As discussed in my previous blog post, parents are a powerful influence over child development; YOU can help your child become the best that he can uniquely be. But to do that, first you have to understand how your baby’s brain develops.

Your baby’s brain cells

The core component of the nervous system and the brain is the neuron (brain cells), and your baby is born with roughly 100 billion of them. They don’t divide, they don’t die, and they aren’t regenerated when they are lost. When they are lost, they’re gone forever.

Neurons play important roles in processing and transmitting information. They do this through the synapses, or synaptic connections, that connect them with each other. Your baby is born with over 50 trillion synapses and, by age one, he will have more than 1,000 trillion synapses! Some experts have estimated that this is like having a computer with a 1 trillion bit-per-second processor. That is some impressive thinking ability!

A typical neuron fires or sends information to other neurons 5 to 50 times every second. The more signals sent between two neurons, the stronger the neural connection grows.

These connections and the increased activity they enable, make possible faster and more complicated patterns of thought – the very patterns associated with gifted children. Unlocking your child’s gifted potential comes down to stimulating these patterns during optimal windows of growth.

Synaptic Pruning

Your baby’s experiences determine which neural connections are formed and strengthened, and which are weakened and discarded. This process is called synaptic pruning, meaning that with each new experience and each remembered event or fact, his brain’s physical structure is slightly re-wired.

The resulting networks of connections, in turn, influence his abilities to sense, act, communicate, compute, and, overall, make sense of and interact with his world. And although synaptic pruning will continue throughout his lifetime, most of it occurs during early childhood, before he turns four! Thus his experiences – especially those in the first three years –will strongly influence what neural pathways form; what habits, traits and competencies (both good and bad) are created; and what these mean for his future. Thus, we can safely say that babies are hard wired to learn.

Still, your baby’s experiences will have a profound influence on what learning transpires. Either your baby’s environment or experiences will spontaneously alter his brain architecture, or you will. You are the key decision maker about his environment, and your child needs your attention. Because it’s only when you watch and listen to your child that you are able to recognize when your child is ready to learn, and provide the right support at the optimal time. If you are watching and listening, you will not only recognize when your child is ready to learn, but you’ll also be better able to spot problems as they arise and to address them speedily.

After researching children with reading problems, The National Institute of Health’s Child Development and Behavioral Branch found that a 12-year-old child needed four to five times as much intervention time as a 5-year-old with similar reading problems in order to address the issues. Early intervention is the key to successful remediation.

There is Only One You

Unless you’re cloned, it takes an egg and a sperm to make a child. And it takes two parents to raise one. That means you have to be there so that you can bond with your child and support his needs. You are your child’s touchstone. Even more than that: Your baby sees you, the parent, as part of himself – he doesn’t think of you as a separate person. Instead, you are his appendage.

As indicated earlier, every experience, including simple acts of love, kindness, bonding and touch, as well as the ways you stimulate him (by playing with him, talking to him, reading to him, and so on) influence the way your child’s brain grows. In fact, you can enhance your child’s intelligence and cognitive development simply through the environment you create and the way you interact with your child. In her book, The Handbook of Child Psychology, Florence Goodenough says that parents can impact their child’s I.Q. (a measure of intelligence) by 20 to 40 percent.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.