Misconceptions About How to Raise a Bright Child: Part One

S. H. Jacob, Ph.D.


Your Baby’s Brain, Intellect, and You

Your Baby’s Mind: How to Make the Most of the Critical First Two Years

Co-Founder & CEO

SmartBabies AppÔ

When it comes to ideas about the early development of children, myths have persisted over the years. These notions were based on hearsay. One would think that some of these myths might have disappeared by now. But surprisingly, they are even more prevalent than before. This is problematic in that, at the very least, it is confusing to parents and caretakers, and, at the other extreme, it could be detrimental to children’s growth and well-being.

In this Blog, I would like to review some of the myths that persist to this day and debunk them based on our current knowledge.

Myth: Early academic training is necessary for babies to become intelligent.

Reality: Early academic training, such as learning the alphabet, flashcards, and prereading activities, is not necessary for babies to become intelligent. Babies need to have stage-appropriate, interesting hands-on experiences to engage their minds. Babies are naturally intelligent, curious, and inquisitive. We need to understand and respect their incredible abilities and nurture them. Babies learn best through play, exploration, and interaction with their caregivers and their environment.

Myth: Babies need to be pushed to learn.

Reality: Babies are naturally curious and eager to learn, so there’s no need to push them to learn. Instead, parents should familiarize themselves with the basics of child development and provide appropriate, stage-based opportunities for their infants and toddlers to explore and discover, think and invent.

Myth: Baby videos and TV shows can help your baby learn.

Reality: While it may be tempting to use videos and TV shows as a way to entertain your baby, there is no evidence to suggest that they are effective tools for learning. Excessive screen time can have negative impacts on a baby’s development.

Myth: Babies should be kept in a quiet, calm environment to promote brain development.

Reality: While it is important for babies to have a peaceful and nurturing environment, it is also important for them to be exposed to a variety of hands-on experiences. Babies who are exposed to a diverse range of stimuli are more likely to develop more and stronger neural connections which enhance their cognitive abilities.

Myth: Intelligence is largely determined by genetics, and there isn’t much we can do to enhance their intelligence.

Reality: While genetics significantly determines intelligence, the environment shapes a baby’s brain development. Research clearly shows that babies’ perceptions and interactions with their environment influence their brain growth thereby enhancing their intelligence.

Myth: All forms of knowledge can be taught through memorization and repetition.

Reality: Memorization is the only way to learn such things as spelling and grammar, rules of the road, the names of all kinds of things, laws, historical facts, etc. These disciplines were created by common sense, consensus, and social agreement. For example, we drive on the right side of the road in most parts of the world, but in England, people drive on the left side. The decision was based on consensus, not on pure logic (mathematics) or scientific discovery.

In short, memorization works for knowledge that wasn’t created by the process of discovery (science) or by logical reasoning (math). But memorization is not suitable for learning scientific facts, like physical resistance, e.g., that a ball rolls better on a smooth surface than a shaggy carpet, or a rattle makes noise when it is shaken, etc. Babies must act on (play with) a rattle to discover that it makes noise when shaken.

Memorization is also not suitable for learning math, like 1+1= 2. Mathematical truths stem from acting on objects that lead to reflection. For example, when babies play with blocks, they understand that if mom has 2 blocks and they have only 1, that mom has more! To use an example on a higher level, memorizing multiplication tables without understanding that multiplication is a recursive addition is useless. But once we understand that concept, we can memorize the table to speed up our calculations.

To highlight the limitation of memorization, one can’t memorize the acts of problem-solving, creativity, or critical thinking by memorizing them! These cognitive processes are anchored in doing, whether the actions are physical or mental.