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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Working With Careless and Dreamy Kids: Part 2

This post is a continuation from HERE. It details ONE practical strategy to top-up levels of norepinephrine in the brain. Kindly paste this bloglink into your Facebook to share with friends. The Facebook algorithm limits the number of spontaneous exposures for Facebook corporate identities and my company is charged for every view and every click.

I had initially considered keeping all my techniques secret and proprietary. After all, it is with these techniques that we have been able to bring some children from Zero to Hero. See HERE. However, I think more Singaporean kids will benefit (and live better quality lives) if I share publicly. There is a limit to how many lives I can touch by working with individual kids (even though I comfort myself that it is better to touch one life than none at all). 

Besides, I don't have to share everything, right? Just share enough to do my civic duty. Haha!

So please, let your friends know. I will not be broadcasting this post on Facebook in the same way I broadcasted Part 1.

Intermittent Cardio Therapy
Cardio exercise increases dopamine (see HERE). Dopamine is a precursor to norepinephrine in the brain (see HERE). There is a caveat to this therapy. Your child must want to do well. If your child is not motivated, no amount of norepinephrine will help.

Now, imagine a child faced with 8 worksheets (2 Math, 2 Chinese, 2 Science and 2 English), all to be completed in the afternoon. This child has just come home from school, had lunch, bathed and played some phone games. Bearing in mind that phone games use up norepinephrine big time, the child starts on his HW with half a store of norepinephrine. This is enough to get him through the 2 Math worksheets, both done with reasonable quality. By the time he gets to the last 2 English worksheets, the child is restless and can barely focus.

By the time Dr. Pet marks these 2 worksheets, I get sentences like this from a child who had recently topped his class in compo writing, "There were one hundred houses on the ancient London," The word "bridge" is missing after "London".

We have had good results with focus and concentration using Intermittent Cardio. I teach the Mommies to watch their children's body language to note the actual length of time the child can focus without slouching or dreaming. Mommies then make a note of that time. It can be 30 minutes, 45 minutes or 2 hours.

Every child is different. So, know your child.

Build Cardio Therapy Into Work Process
Let us assume that a hypothetical child called Milo can only focus for 40 minutes at a time. Break his work schedule into chunks of 40 minutes (i.e., 2 Math worksheets) and pop in a 10 minute cardio break before continuing another 40 minutes (i.e., 2 Chinese worksheets).

During the 10 minute cardio break (I am talking about heart pumping, red face and sweaty temples), dopamine is produced which the brain can use to synthesise into norepinephrine for use in the next 40 minutes of focused work.

You can divide the work into chunks by time (in minutes) or by worksheets (number of worksheets estimated to take around that number of minutes). It is ok to give or take 5 minutes each way.

Train Mental Stamina
Bear in mind that some PSLE exams can take up more than 2 hours, with half hour break in between Papers 1 and 2. You need to train your child's mental stamina to focus for at least 2 hours, no? To train stamina, simply expand the 40 minutes to 45 minutes to 50 minutes to 60 minutes GRADUALLY... whilst maintaining a 10 minute cardio break in between chunks of work minutes.

Expand all the way up to 2 hour chunks. Expand GRADUALLY. Nobody graduates from 2kg weights to 3kg weights in 1 day.

What Type of Cardio Exercise
Here is a selection of what Dr. Pet's mommies have picked...
(1) Indoor trampoline
(2) Exercise bike
(3) Chapteh
(4) Skip rope
Anything that can be made readily available right next to the child's work table.

Most parents give play breaks. Unless your play break involves cardio, it is a waste of time. Not enough dopamine is produced

A parent asked if exciting shooting games that raise the heart rate and make his boy break into a sweat, counts as exercise. Of course not! Computer and phone games use up mental energy. You need actual PHYSICAL EXERCISE.

How about watching movies or Youtube? They use up mental energy too!

Fat and Unfit Kids
Singaporean kids often have so much HW that they never run around. Physical health has a direct impact on brain functioning. One fatty bum bum joined me in September 2014. He often forgot to write his name on his worksheets. In class, his eyes glazed over after 2 comprehension questions and we had to verbally call him back on task every 10 to 15 minutes. I actually had to assign TWO peers in class to check that he had packed all his worksheets, written his names and passed up his work. His grades in school were poor.

Acting on my advice, his wonderful Mother (one of my favourite Mothers by now)
(1) lightened his workload (by actively reducing worksheets) and
(2) made him jog daily
He is now one of the students to whom I entrust the task of bringing another Very Dreamy Classmate back on task. His end of year 2015 English results are HERE.

He was doing LESS work and achieved BETTER results. Of course, cardio therapy alone will not bring a child from Zero to Hero. We had to effectuate some language therapies too. Also, please don't OVERDO the cardio. Some kids are really very unfit. Just a light sweat will do. Find a cardio your child enjoys.

In Moderation Please
Parents should not over-use this strategy. It would not do, for example, to make your child work for 24 hours at a stretch with 10 minute cardio breaks every 40 minutes. You will damage your child's body.

For the next few strategies... please watch this space...

Edited 12 January 2016
Part 3 is HERE.

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