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.