By the time the child appears for the 10th or the 12th board the child is now a young adult and literacy is not the goal but complete education. So by this age your youngster would have inculcated certain required life skills like focus, concentration, and ability to stay away from distractions. The human brain goes through two phases of intense development, one stage is the period between birth and 6 years and the next stage is when the thinking brain or the executive brain develops and this is rapid between the age of 11 to 21 and beyond.
The thinking brain is that part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex and it is the only difference between the apes and us! So the thinking brain can perform and should perform executive brain functions, it is called executive because these are functions that youth will require in their career and life. So impulse control, ability to defer gratification, self-regulation all come under this category of executive brain functions. And these will all be tested the most during board exams!
So now is the right time to test if your child is ready for executive brain functions and has his/her upbringing and education helped nurture his/her brain or just their memory!
- Prepare ahead- plan ahead, study ahead.
- The temptation to go to parties will be there- have self control- self-regulation and maybe decide that the child can take a few hours of break.
- The child has his/her mobile phone, internet and will be tempted to cheat and watch videos, films or play games on it and all the while showing you that he/she is studying well, tell the child ahead of time that this is also the test of his/her ‘smart brain’ – impulse control the ability to defer gratification which means to know that something is available within easy reach but to not take it because you care for your own success.
- Remember there will be a whole life for parties and games but this is your only chance to win the board exams. If young children’s executive brains understand this then the motivation to score well in spite of the temptations will be an intrinsic goal and not have to be monitored by parents and schools.
So is your child equipped with executive brain functions? Time to examine your youngster’s ‘brain feed’ to check if it is brain antagonistic or brain relevant.
Parents want smart children and teachers want smart learners. Then if the aim is same lets focus on that body organ that can achieve this goal for us- the brain. All learning and memory is in the correct functioning of the brain. Did you know that the brain can be taught to learn? And did you know that during exam time there are certain practices that can actually destroy the learning and memory capacity of the brain? These are called brain antagonistic practices.
So lets understand how to ‘brain feed’ and how the brain can be taught to learn. It is called RAD learning.
R= Reticular activating system, A= amygdala and D= Dopamine
Reticular activating system simply means stimulus for the eyes, the less stimulus for the eyes the more they will droop, blink, and faze out, unable to concentrate, unable to focus. So, it is important during learning and exam time to use flash cards to revise, these flashcards can have relevant paragraphs, diagrams and acronyms. As each flash card changes the retina gets its stimulation and the reticular activating system sends positive stimulus to the brain. These days there are many apps available that also help them do this in a jiffy. studyBlue is a fantastic app that allows kids to prepare memory cards from their notes to test themselves, it also helps them see 30 of the top cards created by others and helps them compete with peers and check scores. cheggFlashcards, another app also has similar features
Amygdala is a small almond shaped part in our brain. It is on the left and right brain and it is the emotional checkpoint of the brain. All information, stimulus, learning that we receive through any of our senses has to pass through the amygdala. So it is like a security check of our brain. The minute it perceives any danger, threat or stress then the amygdala shuts the brain down immediately and then the brain triggers the primitive brain that can have only 3 reactions- Fight, Flight or Freeze. Flight means you want to flee from the situation at any cost, you don’t want to face it. Children will fake illness, cry, and fall sick to avoid exams if stressed out. Fight means resorting to aggression, violence against others or oneself to avoid facing the situation. Taking drugs, cheating, not wanting to appear for exams, running away from home, reaching school late are all signs of fight behavior and the last is freeze– also called brain fog- wherein everything that the brain knew is suddenly not recognized or remembered. The child just freezes unable to speak, think, understand, or react.
To avoid brain shut down, the amygdala needs to be deactivated during exam days, and this can be done in a variety of ways-
- Chamomile tea is good and calming, mothers should drink it! Because a calm mother will automatically calm the child.
- Avoid ‘hyperness’ creating words or facial expressions or tone of voice when referring to study time or exams. The amygdala will catch on and send the brain for a shutdown.
- Help children do deep breathing, yoga during exam days.
- Avoid foods with high salt and sugar content.
- Take brain breaks during studies. Important that the brain takes a break every hour for at least 15 minutes of maybe TV time, or just simple relaxing.
Dopamine- it is a chemical that the brain thrives on. Most drugs taken by drug addicts have a high content of dopamine. No we are not asking you to give drugs to your child. Dopamine is naturally released in our brains when we are happy and positive. So if you do what is given above then it does not trigger amygdala but instead triggers dopamine in the brain which will help your child’s brain become alert and focused which means better learning, retention and memory. All leading to exam success.
So RAD learning is the secret ‘brain feed’ for every child during exam time. It does not cost much but its impact is on the emotional and cognitive health of your child.
RAD learning is a brain compatible practice every family should adopt during exams. After all, brain antagonistic practices will destroy the very organ that is required during exams. It would be like ‘running out’ your own team player!
If parents want their teenager to become a smart adult then it is time for parents to appeal to the teenage brain and for more such ideas check the work of Elkhonon Goldberg,(Wikipedia) on www.sharpbrains.com
Wishing all teenagers and their parents all the very best for the board exams. Relax, remember, and be successful.
Dr. Swati Popat Vats
Parenting Mentor and Coach