3 tips to help us understand a childs mind

Our brains are complex things, made up of 100’s of billions of neurons and different parts. I went on a course the other week called “brain leadership” and quite a lot of it can be used to understand the kids, as well as adults. This might be a little technical in places, so I will try and keep it as basic as possible. Here are 3 tips to understanding your children and why they do the things they do… a little insight into a childs mind. 

A doodle of our brains

First things first, I am going to be referring to different parts of the brain. Now I am no way as good as Katie (from Hurrah for Gin) but this is my little stickman doodle of those different parts of the brain: 

So, the main parts I will be referring to are the prefrontal cortex, this is often called the stage, where you balance the conscious/active things on your mind. This lives in the Neocortex section. The lizard part of our brains which is called the reptilian brain and the mammal part of the brain which is called the Limbric brain.

The reptilian part of brain is the oldest part. It controls the body’s vital functions that we are not conscious about: breathing, heart beating, body temperature for example. This is the part of our brains that control the “fight or flight”. So for example someone is about to throw a punch at you – do you run or fight back? You hear something rustling in the bushes next to you, do you run or find out what it is? 

The Limbric part (mammalian) of the brain is the second oldest part. It can be found from the oldest mammals. It can record behaviours and controls our emotions. It controls our values and judgements which often play out in the way we behave. It also looks after our motivation and long term memory. 

The Neocortex is the found in primates and culminated in the human brain. This part of the brain controls our language, abstract thought, imagination and our consciousness. It has infinite learning abilities. It’s amazing. This is what I call the human part of the brian. 

Brains want fairness

I thought this part of the course was fascinating, learning about fairness and why our brains detect unfairness so quickly. In the below monkey video it is very clear to see that the monkey observes he isn’t getting the deluxe fruit treat like the other monkey and after the 1st go refuses to eat his treat. He wants the same as the other monkey. They are doing the same task after all. Have you ever wondered why one child will ask for a drink and the other one immediately says me too. But if the first child hadn’t asked for a drink, the other child would not have? Or, give one child 4 biscuits and the other child 6 and watch a mini war break out between them. 

This is simply because the mammal parts of our brains (Limbric brain) are hardwired to look out for fairness. Back in the days when we evolved from monkeys, we didn’t have the human part of our brains. We were hardwired to want fairness between us. This still sits with us today, but fortunately we have that human section to our brains too. 

Children have no filter

Our prefrontal cortex (the front bit of the brain) is fully developed around 25, so young children have not mastered this. What this means is that they do not have that filter that grown ups have. The prefrontal cortex controls reasoning and planning. This part of our brains regulates our emotions. Children cannot do this as easily as adults because it hasn’t matured for them yet. This is why they come out with comments that we would never dream of saying “out loud”. For example, we went to view a house the other day and it was horrible inside. Noah decided to tell the owner that their house was disgusting and everything was broken! I wanted to shrivel up,  but they just laughed. Thankfully.

They say children learn to use their prefrontal cortex by observing their parents. For example, have you ever shouted at another driver in the car: “stupid idiot” was something I once said. A few months later, we were in a similar situation and Noah repeated what I had said. Learning that a particular situation and emotion means we say “stupid idiot”. I find this stuff so fascinating. 

Brains like routine

Quite simply, our brains like routine and for children who are developing all the time this can only be helpful. 95% of our brains activity is unconscious. When we are following our routines our brains can cope with more. We can multi task better when we are in “auto pilot”. So having a morning routine will obviously help the children to learn what is coming next, but it also means they can cope with something else being thrown in. I suppose the flip side of that is not having a routine means that there will be a melt down if we have to do something different in the mornings. My kids are quite resilient, I put this down to our routines. Not entirely restricted but they can deal with a lot, for example getting out the door 5 minutes earlier than usual because I need to run an errand. They take it all in their stride. 

Did you know when in autopilot mode you can be more creative? If you are struggling to think of something to write or draw, or play try unwinding a little and go back to your routines. Then try again… 

I have not studied this, I am not qualified, the points raised are things I picked up from a leadership course. (Basically I may have got some of this wrong). Do you have any other amazing facts about the brain? I love hearing about it and learning. Please comment below or find me on social media: @mummyconstant

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