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The Developing Mind -- Understanding Your Child's Behavior

Posted: February 03, 2023

One of the biggest struggles in parenting is understanding why perfectly sweet and smart children can, in an instant, turn into the most difficult beings ever faced. It’s often as if a switch was flipped and chaos has ensued. This typically results in parents becoming frustrated at their child and disciplining them in the heat of the moment. And while this may seem like the best option, it can be counterproductive in many ways. When parents become knowledgeable about the basics of brain development and how this affects behavior, they can help integrate all areas of the brain and have better parenting success.

The key to whole-brain integration is having a basic understanding of children’s brains. To simplify this, Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, created the concept of the “upstairs brain” and the “downstairs brain” in the book “The Whole-Brain Child.” When children are born, their primitive, “downstairs brain” is well developed. This part is responsible for the basic functioning of the body such as breathing and the heart beating but also incorporates innate responses related to strong emotions such as fear and anger. The amygdala, a tiny, almond-shaped mass, is the supervisor of the downstairs brain and stays alert for anything threatening. When there is perceived danger, our basic survival instincts kick in and we act before we think. For children, this often presents as a tantrum because they are flooded with stress hormones and strong emotions.

Above this is the sophisticated, “upstairs brain.” The pre-frontal cortex, specifically, is where higher thinking, decision making, and problem-solving take place. This part of the brain shows us the bigger picture and helps regulate our emotions. During “downstairs tantrums,” this is the part of the brain that needs to jump in and help. The problem is the upstairs brain doesn’t reach full development until our mid twenty’s. Since it is not fully functional until then, children are not able to access this part of the brain all the time to make better decisions during an emotional flood.


Parenting with Purpose

Posted: January 20, 2023

“Dear Proud Ninja Parent,

 

On my hard days, remember I am small.


Celebrating Each Child's Uniqueness

Posted: January 06, 2023

Parents everywhere want their children to achieve success. This is usually defined by fulfilling societal norms, whether in terms of grades, athletic abilities, or something else. And the push to accomplish these things first is putting pressure on children and parents as well. Comparisons are fueling the expectation for children to develop at a specific rate and master skills at a certain time. Unfortunately, this is causing stress and decreasing children's self-esteem. Instead, we should celebrate each child's uniqueness and nurture their individuality by allowing them time to grow into the best version of themselves.

 

What often gets forgotten is that every child is different. Children have different temperaments, strengths, personalities, and vulnerabilities; therefore, their development will vary. During these stages, it is normal that children might be a little ahead of their peers in some areas and not in others. The problem is that parents often feel under pressure to parent the "right" way to avoid judgment from others. This causes them to push their children in ways that may not necessarily be the best for that child. The constant prodding to not fall behind is counterintuitive to a child achieving the most success. As Bansky, a street artist, said, "A lot of parents will do anything for their kids except let them be themselves."


Behavior Shaping -- Implementing Reinforcement Schedules

Posted: December 23, 2022

Getting children to behave how we want them to can be tricky. Even with the best intentions, parents often fall short regarding enforcing positive behaviors in their children while also extinguishing negative ones. Understanding reinforcement schedules and strategies for implementing them can be beneficial to parents and create positive behavior outcomes and improve the parent-child bond.

 

Looking at B.F. Skinner’s behavior theory regarding Operant Conditioning, we know that the most effective way to increase positive behaviors is by catching children being good and rewarding them for a job well done. This, coupled with ignoring negative behaviors, can be the most effective combination regarding behavior management. But to take this a step further, implementing positive reinforcement in the most effective way requires forethought and should include a planned out schedule, no matter what approach is chosen.


Work First, Then Play

Posted: November 17, 2022

Throughout the past four months schedules have been upended and downtime has taken over. However, as the new school year gets underway, reality is going to show up and we are going to be scrambling to get ourselves and our children back on a productive path. In the book “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids” by Sean Covey habit three is “Work First, Then Play.” While time doing homework has always been a struggle for children, adding in the digital learning for them makes school even more of a daunting task. But in the wake of the pandemic, this is our reality, so children grasping habit three will be essential, so they stay on track with completing school assignments and homework.

 

When it comes to schoolwork, children often find ways to avoid it for various reasons, and parents often label this behavior as laziness. But let’s be honest…children have different priorities then adults do and the last thing they want to do at home is schoolwork. The reason…children are still developing executive functioning, so they don’t have the skills of organizing and prioritizing that they need to be successful in this area on their own. In addition, children with neurological challenges, such as ADHD, have even more difficulty with this.


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