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Making Sense of Misbehavior

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Ah the joys of parenting until your little one decides to keep touching the button on the TV and for the 1000ths time you tell him or her no and s/he still doesn’t get it.

Why is it? Is your little one doing this on purpose? The answer is usually no…this is a process of how children learn.

Learning and child development are all tied to the brain’s growth. A child’s development represents an increase of complexity of the maturing brain systems that adaptively regulate the interaction between the child and their social environment. 

The brain grows from the “bottom up.” At birth, the brain stem is functional and then the other brain structures follow.  It takes roughly 25 years to grow a human brain and 90% of brain growth occurs prenatally through age 4.

The prefrontal cortex is what separates us from other mammals and helps us to make sense of our emotions. The prefrontal cortex is where all our advanced brain functions or executive functions such as problem solving, abstract thought, the ability to think forward and back and perspective taking are stored. The prefrontal cortex is what allows adults to understand that if I don’t eat I’ll get hungry or if I don’t study I’ll fail my exam. This are all very advanced brain functions that you won’t see in children independently until closer to age 12.

So as you can guess this difference between an adult’s and young child’s brain functioning makes parenting more challenging. Too often parents assume their child has the same brain capacity to understand and learn as an adult…as nice as this would be it’s unfortunately not true and leads some parents to great frustration because they are have age inappropriate expectations of their child.

Children learn through experience and consistent repetitive behavior. There are over 5 different types of memory and most of these are not functional for a child under 5. Children cannot easily take information, stored in short term memory and transfer it into long term memory rapidly without many consistent repetitions. Hence the importance of parents consistent and positive behavior to securing a healthy pathway in a child ‘s brain on a new rule. This is also why young children do things “wrong” over and over because to the child, s/he is testing out every possible variation of a new-to-them situation to learn what the rule is- although this can be incredibly frustrating for the parent.

Knowledge of child development is important for parents so they do not take things personally, have age appropriate expectations and use positive not punitive corrections for children…it helps their learning.

Parenting skills that incorporate child development can be exceptional helpful to teach parents age appropriate expectations and corrections. All in the Family counselling provides these types of services. Visit www.allinthefamilycounselling.com

Tammy M. Fontana, MS, NCC

90307239

 

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