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The latest trend in ‘pop’ psychology reads something like this “Become smarter through brain training and increase your intelligence quotient in 30 days. 100 % guaranteed results.”
Intelligence, Memory, Attention, Concentration and Genius ‘On sale’ – at a retailer close to you. Graduates having attended 1 month crash courses and trainings will help you “achieve twice the results in half the time.” Well-meaning parents fall prey to such marketing gimmicks, particularly at the mention of a one-off ‘conclusive’ study conducted by an Ivy-league university like Harvard. ‘Bad science’ knows no boundaries. The ‘Lancet’ a leading journal with high quality printed matter has been made to retract such studies based on later research, such as for instance the 1998 study by Wakefield et al. linking the MMR vaccine to autism.
To increase the attention span of your child in ‘30 days’ try this as an experiment: Use common-sense reinforcement principals, spend 20 minutes playing a physical game that requires some amount of planning and judgment such as carrom, scrabble, marbles, hopscotch, etc in an environment that is novel to the child. Switch off cellphones and the television set, and give your undivided attention to your child. Avoid emotional blackmail, teasing, reminders about school performance and homework. Let this be a fun –time for your child.
Why does this work? In simple terms, a human brain is unable to process all the information that it is bombarded with every single second. It has an inbuilt mechanism that shields it from data-overload. This is where attention comes into play. The moment you make something interesting for the child, he/she is attentive and willing to do it over and over again. Soon your child will initiate activities and be self-motivated. Play is important for physical cognitive and emotional development. It activates systems in the brain involving dopamine pathways, the amygdala and the reticular activating system. This helps with attention, memory and motivation. The adult attention span is only approximately 20 minutes, and those short ‘breaks’ in-between long concentration periods actually help you replenish your brains messenger chemicals.
Convincing yourself that 30 days of rigorous training at some trademarked brain training centre is going to make an Einstein out of your trophy-child is equivalent to convincing yourself that wearing weight loss belts and eating weight loss tapeworms is going to make you look like Angelina Jolie in 30 days.
Radhika S.Bapat Child Guidance Centre and Department of Behavioral Sciences & Mental Health, Sahyadri Hospitals ltd. For more information on our projects visit: www.cgcpune.com