I know it might seem crazy because most kids don’t even know what their own bodies are doing.
New research from UCLA’s Memory and Aging Research Center suggests that our children’s technical abilities are changing the structure of their brain’s actual structure.
Simply put, we are evolving some brain pathways out of them and developing other pathways.
Because they don’t have the same social/human interaction that past generations had, their brains don’t recognize human behavior in the same way. Also research from the University of Michigan suggests empathy levels are way down for children now because of social networking and texting allows people to ignore those they do not want to interact with. Also, reality TV may be creating callousness in our children when they watch how others are treated with little regard.
While all of this might depress you, it doesn’t mean they cannot develop these skills by retraining their brains to do a better job understanding body language.
Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., is an international speaker, coach and the author of “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – Or Hurt – How You Lead.” She offers these four tips to parents to help their kids keep and develop their body language reading abilities and develop better empathic emotions.
Eat Dinner Together
This is one of those tips that comes up for almost any article I write about helping families. It’s a cardinal rule of being a strong family. Goman writes, “Research show that family dinners not only strengthen the brain’s neural circuitry for human contact (the insula and frontal lobe) but they also help ease the stress from daily life, protecting the medial temporal regions that control emotion and memory.” So the dinners can help with the “reprogramming” of the brain activity to help kids recognize and understand human behavior and feel empathy.
Keep an Eye on Media Exposure
We’ve heard for years that violent media numbs our children to the perils of others. When they see these images over and over in gaming, the computer and television, their brains tell them the pain isn’t real. They then translate that to real life and believe that other’s hurt doesn’t matter. Make sure you limit your children’s exposure to these images. It’s not a nanny state; it’s reality. Past generations didn’t have Call of Duty; they had World War II, Korea and Vietnam. They saw the pain and death in real life and it affected them for the rest of their lives. We can’t say that these electronic images aren’t getting burned into the kids’ brains with no effect.
Teach Kids a Few Body Language Basics
Gomans says the ability to read body language is innate and parents can help bring it out in their kids. She says to let your kids know that we can read when they have a good day (bounce in their step, smile on their face) or a bad day. They can then look for these signs in others.
Parents can also let their kids know an eye roll or a shrug off sends certain messages just as a smile or a hug sends other messages. When kids know how to read others and what signals they are sending, their relationships will improve in all areas of their lives.
Be a Model for Empathetic Body Language
As parents, we know our children are sponges and often know way more than they even think they know.
When we model positive body language ourselves, this will transfer into what behaviors we see from our kids too.
Goman says to hold eye contact with your child, face them when you are speaking to each other, and kneel down to get to their level, if they are still small. Try hard not to multi-task, if possible. Give them your full attention.
A head tilt encourages your child to keep talking because it conveys listening and interest. Mirroring their movements also puts you in synch with your child. Try not to cross your arms in defense and try to lean toward your child (without crowding their personal bubble, of course.) Sometimes, I even put my hand on their heart to connect with them deeply.
With all these practices, you can help retrain your child’s brain to understand other’s behavior and their own, and what messages they are sending and receiving.
Please visit Goman’s website at www.silentlanguageofleaders.com for more about her and her work.]]>