I know it’s been shown that teens are still growing the neural connections that allow them to form cause and effect relationships. As I understand it, teens don’t really have an adult comprehension of those concepts until they are in their twenties. The import of this knowledge–it’s effect on the criminal justice system for example–is enormous. But, in the meantime, it’s important if I can hold that tidbit of information close in my mind when dealing with my teens.
Last night, after the wonderfully fun Super Bowl XLIV, Erik reported how his son, Brennen, crashed a shopping cart into a cart receptacle that his daughter, Molly, was climbing on. After watching the event unfold Erik said he got very upset with Brennen: “Couldn’t you tell that wasn’t going to go well? You know, if she was your child I think you’d be more careful with her. I don’t know what makes it okay to take chances with your sister’s well-being!” Brennen swore he didn’t see it coming and that he wasn’t trying to hurt her.
Well? Did he see it coming? ‘It’s all fun and games til someone gets hurt’?
Erik and I spoke about it this morning and I reminded him of the latent development of this neural cause and effect branch.
He pondered it and suggested that perhaps that is a REALLY good reason for teens to be active in sports. Throwing a football, following the playbook, backing up your teammates to achieve a goal, all these things re-enforce the concept of cause and effect.
I couldn’t agree more. But like him, I’m still a victim of assuming that my kids are developmentally further along. Because if you slowed the whole scenario down, they would know it was a bad idea. It’s just that budding impulse control thing that overrides the budding cause and effect thing.
For example, I am still surprised that my sixteen year old can convince me that she is old enough to make her own plans and disregard my balanced advice.
Once again, this past week she completely overbooked herself, despite my suggestions that she take at least one day off to sleep in. I respected her decision, but when Saturday came and she wanted to blow off a commitment, I was completely floored.
Of course, all she had to say was, “You were right, mom, I need a day off to sleep in.” But, as it was, I spent a lot of energy trying to get her to wake up and come on, get going. She got up enough to fight with me (and ruin my morning) and just enough to make sleeping in not an option.
I am, I must say, a big fan of sleeping in–not having anywhere one has to be–at least once a week. I always seem to wake up, but it’s nice knowing it’s not because I have to.
It’s just like when my first son, Wolfgang, was one and a half years old. He would babble so distinctly with such articulations and emotions that I came to see him as so much larger than life. As a mother you are so wrapped up in this personality and its needs that it’s hard to step back and get some perspective on the fact that he is just one and a half years old.
As an instructor, I see it a lot. Very young children, 3 years old, who have such large personalities in the eyes of their parents that the parent assumes that child needs more advance training than other children of that age.
Their spirit looms so big, it’s hard to keep a grip on their very real physical and cognitive abilities.
But don’t get me wrong, it’s probably a good thing to assume they are, like Minerva, fully formed sprung from the head of Zeus. By treating them this way you expose them to more vocabulary, more conceptual ideas, etc.
So what if most of it flows over and you are occasionally disappointed by their “childish” behavior (how silly, huh? but I’m guilty of it). On the whole, they “get” that you want big things for them and that you expect them to rise to the occasion.
So, thanks Drew Brees for the wonderful day, and number 22 Tracy Porter for the crazy interception and 74 yard run. Cause and Effect, baby.