“Puppy” or “Doberman”? Which One are You?

“Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat.”
-Caine, R.N., Caine, G. (October 1990). “Understanding a Brain Based Approach to Learning and Teaching.” Educational Leadership 48, 2, 66-70.

Ever taken a walk in your neighborhood and had a Doberman race to the fence, barking and snapping, making your brain freeze and scaring you half to death? From that moment on, your heart may race every time you walk past that fence—even if Fido no longer lives there!

Dobermans give us tunnel vision, cause our breathing to rapidly speed up, and pump adrenaline to our large muscles. They light up the emotional areas of our brains and close down the thinking area. Our brains go into fight-or-flight mode to protect us. Likewise, your child experiences this each time he feels failure or shame. If your child has a lot of difficulty learning, his brain sends out adrenaline which shuts down his ability to think and learn.

Let’s look at two styles of coaching:  “Doberman” and “Puppy”

Doberman coaching:
Gives “lectures”
Scolds or nags the child to read or do homework
Assumes the child is “lazy”
Chooses a too big chunk of material to teach
Thinks or says, “You should know this by now!”
Expects the child to practice by himself

The Doberman approach is common—and highly ineffective. It doesn’t take long for the child to develop avoidance behaviors: stalling, pouting, getting off-task when faced with reading practice or doing homework.

Puppy coaching:
Models and shows new information
Teaches and reteaches little chunks of new information as many times as her child needs
Checks the child’s skill level for automaticity on key material before adding new concepts
Finds ways to make the new information relevant to the child’s life
Keeps practice sessions short, fun and frequent

A Puppy Coach knows that a child is offering his “best” at that moment, based on his brain glitches and strengths. She takes responsibility for helping her child learn—by giving the child what his brain needs—lots of modeling and practice broken down into small chunks so his brain can learn key information to automaticity.

Why be a Puppy Coach? It’s brain efficient, it’s research-based, and it works! Everyone likes a puppy; it’s approachable, soft, playful and happy to see you. Puppies don’t shut brains down—they engage people making them giggle and smile.

Truth is, we are all guilty of being “Dobermanish”  at times. The question is are we ready to acknowledge it and move back to our true heart, the Puppy Coach?

It’s Not Rocket Science

“It’s not rocket science.”

I say that one line more than any other.  Over and over again, I remind moms that helping their children to learn, whether it’s reading, math or anything else, isn’t that complicated. As the expert on your child, you already have most of what you need. You don’t need a bunch of pretty letters after your name to help change the course of your chid’s life. What you need is time and a little information on what recent brain research tells us about learning.

Hence, the purpose of this blog: to give you some easy techniques that can rapidly build your child’s brain so he can  learn. A mom who is willing to coach her child through these formative learning years says, “I believe you’ve been doing your best,” “You are wonderfully made,” and  “I give you my time because you are valuable and I believe you can learn.”

So, the goal of this blog is 3 fold:

  1. To encourage you to take back your right as a mom to be the expert on your child.
  2. To teach you how to use some simple, research-based brain techniques.
  3. To help you equip your child so he can learn while building an even stronger relationship with him.

Shall we get started?

(The majority of my readers are moms so, even though I have some dads and grandparents in the mix, I’ll usally refer to moms to avoid complexity, bad grammar and redundancy.)