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Child brain development

Like every other part of the body, the brain is developing through childhood. 

The first part to develop is the Amygdala. This develops in the womb. This part of the brain is where emotions come from. This means from the moment we are born, we are capable of responding to things emotionally. 

From around 7 years onwards we start developing grey matter. This is the part of the brain that makes connections and stores autobiographical and episodic memories. 

From early adolescence we've fully developed the grey matter and the brain begins to optimise. It removes unnecessary pathways and strengthens the connections between the more critical ones. 

Unlike the rest of the body, it has been discovered relatively recently, that the brain is not fully developed until we are at least 19-25 years old. 

What does this mean in practice? Well we are learning important lessons from the moment we are born. These lessons will form a massive database that your brain can constantly refer to once you are responsible for looking after yourself. It is this database that allows your subconscious to decide if the present moment is safe, or if it needs to take over and put you in fight, flight or freeze mode. You aren't capable of making connections, predicting consequences, or fully grasping the meaning in any situation until you have actually experienced it yourself. This is why when you put hot food in front of a child, and tell them it's hot, they still have to prove it for themselves and burn their mouth!

We learn by experience not what we are told. But our brain isn't capable of understanding that experience until it's fully developed. 

Consider the image below. 

A good way to explain this is to compare it to the concept of 'resolution' when storing images. Resolution is how many blocks you have to store information in. The more blocks, the more clear something will look.Now, let's imagine we wanted to store the image of a circle. 

In a young brain, 1-7 years old, we only have a 9 blocks to use. It's pretty much impossible to use those 9 blocks in a way that makes a circle. This means that younger kids see things as very black and white - it either is or it isn't true. There is no wiggle room for maybe. 

In an adolescent brain, 7-19 years old, we have 36 blocks. It looks a bit more like a circle. Still a bit blocky but a lot easier to guess what we are aiming for. This means that lessons learnd at this age are not so black and white. But that also means that more things could be factored in when learning these lessons. 

Finally, in a fully developed brain we have full resolution, we have 144 blocks. It's obviously a circle. 

The catch is, we are not only learning the lessons, irrespective of our capability of understanding them, but we are also stuck with them for life. Your brain will switch off in the same way for something you learn at 3 years old, 8 years old, or 15 years old. You are stuck with it whether it was true or not. 

You can't think your way past your brain being switched off. 

Lesson Activity

Knowing that the brain learns from experience, then if you want your child to do something then you need to make sure that it's relevant to them. Taking technology off them for swearing only works if they understand why swearing is wrong. It is not enough to say that you don't like it. Their brain can not learn from you not liking something. 

Also, as we learn from experience, and as a child brain can not physically understand consequences and connections, then if you take their technology off them for a few days for swearing, the only time they will be able to recognise it is because of the swearing, is in the moment you take it off them. After that all they will understand is they are being punished, but their brain won't have the connections to say why - so they can't physically learn from it. 

Now you might be thinking "what on earth do I do then, because I  can't put up with that?" 

Here are a few options:

1. When they are swearing, you relate it back to last time they did it when you ended up having a row / they lost tech. That way you are appealing to historical experience rather than asking them to predict future experience. 

2. You can do the "What are you teaching me" thing. So you could take the fact that they are not listening to you as a behaviour you want to copy. "Oh you are teaching me not to listen. I can do not listening" and then you think of a thing where they really want you to listen. Maybe it's going out with their friends, getting some money or some item they want. This will make it real to them 

3 Lessons

Brain switch off is a normal state

An important part of understanding what is gonig on with your child is understanding that it's not their fault. Their brain is being switched off on them. So is yours. 

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