What is the case for Right Brain Learning- Love learning
What is the case for Right Brain Learning- Love learning ?
In the recently released Green Paper the Prime Minister John Key said :-
“I’m very concerned that in the past 10 years, despite hundreds of millions of dollars extra being invested across health, education, the benefit system, Child, Youth and Family and the justice system, public services have too often failed the children who need them most. Despite decades of good intentions from government, we’re still failing too many of our kids.”
My name is Eva Scherer and I share this concern !
My “Child Connection” registered charity stands for the universal rights of closeness and belonging for all children - essential and undeniably vital elements for their life, health and wellbeing. The best manifestation of this universal right is through positive touch . We offer a range of award winning programs that help prevent child abuse, depression, suicide and family violence. Based on years of research, these programs also contribute to building healthy families and communities.
Zealand Government’s vision for children is that every
child thrives, belongs, and achieves. The Green Paper states
“About 15 per cent of New Zealand children are at
risk of not doing well.” Children are most vulnerable
when they are young (under 5 years) because of their
developing brain and their dependence on caring adults to
provide their basic needs. During this period it is mostly
factors associated with the parents that signal increased
vulnerability of children.
Addressing the needs of New Zealands vulnerable children is a topic of great debate currently and the Green paper is one initiative aiming to deal with the problem. According to their statistics there are 160.000 such children in New Zealand , and this number is growing literally every day! Paula Bennett, the Minister for Social Development addressed an open debate at the Fickling Centre on the 27th January, and one topic kept resurfacing over and over again! We need to break the vicious circle of abuse going from generation to generation. This means starting as early as possible. This means prevention, and it means meeting vital needs of young kids.
Let’s pause and ask ourselves a key question!
What are the vital needs of young children? Food and shelter- of course. But there is also something else which is equally important to a child’s development. It is love. That’s right; love. Over the last few decades, love has been quantified, described and measured by scientists. For the developing brain the word “love” means nothing. But touch, cuddling, smiling, holding, singing and iterating: mean everything. Combine all these elements that comprise the expression of ‘love’ and you end up with what the Psychologists call “Secure Attachment”.
What happens if the child does not experience Secure Attachment (or in other words when he or she is not loved and cared for?) What happens if this law of attachment is broken?
Addiction to sensory stimulation in adulthood (sexual abuse, drug use, crime)
Depressive and autistic behaviour
Violent and aggressive behaviour
Difficulty recognizing feelings in others
Trouble recognizing own feelings
Impaired social maturity
This data is from the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, published in 1981 by Fahlberg in London . ( I remember my grand mother asking me when I was little: what distinguish an ugly child from a beautiful child? Only one thing: the ugly child is not loved.)
Maria Montessori, the first early childhood educator to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, claimed that humankind abandoned in the early formative period becomes the worst threat to its own survival. To neglect this essential need for being nurtured: in particular experiencing touch and body contact ( especially in males, who are biologically most vulnerable early in life) results in increasing numbers of juvenile and adult males who batter, abuse and rape. And the cycle of violence continues.
Allan N. Schore, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Bio-behavioral sciences at UCLA Medical School reports:-
In the first two years of growth a baby is building the foundation that will dictate his or her behaviour through adulthood. In the first year alone the baby's brain grows from about 400g to a stupendous 1000g. This growth and development is dependent upon emotional, close interaction with parent/primary caregiver. The human cerebral cortex adds about 70% of its final DNA content after birth and this expanding brain is directly influenced by early environmental enrichment and social experiences. Failure to provide this enrichment during the first two years can lead to a lifetime of emotional disability.
In the 13th century Frederick the 13th, who spoke several languages himself, unwittingly conducted the first study of human bonding while trying to determine the inborn language of mankind. He did this by bidding foster mothers and nurses to feed and bath the children but not play or speak with them. Frederick was very disappointed as all infants died before uttering a single word. His conclusion was that “children could not live without clapping of the hands and gestures and gladness of countenance and blandishments”
As you see the need for love, providing conditions for “Secure Attachment” in this early stage is even more important than food and shelter! Being loved, nurtured and cared for in this most basic physical sense not only provides the basis/foundation for balanced emotional development and stability later in life. It is also the foundation of intelligence and a wide variety of cognitive skills.
During one of my workshops for parents a young mother asked me which lullaby I can recommend so she could switch it on in the evening for her toddler daughter. I explained that a lullaby only has sense and impact if it is sung or hummed personally to the child, when sitting close to the child, while gently stroking her hair or her back. The lady was embarrassed and said that she would like to, but she has a bad voice. Children are not NZ Idol judges!! If she would only have made time and contributed with good will she could not make a mistake. Frederick II made a mistake 800 years ago!! Parents really often don’t understand that it’s the emotion, the closeness that matters!
Positive touch is the main component of love and secure attachment and this is where it becomes particularly important for New Zealanders to open up and pay attention. In NZ Rugby there is a lot of touch involved , but talking about bonding we have different type of touch in mind. Touch Research Institute (TRI) – an institution solely devoted to the study of Touch and Massage has divided countries into 2 categories: low touch cultures countries and high touch cultures countries. In 1996 they conducted research simultaneously in Paris ( France is a high touch cultures country) and in Miami (US is a low touch culture country). Researchers observed couples in coffee shops. They were counting how many times within half an hour they touched each other: whether by holding hands, touching cheeks, leg to leg under the table or sitting on the lap. The results astound even the researches: in Paris on average couple touched each other 130 times, in Miami 4 times! The Touch Research Institute ranks different countries depending on how “touchy” they are: Italy is at the very top, and New Zealand , unfortunately, at the very bottom.
Yes, we are not a very “touchy” culture.
Kiwis are also believed to have one of the largest personal spaces in the world ! They have a large distance around them to keep safe and prevent carrying touch – the main component of secure attachment. This is something we should improve on. The catch 22 is that if today’s parents didn’t inherit these basic skills from their own homes they will not be able to deliver them to their kids. This is where and why education is important. Opening up to another level of appreciation for the need to be loved and nurtured requires change.
The government’s Green Paper is a great initiative, but it can only succeed if it helps address the basic needs of those who can not advocate for themselves. Cooperation between educational establishment and parents is also crucial, re-building a values based society.
Daniel Goleman counters in his book Emotional Intelligence” that we can shape our emotional habits – how adept or how inept we become in these areas can be shaped particularly in early childhood. The world-wide trend for the present generation of children to be more troubled emotionally, more lonely and depressed, more angry and unruly, more nervous and prone to worry, more impulsive and aggressive is most disturbing.
Our problems lie not just with our emotionalism but with the appropriateness of its expression. It is entirely appropriate that we would embrace and connect deeply with our children, instilling the notion of feeling loved!!
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia