JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: How to hardwire the human brain
Remember when your parents reminded you again and again and again to say "please" and "thank you"? This was your parent's effort to hardwire your brain to be polite. Did it work? It sure did because now, as an adult, you say "please" and "thank you" whenever the occasion arises and, more importantly, you teach your kids to do the same thing.
The whole country has a hardwired brain to call 911 when there is an emergency. The very first American 911 call was placed on Feb. 16, 1968, in Haleyville, Ala. Today it seems like kids are born with a 911 DNA chip in their brain.
Hardwire is synonymous with mindset and frame of mind and attitude. Hardwire is computer lingo, which means to build a function into a computer with hardware rather than programming it. It means that it is already in the computer.
Our brains are hardwired to do lots of things. They seem to be already in our brain. Some of these are just specific to each individual. These might include going to church, drinking a cup of coffee each morning, exercising, taking a morning or evening shower or wearing clean underwear.
All of these come from our experiences. All of these have become habits. All of these instances occur because our brains have been conditioned to do them.
Hardwiring our brain can be bad as well as good. We don't want to smoke but our brain tells us we need to. We don't want to use alcohol but our brain tells us we need it. We want to be a good public speaker but past experiences tell our brain to avoid it.
We don't want to be brainwashed into doing or thinking bad things. This is why it is extremely important for parents to monitor the goings on in the life of their children. Parents shouldn't take anything for granted. They shouldn't assume anything. Remember, the brains of our young people are still maturing. They aren't grownups even though they think they are. A good test for parents is to ask themselves, "Where are my kids?" If you don't know, you need to know.
Habits, good or bad, eventually become a mindless activity. We have come so accustomed to doing them we don't think about it. While we are brushing our teeth, we may be thinking about getting the car washed or picking some flowers.
It has been said that if we do things consistently for three weeks, our brain becomes hardwired. I've heard other figures but the point is that we need to do something again and again before our brain does it automatically.
In the next few weeks teachers will try to hardwire their students' brains to do certain things that will make their teaching jobs easier. Parents will be doing the same. "Time to get ready for school." "Do you have your backpack packed?" "Did you brush your teeth?" All of these reminders play a large part in planting a message in the brain. Doing it over and over again will ensure that it happens—most of the time.
To hardwire a young person's brain they first have to see the benefit of what you are trying to teach them. When we first learned to say "thank you," we wanted to please our parents. We enjoyed seeing them smile. What benefit will the person gain from developing a habit you wish to teach them?
Once they see the benefit, don't let them get off track. If you are making an effort to floss your teeth, it's important to do it day after day after day without skipping. Unfortunately I only see my dental technician once every few months to remind me. Maybe I need a sign on my bathroom mirror that says, "Don't forget to floss!"
It helps when others are reinforcing the same behavior. This is why when we try to have a 100 percent graduation rate in the area, it is important that all of us are telling kids that they need to graduate. It's not enough just for schools to do it or for one segment of the population to do it. Everyone has to be on board.
Be persistent and consistent in helping young people to develop this new behavior. If you are trying to teach a young person to wear a life jacket, you can't do it one day and not the next.
The last step is probably the most difficult. My brain is hardwired to believe we can graduate 100 percent of our students. I try to convince other to believe the same. The stronger you believe the more likely they will believe and the more likely it will happen.
By the way, teaching kids to be independent thinkers can also be hardwired into a brain. We don't want them to always follow the crowd or to do what everyone else does. People like Helen Keller, Bill Gates and Albert Einstein had brains that were hardwired to think outside the box.
It's not easy to hardwire our brain or someone else's brain. Remembering some of the basics about how to do it helps. Good luck to all you parents and teachers. Whatever you do, please remind your kids to graduate. I'm sorry but my brain is just hardwired to say that—again and again.
Riddle: If two is a pair and three is a crowd, what are four and five? Nine! It's an old joke but kids will like it. Hardwiring someone else's brain gets easier the more they like what you are trying to teach them.
100 percent graduation rate
A local movement is underway to ensure the area has a 100 percent high school graduation rate. Here's some tips on how you can help us achieve that goal:
1. We have to hardwire our children's brain to believe they can and will graduate from high school.
2. Remind kids of the benefits of graduating from high school. There are many.
3. Be relentless in your efforts and, more importantly, believe in your efforts.
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.