How Storytelling Affects the Brain…
To understand why your child behaves a certain way, you have to first understand your child’s brain development, be aware of what is going on in your child’s brain. This can help you tremendously when interacting with your child.
A child’s prefrontal cortex may look fully developed regarding size when looking at a child’s brain, but it isn’t in terms of function. It is not entirely active, nor all the neurons fully myelinated, yet.
By the age of two, the brain of a child is just as active as an adult. However, that makes a huge jump by the age of three. At this point, their brain is 2 ½ times more active than an adult’s brain.
Within the first three years, a massive explosion of neural connections takes place; in fact, 80% of this synaptic connections are made by this time. The more interaction between you and your child, and the environment, the greater the formation of the brain pathways.
The brain of a child learns through body movement and discovery. If this is limited in the child’s life, learning can be stunted.
What occurs during the first five years of life can have an enormous impact on, not only how well the baby’s brain develops at the moment but, how well the child learns and grows throughout their lifetime. By the age of five, 85% of the child’s brain development has taken place.
The curiosity of the young child will give way to the development of more critical thinking areas as the child grows older.
How many times has this happened, where a child hits its sibling and as a parent you ask, “why did you hit your sister?” The guilty child’s response is often, “I don’t know.” When you take into consideration the functioning and development of the brain, sometimes the truth is… they don’t know. They responded without thinking it through to the consequences of their action because this portion of the brain is just NOT completely wired yet.
Also, think about this: because the brain learns so well through “hands-on” experience, children will often reach out and touch something. The brain is starving for input, and they know to grab something, manipulated, look at it, maybe even throw it, to see what happens; this is a natural part of learning. So take into consideration your child’s brain development when understanding their actions.
Without all the critical functions of the PFC (prefrontal cortex) in place and active, it means that children and teens are more driven by emotion. They will act or react in ways that are highly emotional and lacked logic. This will significantly affect the way that we reason with them. Showing off frustration or anger will only complicate matters because, again, their PFC will not know how to process your actions.
Be clear about the message you want to convey. Remember they will often misread the emotion behind what you say so use wisdom and tact to deliver messages in a manner that will be clear and understandable. Starting conversations off with a positive emotional reinforcement will set the right emotional tone from the beginning.
Be specific about your expectations or rules. Avoid allowing assumptions to be made. Without the PFC been entirely ready for action, they may have a hard time connecting the dots or reading any general statements. If you use generalities like, “Be nice to your sister.” That leaves too much room for interpretation. It needs to be specific.
Encourage activities that will help get through the difficult time. The activities that can help balance out the changes are:
- Get adequate sleep! – Sleep is a crucial time for the brain to rebuild and replenish cells. It may also allow the brain to reinforce connections made during the waking hours.
- Encourage physical activity. Not only is physical activity important for the health of the brain and body, it increases endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are the euro transmitters that are directly connected to happiness and general good mood.
“The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.”