Breaking Mealtime Rules and Mirror Neurons by Richard Kahn, M.S., Registered Dietitian, Brooklyn LettersThere s a practical feeding rule for parents and children: Keep meals to 20 to 30 minutes. Most meals take about that amount of time. If meals are a difficult time of day at your house, 20 to 30 minutes is enough discomfort for parents and children. There is also a time to break the 20/30 rule. The reason for breaking the rule come from the relatively recent discovery of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons explain how we learn by copying without conscious cognition. The specialized nerves use the eye to bypass the word-driven teaching style we picked up in school and continues into adult play and work. Mirror neurons help the preverbal infant learn by watching. If you and another adult are enjoying a postprandial chat, stay at table so your child can see a great part of life. A good book on the neurons is The Empathic Brain by Christian Keyes, a mirror neuron researcher and an award winning science writer. The book inspired me to rethink how one case succeeded.

Mirror neurons explain how children learn from copying physical gestures and the emotions that accompany them. One mom recently told me how fast her toddler learned the Frisbee postures and throwing gestures by watching some teenagers. Famed child psychoanalyst Theodore Gaensbauer thinks that mirror neurons explain how infants as young as three months integrate profound emotions and the movements associated with the emotions. The take home message: Enjoy your their meals together with their child as soon as their child is born. That way, children tacitly learn the pleasures of the table through modeling. The specialized nerves also pick up verbal and written cues, too. This posting focuses on how parents informed patience helps difficult eaters get on track. In many cases, actions at the table speak louder than words as happened in the following case.

Sono stato chiamato a valutare le gemelle di 12 mesi recentemente adottate da un orfanotrofio straniero. I loro nutrienti provenivano solo dalle bottiglie. Quando venivano presentati con il cibo, non avevano idea di cosa fosse o cosa fare con esso. A quel tempo, molti orfanotrofi stranieri nutrono solo biberon. Le ragazze, ho dedotto, hanno perso l'orario del tavolo associato alla transizione ai solidi tra 6 e 12 mesi. Altrimenti, le ragazze sembravano reattive e in forma. Alla fine della valutazione, i genitori mi hanno chiesto cosa fare. Ho suggerito che la famiglia dovrebbe semplicemente mangiare con i gemelli presenti. In altre parole, solo mangiare modello.

Aspettare ? difficile. Ecco perch? la pazienza ? una virt?. Il desiderio di agire tenta il genitore e il professionista. La formazione aiuta il professionista a trattenersi. Quando il genitore o il terapista si trattengono con pazienza informata, il bambino si sposta nell'arena della scoperta. La pazienza informata, a volte chiamata inazione studiata, ? la fede nell'abilit? essenziale del bambino.

After working with other therapists, the family contacted me. We worked on modeling and holding back. Sessions usually took the form of coached meals. From the outside, we just talked about nutrition, parenting during mealtimes and other topics. Internally, the parents were kept focused on the conversation and food until they got it. That is, parents and I chatted and ate. In this way, the urging, talking and worry the child experiences as stressful meals is kept to a minimum. Parents fears that manifest in actions and words interrupt the child's focus and ability to model. Modeling tapped into mirror neurons and, eventually, the girls own development drives towards mastery. At last report, the girls eat everything.

Most of us, children and adults, relish sitting around a chat filled table. Young children cannot understand their parents worries. They do, however, feel the worry. And, worry can suppress appetite. Convivial meals at home or out with family, friends and your children build a foundation for the future. Bon app tit!

“>Richard Kahn, PhD, RD, ? un nutrizionista pediatrico di New York in uno studio privato specializzato nelle esigenze dei bambini piccoli. Raggiungilo a richard@brooklynletters.com o RichardKahnNutrition.com.

BLOG: Sedie a rotelle e biscotti, Compensando il tempo perso e il peso perso, Getting a ‘D’ for Over Supplementation e Nutrizione per neonati e bambini


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