A recent study received quite a bit of media attention when it showed that the n-back method actually improves children’s memories. If you aren’t familiar with it, n-back is an activity in which a child is asked to remember a sequence of objects or placements of objects. While the results of the study sounded intriguing to me, realistically I knew that there was no way I was going to get my two boys to sit through even one day of this sort of activity. It got me thinking though, a little recall would be good brain exercise for them. Plus, I remembered (miracle!) reading something a while back about the benefits of asking kids to recall their experiences. Maybe I could make our car rides to and from school a little more beneficial by encouraging recall. So, I gave it a go.
My oldest is four and a half years old, let’s call him “Little Guy” or “LG” for short. He never forgets anything. He recalls even the smallest detail. It’s a little scary really. I knew he’d love talking about all of his adventures. I started asking him more recall questions and he gushed about things he’d seen, done, or eaten. This was going to be fun, easy, and productive. Mommy success. I love mommy success.
Then, I started asking my baby who is almost three, let’s call him “Super Little Guy” or “Super” for short, and I got the same detailed, enthusiastic answers. The only problem was that the answers were coming from LG! Super couldn’t get a word in. When I asked LG not to answer for his brother, he sulked and Super would shrug his shoulders, say “I don’t know,” and look at LG. As if to illustrate the causes of differing personality traits based on sequence of birth, my kids were displaying one of the reasons that the last born is often be babied to the point of helplessness. Now that is a problem.
Me: Super, what did you eat for lunch?
Super: I don’t know.
Me: Well, who did you play with at school?
Super: I don’t know.
Me: Did you play with Michael (impossible since there is no Michael in his class).
Super: (with enthusiasm) YES! MICHAEL!
Me: No you didn’t. Who did you play with?
Super: I’m not talking to you.
Me: Perfect. (sigh)
While this all started innocently enough, what it did is make me realize how much Super relies on LG. Now, I have a new and seemingly more difficult task on my hands, encourage Super to be independent and not rely on his brother for everything, all the while not stifling LG’s enthusiasm for helping. I’m up for this small challenge and I’m glad I recognized this issue while they are still so young, but if I don’t do something soon, Super is not going to remember a thing (much like his mommy).
Have you noticed something similar in your kids? Do you have any tips?