Following Explanation #2
What is your little "monkey" seeing you do?
Mirror neurons are amazing! Did you know that human brains have a whole slew of neurons that pretty much practice actions even while the body is motionless--except for dashing eyes that are focused on just watching?
In a routine experiment with electrodes connected to monkeys’ brains, scientists in Italy accidentally observed that motor neurons which control movement not only lit up when the monkey was moving its own hands, but ALSO when the monkey was on break watching an experimenter’s hands place pellets in a dish.
After many more experiments, conclusions predict that mirror neurons help create a powerful breeding ground for learning. While merely observing actions in the environment, mirror neurons in the brain are vicariously copying the motions as a way of “practicing” movement prior to actually performing an action in real life.
If mirror neurons are wiring our children’s brains to act by merely watching us act, and this occurs even if our child isn’t physically capable of performing the same act quite yet and long before they cognitively understand the meaning of every word and concept we may try to preach to them as a way of disciplining, then our actions really do speak louder than words, eh?
This miraculous discovery of mirror neurons occurred in 1994--well after generations of parents had begun raising kids on cognitive reward-and-punishment style discipline to control immature behaviors.
But with new scientific discoveries, perhaps a new generation of parents want to join us in confidently trusting that discipline doesn’t need to feel contrived with controlling consequences?
How about this formula for disciplining young children:
Connection to fill hearts with oxytocin + Modeling for mirror neurons to mimic = Following positive influences by natural choice.
The attachment and following mindsets are intended to facilitate this natural progression and encourage parents to accept that mature brain development is a sloooww work of art that takes years.
The WITH ME strategies that I discuss in my IGTV video titled “WITH ME Explanation” are ideas for implementing these mindsets, particularly for children under age 8-ish.
What should I do?
Here's a classic example of a young child relying on mirror neurons to gain understanding of the environment and how to act in it.
When someone said, "Let's all look over at the sun setting” during a family photo shoot last weekend, our 4yo needed to observe the ‘models’ before his brain could tell his body how to participate. Flip to picture 2 to see the results. 😅
On the subject of mirror neurons, take note of how your baby or preschooler or elementary child is driven to spend hours and hours a day observing the world around them and then duplicating it.
It's inspiring. And it motivates me to be more thoughtful about what kind of example I'm setting.
And next time you’re thinking about disciplining your 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6yo, remember the power of mirror neurons. Consider simply showing your child how to behave in a given situation instead of rattling off a list of commands from across the room. Model patience in repeating this pattern time and time again until their little brains can finally make the connections without the added anxiety of fear of punishments or failure.
I'm trying to give you confidence that allowing your child time and space to observe and mirror YOU performing the mature behavior you want your child to learn--which I'm guessing is how to be mindful and polite as opposed to being bossy and controlling--is ENOUGH discipline during these precious early years.
Let go of the stress of trying to corner your child into proper behavior by next week.
Just focus on modeling and let their little mirror neurons work their magic.