Brainy Teachers Working with Brainy Parents Change the World

06/05/2017
FamilyFriendlySchools.com

One of the major things I have come to understand both as an educator and a parent is the hugeinfluence parents and teachers have on brain development. I don’t like to burst anyone’s bubble- especially an educator’s bubble- but the parents are first. Parents have more influence than we as educators do, however, we come in a close second. Children model what their parents do. Parents are the adults. They are the god for a child at least while the child is young. By middle school, the response is usually a bit different, but those early years are critical.

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I have a good example I often use. I was sitting in an airport one day  and off the plane came a young  man. He was a real cowboy- not the dime store kind - clearly right off the ranch. He wore a cowboy hat, a white fringed shirt, jeans, a belt buckle won in some contest, and boots. He was the real deal. As he passed in front of me, I saw a little boy of about five or so right behind him. He clearly belonged to the cowboy. He wore a hat, a white shirt, jeans, boots and a much smaller replica of Dad’s belt buckle. He was every bit his Dad’s son.

Not all kids are as much physically like their parent as this little boy, but the seed doesn’t fall far from the tree. How many of us as educators, when we meet the parents at back to school night, know exactly who their child is before they introduce themselves and tell us their child’s name? It’s sometimes looks,
but it’s often mannerisms, the way words are put together like a particular child, or what holds their interest that tells us just whose parents they are.

So, if the parent is the major role model, then wouldn’t we want to help the
parent be the best possible role model for reading, doing math and decision making/problem solving? Some parents are naturally good at this sort of thing, but many need help. Often it’s a simple as someone showing you how to do it. However, sometimes it takes more.  Regardless of how quickly a parent can see the need to change, it does take practice.

Why is the practice so necessary? The brain is made up of several different parts each with different functions. The interesting thing about the brain, which is different from all other organs, is the way  information is carried from one part to another. The brain is activated with a thought – a form of energy. 
The energy of thought is carried from one spot to another through a series of tree- like particles called neurons.  You have billions of neurons carrying information all the time and this action is called Hebbs 
Law. Hebbs Law says : “what fires together, wires together.” What that means is if we think about something over and over the neurons in our brain fire in the same way over and over and we create a pattern of being or a habit that becomes so familiar it’s unconscious. Therefore, when we start thinking along the line of something we’ve thought before, we will think the same way and get the same result. 
For example, if you say “I can’t run well.” You wire in the thought I can’t run well, and guess what, you can’t run well. Your thoughts become what you think and what you think becomes who you are.

What the parent models for the child, i.e. what a parent says, does, feels, acts out, and who he or she is,is so important in the child’s life. For example, if the child hears over and over, “You aren’t very smart” from mom or dad, the child believes what the parent says.  Most of us want a child to hear a much more 
affirmative statement like: “Wow, you really worked hard at that problem.”

However, if you’re a parent or a teacher who have created your own habit of saying things in certain ways without realizing what a child may be hearing. You may not be aware that you too could be negatively affecting brain development. It’s an unconscious habit you have. Think about it and if you discover that this is something you do, you can change it. 
Neurons wire together but they can unwire as well. It may not be easy to break the habit of saying something or doing something you’ve been doing a long time. 
It takes conscious effort and practice, but once you start saying things like “You did that puzzle really well,” or “You really figured out that math problem,” you’ll begin to see different wiring, both in yourself and in your child. It takes practice, but because of what we call neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change itself, you’ll notice a change.

So parents, how do you create brain kids? By being Brainy Parents. You use your own brain, think about what you want to say and do because your child is watching you, and what you say and do result in what you want for your child. You want him/her to be good at math, so tell him when he is. You want her to be a good reader, so listen to her read and point out how well she does. You will get what you pay attention to.

Visit FamilyFriendlySchools.com for more information on Brainy Teaching & Brainy Parenting. We’re just about to launch our inaugural set of online coursework to help school leadership, teachers, and parents build integrated relationships for high performance and learning.
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Issue 19.1 | Summer 2017

Southeast Education Network

Our Mission: to reinvigorate the spirit of American education