In a recent study reported in the Los Angeles Times, an important finding was made with HUGE implications for both education and parenting: When it comes to self-regulation and self-control, anticipating pride for good behavior helps us behave much better than anticipating shame for bad behavior. In fact, “the more we anticipate public humiliation and guilt, the worse we’re likely to do when it comes to self-control. If we focus on the pride that comes from good behavior, we make better choices, by far.” What we focus on matters. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson, for example, focuses not on fixing what is wrong with conditions like ADHD and Autism, but on revising our minds with life-enriching experiences. This is how we change the brain – in the desired direction!


Neuroscientific inquiry has proven time and time again: Play is not trivial or elective. It is necessary to healthy brain development throughout the lifespan. According to a recent article in the New York Times, physically engaging play not only provides intense skill learning, it lessens the symptoms of attention deficit disorder, reduces childhood obesity, increases intellectual performance and helps children perform better academically in the long term. “Deprive a social mammal of its normal rough-and-tumble play and it enters adulthood emotionally fragile, unable to tell a friend from a foe, poor at handling stress, and lacking the skills to mate properly.” Furthermore, studies have found that young homicidal males and felony drunk drivers compared to a control group, lacked normal, developmentally appropriate rough-and-tumble play as children and pre-adolescents.

Play is essential to adults as well! According to the article, “play-deprived adults are often rigid, humorless, inflexible, and closed to trying new options. Playfulness enhances the capacity to innovate, adapt, and master changing circumstances. It is not just an escape. It can help us integrate and reconcile difficult or contradictory circumstances. And, often, it can show us a way out of problems.” Doesn’t this sound completely necessary for us right now? Both our parenting and our teaching – especially during this difficult economic time in our history – will be greatly enhanced by more play and playfulness. If we want our brain to be able to master the challenges we face, we need to have more healthy fun!


Recently reported in the New York Times, 4-year-olds who had just watched the fast-paced fantasy cartoon, “SpongeBob SquarePants” did worse on tests of attention and problem-solving than 4-year-olds who watched a slower-paced educational program or spent time drawing. This study follows many others that have arrived at similar conclusions: If we want our children’s brain to function optimally in school and otherwise, we must limit television viewing and be selective about what it is they see. Each and every experience our children have changes their brain, in a way we want it to be changed, or in a way we don’t.