The Whole-Brain Child: Chapter 4

As I delve more into this book, I discover such interesting things about parenting. It may seem obvious once you read it but its the kind of thing that doesn’t really cross your mind. For instance, if a toddler was doing something bad or not eating their vegetables, the first action is to scold. In some cases, one wouldn’t go beyond saying “no” or spanking the child. Chapter 4 is about nurturing our children’s brains by using their memories.

There are little things in our childhood that have a big impact in our future. Our future selves are molded by our past. Memory is a powerful thing and teaching our children to use it is the key to a healthy mind. There are two myths about memory: 1. It is something that can be recalled exactly as it happened and 2. It is something that can be recalled once it is needed. Once we recall a memory it is altered. It is not the same as what actually happened. Our current selves are different than our past selves. So different, in fact, that recalling a memory changes it. Memory helps us cope with future stressors and events. An event, like almost drowning in a pool, can affect our eagerness to swim in the future. This is why it is so important to talk about events like these with our children.


The key to helping our children use the past to grow in the present is in understanding what explicit and implicit memories are. Implicit memory is what happened in the past and explicit memory is recalled memory. Children’s fears and frustrations are rooted in their implicit memories. This is very interesting and as I read this chapter, I kept on thinking about my own childhood. I have a fear of public speaking and I’m often anxious in public situations. I wonder what had happened in the past to create such fears and feelings. It might have been that moving to a new country made me insecure. Not being able to connect fully with my peers at school might have caused anxiety. Even though I felt comfortable with my own friends, there might have been a time  I felt uncomfortable and anxious. Also, the fact that we had to make many presentations probably had something to do with my fear of public speaking. Typically in school, they don’t ease you into public speaking (at least that’s now how I remembered it).


The book tells us a way we can extract those memories from our children. They can treat the memories like movies. They can start, stop, skip and fast forward parts of their memories. This will help them relive their memories at their own pace without being pressured.

One last thing in this chapter is a strategy to get our children used to recalling past events. When they come home from school, we can ask them how their day was. One parent’s trick to get their children talking was to ask them to tell her one high point, one low point and one act of kindness they preformed for someone. I thought that was clever. I’ll definitely use that when Zoey’s older.
























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