- Geri Robertson, RC
Their Brains are Just Immature
Updated: Feb 3
When a child is born they are born with so much brain capacity it is hard to fathom. As they grow, what is used most is what is built most. If they are shown smiles and hear laughter which is accompanied by warm touches they learn to know these sounds and actions are a comfort. If they are kept in bright lit rooms their eyes develop normally, if they are spoken to often then their hearing is acute. If they are held close to their parent they learn safety.
However, if they are kept in a dark room, their eyes do not develop normally, if not spoken to their own speech is likely delayed. All of this action reaction contributes to the way the brain develops. Synapses used are the synapses that are built and grow. However, there are circumstances, even if all these good things are available, their brains don't mature quite as expected.
When a child experiences a medical trauma, such as premature birth, or is diagnoses of heart malfunction and is operated on within the first few months of it's life, the brain is bombarded with stress chemicals, such as cortisol, and under this surge of chemical the brain is altered. Altered to the point where normal development is often not possible. We call this kind of brain neurodivergence.
Now don't let this term, "Neurodivergence" scare you, it is really a fancy name for delayed development. The brain needs a certain, perfectly set amount, of the exacting chemicals to develop "normally". Given all the stressors a mother in labor is often under while pregnant and during delivery, it's no wonder so many children suffer from delayed brain development. It's the stressors Mum is put under as well as any medical stressors baby is put under during birth that causes these delays.
We usually see these delays, arise by the age of two or three. This is because it's at this point the child is exposed to and is expected to deal with a certain amount of emotional advancement, which their slower developing brain can't cope with. Often Parents will make excuses for the child, saying they are tired, or simply give in to the child because of their age and fighting is just to hard and often embarrassing. However, if there is not a timely intervention the child doesn't learn appropriate self regulation and we then see these children become very difficult in school settings and most social settings by the time they are 6 or 7.
I have many parent clients who come to me, complaining, although, their child can do so many things, "They are really smart, but say "no", and they hit the floor in a tantrum, or throw things around the room, or hit or even become verbally abusive" this behavior is brought on because their little brains have not developed emotionally, so are unable navigate these feelings of disappointment more appropriately, they are bigger in body but not in their ability to navigate emotions. They respond to discipline as though they are still 1 year old.
In understanding the child early on we mitigate the damage created later in life. There are many strategies available to help parents to both understand their child as well as grow compassionate awareness around their child, maintaining the closeness a child needs to feel supported thru their lives.
Power struggles, screaming tantrums, verbal abuse, total defiance, school refusal, sibling abuse, all these stem from delayed brain development, due to stress chemicals released in the brain when there is a medical trauma, or some other trauma experienced by the child when in infancy.
It is my experience, with the appropriate intervention and strategies in place and a full understanding of the situation many parent/child relationships, suffering from the hardship the challenging behavior brings, can and do heal over time. The calm is most often restored to the family home. Never give up your faith in your child, their brains are just immature.
With warmth I wish you,