for happy kids:
    1. a demanding but warm parenting style ( responsiveness & demandingness)
    2. comfort with your own emotions
    3. tracking your child’s emotions (don’t ignore & don’t helicopter)
    4. verbalizing emotions (describe emotions)
    5. running toward emotions (emotions are reflexive; behavior is a choice; be consistent with rules on behavior; turn intense feelings into teachable moments)
    6. two tons of empathy
  7. Behavior modification basic principles.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. The thing I liked the most about the original was he named a rule and went on about why it is important and the research justifying it. This book lacked that simplistic and novel model, which put me off.

 

 

Driving Music

Andy Grammer

Andy Grammer

You may have heard of Andy Grammer. I mainly know him as the son of Red Grammer. (I did meet Andy in 2007 when he had just put out The World is Yours and was building up interest and playing the venues who would recognize his name and support him.)

Red has several albums of children’s songs released when my brother was young. They were staples of taking him to daycare and family trips and designed to for singing along. We listened to the Can You Sound Just Like Me? and Teaching Peace cassette tapes over and over. And knowing he was going to play somewhere nearby meant we had to go.

The last time the kiddo was in daycare, a handful of times I stayed home with her and drove her to mom’s office to nurse. She was hungry on those occasions so I sang to her to calm her down. Now that I am taking her to daycare every day, I am sensing her getting bored. And she doesn’t appreciate NPR. My wife plays music when they are together, so I am sure that is what was the normal.

So, I am going to compile a playlist of my favorite Red Grammer songs for her to listen to when I am driving.

Daycare

Daycare is new. Today was the fourth real day. There was a transition period where Fleur got to spend a few hours acclimating to the place. She liked it with Mama there. I am getting clinging and tantrums leaving her there by herself.

The first day, I stayed for almost half an hour letting her get comfortable. She wanted to stay at my feet, but she also wanted to play with toys and investigate what the other kids were doing. She would drift away from me to get a toy, but she would come back. Same with day two. On both days, she only got upset when she realized that I had left the room. My telling her bye, I love you, asking for a hug was ignored because she was intent on something else.

Yesterday and today, she was not going to let me go. Yesterday, it was trying to stay with me as much as possible. Today, it was not letting me put her down. (Also, I screwed up in bribing her with that her cousin would be there who arrived at the same time only for them to be separated.)

elphants standing on brown soil

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One childless advocate of corporal punishment said this shows she is spoiled. (But, also that she is intelligent in that she figured out the pattern and increasing the resistance earlier and earlier.) In Elephant Parenting, I basically said that I aspire to nurture, protect, and encourage rather than being the ultra-strict disciplinarian. So naturally, I am right in the middle of an issue and am conflicted about it.

First, I have to remind myself not to overreact. This is relatively common for the first few weeks. We are not even done with the first week. I think I am discouraged because the trend is getting worse not better, but maybe this is part of the process. She needs to see that her displeasure isn’t going to change the outcome. At the same time, I need to continue the soothing and encouragement.

Second, I need to keep the schedule, routine, and describing them. She understands routines and helps me with familiar processes all the time. I was thinking last week maybe I need a more attention getting goodbye ritual where she understands better that I am going.

Third, the lingering is probably more upsetting and encouraging the undesirable behavior. Instead of hanging out longer in reaction to the crying about it, just do the goodbye ritual and get the teacher to take her. Let the teacher comfort her and help build that bond?

Study: The rough sound of salience enhances aversion through neural synchronisation

Why is is that children’s screams affect us so much? Crying is one thing. But, a scream gets adrenaline revved up and someone is going to die. These researchers looked at why.

They define how the physical properties of a scream differ from other similar sounds. It fits in 30–150 Hz, is loud, and has fast repetitive flicker like effects. These combine to capture attention due to the unpleasantness.

They used iEEG electrodes to measure brain activity. They looked at a small number of patients.

One of the areas that lit up is used in processing language and emotional context. While the superior temporal gyrus is in a part of the brain associated with sound, when analyzing facial expressions, we also leverage this area to understand emotions.

Arnal, LHKleinschmidt, A, et al. “The rough sound of salience enhances aversion through neural synchronisation” Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 3671 (2019)

Valkyrie cry

Fleur now has what I can only describe as a war cry. She lets out this piercing cry just before charging at someone. Usually, she does this towards the cat who flees in terror. (Puffed up tail.) When we play chase, she will use it on me.

She just needs a sword and shield and a bigger flail.

Messy eating

girl eating watermelon

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A friend posted a photo of his kid’s first experience with a messy food and the spectacularly messy result. It reminded me that we totally have a strategy for certain foods like this that tend to get everywhere.

  1. Undress the kid. This keeps from having to treat the clothing with more expensive products to get out stains.
  2. Save the messy foods for just before bath-time. Wet washcloths work best for getting the food off skin. The bedtime routine includes a bath. Saving these foods for dinner makes it easy to go straight from mess to cleaning them in the bath to bed.

Impressive how much of a mess kids make. I remember my younger brother particularly getting a blackberry cobbler all over himself. Fleur seems more inclined to wearing food than necessarily eating it.

Our metric for how much she liked something was based on how much she ate versus played with the food. Of late, I am more dubious about this measure as it seems she can get bored. Interest in novelty can be good, but also challenging as we figure out what she wants without words.

Evolution makes us think our kid is adorable

Children are wired to seek protection from adults around them. Being born years before their ability to survive on the savannah, they need us to keep them safe from the dangers around them. And being adorable is how they ensure we will do so.

It is not vanity making us think our child is the cutest of all. Adults who find their offspring adorable spend more time aware of them and keeping them out of danger to survive to produce descendants. It is an evolutionary hack of our brains.

Of course, even knowing all this, I think my own is still the most adorable of all. Cognitive dissonance tells me so.