Marshmallows teach us a lot!

March 18, 2018 in Uncategorized

I was at a fantastic conference for neuropsychologists two weeks ago. That’s where other blogs have come from, and future ones will as well. I also just purchased a book on the importance of sleep on the neurological development on the brain. You all are in for a treat!!

One of the presentations at the conference (given by Ida Sue Baron, PhD, ABPP) talked about the marshmallow test I learned about in graduate school. I believe the original study was done in 1972.

Four- and five- year-olds are seated at tables in a classroom. They are told that they will be given one marshmallow to eat, but if they keep themselves from eating it while the adult steps out of the room for two or three minutes, they will get a second marshmallow. Eat one now, or wait and get two later.

You can probably guess. Many of the children ate the marshmallow right away. But the interesting thing is that those children who were able to wait and therefore earned the second marshmallow did better in school.

Dr. Baron shared that approximately 600 of these children were revisited twenty years later. The children who ate the marshmallow were described as frustrated, impulsive, indecisive, and disorganized. The children who earned the second marshmallow were described as self-reliant and confident…and they had higher SAT scores. The children who had eaten the marshmallow were also more prone to obesity.

The question for us as parents, then, is: can we teach our children to be patient? I don’t know that a study has actually been done, but I firmly believe that we can. There are so many physiological changes in the brains of our children as they grow, we have a lot of influence.

My problem is that I don’t consider myself very patient. How can I teach patience? Well, one way is to have children earn rewards over longer and longer periods of time. For example, if there is a toy they want, have them do chores around the house and earn money for them. They can save up to then buy the toy themselves. This approach also helps teach children about money management. It is also more gratifying for the child to have made such a wonderful accomplishment.

As a country, I think we are all prone to buying things right when we want them. That partially explains the vast amounts of credit card debt we have. Rather than save for something, we tend to buy first and think, “Well, I’ll get it now, then make payments instead of saving and then buying.”

The problem with that is that we end up paying more for the item because we pay interest as well. And credit card interest is HIGH!

It’s a good idea to let grandparents in on the plan, too, though.

I usually give the coins in my purse to my grandson (age 5) when I visit. The last time I gave him coins, he put them all in a bank labelled “toys.” As he was putting them in, I asked why it was labelled. He told me that he had two other banks. One was labelled “savings” and one was labelled “Fund.” (That one was for the Baha’i Fund, which would be similar to the collection plates in churches.)

I asked, “Would you like to put some coins in those banks?” (He was now nearly done with the task.) “No,” he said. “I’ll just put them in here.”


Tressa Reisetter has a new book out for parents:

Getting to Know Your Child’s Brain.

Here’s the link:

Still at the conference…. silly feelings

March 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

Someone’s in my chair! Being silly, of course.  It’s funny that when people return to a place such as a class they’re taking or church, they tend to go to the same chair (or pew). Even if there’s a gathering at a home, and we take a break, we go back to the same place we sat before. Why do we do it? I have no idea.

I was in a particular seat yesterday afternoon and this morning, but when I came in for the session after lunch, someone was sitting there. What’s up with that?

Okay, it really doesn’t matter, but I do feel a bit …displaced. I wonder if this could be linked to the human need for consistency. We go into a large room full of strangers, find a seat, and it’s like we stake out a territory, and it must be maintained. I’ve seen it in classes I’ve taught with college students and at other workshops. If we’re like that as adults, what must it be like for children—entering a new school, encountering a new child in the class, in the neighborhood, or in the family. I don’t know the research on this topic. This is just an observation. But I do know that adjusting to change can be no big deal to some, irksome to a lot, or disruptive to the lives of a few. There is actually a DSM-5 diagnosis for Adjustment Disorder.

It is important when changes are coming up to prep ourselves and our children. Talk about how it might make us feel and how we can seek to understand another perspective.

Entering a new school can cause a child to feel a lot of anxiety. If possible, arrange for your child to meet one or two of the children in the class before they have to go to the school. The teacher can help with this process.


Tressa Reisetter has a new book out for parents:

Getting to Know Your Child’s Brain.

Here’s the link:

Between sessions at a conference in San Diego….the importance of sleep

March 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

A good night’s sleep, and I’m ready to go. Yesterday I was only able to get about 5 hours of sleep because of travelling from MN to CA after a full day’s work. Ugh. Sleep is so important!

In this country, we tend to live with the attitude, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Funny…but not. Without good sleep, we’ll likely get there sooner, or at least enjoy the journey less. I read fiction a lot, mostly mysteries. Characters are often going without sleep and functioning really well. Now that IS fiction!!

The brain does not sleep while we do. It needs that time to essentially clean up the mess of information you’ve taken in from the day, as I described in my book. Military experts on torture and terrorists know that sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Without sleep, vision suffers, one can’t think clearly, and eventually even hallucinations can occur. That actually makes sense, as I read in a book years ago. [The Chemistry of Conscious States by J. Allan Hobson, M.D.] Dr. Hobson wrote that dreams are part of the chemical system that controls sleep. There is a cycle involved. Hallucinations are essentially dreams that occur while a person is awake. That’s an oversimplification, but you get it.

I had nightmares all of my life until I started taking an antidepressant to help me sleep. Decreasing nightmares was not listed as a side effect, but I’m glad it was! Still, I wouldn’t want to experience my dreams while I am awake. Scary!


Tressa Reisetter has a new book out for parents:

Getting to Know Your Child’s Brain.

Here’s the link:

Children are learning all the time!

March 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

When I was younger, there was a popular saying for parents to say to their children: Do as I say—not as I do.

That doesn’t work. I’m hoping that the people who said it realized that it was a joke, but I honestly don’t know. Children will do what you do far more frequently than they will do what you say. When you think about it, it’s really not fair or realistic to hold children to a higher standard than adults can reach. If parents are not able to keep themselves from using bad language, their children will cuss. If parents say derogatory things about people who are different from them, their children will believe it and repeat it. That’s what prejudices are—judgements made from hearing it from someone else rather than getting the facts on one’s own.

Think of the children around you as being sponges and recorders at all times. They learn by copying…not necessarily by listening. You are always on stage, being watched and imitated.

That’s a rather heavy burden.

Parenting is not easy, and unfortunately, we have little training for it. We tend to parent as we were parented. But the fact that you are reading this blog makes me think that you want to be the best parent you can be. Good for you!!

So going forward, remember that none of us is perfect. The absolute best thing you can do to be a good parent is to consistently love your child, and I suspect you’re pretty good at that already.

The next best thing is to see the good things in your child and help them develop. This also works for ourselves. Looking at the good things in other people helps us stay positive in a world in which negative things are thrown at us on all sides. There are good things happening, but we often have to look harder to find them. On the other hand, if we make that effort, it will help combat depression.

The bonus here is that if we parents work to find the positive in others, our children (and grandchildren) will copy us more completely than if we just say, “Be nice.” Bullying is rampant in our schools, and in society in general. For some reason, when we find the ethics that we choose to live by, we believe that we are right, and anyone who doesn’t agree with us is wrong. Whether or not I believe in something simply doesn’t give me the right to think less of someone for disagreeing with me. Each person is a child of God. If we berate those who are different, our children learn to berate those who are different, and the culture of bullying is perpetuated.

I remember my parents discussing that people from equatorial countries were lazy. They operate on a “do it tomorrow” approach. Then years later I heard a wonderful explanation of where that prejudice came from. People from Europe, particularly northern Europe, have had to plan carefully to be able to have food for the winter for centuries. In these times, it’s not an issue, but it certainly was before. As a culture, then, we have become efficient planners. If we don’t, we starve.

In equatorial climates, however, it is always planting season. If we’re starting to run a bit low on food, we plant more. There’s no winter to fear. There’s no need for planning. Such a simple explanation. But when I was young, I believed my parents. I know better now.

Just remember, you are teaching your children every minute of every day. Hang in there!


Tressa Reisetter has a new book out for parents:

Getting to Know Your Child’s Brain.

Here’s the link:

Why I became a neuropsychologist

March 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

When I was about 4 years old, I had a bad fall. My baby teeth went up and knocked one of my permanent teeth crooked. I got a traumatic brain injury that included the onset of seizures, requiring regular trips to the neurologist at the university medical center 2 hours away, and taking phenobarbital every day for six years. Please note: I’m old, so doctors would not do that now, as phenobarbital is a fairly serious barbiturate—at least as I understand it.

I was one of the lucky ones, though. The injury didn’t affect me cognitively. I had little trouble getting good grades in school. The way it turned out, the parts of my brain that were injured affected my ability to sleep. I had what is called “terminal” insomnia even as a child. From what I understand, the “terminal” meant that I would sleep for a while, but my sleep would “terminate” early, and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Still, it’s not a word a patient wants to hear.

It didn’t really bother me that much. I would just turn on the light and read until the others in the house woke up. Unfortunately, I shared a room with my older sister. She was not amused. I ended up getting my own room in the basement.

Later in life, I developed neurological symptoms related to long-term lack of sleep, but compared to what many other people have to deal with, it wasn’t that bad. That’s another story.

But why should I be so lucky that I could have a bad head injury and still make straight A’s in high school, when others have head injuries that majorly impact their ability to have success in school or a job? I thought of this a lot.

When I was in junior high (it was before the switch to middle schools), my dad sat me down and said that I owed it to society to do something with my gift for math and science. I decided that I would be a doctor. Perhaps I should have stopped and considered that I fainted every time I got a shot. I even fainted once when Mom pulled a splinter out of my foot. But, I didn’t think it through.

It was a time when girls, if they wanted to work, were channeled into being teachers or nurses. By golly, I was going to be a doctor! It was the 70’s. What can I say?

There isn’t room here to go into the entire journey now, but after teaching for several years (more later on that!), I found myself in graduate school working on a Master’s Degree in Special Education (on the 7th floor of the Education building). I asked so many questions, one of the professors finally took me aside and said, “You don’t belong here. Go down to the 5th floor and get your Ph.D. in neuropsychology.”

I had no idea what neuropsychology was. After I researched it, I thought something along the lines of “where have you been all my life??” Neuropsychology brings together the science of brain development and how injuries or developmental misalignments impact the quality of life for the individuals. It took me right back to the question I had pondered over and over while growing up. Why can one person be affected one way by an injury, while another person could be affected a completely different way? And what can we do about it?

At last, I feel like I’ve found my niche. And if sharing my journey over many years or sharing the knowledge I’ve managed to collect in my studies can help someone, then that’s what I want to do.


Tressa Reisetter has a new book out for parents:

Getting to Know Your Child’s Brain.

Here’s the link: