Healthy Brain Food

healthy brain foodA baby is born with a brain voraciously hungry to learn; to be formed. Experience is the brain’s food. The brain forms almost entirely based on its diet of experiences.

Whatever the brain is “fed” over its first twenty some years of life (especially the first fourteen years!) forms the basis for for how the child interprets and interacts with the world. During this time, experiences repeated over and over have enormous “feeding” power.

This is why we so strongly advocate the priority of connection – that effort we make with our children to be sure they know and experience our love. Remember those messages of love to our little babies? We say things like “I love you!” “You’re so precious,” and “What a miracle!” These messages – not just the words, but the pleasant experiences that surround them – are brain food. As our children “eat” these messages and experiences of love over the years, they form a healthy view of themselves. When these experiences are repeated often, kids can naturally conclude that they are lovable.

The same can be said of respectful experiences. Kids who are repeatedly treated with great respect grow up concluding, “I am respectable.” Kids who know they are lovable and respectable are kids who know how to love and respect others.

This is a complex conversation. But as we learn more about how the brain forms, and how hard it is to undo what’s been thoughtlessly formed, we become more convinced about the importance of feeding healthy and happy brain food early and often.

Healthy Brain Food To The Toddler Pays Off In His Teens

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about how the “brain food” of experiences we feed our kids as youngsters forms their “Operating System” for facing the world as they grow older. This idea from David Walsh* reminds us of the story of a silly song.

When our oldest son, Daniel, was just a toddler, we made up a silly little song to the tune of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It went like this:

A boom boom boom –
Doobie, doobie, Daniel!
Doobie, doobie, Daniel!
Doobie, doobie, Daniel!
We love you.
(repeat)

We sang it in the car, on the playground, and during walks. We continued singing it over the years, but as it got less “cool” we moved on to other, more age-appropriate ways of enjoying our son. We all but forgot about the “Doobie Doobie Daniel” song.

Years later, Daniel faced the challenges of middle school and often felt less than enjoyed by those in the brutal adolescent culture that engulfed him. One day Lynne asked, “Daniel, we know you’ve had some pretty discouraging days at school lately. How are you getting through it?”

“Well,” Daniel said, “Remember that ‘Doobie Daniel’ song you used to sing me? When I’m feeling bad I sing it to myself, and it reminds me of the people in my life that really love me. It helps me get through!

Wow! A little bit of simple and sweet brain food can last a good long time!

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*David Walsh is president and Founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family. Their resources greatly reinforce and further inform our opinions about the effects of media on our children.

[Photo Credit: Aquir | iStockphoto.com]

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