The brain science surrounding child development has exploded in the last twenty years. It is almost impossible to continue perpetuating traditional punitive discipline once you understand a how the brain develops and how children learn best.
KEY PRINCIPLE: Behavior = Communication
But, are you still struggling to build cooperation and tempted to use punitive discipline to try and "change" behavior?
♥ Behavioral change happens through relationship. ♥
Disengage from the resistance and a never-ending battle-of-wills and start connecting with your children with your heart, mind and soul!
Although we are born with all the nerve cells we'll ever need, they are small and largely unconnected to the different parts of the brain.
As we grow and experience life, initially through interactions with our family and close relatives and later though our peers and the world, our brain circuits begin to wire up.
Through interaction, our neurons communicate to connect to other cells and make important pathways to various parts of the brain.
If those vital connections are not made, a child can be deprived of access to the higher brainfunctioning he will need later in life.
The beauty of the human brain is that while it is a wildly complex organism - it is also incredibly malleable and can change or heal at any time!!
How does this change happen?
This is great news for everyone! It takes a bit of pressure off attaining theimpossible ideal of the perfect parent and allows us to focus on connection.
In the first 3-5 years, there is a dramatic growth spurt, as approximately 90-95% of cells organize and form pathways to more sophisticated brain functions BUT not all of these connections are permanent nor made spontaneously.
Its development and function is dependent on a connection to a caring, supportive caregiver. You determine which connections are made and the ones that are used over and over are the ones that are strengthened.
If a child's needs are met with empathy, guidance and love and nurtured by a close connection then his brain oozes with love hormones which help his brain regulate and produce optimal learning conditions.
Positive "feedback loops" are created, encoding memories that will be unconsciously accessed - in future, similar situations - to inform behavior.
Through observing the actions and experiencing the responses
of a parent or caregiver, a child assimilates information
into his own repertoire and will gradually learn
to model what he has witnessed and experienced.
The most primal level resides at the bottom and deals with survival. This is often called the reptilian brain because, in evolutionary terms, it reaches the level of reptile development.
The second tier is the mid-brain and deals with emotion and memory. It contains the amygdala and the hippocampus and is often referred to as the "seat of learning."
The uppermost tier is the higher brain and is involved indecision making. It houses language, the sense of self and the skills required to think, predict, plan and empathize.
Survival Center - (Lower brain - neocortex) This area is fully developed at birth and handles basic instincts and functions to sustain life and movement. This area regulates breathing, digestion, heart rate, sleep, hunger, body temperature etc. and is responsible for the fight, flight or freeze response.
Babies can be set off by light, touch, relocation, a wet diaper, noise, being alone or simply by being put down. When a young child's alarm systems go off, he depends on you to soothe him.
Emotional Center - (Mid brain) The developmental focus is ages 0-4. This area processes memory, emotions, the response to stress and is responsible for nurturing, caring, separation anxiety, fear, rage, social bonding and hormone control.
Self-expression, communication of needs and reactions to the world are expressed in the form of feelings (sometimes gigantic ones). And it is all flowing from the mid-brain.
Executive Center - (Higher brain - frontal lobes) The is the last area to be established and development continues through the mid-20s. There are developmental spurts at approximately ages 5-6; 11-12; and around 15.
Children, at different stages, have varying levels of access to the executive functions of the brain. Without the time to amass an array of emotional and physical experiences, their brains cannot always successfully predict, plan or react properly hence they may fail to act responsibly.
It is an unrealistic goal that places tremendous pressure on each generation to achieve the impossible - more than 25 years of brain development and experience in only a few short years.
Some parents may look forward to age 18 as if that is the magic age of adulthood, but the human brain has a good five years to go until they can be considered fully functional.
We spoke of paradigms in the last lesson and how our filters are established. Babies, based on the responses they receive from their caregivers, form internalized representations of others and of their own selves.
As your child grows, his filter or paradigm blueprint, will organize his systems of thought, memory, beliefs, emotions, expectations and inform his brain on how to react in various situations.
Child development unfolds uniquely for each child.
Having developmentally appropriate expectations will help you feel less frustration and take your child's behavior less personally.
Despite giving the appearance of a rather collected and resourceful ten-year-old, your child is not always capable of relying on rational thought or considering outcomes when faced with an unstable situation an inexperienced emotional brain and/or an immature regulatory system.
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