The Frankenstein Effect: Keeping our Kids Whole in an Age of Excess

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang Photo Credit: © Steve Cohn

One of my favorite Turning Point School events is when our entire student body, faculty, and staff come together for our monthly Assembly. We celebrate each other and our accomplishments, wish each other happy birthday, showcase performances, review important all-school initiatives, and get excited about future events.

This morning’s Assembly checked all these boxes and more, as we watched our Grade 1 and Grade 2 students belt out “Octopus’s Garden” with gusto; celebrated the accomplishments of our students in collecting Box Tops for our Kiva Program; got pumped up for Turning Point’s Summer Camps; listened in awe as Primary student Genevieve took the stage to bravely share the art she created for Week of the Young Child; and learned more about our school-wide Maker-in-Residence project with artist Aaron Kramer, featured in this week’s middle-school student-led Art Docent Tours.

As an educator, the most special part of each Assembly for me is watching our students—from preschool through eighth grade—practice confidence, courage, and leadership by speaking on the mic, performing, and sharing their incredible work in front of their peers. It reminds me that these skills our students practice here at Turning Point will continue to serve them well for the rest of their lives.

As a parent, there is not much more I want for my kids than for them to have these opportunities to “try on” or practice their more grown selves while still being honored as children. However, I also know as a parent how, in our zeal and commitment to providing our children with authentic opportunities to grow and mature, it can be easy to cross the line from “authentic” to “manufactured.”

Our desire to raise kids who can discover their passions, realize their talents, gain confidence and poise, and become change-makers is not unrealistic or unhealthy. However, in the pursuit of this goal, we often find ourselves sacrificing our own selves (and sanity).

We feel pressure to find the “best” schools, extracurricular programs, and highly-rated activities.

We count community service hours.

We judge our choices against what others are doing.

We lose sleep over the prospect of a “wasted” summer.

And, it seems the harder we try, and the more opportunities we provide, the more anxious our kids become. The intended effect of creating well-rounded, successful kids almost seems more out of reach than ever, and we are left feeling like we are dragging them (and ourselves) across the finish line.

What if you had proof that…

  • More is not better when it comes to child-raising
  • Packing our kids’ schedules actually has a patchwork effect when it comes to growth
  • While there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, there is one place you can start to ensure the best outcomes for your child’s success (and hint… it’s where we start when prepping students for Assemblies).

Ironically, more-is-better thinking can undermine our goals for our children, particularly when we don’t anchor their (and our) motivations and expectations appropriately. When we create a patchwork of experiences without considering context, we end up with what Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Wang calls, “the Frankenstein effect.”

So how do we provide our children with opportunities to develop vital skills and traits, without fragmenting their interests and experiences?

If anyone can help us resolve these challenges, it’s Dr. Immordino-Yang, whose groundbreaking work I have followed for over a decade with much respect and admiration. A former junior high science teacher who has become one of the most prominent thought leaders in the field of education as a neuroscientist, psychologist, and USC professor, Dr. Immordino-Yang has devoted her research to address ways social learning can help shape our children’s brains, optimize their potential, and become smart and successful human beings.

I hope you will mark your calendars for Wednesday, May 1, and join us as Dr. Immordino-Wang shares her research and offers strategies for success. The most effective approaches to nurturing positive growth might surprise you… and they are more straightforward than you think.


Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School


Parent Speaker Series: Mary Helen Immordino-Yang

The Frankenstein Effect: Keeping our Kids Whole in an Age of Excess

Wednesday, May 1 | 8:30 am – 10:00 am
Building 2 Theatre


Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, EdD, is a social-affective neuroscientist and human development psychologist who studies human emotion and self-awareness across cultures, connections to cognition, resilience and morality, and implications for education. She is a Professor of Education, Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Southern California. A former public junior-high-school science teacher, she earned her doctorate at Harvard University. She is also the author of Emotions, Learning, and the Brain: Exploring the Educational Implications of Affective Neuroscience.

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