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Principals Message

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Principal’s Message

Date: February 26, 2012 Author: admin Categories: Principals Message

Welcome back, BA community!

Just before the break, BA Friendship Counselor Karin Bloom and I attended the San Francisco Learning and the Brain Conference, three full days of presentations and workshops by some of the 21st century’s top neuroscientists, psychologists, and educators who are researching the brain and applying the findings to help improve our efficacy as parents and educators. It’s hard to know where to begin sharing, but I thought I’d highlight some very practical advice from Dr. David Walsh’s presentation Say Yes to No.

Self-Discipline Is Essential
Dr. Walsh calls “No” a small, but important word in a “Yes” culture where MORE, FAST, EASY, and FUN predominate, and actually undermine efforts toward self-discipline. This culture is in stark contrast to the much more discipline-supportive culture of just a few generations ago. Dr. Walsh points to what he calls “DDD: Discipline Deficit Disorder,” where children grow up distracted, impatient, disrespectful, are unable to delay gratification, have unrealistic expectations, and are entitled and self-centered.

Of course, DDD is a problem for a number of reasons. One is that research indicates self-discipline is twice as strong a predictor of academic success as intelligence. As an educator, I was also saddened to learn 50% of American public school teachers leave the profession in their first 5 years; the #1 reported reason being “student behavior.”

Setting Limits To Support Learned Attention Systems
Human brains are hard wired for reactive attention that drives us to the movement, colors, sounds, and novelty of screens and gadgetry. But the focused attention that’s necessary for academic learning and strong interpersonal skills is not hard wired—this one we have to practice to get better. The importance of parents and teachers setting limits and holding firm to “No” is that it allows children to eventually say it for themselves. “No” is an important lesson towards that self-regulation necessary for executive functioning. A child’s growing ability to say no to impulse makes room for the true ingredients of self-esteem: support and connection, realistic but high expectations, compassion, autonomy and resourcefulness, optimism, and determination.

In case you are more motivated by the negative, consider this: the teenage years are like the “terrible twos” on steroids. As someone who survived the teenage years with my own two daughters, I can tell you: you haven’t seen anything yet. Why not set yourself up for success right now?

Steps on the Path to “No”
Dr. Walsh offers the following advice to parents who want to support their children’s highest levels of self-regulation, executive functioning, and overall well-being:

  • Have clear and high expectations.
  • Expect your children to do chores.
  • Set and enforce clear limits and consequences.
  • Expect your kids to volunteer and help others.
  • Encourage, but don’t coddle.
  • Support, but don’t rescue.
  • Get kids what they need, but not everything they want.
  • Back up teachers and schools.

You can learn more about Dr. David Walsh and his Mind Positive Parenting approaches at

Best wishes!
John Triska