Earlier this week I blogged “What were you THINKING!?!”, concerning adult reaction when older children make poor decisions. A news report concerning adolescents taking selfies on active railroad tracks, encouraged me to continue on this topic. In the last year over 500 deaths on railroad tracks have been reported. One of the issues is the adolescent attraction to thrills. Of course, it was mentioned the influence of music videos and movies. But we must also look at the physiological development of children and adolescents.
Neuroeducation.com states that by adolescence the brain is full size but is making many organizational changes:
“At this point in development the brain has to decide what’s needed, what’s not, and how to become the most efficient. In order to do this the adolescent brain has to undergo synaptic pruning, in which useful neural connections are kept and less useful connections wither away. One important area of reorganization is in the prefrontal cortex that handles abstract cognitive abilities as well as impulse control.”
Research has shown that the brains of children mainly focus on visual processing and slowly begin to develop in planning and impulse control, a process which isn’t complete until adult maturity. The adults who are involved with children and teens must keep in mind that the brain function does not keep up with the physical growth on the outside. To know what is going on in that brain, parents and other loving adults must become very good listeners. Stephen Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” An adolescent’s adults must listen to them with intent to understand, and often to ‘read between the lines’ throughout the conversation to ascertain what they really want to be known. Often you need to restate what you heard for clarification as what you hear is not always what they are trying to say. They do not want to know what you think, they want you to know what they think. When you stop listening, they stop speaking, when they stop speaking, there is no communication.
Observation of adolescents shows they are a whirlwind of brain activity in short spaces of time. They can be a wealth of knowledge one moment, have the enthusiasm of a puppy, interest in topics far beyond their years, or want to spend the day watching cartoons. It is normal! Expect them to behave like children, be grateful when they act maturely showing signs of brain growth, prepare them as best you can for the decisions that they may have to make when you aren’t around, and love them no matter what.
C. Beth Hoffman M.Ed, author of My Loving Self and Me
Making wise choices comes about from experiences and practice as well as maturation. In any situation, children see what they are focusing on. It is only with growth and lessons learned that they begin to realize that there are consequences to every action. They are usually as surprised as anyone else when things don’t go the way they pictured them in their head. Being allowed to make their own decisions in a risk free situations encourages them to expand on the possibilities. My granddaughter has said more than once, “I didn’t see that one coming.” In reality, adults don’t either sometimes. Not doing it again in that exact way is a learned lesson.
Actions, whether judged to be good or bad are best handled with a true, calm, question about the process of their thinking. What were the steps? Did you think that it might not go as planned? Was there a risk and was the outcome worth it? Discussion with children builds their self esteem and courage, reducing stress with decision making.
Teach Kids How, a website for parents, lists activities for teaching children early about making choices. It must be a continuous process for them to become confident.
But too often, a child’s mistakes have an impact on the parent. Their behavior or choice may be an embarrassment. It may cause more effort or work when their plate was already full. They look at the child incredulously and ask in a questioning voice, “What were you THINKING!?!” Although it may sound like a question it really isn’t. The parent probably is not in the mood to hear the answer. The question is really a statement that says to the child, “You were not thinking at all.” It is not a question but a condemnation of self. Many parents heard something similar when they were growing up. “Are you crazy??” or “What are you? Stupid?” come to mind. Past generations were not immune to this kind of questioning. Many were raised this way as well and only through self reflection as parents will they realize it did not have a positive impact on them, either. Children develop a fear of making decisions when their choices are wrong. It becomes easier to say, “I don’t know.”
Karen Stephens contributing writer to childhoodexchange.com in her article, ‘Parents Are Powerful role Models for Children“, says “Being a positive role model requires fore-thought and self control. Today we talk a lot about disciplining our children. We parents need to put an equal emphasis on disciplining ourselves.”
Parenting must come from the heart to raise children who are confident, caring and loving. Teach them to love themselves by loving, respecting and caring for yourself. “Do as I say, not as I do.” was resented by every child who ever heard it. It won’t work on your child either. Don’t raise your children as you were raised without forethought as to how it affected you. Keep the best learning experiences and discover new ways to interact with your child where you were not positively affected by the lesson. Structure and discipline can always come from love.
It is a busy world no matter how old you are. School age children deal with the issues of self, family, school, home, community, and also the world through technological communication that bombards us all. They need role models and listeners- adults with whom the can share their private worlds. My Loving Self and Me is a book written for older children to read with an adult or in a family setting. The stories present real life issues that children face today, about which their caring adults may know nothing. By reading the book together, parents get the opportunity to discuss the experiences of the characters, discovering the quiet parts of their child’s life, or how they relate to the issues the characters faced. The characters always find a solution that comes from their heart. The discussions in “What would your loving self do?” that follows each story create teaching moments for you and your child.
There are many topics that come up in raising children. Not all of them are in the book, needless to say. This blog is written for the parents, grandparents and other caring adults that have children in their lives that they support, bringing them information, hopefully before they have to deal with it in real life.
What will you get out of reading My loving Self and Me, the blog?
- Insights into issues that children today face.
- Ideas on assisting them in a loving and helpful way.
- Links to websites that deal with parenting issues.
- Direction on bringing faith and spirituality into your parenting style.
- An occasional new unpublished story for you and your family.
The blogs are listed on the right in Recent Posts and below it in Archives.
From time to time, I write a new story using the characters in the book, My Loving Self and Me, and “publish” it here for you to share with your children. If you have an issue your child is dealing with, and would like the characters to find a solution from their heart, please leave a message here.
Thanks for reading and sharing this blog and My Loving Self and Me.