Despite our best efforts in school, bullying affects significant numbers of children. And the latest research shows that bullying can actually change the ways children's brains are wired and function.
In today's episode, expert author Jennifer Fraser looks at the real impact of bullying on our students - both from their peers and adults in school - and reveals what we should really be doing to support victims, and reduce bullying, in our schools.
Read Jennifer's book The Bullied Brain.
Visit Jennifer's website for more ideas and resources around bullying.
Get our FREE guide How To Help Children Manage Anger (And Other Strong Emotions)
Join our Inner Circle membership programme: https://beaconschoolsupport.co.uk/inner_circle.php
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Show notes / transcription
Jennifer Fraser 0:00
We have a population of children who are incredibly anxious and are incredibly depressed. And these are big warning signs that our children don't feel safe. They don't feel safe in adult communities, they don't feel safe in peer communities. And really, this is my goal. I want to see us get far more educated about our brains and our children's brains. It's exciting. And it's empowering, because now the science can show us what's going on. And it used to be invisible.
Simon Currigan 0:26
Hi there. Welcome to school behaviour secrets. My name is Simon Currigan. And if I could go back in time and be any man or woman from history, I'd be Richie Cunningham from the documentary about 50s Teenagers Happy Days and before you say but he was a character in a sitcom he wasn't a real person. I'd asked you in return wasn't he? Really? Or is that what they want you to believe? I'm joined here today by my always knowledgeable co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma.
Emma Shackleton 1:33
Simon Currigan 1:34
Oh, Emma. Today, I'd like to start by asking you a question.
Emma Shackleton 1:37
Okay, well, we've been in that route for around a year. So let's just keep plugging on I guess
Simon Currigan 1:42
According to a 2020 Meta study. So that's where researchers look at the results of lots of pieces of research and combine them together. By what percentage, does the average anti bullying programme in school actually reduce bullying incidents by?
Emma Shackleton 1:58
Okay, I'm guessing that this number is not going to be as high as schools were hoping it might be. Let's see bullying reduced by 20%. Am I close to the correct answer?
Simon Currigan 2:10
Emma Shackleton 2:11
Simon Currigan 2:11
Emma Shackleton 2:13
Wow.That seems low, though, doesn't it?
Simon Currigan 2:16
Yeah. It's interesting. When you look at the research, how little impact some of these have, I certainly remember when I used to work at the pupil referral unit where we taught kids who are permanently excluded from school, when we used to do anti bullying week, we used to find it increased the incidence of bullying. So we had to run it as a theme across the year and not make a sort of special week after it to get the impact we wanted.
Emma Shackleton 2:36
Yeah, almost by drawing attention to it, you're then highlighting it and kind of putting it in people's heads, aren't you?
Simon Currigan 2:41
Yeah, that's a group of children that isn't representative of the population as a whole. Those are children with SEMH issues and behaviour issues. But yeah, it's interesting how we need to take the right approach, I guess, to reduce bullying in school. Otherwise, we might accidentally make things worse.
Emma Shackleton 2:55
Yeah, so this is a really important topic. But why are you asking me about this today?
Simon Currigan 3:00
Because today we're sharing my interview with Jennifer Fraser, who has released a number of books on the subject of bullying and in today's episode, she's going to reveal how when a child experiences bullying, it can actually affect the growth and development of their brain. why some children and adults engage in bullying behaviour and what we should be doing to prevent bullying in school. And we look at the particular impact that bullying by adult figures has on children.
Emma Shackleton 3:29
Okay, that sounds like a really important conversation that anybody who works with children needs to hear. But just before we jump into the episode, how do you fancy paying it forward with a small good deed? We rely on word of mouth recommendations. So if you find the school behaviour secrets podcast interesting and useful, and you know somebody else who might like it to do them a favour by opening your podcast app and clicking the Share button. And now here's Simon's interview with Jennifer Fraser.
Simon Currigan 4:01
Today I'm really excited to welcome Jennifer Fraser to the show. Jennifer is a best selling author and award winning educator and has a PhD in comparative literature. Her online courses and workshops provide dynamic lessons in the impact neuroscience has on personal development and culture change. She is the author of teaching bullies zero tolerance on the course or in the classroom, and her new book, The Bullied Brain, heal your scars and restore your Health, examines how bullying affects the brain at a neurological level and how the brain can heal. Jennifer, welcome to the show.
Jennifer Fraser 4:36
Thanks so much for having me, Simon.
Simon Currigan 4:38
And I'd like to say I really enjoyed the book. It's so full of research and information, but it's really, really accessible to lay people like me. I used to be a mainstream teacher. So thank you for writing that in a way that helps us access sometimes quite complex ideas from neuroscience.
Jennifer Fraser 4:53
Well, it's funny, one of the readers of the book, who's a lawyer actually said to me, this is the first time I've ever read a page turner about neuroscience.
Simon Currigan 5:02
So the book is focused not just on the impact that kids have when they bully each other, which is something we often think about when we think about bullying, but also the impact that adults can have when they engage in bullying against their students. So what led you to pick this topic?
Jennifer Fraser 5:18
I guess that I got pulled into a bullying situation at a school where I was a teacher, and there was reports coming in about children being bullied, and it was terrible, lots of homophobic slurs and swearing, yelling in the face, scenes of public humiliation descriptions by students of the behaviour being vicious. And it wasn't my students, it was by my colleagues, it was by teachers. And what I learned in the research is, and this makes a lot of sense, to me. Bullying is a learned behaviour, our brains are born, babies brains are born wired for empathy. And, you know, empathy is one of our greatest superpowers, it allows us to understand what other people are feeling and thinking and intending. And it's one of the most sought after qualities in the work world. And yet, we're allowing our children to grow up having this neural network, this crucial part of their brains become damaged and harmed. And so I mean, these teachers were just people who had grown up in that system, they had had it hammered into their own brains, most likely during childhood, to believe that it was actually an effective method of working with young people. I mean, they knew it was bad, because they only did it behind closed doors. And yet, you know, when we do confront people with these types of damaging behaviours, they'll be the first to say, I didn't know it was doing harm. But then you have to ask the question, then why didn't you do it with your superiors? Why did you only do it with children?
Simon Currigan 6:40
What is the biological impact of that kind of bullying on how a child's brain develops and functions, if they're being put under that kind of daily attack? What does the neuroscience tell us?
Jennifer Fraser 6:53
This is the huge breakthrough because now neuroscientists and psychiatrists and doctors, they can see on brain scans the damage being done, they can see it in real time on an FMRI, and they can see it on an EEG that can see it on brain scans. And that's the most important takeaway is that for us, we tend to minimise emotional abuse and psychological abuse and verbal abuse, we tend to minimise emotional neglect, an adult withdrawing love from a child. But in actual fact, it does incredible harm to brains. And so you can see anatomical differences, you can see neurological scarring, you can see parts of the brain that are shrunken and shrivelled, because they've been so badly harmed. And we have a population of children who are incredibly anxious and are incredibly depressed. And these are big warning signs that our children don't feel safe. They don't feel safe in adult communities, they don't feel safe in peer communities. And really, this is my goal, I want to see us get far more educated about our brains and our children's brains. It's exciting. And it's empowering, because now the science can show us what's going on. And it used to be invisible.
Simon Currigan 8:03
Youve said a lot there. And I just want to take a moment to just sort of think about that, in terms of the bullying leaves a physical impact on the brain. And that's remarkable when you think about it. And in your book, you talk about how some adults who engage in bullying, think they're doing it for the child's good. And yet they're doing all this literal physical damage to the neural networks and the very children that they say they're trying to help.
Jennifer Fraser 8:26
It's the same argument that we used to hear for corporal punishment, the adult would say, I'm doing this for your own good. Well, there's extensive brain research that shows that corporal punishment does nothing but harm brains, and it harms quite significantly the part of the brain referred to as the prefrontal cortex, and that's the CEO of the brain. It's the part of the brain that makes a lot of judicious decisions. It thinks ahead. It weighs pros and cons. It's reasonable and rational. It's such an important part of the brain. And yet corporal punishment is harming it. And it's going to harm the way in which a child behaves in the future, it's going to make the child on empathic, humiliated and aggressive, quite likely. So same thing with verbal abuse or bullying in the home or in the classroom. If you're not treating a child with respect and empathy and kindness and compassion, you are not bringing that brain to healthy development, it's not going to become as high performing and as happy and as effective as an adult, as you might hope.
Simon Currigan 9:25
And the research shows and you go through this in the book as well, that you know, like sports coaches who are being in their eyes Ultra tough and trying to bring the person up to be the best they can be actually, the irony is it doesn't work like corporal punishment, it just doesn't work.
Jennifer Fraser 9:39
And one of the greatest parts of my research involves learning about a laboratory of neuroscientists in California who are working away and they developed this online gamified brain training programme and it's now being tested and assessed and researched by hundreds of different independent groups and they were working away in the lab and the goal was To stop Alzheimer's or dementia, and they knew that we keep our bodies strong as we go through our lives, but we tend to ignore our brains throughout our lives unless there's a crisis. And so our brains would get flabby and they weren't in shape. And they weren't high powered. And lo and behold, for some of us, that leads to dementia, so they were working on training brains and seeing incredible results. Well, the telephone rings in the lab, they pick it up, and it's Alex Guerrero, he is the trainer for Tom Brady, who's the American quarterback who if he's not known to your audience, he's one of the greatest athletes alive today. And he's 44/45. And he competes with 22 year olds, and he outperforms them on the football field in America. And then after he came forward publicly and said, You know what, I do your brain training every day. And this is why it gives me a competitive edge. Harry Kane, who will be definitely known to your audience, he came public as well and said, I also use the brain training programme. And so for coaches, I think this is really exciting. For coaches. This is an opportunity to say, Oh, you mean Tom Brady and Harry Kane don't have someone screaming and yelling at them distracting their brain filling their brain with anxiety when they're trying to concentrate, focus, do creative, innovative split second strategic moves? Why is that? Oh, just a second. They actually work on brain training. They are not being lambasted 24/7 by someone who thinks they're helping them.
Simon Currigan 11:21
I was also really interested in the research you talk about on the impact of shame, and how that affects our ability to empathise. Can you tell us about what the research says?
Jennifer Fraser 11:31
The shame is a neurological response to aggression. So if somebody's yelling at you, or humiliating you, or physically threatening you in some way, if they're grabbing you and detaining you, holding you in for more yelling, these types of behaviour, your brain wants you to survive at all times. So it's going to respond by becoming small, hunched over, bent down, eyes cast down to the floor, because your brain is saying, Okay, we're dealing with an aggressive predator here, it's very dangerous. Let's make ourselves small, and unthreatening. So that it starts to give us some space and go away. And let's just pray it doesn't eat us. So this is part of the stress response that the brain has on what happens in childhood. And it can happen in adulthood too. But what happens in childhood is, the brain starts to predict that this is going to be a typical scenario. And it starts to misunderstand lots of physical and emotional cues and sees them all as aggressive. It's predicting more harm and danger. So it starts to respond to all kinds of neutral activities, even with this sort of shameful position, this hope that you won't get noticed, because that makes you in danger.
Simon Currigan 12:39
What kind of damage does that do to the kids, you can imagine in terms of their learning in terms of their confidence in terms of their emotional development? What kind of long term damage do we see?
Jennifer Fraser 12:48
the kinds of stress responses that we have to bullying and abuse in all forms, they start to take over cortical real estate, the brain has limited space, it has limited cortical real estate. So if you are pouring all your energy as a child into safety, into emotionally and physically protecting yourself, you're taking away precious resources, from creativity, from problem solving, from social emotional connections with others, and from your health really seriously from your help, because we now know that and research is very clear that the more damage that's happening in the brain from the stress response system, your fight, flight and freeze, very primal, evolutionary created systems to keep you alive. If that keeps getting triggered and tripped up by being in a toxic environment with the powerful people in your world, your adults or peers, it's also damaging your immune system, and it's damaging your blood vessels. It's doing significant damage basically, all throughout your brain and body. And so people that don't address this when they don't understand that their body and brain are having these kinds of reactions, and they're invisible to us, and we don't talk about them as a society. Our children aren't learning that they need to do very specific evidence based things to get their health back. And the research shows and this is from the late 1990s. The research shows, there's a direct correlation between child abuse, emotional physical, sexual, emotional neglect, and emotional abuse and physical neglect. There is a direct correlation between that and midlife chronic disease. So if you've grown up in a home, if you've gone to school, if you've been in a sport programme, if you've gone to a church or a club, as a child, where you've been repeatedly exposed to this type of toxicity, you are much more likely than a person who hasn't to have a midlife chronic health condition and have a shortened lifespan.
Simon Currigan 14:38
That's incredible when you think about it. So when people often think about bullying, they're thinking about the short term ramifications, the emotional damage done the social connections that are broken the damage to the child's academic progress. No one's thinking 30 years down the line. And ironically, from what you say, if I understand it correctly, many of the people that experience this as children. Have you experienced this damage, then go on to perpetuate it as adults in future life.
Jennifer Fraser 15:05
That's the saddest part, it really is, you know, I thought a lot about this writing the book, and I address it a lot in the book, because really, this is going to take a huge impetus on the part of all of us, because people who perpetuate these bullying behaviours are basically showing you that they were once a target, they were once a victim. It's extremely rare that you have someone born sociopathic or psychopathic, it's very rare. These are behaviours that come from a lot of childhood harm. And yet we treat it as a moral issue. It's a flaw in character. These are bad people. Well, a really great statistic that I use, and I use it in the book, as you know, to get people to understand that we're making a big mistake is that we have to understand that bullying and abuse when we see it in adults is a medical crisis. It's a sign of mental illness. And we need to operate on that level to get the rehabilitation and the help they need. Of course, the victim comes first. But the bottom line is, if we see a child who's exhibiting bullying behaviours, that is a cry for help, we need to go upstream and find out what's wrong in that child's life. How is that child getting so hurt, that they're bringing their aggression out and acting it out with other children that have less power than them, we need to find the source and then get that family the help that they need. But the statistic is 70%, that's seven, zero 70% of inmates in the prison system of California, were once in foster care.
Simon Currigan 16:30
Wow, that's scary isn't it!
Jennifer Fraser 16:31
It just goes to show you that it's not that they're bad people per se, what they are is very desperate people. They're very threatened people, they're aggressive people because they have been exposed to so much harm. And they don't know how to get better. If we put all those people onto a rehabilitation plan. And we train their brains how to get back to organic brain health, it would just be such a socially enormous change.
Simon Currigan 16:55
So bringing this back to schools, often when there's an incident of bullying in schools, the temptation is it'll go up to senior management, and people will talk about zero tolerance policies and punishments. And they'll try and fix them exclude or suspend the behaviour out of the child using punishments and consequences. What you're saying is, that's not going to work, because that person is the product of their early life experiences. And if I had been in their shoes and had their life experiences, I would be doing the same things. So what we need is a different approach. Actually, obviously, we need to take care of the victim, they're very important, but we're not going to punish people out of this, whether they're an adult or a child.
Jennifer Fraser 17:35
Exactly. That is the absolute takeaway. That's so critical. People are afraid of dealing with mental behaviours and mental acting out, they see it as threatening, basically. So especially with children, you have the opportunity to change this trajectory. As a person gets older and older and their neural networks become more and more entrenched, it becomes extremely difficult to change default patterns. Now, I want to be very clear that we can change default patterns, it's just that our society has a tendency to allow highly abusive people to do their abuse adults. For years and years and years, I can rattle off the names, and these are household names now of people who have done abuse for 30 years, it's been covered up, it's been exposed as a big scandal. But you have to ask yourself, why do we create these very stringent policies for children that we do not apply to adults, our school system has been exposed, we know this, we have to admit it to ourselves as rife with highly abusive teachers and administrators. So once we can put that on the table and find the courage to take a look at that, and see that it's a cycle that a bullied brain becomes a bullying individual, or it turns it against themselves. We are not going to change this massive medical problem, we are not going to address mental health. Or I understand that mental health is directly correlated with brain health. But we don't talk about our brains. We don't teach our children. We don't build our school systems around up to date, neuroscientific information. And this outdated system we're in is not leading to health or happiness or high performance. So we have to find the courage to change it. And we all have to work together.
Simon Currigan 19:16
Some teachers will be listening to this, and they'll be thinking, all my career, I've been told to have very high expectations for the kids so you can bring out the best in them. So what's the difference between setting high expectations so kids can achieve their potential in creating an environment that's overly harsh or bullying? In your view.
Jennifer Fraser 19:35
High expectations are one of the best things that you can offer to children. Great teachers know that if you make expectations, unrealistic for children at their different ages and stages of development, then you are setting them up for failure, lack of confidence feelings as if they can't achieve what they want. But if you have a child and you say, You know what, the sky is the limit with you, you have been gifted with an incredibly healthy brain and body. And we know that brains are just unlimited in what they can do. And I want to support you every step of the way. The first thing you need to know is you have to believe in yourself. And this is documented in extensive research. If you want a child to reach peak performance, if you want to create a talent hotbed, you need children that believe they can achieve their goals. Now, if you're using humiliation, if you are telling them that they're, I mean, think of all the words that we all know that people use, you know, everything from put downs, to belittlement, to shaming humiliating, if you're using any of those types of strategies, you're not building belief in the child, you're making the child feel as if mistakes are embarrassing, as if the natural way that the brain learns is unacceptable, the brain learns by making mistakes, we should be celebrating them. But on our school system, we teachers have been taught to give them a bad mark to tell them they didn't reach the top. I mean, it's very old fashioned what we do. And that's why I find the science so exciting. I think it gives us teachers an opportunity to think outside the box and change some of the ways in which we've been taught that this is how you get results, because it's not backed up and research humiliation, shaming, homophobic slurs, swearing at kids, any of these things, they don't get results. So there's there's not a single research piece out there that you can find written by any scholar that will put their name to it that says that shaming or humiliating or harshly treating children, giving them expectations that are impossible to fulfil, none of it works.
Simon Currigan 21:33
So are we saying what does work is high expectations but building kids up, rather than knocking them down to achieve those expectations? If they're realistic for the child?
Jennifer Fraser 21:42
Exactly. I mean, it's the difference between you know, when you raise somebody up, that's the opposite of pulling them down humiliation that comes from the Latin for Earth, Humus- Earth humiliation is a pushing down, raising up expectations and saying, sky's the limit. And let's use scaffolding, and I'm here to support you and help you and give you every opportunity I can to exercise that incredible brain you've got in your head, that's very, very different.
Simon Currigan 22:08
What sort of strategies then should we use turning to the victim of the bullying? What sort of strategy should we use to support those kids? And in your book, you talk about how kids can recover using the right approach to the damage that the bullying is done. What sort of strategies should we be using? How can we support them best?
Jennifer Fraser 22:25
I think the key thing that kids need to know and adults need to know is that we all have brain plasticity, we all have, right until the very last day, we're on the planet neuroplasticity. And the key thing is, if a child has been harmed, or if a child has been bullied, we need to sit them down and say, You know what, you're showing signs that your brain is quite upset, it's been activated, it's been threatened. And I want to help you replace those very anxious, very threatened neural networks with healthier ones. But you have to work with me, it's not a quick fix. It takes time. But what we have to do adults and children is practice not defaulting to something that's been trained into us that's shaped our brain, we need to say no, that is no longer healthy. We know for a fact it doesn't work. We know that. So let's catch each other out and say, Wait a second, you know, you're yelling, and that's threatening. Let's all take a deep breath here and calm down. Because we know that yelling is not healthy for our brains. And I mean, if we trained our children to have that kind of confidence to you know, hand up, excuse me, teacher, you're getting the kind of tone. You're getting this belittling tendency is happening, you're using words that are actually hurtful. And You're embarrassing us, and you're embarrassing so and so. We have to stop that because we all know it's not healthy for our brains. And we have to work to get something much healthier in place. What would that look like? Oh, well, we know for a fact and we want to use research, we know that empathy is incredibly healthy for brains. We know compassion is healthy for brains. We know that when we create a safe environment for children to make mistakes, to learn to try out different selves as they're teenagers and try out different opportunities for experimenting, all these sorts of things. That safe environment allows brains to flourish. And when a child has had a hurt brain, whether that child is the bullying child, which is a big indicator of having a hurt brain, or the child has been on the receiving end of another child's aggression or an adult's aggression. There's very specific exercises and steps we can take that I discussed at length in the book, the book is constructed on okay, we know this is a disaster. What can we do to fix it? So throughout, I mean, I'll just give you a couple of examples for your audience. But I use mindfulness in the book because it's been tested throughout all kinds of neuroscience studies. Mindfulness is immensely healthy for brains because basically what you're communicating when when you start to do slow, purposeful breathing, and you close your eyes, you're telling your brain that there isn't a predator in the room. There's no threat, there's no danger. And when you do that you're allowing your brain to let go of the sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is doctors refer to it as rest and digest. That's when the body is healthy and calm and centred. And then I use that as an opportunity to do visualisation of the brain. I want my readers to talk to their brains, understand their brains, see their brains work with their brains, not against them, because that's how we can really optimise this immensely powerful captain that rules our lives.
Simon Currigan 25:34
One of the things you mentioned in the book that I personally found very interesting was there's a chemical associated with neuroplasticity called BDNF and for our brains to achieve the greatest plasticity, we need a lot of BDNF in our system, the more the more plastic we are. We just weren't just talking about that a little bit, because I'm sure our listeners will find that really interesting.
Jennifer Fraser 25:52
Yeah, BDNF is described by scientists as it acts like a fertiliser. So in the brain, it flourishes, our neural connections, it helps neurogenesis, which is the birth of new brain cells, it allows us to think better learn better, be more creative. And one of the best ways to get BDNF activated in the brain is through aerobic exercise. So brains love exercise, the more you're moving, our brains were designed to be out in the wilderness, they were designed to be in nature, they were designed to be perpetually connected to this incredible, fabulous moving body. And so a quick check you can do for yourself is to say, if what you're doing is good for your heart, if you're eating food, that's good for your heart, for example, and you're doing aerobic exercise, which we know is excellent for your heart, then you're also doing great things for your brain, you're pumping it full of this fertiliser, this BDNF and so think of our kids, if we want our kids to be brilliant at academics, we've got to get them out of their desks, they should be running around, they should be challenging their bodies and being strategic while moving. Playing sports is one of the greatest things for the human brain. It was designed for that
Simon Currigan 26:59
If you're a teacher or a parent listening to this podcast, what's the first step that you can take today, to learn more about helping kids or students overcome the damage of bullying, what's the first steps you can take?
Jennifer Fraser 27:11
The first thing I would do is sit kids down or have them run around while I'm talking and tell them that they need to understand that if they are bullying other children, they're hurting their brain in really, really serious ways. They're dismantling their empathic neural networks. And as we said before, that's a superpower that the human brain has. And just to remind people exactly what empathy is, it's not sympathy, empathy is not when you feel sad that something or a pity for someone or sorry that something's happened to another person. Empathy is when you deeply, deeply relate to what they're going through, you open yourself up, one of the best expressions for it is you walk in someone else's shoes. When you do that, you're being empathic. This is a survival skill that babies have and all the way through childhood, as long as it doesn't get dismantled. It's the ability to know what the powerful people in the room are thinking and doing and feeling. So empathy is key. So if you tell a child that's bullying, and say, You know what, come into the principal's office, I am so worried about you, I'm really worried about the behaviour that you're manifesting. It's assigned to me that you're struggling, there's something wrong, but what I need you to know, is it hurting your brain, and I can't let that happen. How can we work together to get you the help you need so that you're not hurting your brain anymore. And you're seeing the same thing to the victim, what has happened to you is it's hurt your brain, you don't have any bruises or bumps or blows on your body. But you know what has happened? It's hurt your brain. So we're going to work together. Now we have a very clear evidence based programme, you and me are going to work together to get that brain back on track, healthy and strong. Once again, we're going to strengthen your neural networks so that you can recover from the harm that's been done to you.
Simon Currigan 28:51
We're only just getting started, really. And we're at the end of the interview. In the book, you do discuss practical techniques that you can use to help those kids redevelop those neural networks and strengthen their brains. How can our listeners find out more about you your website and your books?
Jennifer Fraser 29:07
My newest book is called The Bullied Brain. And the most important part is a subtitle, heal your scars and restore your health. So the bullied brain, but it's all about healing, and it's all about recovery. So that's my latest book. And my website is I actually have created a whole enterprise around this because I think it's so important. And I want teachers and parents and coaches in particular to know about this. I want it to change the way we educate our children and get them healthier and happier. And so my website now is called bullied brain. And everything I do is you know, so my Twitter is @bullied brain, my Instagram, @bullied brain, etc. So if you want to find me that's the best way. I love to consult and work with different people. I'm absolutely devoted to helping kids and teachers and parents and coaches. So don't hesitate to reach out, I'll do the very best I can to see this change happen.
Simon Currigan 30:00
And we'll put direct links to your resources in the episode description as well. And finally, we asked this of all of our guests. Who's the key figure that's influenced you? Or what's the key book that you've read? That's had the biggest impact on your approach to working with children? And I've read the book, so I think I know what the answer might be, but I'm going to let you answer for yourself.
Jennifer Fraser 30:19
You know that the answer is Dr. Michael Merzenich. Dr. Michael Merzenich is one of the most highly awarded neuroscientists alive today. He's an American, he's 80 years old. He's so sought after that he gets over 100 emails a day from, you know, the Armed Forces of America and NATO and so on. But when I wrote him, I told him what my project was about. And he said he would meet with me, which was amazing. And when I told him how worried I was about children, I spent about seven minutes in extreme anxiety, telling them the story, and he just looked at me and he said, How can I help you? And from that point on, he's been helping me get the science perfect. In my book, he's been helping me connect with other neuroscientists and know what we can do the research we need to conduct how we can really change the fate of our children, which is really right now it's pretty dire. And he's just such a wonderful man. The book that he's written that I highly recommend to your audience is Soft Wired. and Soft Wired is a term he uses because so many people believe that the brain is hardwired, it can't be changed. You're born this way. You're born with smarts or you're born without them, whatever. You're born with a great character. You're born without what none of that's true. You can change your brain from this moment, until the final moment that you're alive on the planet. And that is our only social and emotional and intellectual responsibility. We can change our brains, we can make them stronger, we can make them weaker. And that's what you learned when you are learning from Dr. Michael Merzenich.
Simon Currigan 31:44
I think that's a brilliant way to wrap up the podcast, a very positive message. Jennifer Fraser, thank you for being on the show.
Jennifer Fraser 31:50
Thanks for having me, Simon.
Emma Shackleton 31:52
Wow, that was really fascinating to find out that bullying literally results in damage to how the brain is structured and works. Jennifer's take on this is really, really interesting.
Simon Currigan 32:04
And I'll leave a direct link to her book and website in the show description.
Emma Shackleton 32:08
And I'd like to tell you about a new download that you can get from our website. It's called How to help children manage anger and other strong emotions.
Simon Currigan 32:17
In the guide, we give you resources and ideas all based on evidence and research backed practices for helping kids understand and become more aware of their emotions and take positive actions when they start to feel overwhelmed.
Emma Shackleton 32:32
Okay, so this is a completely free download, and you can get it by visiting www.beaconschoolsupport.co.uk clicking on the free resources tab at the top of the screen, and you'll see an option to download how to help children manage anger and other strong emotions. We'll also drop a direct link to the download in the episode description to this podcast.
Simon Currigan 32:55
If you found today's podcast interesting or valuable, make sure you don't miss another episode, open up your podcast app now. And tap the subscribe button or follow as it's called in Apple podcasts. Then your podcast app will automatically download each and every episode. As it's released. You'll feel as chuffed as a kangaroo who's just looked in their pouch and found an extra large Joey.
Emma Shackleton 33:18
That just leaves it to me to wish you a happy and successful week and to say that we both look forward to seeing you on the next episode of school behaviour secrets. Bye for now.
Simon Currigan 33:28
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)