Animal studies have shown that newborn mice must experience whisker sensation in the first few days of life to enable them to develop normal sensorimotor skills.
Cats must be allowed normal visual input during their first three months or their vision will be permanently impaired.
Monkeys need consistent social contact during their first six months or they will end up extremely emotionally disturbed.
The same critical periods appear to hold for human development (ZeroToThree.org).
From the very first moments of your child’s life, his brain is being molded into who and what he will become. Thoughts and actions that are repeated over an extended period of time leave “grooves” in the brain that become the reservoir for all future thoughts and actions. Repetitive sounds, stresses or pleasures, consistent experiences, and all other daily happenings create grooves in his brain that will stay with him for life.
I have potty trained our day-old babies by simply making a noise every time I felt wet heat in their diaper. Those two things happening simultaneously over and over grooved their brain so that when they heard the noise, their body naturally responded. Now my grandchildren are being trained. By the time they walk, they take themselves to the potty. Cool beans, right?
Babies quickly learn to be comforted by their own mama’s style of handling them. Some time ago, during a church meeting, I was babysitting a newborn and I could not comfort the screaming child. I rocked, sang, and cuddled the baby, but she continued to cry. Someone went into the meeting to get the mother, thinking the child must be hungry. As soon as the mother saw her baby being held and gently rocked she just laughed and said, “Give her to me.” The mother began this hard rocking motion along with a high-pitched hum. The baby immediately stopped crying and began to contentedly suck her thumb. The newborn’s brain had been grooved to a different kind of security. The mother handed the baby back to me and I mimicked the mother’s style, which resulted in a happy little girl. If a tiny baby can appreciate that over my gentle grandma style, then grooving is important to comfort.
The first few years of a child’s life should be a time spent grooving into them confidence, thankfulness, joyfulness, self-discipline, and an eagerness to learn. In these early years of life your child is in a constant state of learning. His physical, mental, and emotional states are forming deep grooves.
When my first child was born I had just finished reading a book about introducing your infant to fine music. The book showed how children are not born with the gift, but rather the people in the newborn’s life introduce them to music. I bought some old records and had them softly playing for most of my new baby’s first three months. Later I read how reading poetry to your toddlers would imprint the concept of rhyme into their brains. I really wanted to give my child all that I could, so I was faithful in this as well. Of course, my gratification was delayed because it was YEARS before I realized how successful my endeavors were. It REALLY worked.
I was reading another baby book when my next child was born. It taught how you could use dots to teach math concepts to infants. I faithfully made large cards with big dots on them. Several times a day I would hold up that day’s card of dots. I would say to my 2-year-old, “This is eight dots. Eight.” And my toddler would excitedly yell out, “Eight dots!” He never actually counted the dots. I reviewed often, going back to one dot. When I reviewed, I intentionally hesitated before I called out the number so my baby boy would call it out before I could. The book warned me not to challenge him by saying, “How many dots?” I finished with 35 dots put on a card in a random style. He knew them all, but to me if there were more than 15 dots it was just a guessing game. I couldn’t identify the number. Amazing. That boy grew up to be a master at math. Not reading, not music, but really good at math.
Now when my third child came around, I was reading How to Teach Your Baby to Read. He had flash cards of words. Not easy words, but words with lots of letters. I taped words to everything in the house. The fact is, I read too much and I love experimenting. I have a habit of believing what I read, which is not always the best. But that is off the subject. You have to meet Nathan (the third child) to believe what I am telling you is the truth. He is a master with words. He LOVES words. Ask anyone who knows him, and they will tell you he has a rich vocabulary far beyond anyone they know. I never actually taught him how to read. I only did a few school lessons with him in his whole life. Yet he can discuss most any subject with any educator and know more than they know, and he is capable of explaining it better. He does have major holes in his education. His handwriting is terrible. He can’t spell. But because he loves words, he loves reading, so he’s been able to learn about almost all subjects of higher learning. I GROOVED his brain deeply with the love of words.
When my fourth child was born, I had a tape recorder. I taped myself reading books so she could listen and “read” along with the tape. I was sure this was a great way to homeschool because she could listen over and over. But she had the hardest time learning to read. I now KNOW that nothing takes the place of a real person sitting and reading along with the little one. Thankfully, she developed strong, confident leadership skills from caring for her little sister, and that made up for my lacking.
The fifth child caught me in the middle of studying herbs. I was passionate about it. I checked out and studied every herb book in every library in Memphis, Tennessee. My kids—from my 10-year-old down to the newborn—studied with me. We examined pictures of herbs and then went into the wild to find them. We bought herb seeds to grow and then harvest and dry. We cooked with herbs, healed with herbs, and puked when I misused them. My oldest child learned a lot about herbs, as did the other children, but it was the baby I carried on my hip who became a renowned herbalist. That young brain was smelling, touching, tasting, and understanding herbs. By the time she was 9 years old, she was bringing in a good amount of money selling her plants. When she was 13, she took over a tiny herb business that we had established a few years earlier for our children to make a little money and learn some business skills. Within a few years people all over the world wrote asking her questions about herbs, and she knew the answers. I am writing to you about brain grooving… been there and done that. It really works.
What have I learned from my experiences and what would I do differently now that I can see the results of my labor? Well, of course, ALL my children would have the opportunity of hearing classical music as they lay in their cribs as newborns. And every one of them would have had dots and words. They all would have had their senses stirred by herbs. But you only get one shot at being a mom and I have had mine.
What has impressed me more than words or dots or even herbs is the fact that my babies’ brains were being grooved with my moods, my actions toward others, my attitude toward their daddy, and all the things that made up my days. I was molding their brains to become strong or weak, pitiful or resourceful, thankful or needy, overbearing or longsuffering. I am my children’s mother. I have learned that everything I did grooved their brains. I am thankful we did not have electronics to put into their hands when we had something more important to do.
I call this article “Brain Grooving” because it is written to teach parents how to imprint basic good habits into their children’s brains. It requires hard work and much repetition for a child to learn to play the piano, but there comes a day when his brain is so deeply imprinted that he plays without thought, just loving the flow of the music. Likewise, children whose brains are rightly imprinted in duty, responsibility, and empathy will without effort make wholesome spouses, good neighbors, wise parents, and productive citizens.
Lest we forget the wisdom that worked in times past, we must review common-sense, biblical principles on how to raise emotionally balanced, hard-working children.
During the toddler years, the number of nerve connections in the brain increases to 1,000 trillion, twice the number adults have, according to Indiana University’s Riley Hospital for Children. These early years are when the child’s brain is in rapid development, so, clearly, proper nourishment is crucial. Children can suffer cognitive problems that include language difficulties, lower IQ, and poorer school performance if their bodies are not being fed the nutrients needed for development. Myelin is an insulating material around the nerves in the brain. In malnourished toddlers there is a shortage of myelin because fewer cells that make it are produced. This can result in smaller brains, according to Zero to Three, which is a program of the National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families. Good nutrition is required for these nerves and cells in the brain to form properly in 1- to 2-year-olds. If you want your children to grow up with clear, clean minds, then you need to remember YOU are the one who decides what they eat. As a parent, when you choose healthy food for your children, you are feeding their brains and building habits of healthy eating that will serve them well all their life. Good eating habits are grooved into the brain early.
Over the last almost 50 years of counseling, we have learned that when the body is not nourished, it can disrupt a person’s mental, emotional, and even spiritual well-being. We have seen men who are broken with depression or anger totally change when methylated B-vitamins are added to their diets. You can’t run a car on dirty water and hope to get far down the road. God designed our bodies to function on good, healthy food. It is even more important for a developing child.
Parents often write to us saying they can’t get their children to eat anything healthy. They write, “How can we get our children to eat what we give them?” A parent needs to be THE parent and take responsibility. If you knew for a certainty that your child would be brain damaged or die of cancer when they reached six years old based on what they are eating now, could you take charge and train them to eat differently? Of course you could, and you would. As parents we simply need to kindly, lovingly, and surely take charge. Of all child-training issues, this should be the easiest in which to simply do the right thing.
The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. Proverbs 29:15
I do not write this next sentence lightly: This one area of grooving the brain—that of good eating habits—will translate into self-discipline and self-denial in many areas of living. A child who has deeply grooved self-discipline in eating habits will be stronger both physically and emotionally. In time this will spill over into the growing child’s spiritual life. Many new believers in Jesus struggle with sickness or sin that has had a grip on their life since childhood. They spent their youth indulging in over-eating, smoking, unthankfulness, laziness, or self-pity. If, as a child, they had been raised according to the principles of God’s Word, these issues would never have been part of their lives. Basic biblical principles will not get you to heaven, but they do make it easier to honor God in how you live.
Children also need a daily dose of learning to wait their turn. They need to learn to wait until the meal is set on the table to eat. This habit teaches self-discipline and makes deep, lasting, positive grooves in the brain that will create a will to wait in much more critical areas of life as they reach their teen years. A child who eats what he wants when he wants will have sex when he wants or smoke pot when it pleases him. That is the way his brain is wired from his childhood choices. Millions of children are living without wisdom because their parents have not taught this simple habit of delayed gratification and selective gratification—otherwise known as self-control—allowing reason to choose the path rather than passion. Without this simple training, a self-indulged child will grow into an undisciplined adult who will either give in to the flesh or constantly struggle to gain control of over-eating, sexual indulgence, drugs, laziness, and/or depression. These poor folks look at their self-disciplined friends who don’t appear to have a craving for sugary food and wish they didn’t have such an overwhelming lust for what is bad for them. As adults who never developed habits of self-restraint, the battle for health is relentless, daunting, and often defeating. Training a child is the kind thing to do.
When a child is raised from childhood to delay gratification, it will be imprinted into his brain as a positive feeling when he overcomes an immediate lust. The practice of self-denial in the face of unwholesome choices leaves one with a high sense of self-worth and a deep gratification in the spirit, whereas undisciplined self-indulgence creates self-hatred and results in self-destructive actions.
Generally, depression comes from self-loathing, which often results from not having the strength of character to say no to something they wish they could resist. Individuals whose brains are grooved deeply in self-discipline will not have the same struggles as do others, because the reward centers in their brains are not located in the grooves of slavery but in the high self-respect of doing what ought to be done for the good that it produces. Children will become what they are going to be on your watch, parent. The little things today are microcosms of big things tomorrow. Win a little battle at five and they will win the big battles at fifteen.
When you allow children to be unduly indulged over a period of time, they come to think that it is their right. When it is taken away, they will respond with rage.
We live in a society where meltdowns are an acceptable part of life. In former generations, even the worst parents did not produce mass shooters. The most recent bombing spree was committed by a homeschooler from a Christian, church-going family. It is quite obvious that the majority of children today are being imprinted with something destructive rather than creative. People live in an agitated state, trying to force others to do things their way or be the object of their rage.
You can see this in its developmental stage every day in the supermarket. A few years ago, we were all shocked to see an out-of-control 2-year-old screaming for sugar-coated cereal, but things have changed so much that today we don’t even raise an eyebrow when we see a 7-year-old on the floor, thrashing and screaming. It is sickening to see a child that old without a shred of dignity or self-control—an inseparable pair. We are raising a generation without dignity, honor, or righteousness. They have no shame. Reclaiming the conscience is key for prison inmates to regain their integrity. That is a scary thought. Are we raising a generation of what will become a lawless people? A child who is trained to VALUE delayed gratification will be embarrassed when he witnesses another child acting with such a lack of propriety. Rage and acting-out to get one’s way are learned habits that develop early but groove a child’s brain deeply.
Rage is a word we once used only for the emotionally or mentally unstable, and rightly so. Rage is only possible when one believes that he has been deprived of his due. Today’s teens are living in a state of extreme rage and are playing out this rage in gaming, bullying, and worse. Among adults, road rage is now common.
Rage is crippling our children, our families, and our nation. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors, which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life. Expect it to get much worse in society as a whole. It should be our goal to train up our children in the way they should go so that when others are raging, they are serving.
Take stock of yourself and the way you relate to your children. Today’s society, today’s “rules,” and today’s expectations all make you believe you must give your children what they demand. Don’t fall into this mindset.
When we speak of training we are NOT talking about spanking. Training is just that, training. Our daughter trains her children in the art of fine dining. When they go out to eat at a restaurant, she helps them read and understand the menu, encourages them to ask the waitress questions about the meal they are considering, and allows them to be the one who pays for the family. Lastly, but most importantly, she makes sure they understand the value of the person who is serving them. She is training them in social behaviors. You get what you train for.
Training takes away the fear of ordinary situations; it builds confidence that comes with knowing how to perform any number of tasks. Everyday skills are becoming a lost art. Changing a tire was something all 10-year-old boys could do just a few years back, but now most boys would be in the car pitching a fit because they wanted a candy bar or they wanted to play games on mom’s phone. All this while mom called for someone to come fix the flat.
All children were once trained to cook, especially the girls. The boys did a lot of their culinary training over the campfire. Deep grooves in the brain on how food should be cooked, served, and how it tastes burnt to a crisp were all part of growing up. Mamas just took for granted that every meal would be prepared with a young child helping. That was not only training in the culinary arts, it was training to serve with a smile. Now, mamas are too busy to prepare a meal and too short on patience to take the time and trouble to allow the child to be part of the preparation. This lack of training will make the next generation weak and incompetent. When a child spends every day in the kitchen, the day comes when she can step in without a thought and do everything Mama can do and more. Her brain has been grooved deeply in what herbs taste best with what type of meats and how to make a delicious loaf of bread.
Rebecca Beris reported on a study done in 2013 and published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function (https://www.lifehack.org/377243/science-says-silence-much-more-important-our-brains-than-thought). The following is quoted from her article.
The study used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. She writes, “The silence was intended to be the control in the study, but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day, they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.
The report reads, “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons and integrate into the system.”
In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.
When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.
The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.
As Herman Melville once wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”
It is known that silence relieves stress and tension.
What do your children do most of the day? What grooves are being formed in their developing brains? Schoolbooks impart information but are not going to train children in practical living or social responsibilities. It takes personal experiences to leave a mark on the brain. Do you want your children to clean up after themselves? Then start early training them until it becomes a habit. Do you want your children to love to read? Then read with them until they can’t wait for you to finish the book and are launched into a life of literary investigation. To make deep grooves that are permanent, the eyes need to see, the hands need to do, and the soul needs to take pleasure in the knowledge. And most of all, the brain needs constant repetition. What grooved your child’s brain today? Yesterday?
For generations small children have spent their days digging the earth and building dams, bridges, waterways, and roads. Little girls have set up under trees and pretended to serve their brothers food. They have gained balance learning to stand on their heads or ride bikes. They have taken care of animals and learned to train them. They have had long, lazy, hot days when their minds relaxed and repaired themselves. It takes a mountain of time doing these things for it to become a part of their soul.
Today’s children are connected to technology where sights and sounds are dulling their brains and destroying their nervous systems by overstimulation. Scientists are proving this dulling of the brain and are appalled at what the future might be. The brain is being gouged rather than grooved. It is easy to hand the bored and demanding boy your phone to keep him entertained and out of your way, but there will come a day when you will pay for your easy way out. You can’t entertain your children into emotional stability. You alone are your child’s hope. It is the hours you spend every day showing them how to draw a picture, write a story, mix up cornbread batter, sew a dress, hike through the woods, fish, hunt, mend, garden, care for the weak, bless your neighbors, and all the other things in life that make us a balanced, healthy society. You are the ground in which your seed grows. How much time does your child have your undivided attention, showing them how to be the person you want them to be: kind, thoughtful, helpful, respectful, self-disciplined, and hard working?
Another word to Christian families who would love to see their children serving God…
Families who are successful in raising their children to do amazing things when they have a vision.
All children need to see that THEY are not the end goal. The goal needs to be much bigger than themselves. The family that wants children who will minister must be training their children to minister. Every child must see that their life matters to others outside their “pond.” The family needs to be handing out tracts, feeding a needy family, helping an old lady with her yard, going on mission trips as a family, mailing gospel books to prisoners, or any other service that a child would see as worthy. Give your child an eternal vision. It is an excellent investment and will cover a lot of other mistakes that most parents make.
If I were the devil, I would be proud of six things that leave lethal grooves in the brains of children:
Yes, if I were the devil the only thing that would concern me now would be those families that have broken away from public education, the modern church, and the culture that surrounds them. I would dedicate all my energies to that small group of holdouts. How long will it be before they leave a gap in their defenses and the devil slides in like a chilly draft through a crack in the weather stripping?
But I am not the devil; I want to be his worst nightmare, so I am here to sound the alarm and bolster the defenses in these last days. There is a remnant, and you who are reading this are probably among the overcomers.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10–11)