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Tetris and Good Parenting

If you are old enough to remember the 80’s then you will, of course, remember the game “Tetris” for the Gameboy. Tetris was the Angry Birds of its day. It was huge and we all played it. Any we can still remember the background music perfectly to this day. I think our blood pressure stills goes up when we think about waiting for that long straight piece we waited for and only got a series of the “s” shaped pieces.

Anyway, what does any of this have to do with parenting?

Recently, a group of researchers were studying the brain activity of amnesiacs, specifically those people with short-term memory loss. The goal of the study was to see if their patients could learn something new one day, forget that they ever learned it, but still be able to perform the new skill.

So they used Tetris.

The patients spent 4 hours playing Tetris one day. At first the game was new to them and they had trouble getting a high score. But as expected, after a few hours they started to get better and better at it. They figured out the little tricks to use in order to advance farther in the game.

One week later they brought them back to the testing center. Most of them claimed they had never been there before and the patients who did remember it, had no recollection of ever playing a game called Tetris.

But here’s where it gets interesting. When they sat down to play the game, they immediately knew how to play and their scores picked up right where they left off. The patients exclaimed that they were amazed how good they were at a game they were playing for the first time.


The conclusion of the study was that even though the patients had no conscious recollection of ever learning how to play the game, their brain had already stored the information and even formed some neural pathways to help them succeed at the task the next time it was presented. So even when the conscious brain failed, the subconscious brain took over.

How does this relate to parenting?

Those with kids will know about the frustration of teaching your children something a million times but still having them do the opposite or behave in public in a manner completely different than what is taught at home.

Let’s just say that most kids until they are about 21 suffer from short-term memory loss. They can learn something one day but completely forget they ever learned it 2 days later. I know I was that way and I’m sure you were too. Parents teach their kids important and wise lessons all the time and yet when the kid goes out at night, they seem to forget everything they were taught.

But the Tetris study teaches us something important. It shows us as parents that we need to continue to teach our children the good things over and over again. We need to show them by example how to be responsible, how to treat others, how to work, how to serve other people, etc. Even when it seems they aren’t listening.

These lessons are like Tetris. We teach them over and over until we know they have learned the principles. Then, later in life, even though they don’t remember learning the lessons they start behaving the way we hoped they would. They think they’ve figured things out and are making their own decisions but really they already learned them long ago but forgot. The skills were learned but they have suffered from memory loss. It is just like the amnesia patients who still knew how to play Tetris even though they never remembered playing it before.

The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I believe this is true, in Tetris and in life. We continue to teach the best lessons now so that they will be able to draw on the lessons in their subconscious later in life when they are on their own. So don’t give up on your kids when it seems they aren’t listening. The benefits of your efforts will manifest themselves later when your children need them most.


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