Category Archives: Attitude

Monkey See, Monkey Do…The case of Mirror Neurons

If you missed my previous post, “No Joy Ride Home today”, I started to talk about Mirror Neurons.  I would encourage you to take a minute and read it before you dive into this post – it will help set the stage for why this is such an important topic.

Let me first start with a brief and simple description of how “mirror neurons” work.  When you are around someone in a bad mood you have a good chance of mimicking that person’s behavior – these are mirror neurons.  These mirror neurons give you the ability to empathize and connect deeply with another’s emotions (empathy), yet cause you to act out and mimic the behavior without even knowing it.

When you are around someone who is happy, do you find yourself happy? Do their emotions rub off on you?  Do you start acting happy like they are? I know I do and I love it!  When the mirror neurons fire up, I mimic the happy jolly person I am around!  This is how happiness spreads to others.  Unfortunately, this is also true for someone who is in a bad mood and around other people.  The bad mood can spread like a wild fire.  Without getting too technical here, you connect with your son/daughter on a deep emotional level.  You feel their pain and hurt.  Your mirror neurons start firing up and what you see…you do!  It’s as simple as, “Monkey see Monkey do!”

Why do we cry at movies and why do we get so connected and wrapped up in emotions when are sports teams are playing?  Mirror Neurons!  When our kids are playing a sport, why does their unpleasant mood takeover our cheery disposition?  Mirror Neurons.  If you would like more info on mirror neurons, check out this video clip by Nova.

Have you seen this happening with your own kids?  They have a bad game, get in the car and the mood of everyone takes a spiral downwards.  What have you found that works to prevent their bad moods from spreading?  Share your stories and suggestions – everyone can benefit and hopefully we will all have more pleasant rides home after our games.

No “Joy Ride” Home today…

The game ends and the coach is giving the post-game talk with the players sitting in a circle around him.   It ends and the team breaks up and heads to the parking lot to meet their parents.  Suddenly, you observe your kid walking slowly towards the car, not even acknowledging the fact you are standing there waiting for him.  You think to yourself, “Not again, not another quiet ride home.”

What causes your son/daughter to behave like this? There are many factors contributing to this aspect of youth sports; the mood change and long ride home always dampen the spirits of anyone else who happens to be in the car. His/her behavior may be because their team lost, or they didn’t have one of their better games, or maybe they are unhappy with their performance, or they didn’t get to start the game, or the coach doesn’t give them enough playing time, or perhaps they have to play a position they didn’t like, or your kid misses the winning goal, or strikes out with bases loaded, or the coach didn’t compliment them,  or their mom or dad doesn’t show up to the game, or the kid hates the snack.  Whatever the case, there are hundreds of reasons that cause the car ride home to not be the joy ride you were hoping it would be.

But whatever the reason, the happy, excited kid you dropped off at the field a couple hours ago is now bringing everyone around them down.  You try asking questions to get him/her to talk so you can figure out what went wrong.  But it only makes matters worse.  They just simply don’t want to talk. Maybe it’s your son and he snaps at you then starts a fight with his little brother. You ask if he wants to get something to eat and he doesn’t respond.  Everyone in the car is now “walking on eggshells” not knowing what to say or do.  He looks at his sister and tells her to shut up.   After a few minutes you notice everyone in the car, including yourself, starting to get a little snippy and the once cheerful disposition you had before you got in the car is no longer there.

You pull up to your house and your kid gets out of the car, slamming the door and runs to their room.  You think to yourself, “Why am I in such a bad mood?”  How can one kid bring a whole family down? Not only did I just spend the last 3 hours of my Saturday sitting in a lawn chair watching him play in a soccer game but now I have to put up with a bad mood the rest of the day and night?  It doesn’t make sense.

The explanation and reasoning came from a sports psychologist I visited with on this particular subject after it was getting to be a weekly routine in my car.  The answer she gave was simple – “Mirror Neurons.”  Yes, it is a physiological phenomenon that happens in the brain.  This discovery changed my life and I am no longer ruled and controlled by the moods of my little athletes!  If they are in a bad mood, I empathize with them but do allow myself to be absorbed in the bad mood right beside them!

By being aware of these mirror neurons, you will find yourself becoming liberated and free!  It is so awesome when you can be there for your kids, allow your kids to do what they need to do to cope, and not take it personally or have it ruin your day!  Because this is such a key topic, my next post is going to talk much more about Mirror Neurons.