Posts Tagged ‘brain development’

WIRED WEDNESDAYS: “Don’t Use Your Device When…”

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017


As with most of the principles and ideas in my book, these are oh-so-simple, but not always oh-so-easy!

1: Don’t Use Your Device While Doing Anything Else

To me this seems like a no-brainer, but that turns out to be a highly old-fashioned attitude. The very portability of our devices reinforces our digital dependence by eliminating virtually all barriers to their use–and voilá, a feed-forward loop that has established habitual multi-tasking device usage as the new normal in less than a decade.

Indeed, it wasn’t even ten years ago when you had to go to your desk… or at best to your laptop, sitting over there… to check your email, play solitaire or do that IMDb search. Doing those things was an activity in itself. Today, they have been demoted to a few keystrokes in (or a Siri request of) your handheld device—demi-activities that have insidiously become superimposed onto other activities.

But there’s quite a bit of research to show that multi-tasking is a myth that costs us brain power, and even brain health. In the first chapter of Parenting for Peace I discuss a fascinating study done at Oxford University: they found that when a volunteer subject performed a habitual task on auto-pilot (which is what we do when we multi-task), it resulted in the disengagement of his higher brain centers. This kind of disengagement can lead surprisingly rapidly to diminished brain tissue volume in those areas, which in turn can contribute to cognitive issues and depression. (If you have the book, do read on page 48 about the amazing up-side findings of the Oxford study.)

There’s even research mapping the specific toll taken when we multi-task between two or more screens. (Ignore paragraphs 3 and 4 of this article at your peril; they were a fascinating, cautionary ah-hah for me.)

2: Don’t Use Your Device While in a Conversation

Again, no brainer to me… but damned if I haven’t caught myself sneaking a peek at my phone while my guy is telling me something about his day. (And, vice versa.) How rude is that??! Very. Very very. And yet it has become commonplace—again, the new normal—for someone to engage with a device while (supposedly) engaged in a face-to-face conversation. I like to illustrate the rudeness using this pre-smartphone scenario: Imagine you’re having lunch with a friend and while you’re pouring your heart out to her, she pulls a book out of her bag and starts flipping through it. Ludicrous, yes? Do we think that because it is so small, our engagement with the device won’t be noticed??!

People in Progress

I have recently made a commitment to myself to refrain from breaking my attention from someone who is talking (or listening) to me, in order to glance at my phone or other device.

For one thing, as I discussed last time, regardless of how beguiling it is, what’s on the screen is a counterfeit connection that has actually been found to be associated with feeling ever more isolated. Why would I choose that over a real human who is right here with me seeking to engage?! (I actually think this is a motherlode of a question, to be mined another time.)

It sometimes requires some self-restraint to curb the turn-to-screen impulse, which has become ever more reflexive and automatic. But the entire thrust of my book, my teaching, my coaching comes from a devotion to nurturing healthy brains and social intelligence, so let’s walk my talk, right?

I am constantly reassuring the parents I work with that the Parenting for Peace roadmap isn’t about perfection, not at all. Children don’t learn from our perfection. They learn from our striving—meaning, holding a vision of how we would choose to grow and become fully-expressed, self-mastering individuals.

But make no mistake, your children DO learn from you. In fact, the design for how they will function in the world is mainly based on how you function in the world. And that includes the way in which you demonstrate—that is, teach them—mastery of technology and its devices. My wise colleague Laura puts it so well in just 149 seconds, so I’ll give her the last word today:

Modeling digital mastery for children

Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on (most) Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

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My Child’s Out of School — Eek!

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

SummerVacayFeatured2Are you quietly (or not-so-quietly) dreading your child’s school summer vacation — wondering how you’re going to fill the vast expanses of hot days with “bored” kids? How you’re going to stick to your values about screened media, while retaining your sanity? Oh, and by the way, hopefully enjoying some semblance of calm and enJOYment?!

Here are five guidelines to help you not just survive summer, but actually cultivate more ease & harmony as you “wire” yourself and your children for joy & wellbeing in the coming year!

Before reading more about these Summer-Sanity ideas at, here’s a little “secret tip” that will help ensure the success of any routine you come up with — for summer or anytime!


Okay, let me at those ideas!! 


sachatrtl Flickr | Creative Commons

“Educational” Toys…May NOT Be!

Friday, February 27th, 2015

MotheringFeaturedBlocksCall me an old fart, but I’m not a fan of new-fangled, ring-ding-dang educational toys. My recommendation to parents always is, don’t easily trust the (sometimes wacko) things that our culture takes for granted are great for kids. Err on the side of “First, do no harm.” Trust your inner knowing and common sense, not the zeitgeist.

Children need “real time” experiences, which can be best happen with simple objects that most people wouldn’t call toys, let alone educational toys! {Read the rest… including 3 fail-safe guidelines for choosing brain-building toys… at}

The Promise Within Your Child

Friday, January 30th, 2015

(Last in a 5-part series at Your child is not a blank slate or empty vessel who needs to be filled up with copious amounts of excellent information. Your child comes to you with an intact intellect that is gathering energy and waiting to unfold in good time, like a flower in the bud. You would never pry open a rosebud to somehow maximize it or improve upon it! Instead, you would make sure it has the best soil, and nourishing fertilizer to support its optimal unfolding. {How?? Read on…}


Brain-Wise Parenting: The Importance of Relationship & Rhythm

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015


(Part 2 of my 5-part series at Yesterday I invited parents to relax about pushing academics for their wee ones, because their best preparation for true intelligence is play. But there is a very important area of your young child’s brain that does need active parental participation for optimally healthy development. It’s called the orbito-frontal cortex, or OFC for short.

The OFC is the seat of common sense thinking… the ability to read other people’s “signals” and recognize their intentions… to sense their emotions, and have empathy… to imbue intellectual thought with feeling, and vice versa — to moderate emotion with rational thought. In short, the OFC is the seat of social intelligence. It manages the skills of being truly human! {Read more at}



Brain-Wise Parenting: The Importance of Relationship & Rhythm

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Wondering how to best build your baby’s brain? There’s an app for that! Pop quiz: do you know what RHYTHM has to do with your child’s lifelong wellbeing?? What kinds of rhythm does your child have during the days & weeks?

I’m pleased to have been invited for a 5-day guest blog spot at, which began yesterday and runs all week. Dr. Greene is a pediatrician whose focus is children’s health in a progressive way. So I’m chiming in with 5 new articles this week all centered around ways to foster children’s optimal lifelong wellbeing. And it’s a lot of NEW material that I haven’t previously blogged about! Check it out here.  



The Debate Over Handheld Devices for Babies & Children

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

BabyOnIPadThere has been a hurricane of cyber-buzz this past week over a HuffPo piece entitled, “10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12.” It went viral, natch.

What I want to say about that piece is
a) it is a comprehensive collection of research that should be of critical interest to parents
b) I am not the type to seek bans on such things; rather, I advocate that we as humans develop mastery and dominion over these creations of ours. Let our Frankenstein’s monsters work for us rather than against us.

As my daughter Eve once said, “We’ve all been baptized in technology.” Boy, did that spin me around and send me thinking. I wrote the following Parenting for Peace passage in reference to birth technology, but it totally applies to these questions about handheld devices:

Yes, most of us have been baptized in technology, so let us embrace the blessings of our modern brilliance, which was originally meant to bring freedom. Nothing has the power to control us once we can name the players and the game, once we can free ourselves from the prevailing fear-based group think and become capable of making choices that are in the best peacemaking interests of ourselves, our children, and the vibrant future of humanity. 

{Read more about this debate at} 

sonyanews, through its Creative Commons license

Mental Health Begins in the Womb

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Gone are the days when we could consider pregnancy a 9-month “grace period” before the job of parenting begins. Mounting research tells us that lifelong wellbeing, including mental health, begins in the womb, and everything parents do – beginning even before conception — shapes their children in critical, life-altering ways.

I began 2013 by writing about the power of beginnings. In 2014 I invite us to recognize that this applies to virtually everything, from baking a pie to building a company to developing a human: the beginning contains within it the seeds of the project’s ultimate success…or less-than-success. {Read more at}

Holiday Stress and Kids’ Brains

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

I bet I’m not alone in harboring mixed feelings as the holidays approach. On the one hand it’s such a special time, steeped in family nostalgia and brimming with expressive potential. On the other hand (and that other hand always seems to be the buzz-kill, am I right?), let’s be honest: the holidays are often a holly-trimmed hotbed of stress.

In trying to make sure our holidays actually fulfill all that expressive potential, we can whip ourselves into a frenzy of sky-high expectations, “must do”s, and short fuses. And that makes for a brain-drain gift we do NOT want to be giving children! {Please enjoy the rest of this post at Dr. Frank Lipman’s excellent blog: click on image below}

Dr. Marcy on Lipman's Blog

Breastfeeding for IQ — Really??

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

NursingECUDon’t get me wrong — I’m a huge fan of breastfeeding. I devote swaths of print in Parenting for Peace to the reasons and ways it contributes to raising a peaceful (i.e., empathic, innovative, flexible, self-regulating, and yes, intelligent) generation. But I frankly get annoyed when media trumpets the connection between breastfeeding and IQ, when it is social intelligence we desperately need for the survival of our human family! {Read more at}