Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Magic Words

Even before children are born, they are able to hear you. In fact, babies learn the sounds of their native language by the time they are six months old! This means that even before they start speaking themselves, they are listening to you, and learning to form their own words.

• Start using words and phrases like ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ I’m sorry,’ ‘excuse me,’ and ‘may I?’ as much as possible when interacting with your child. Even though it may sound silly for a parent to ask their child something such as “may I change your diaper?” focusing on speaking these words as much as possible around your child will make it easier for them to do the same once they are able to start speaking.

Your young child may have a hard time grasping why we need manners, and what good they will do for them, so the best thing to do is to consistently incorporate proper etiquette in your everyday routine. Repetitiveness is the key!

• By the time your child begins to speak, they are able to say the words you have been trying so hard to teach them. By age 21/2, they should be able to remember to say things such as please and thank you. This shows appreciation and respect. It is also important to encourage your child to maintain eye contact while speaking to another person. You should prompt your child to say any of these things whenever they may forget. However, these words are only as good as the sincerity shown while speaking them. It must be authentic and sincerely spoken; otherwise it is just as empty as saying nothing at all. This also goes for apologies. In cases when your child should apologize to another person, actions speak louder than words. A hug, a note or even a picture, along with an apology, make it more heartfelt and sincere.

“I have been a believer in the magic of language since, at a very early age, I discovered that some words got me into trouble, and others got me out.”
-Katherine Dunn

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Manners and Proper Etiquette

Manners and proper etiquette is a very important subject, so the next few posts will all be related to this topic. This post is about the basics of teaching a child something new, and the next few posts will deal with specific topics related to proper manners, as well as ways to go about teaching your child these specific things. Children are basically mimics. They repeat things that are done and spoken around them.

When it comes to teaching your child about good manners and proper etiquette, there are three important things to remember.

1. Reinforcement and encouragement

2. Set a good example

3. Avoid ignoring bad behavior

Reinforcement and encouragement, with helpful reminders and prompts from time to time are the keys to success when teaching a child proper etiquette. Repetition is the key here! They may not learn something the very first time they are taught, but if they do it or are reminded to do it daily, there is a much better chance of their brain wiring itself to remember these things in the future.

You must also remember to always set a good example! Your child having good manners is a direct reflection on you as a parent. It is also something that is a necessity in their lives and will remain so forever.

When teaching any form of manners, make sure you avoid ignoring bad behavior or improper etiquette, no matter where you are, or what may be going on at the time. As soon as your child forgets or breaks a rule, you must address the issue right away. This is very important. It will not work if you come home from the store and then tell your child what they may have done wrong. You need to nip it in the bud right then and there. Do not make it a negative experience; learning is almost impossible for a child if they do not feel safe and secure. The minute you raise your hand or your voice, the learning part of their brain stops, and the part of the brain responsible for threat and stress takes over. Simply inform your child patiently how it is done best, and why it is done that way. Later on you may want to bring up the issue again if you wish to explain yourself further, or if your child has any questions for you.

Always remember to praise your child for any good behavior. The more praise your child receives, the more likely they will be to repeat the good behavior!

“The hardest job kid’s face today is learning good manners without seeing any.”

-Fred Astaire

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Promoting Brain Activity During Pregnancy

There are quite a few ways of ensuring proper fetal brain activity and growth. Your doctor should tell you the main things to focus on while pregnant, but just as a reminder, I will list them here as well.

1. First and foremost, avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and drugs!!! This should be a no-brainer, but it still boggles my mind when I see a pregnant woman smoking a cigarette! These things are known to impair neurological development, so give them all up cold-turkey in order to give your baby the best chance at a bright future. This should actually be done even before conception to ensure that none of those harmful things get anywhere near your baby!

2. Gain weight! In order for your baby to grow adequately, it is recommended women gain between 25-40 pounds. Starting after your first trimester, you should consume an extra 300 calories per day, and make sure to include about 10-12 more grams of protein than you would usually eat. Too much weight gain can lead to a large baby, making it difficult when it comes time to deliver. However, not gaining enough weight can lead to the baby having a smaller head and brain.

3. Eat a well-balanced diet. Take a multivitamin or prenatal pill, depending on what your doctor recommends. These will ensure your baby is getting the nutrients it needs for neurological development. If taking a multivitamin, clear it with your doctor and make sure it has enough iron and b vitamins for you and your baby. You can start taking these vitamins even before you get pregnant as they help reduce the risk of neuronatal diseases.

4. Practice good hygiene. This is important to avoid viral infections. Wash your hands frequently, avoid sharing food and drinks with others (including loved ones) and report any symptoms to your doctor immediately. Do not forget to speak up while visiting your doctor and ask them ANY questions on your mind.

5. Exercise regularly. It will help ease the stress level of yourself as well as your baby, and should help to ensure a smooth delivery.

Now that we have the basics down, we can get into the fun stuff! What can be done to promote brain activity?
It has been reported that by the 26th week of gestation, the body of the fetus will react to vibration and loud sounds. This is due to the maturing of the brainstem. As the brainstem continues to mature, it becomes more and more responsive to external sounds. By 36 weeks, the brainstem responds to external noises and even the sound of the mother’s voice with reflexive movements, head turning, and an accelerated fetal heart rate. Through repetitive auditory stimulation, neural networks are molded. These pathways will then respond to familiar sounds, such as its mother’s voice or certain melodies. So sing, play music, and read to your baby throughout the last trimester and it will get those neural circuits in your baby’s young brain working!

Another idea is to play ethnic music during your pregnancy as well as throughout your young child’s life. Any music in a foreign language will work. Neural tissue required to learn and understand a new language will develop automatically from repetitive exposure to the language. This will not affect the way they learn their native language, it will just help wire the brain in a way that makes it easier for them to accept and learn new languages later on in life. So when it comes time for that Spanish or French class, your child’s brain will already have the connections it needs in order to take on a foreign language!

“Music is the universal language of mankind.”
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Like A Sponge

They say the young brain is like a sponge… ready to soak up knowledge. So why is it that we are only sprinkling it with information? We should be SOAKING it! There really cannot be TOO much information. Actually, the more information we throw at our children, the better. This may seem like you might be over stimulating their young brains, but that is a GOOD thing. The more information you give them now, the easier it will be for their brains to process information as they grow older. This is because their young brain will learn to process data more efficiently. Even if they don’t quite understand what you are teaching them, their brain will wire itself to be taught. That is the main idea. So start soaking that little sponge with as much information as you can; and who knows? Your Wonderchild may thank you for it!
“The brain is wider than the sky”
-Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Beyond Basics

What if, instead of just teaching the basics, we decided to make it a point that we teach our child even more. When I say “beyond the basics” I simply mean that I am not talking about learning the alphabet, counting to ten, or learning to color inside the lines. Why is it that we stop there? I believe our young children should also learn about life basics such as kindness, self-esteem, and honesty. The first few years of a child’s life are so critical and important, yet we as adults are only taught to focus on the basic things in life, so they are able to function in a kindergarten class. I believe we should do more.

The human brain can handle more than we give it credit for. A child’s brain is no less high-functioning than an adult’s brain. It is actually doing a lot more work than an adult’s brain does. Your child’s brain is basically hard-wired by the time they reach the age of six. That means you only have six years to create and mold your child into the type of adult you would be proud to have raised.

My goal in creating this blog is to gather tons of information on a wide variety of subjects, characteristics, and abilities I believe are extremely important for a person to acquire, and present them to the reader in a way that they will be able to both access and comprehend in an easy manner. That is not to say that I am trying to dumb it down for the reader, it is, however, that I have tried to simplify this process of teaching your child as much as possible, in the short amount of time there is before the child’s brain has become hardwired.

Obviously, learning is something humans are able to do for their entire life, and I am not saying that after age six there is no hope of changing someone. However it is becoming well known that the fine-tuning of a child’s brain happens between ages three and six. By the time they are six years old, a child's brain has reached almost 95% of its capacity and is four times the size it was at birth. These are the critical years, during which an incredible amount of wiring takes place in the parts of the brain involved with focusing attention, organizing actions, learning new ideas, and planning activities.

I understand that as a parent, you probably don’t have much extra time to learn innovative ways of teaching your child new ideas. But that is the beauty of this blog. Every post will have a new idea of how to get the point across in a simple, but effective manner. Most of the ways of learning will be able to take place while you are doing your day to day routines.

I encourage anyone with children, or anyone involved in a young child’s life, to follow my blog and read about different ways of educating and enlightening your child so they are able to expand their minds. Come back often to discover the many ways you are able to teach your wonderchild beyond the basics.