While most people who live outside the U.S. may think "Ugly Americans" are just born that way, it turns out we're not. But our living conditions as babies, toddlers, and young children certainly make us that way. The bad news is, at this moment in history, outside (and inside) influences are nastier than ever. Manners matter more than we realize, and actually contribute to our brain development, according to neurologist, Dr. Douglas Fields.
Aside from Fields' adulation of Japanese children and Leave it to Beaver, his article explaining how rudeness is a neurotoxin is a fascinating look at the environment children live in today. The hatefulness we see online, in the schoolyard, and in Congress, can be explained by the shift of priorities in our country over the past five or six decades. Namely, that chivalry is dead. And our kids are turning into brain-damaged a-holes as a result.
Because our brains develop after we are outside the womb, the environmental stimuli actually changes our brain wiring. And the outside environment is not too cool these days.
American children today are raised in an environment that is far more hostile than the environment that nurtured today's adults. Children today are exposed to behaviors, profane language, hostilities and stress from which we adults, raised a generation ago, were carefully shielded.
This perpetual motion of nastiness, violence, and bullying will only serve to increase the stress on the developing brain. And while this sounds a little chicken-and-egg like, Fields explains that polite conversation actually removes stress from a social situation, and allows for normal neural development. Stress hormones can cause wires to cross, or to not connect at all. Hostility causes stress, and wiring will go haywire. Which is making me re-think my lax rules about Sponge Bob, right about now.
Whether a fellow driver honks and flips you the bird (this was not happening in the bucolic suburbs of the 1950s) or you yell at a particularly annoying customer service representative in front of your child, these things can harm their health. Of course your desire to do those things, may be because your wires got crossed as a child. Nice pattern, yes?
So the next time you think taking your kid to a Tea Party rally, or tuning into The Jersey Shore is a good idea, think of their developing brains and flip over to Nick at Nite instead. The Cleavers will be politely waiting for you there.
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