Do This ONE THING To Build Pathways In Your Child's Brain
What is the one thing you can do today to help build connections in your child's brain?
The one thing?
We've been talking about this in our Kindermusik classes this week, and I just want to tell you that we all know, and all early childhood experts agree, that in order for optimal learning to occur in your child's brain, there needs to be an emotional connection.
It sounds very simple, doesn't it?
It's not as simple as it sounds, so I want to ask you what you think this actually means.
Well, we're not just talking about feeling good when you're with your child and when you're connecting with your child, it really goes way beyond that.
We know that our brains function very differently when we are emotionally connected.
What does emotionally connected mean?
Dr. Becky Bailey, author of Conscious Discipline and I Love You Rituals, teaches us about what she calls I Love You Connections.
They have four components.
In a playful situation.
As a parent, I want you to think about what this means to you and how it makes you feel.
Think about how you hear and process information from someone, let's say a spouse or a partner.
Maybe they take the time to look you in the eye and to truly listen to you, and your partner is holding your hand and you truly, truly feel that connection and you truly, truly feel like they're listening to you and that they're not distracted.
That probably is a lot more meaningful to you than speaking to your spouse or your partner while they have their smartphone in their hand, oh, and it buzzes and they become distracted.
That doesn't feel very connected, does it?
I want you to think about your child.
It's really the same thing with children.
You're on your smartphone,
“I hear you, honey, I hear you.”
“I'll come play in a minute.”
“Oh, I see the building blocks that you're putting together, oh, that's a tall tower, oh, look, oh, yeah, yeah.”
“Oh, yeah, I hear you, honey.”
“I'll be right there, yeah.”
Well, what do you think that message sends to your child?
You are not present with them.
To have an emotional learning connection, that means you must be present with your child.
It's not as easy as you think.
I want to let you know what that emotional learning connection truly does for your child and how it benefits them.
Did you know it helps them manage their feelings?
It helps them develop empathy and it helps them handle relationships with others.
All these connections, these present, valuable, emotional connections, on the outside help build more neural pathways on the inside.
For your child, and for anyone else, truly loving emotional connections on the outside help build new neural connections on the inside.
How important is that and how essential that is to your child's development?
Emotional connections also create a biochemistry, which helps organize the functions of the brain, hence better learning.
The biochemistry in the brain changes to help organize the functions of the brain.
It's not rocket science but it is the most important thing you can do to help your child with building new connections in their brain, helping them learn, helping them become more empathetic.
It's just what they need to be able to grow up with essential skills for functioning in the world and learning in the world.
Think about connecting with your children, connecting with each other. we want you to think about warm, wonderful feelings emanating from you, especially when you're lying down on the floor with your child looking at them in the face, or your young teen is actually spending that time to sit next to you at dinner or at a movie and you're holding their hand, helping them get through something.
You get these warm wonderful feeling emanating from you.
How to truly be present with your child:
Put your smartphone and electronics away.
Put them away. You can do it. Put them away and out of sight, okay?
Turn off the distractions. That means turn the TV off. Turn anything else off that's a distraction. Maybe there's the blender going in the kitchen, I don't know, but just turn off all the distractions.
Notice three things about your child. Not big things, not what color they're wearing, not what their hair looks like. I want you to notice three, maybe smaller things. For example, you have a baby. Does she wiggle her big toe when she sucks her thumb? Does your six year old son scrunch his eyebrows when you ask him a question? How many times does your daughter blink while you're singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to her and with her? You have to be fully present to notice these little, little things about your child.
It's very easy not to be present.
We got things to do, right?
We have errands to run.
We have work deadlines.
We have projects to complete.
We’ve got stuff to do.
Our mind is racing.
We worry about what just happened an hour ago and we're worrying about what we've got to get done in the next three hours.
Give your child your undivided attention, and forget about what happened. Forget that you've got to get laundry done. Forget that you have a project that's due at midnight tonight and you're going to be up late doing it.
Give your child your undivided attention. I don't care if it's 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, your child needs some time, some undivided present time with you.
This is what's going to build neural connections in your child's brain.
On top of that, this is what your child craves more than anything else throughout their day.
They crave your presence and loving connection.
If you have a minimum of four of these loving connection moments throughout your child's day, you are going to see more desired behavior from them.
The I love you moments, the I Love You Connections, have four components: eye contact, touch, presence, and in a playful situation.
It can also be just lying down next to them listening to music.
We talked about this in my classes this week, and one class in particular, a mom said, "That's all I’ve been thinking about is the errands and everything I have to do the rest of the day."
I said, "Stop. They are out of the classroom, and you are not going to worry about them. Breath. Notice something tiny, tiny, tiny about your daughter. Look her in the eye."
All the parents in the room were working very hard to do this and, you know what? I saw it.
I saw more eye contact.
I saw more focus from the children.
I saw them giving loving looks to the grown-ups and, you know what else I noticed? The grownups were so much calmer.
They were singing. They were really engaged in the moments in class and the babies were engaged with them, and so much learning was going on.
You could just feel the positive energy and you could feel the loving energy.
Your challenge today is to have some loving connection moments with your child where you are truly, truly present.
It's going to feel really good to have that smartphone in the other room.
Give yourself some undivided, 'undistracted' attention with your child today. Let me know if you feel the difference. I bet you will.