Back To School Advice: A Parent’s Attitude Builds A Child’s Brain For Success Or Failure

By Don Joseph Goewey

Back-To-School focuses on the kids, but it should focus on parents.  A parent’s stressful attitude wires a child’s brain for fear, impairing the brain’s capacity for learning.  There are four things parents can do right now to shift their attitude in ways that, neurologically, can wire their child’s brain for success.  All four are simple, but results are profound, accruing rapidly:

  1. Make Time For A Little Physical Activity. You don’t have to go to the gym and spend an hour on the thread mill and another hour pumping iron to change brain chemistry.  A mellow thirty-minute walk around the neighborhood, five days a week, goes a long way toward flushing stress hormones from your system.  These hormones build up to put the emotional brain in charge of your experience, making you chronically anxious and reactive. Your children will model your behavior. A walking routine helps mitigate the problem.  After a particularly stressful event, it also helps to take a walk around the block to de-stress.  As you walk, quiet your thoughts.
  2. Think Positive: Mark Twain said: My life has been a series of terrible calamities, some of which actually happened.” The mind makes up emergencies that the brain believes are real.  The vast majority of these are false alarms, but the brain’s fear center, the amygdala, can’t tell the difference between a real and imagined threat.  We can’t always stop ourselves from thinking this way. But we can stop ourselves from believing these thoughts.  You can have ten thousand thoughts a minute and if you don’t believe them, your heart remains at peace.
    Let your negative thinking come into awareness and each time tell yourself, this thought is in me, not in reality. Then follow three breaths, and in the space that opens, choose to be at peace.
  3. Meditate: This too does not require a major effort.  Starting each day in quiet, affirming the power and beauty of a peaceful attitude can set a positive day in motion.  During the day, every couple of hours, take a spiritual break.  Look out the window for a minute and let your mind go completely. Watch the wind blow, the sun shine, or the rain fall.  End the day in gratitude, counting your blessings.
  4. Practice the small stuff: You don’t have to be Gandhi to find peace. Peace is in the small stuff. A brain under stress wants to elbow its way to the head of every line or pass the car in front. It always feels late, pressured and victimized. You can actually rewire those brain reactions away. How? Assert peace.  Choose the longest line at a store and stand in it. Use the time to slow your motor and quiet your mind until you are at peace.  In a traffic jam, listen to soft music or an interesting interview.  Tell yourself, my peace does not depend on my car moving faster.

Do these every day and your children will begin to model your new attitude. As they do, their prefrontal cortex will light up with intelligence.

Copyright, Don Joseph Goewey, 2009

5 Responses to “Back To School Advice: A Parent’s Attitude Builds A Child’s Brain For Success Or Failure”

  1. Meena says:

    Great advise. If everyone were to follow these steps, the world would be such a peaceful place to live in and a great legacy to leave behind for our future generations too!

  2. Nik says:

    Great article with some very worthwhile advice.

    I can complete relate to the notion that “A brain under stress wants to elbow its way to the head of every line or pass the car in front” – I’ve been that person! I’ve even caused a minor accident while trying to elbow my way to the front!

    A few deep breaths and acknowledging to yourself that the world won’t end if you’re a few minutes late goes a long way towards repairing your damaged mind.

  3. Nousheen says:

    this is so true !

  4. Lilly says:

    What advice can we give adults whose brains are wired in fear from experiencing that stress growing up. Any pointers to help learning new things when that stress causes us to freeze?

    • pdus2go says:


      Don suggests to start doing the four things I outlined in the article. It is important you start to value peace more than fear. That is what those four steps are about. Peace is power, stress is fear, and fear is the absence of power. So commit to culivating an attitude of peace in everything you do. Those four steps move you in that direction. Keep practicing and your brain will gradually rewire for calm instead of stress.

      FREEZING: When you freeze, strat following your breath in a conscious way while you wait for the stress reaction to subside. As much as you can, stop thinking. The reaction will rapidly quiet down if you stop thinking stressful thoughts. Go to my website at and download the tool called the Clear Button (top left on the home page). It can help you learn to stop stressful thining. If you are unable to stop the run of stressful thoughts because the stress reaction is now full blown, you can practice not belieiving what these thoughts are saying. You have a choice about that. Exercise it by not believing all the crazy, harmful thoughts your fear is generating. 99% of them are mind made illusions. After things have quieted down, go somewhere quiet for 10 minutes or more and read something relaxing, like a pleasant magazine article or book. It will distract you from your fear. This will give your brain time to switch control from the amygdala, which is the fear center in the primilitve brain, to the prefrontal cortex, which generates an emotionally positive intelligence.

      Be sure to applaud yourself for shifting the situation, once you have. It is a heroic thing to do. So feel like a hero. Never give up. That’s how you will eventually (in about 4 months) rewire your brain. No matter how often you fail, never give up on peace. It’s real power. Those who don’t give up on it are the ones who attain it. Want peace more than anything. It is that important to your brain and your quality of life.

      If you want to take this further, I suggest his new book Mystic Cool. It goes into more detail.

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