The Madeleine Brand Show for November 28, 2011

Your child's brain: Understanding it can help you parent

Struggling with your parenting skills? The good news is that after researching thousands of scientific studies, authors Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang found that overall kids are pretty hard to break. But in their new book "Welcome to Your Child's Brain," they looked at the way children's brains work and found that certain parenting tactics can help.

"There are sensitive periods in development for certain functions where kids can learn better than they'll ever be able to again," Aamodt said.

Teaching your child a second language, for example, is best done before the age of seven. And children who learn a second language have been shown to have greater levels of empathy - the process helps kids to contemplate the way other people think, which in turn increases his or her social feelings.

Another finding - teaching your three or four year old to play elaborate games can help them learn self control. But Aamodt and Wang found other commonly practiced parenting strategies don't work. Excessive praise for being smart isn’t recommended.

"It's not very helpful because it doesn't give kids the tools to do better next time," Aamodt said. “In fact, in some cases it can actually make kids feel insecure.”

It’s better to praise good efforts and teach kids that they have the tools to accomplish tasks when they apply themselves, Wang said.

Guests:

Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang co-wrote the book "Welcome to Your Child's Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College"


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