Jewish World Review July 23, 2004 / 5 Menachem-Av, 5764
Some brains are on the slow train
Remember those moments of exasperation when your kids came inside
with yet another grass stain, ladybug in hand and locust shell in the
pocket? Remember when they wanted you to read the same book for the 10
billionth time, sing the song that would never end and needed a hug for the
umpteenth boo-boo of the day?
Give yourself a pat on the back for holding it together. According
to brain research, those mundane occurrences help grow language skills,
math and logic abilities, emotional intelligence, artistic ability and
Einstein would have gotten nowhere without making mud pies in the
backyard. Da Vinci would have been a no-name had he not been allowed to
play with his mother's kitchen utensils and the Wright brothers would never
have gotten air-borne without first jumping on the bed
Give yourself another gold star for surviving the battles with
your kids over music lessons. Brain experts say music sets a great
foundation for intelligence. That babble game you played with infants,
those tents in the backyard, sidewalk chalk, sand in the sneakers and that
pathetic little clay pot of grass seed your kid drowned at the kitchen sink
all helped fuel brain capacity, too.
Feeling pretty good about yourself? Great. Then just pause here
and enjoy the moment. Nice, wasn't it? Now I have to tell you something
that may be a little hard to swallow.
Researchers used to believe that the brain was a finished product
by age 12. Done deal. Put the educational games away and forget about
watching Jeopardy as the brain is pretty well complete. Well, researchers
have changed their minds. They've recently charted significant
developmental happenings in the teenage brain. That does explain a lot,
Let's put it this way: they used to think the brain was set at age
12, but now they think the Jell-O mold is still wobbly.
How long before the brain is fully mature? Age 14, you ask? Age
16? Don't you wish. Try age 25.
Brain areas that help regulate self-control and risk-taking are
some of the last areas to fully mature. So, it turns out, there's a reason
many of them want to repel down the face of rock sheers, raft grade 5
rapids, function on three hours of sleep and often go a touch berserk their
first year at college - their brains aren't fully working.
Naturally, this is not true of every brain. I know kids in their
late teens ready and able to rule the world, although I'm not sure the
world is ready for them. However, Dr.Jay Giedd, the ringleader for much of
this brain mapping says, and I quote, "not only is the brain of the
adolescent far from mature, but both gray and white matter undergo
extensive structural change well past puberty."
Somewhere in the swirl of white and gray matter, cognitive
controls are still developing in the teen-age brain.
The job of a parent is far from over when a kid becomes a teen.
We're not crazy to impose some tight restrictions on drivers at age 16.
Curfews for high school kids are an excellent idea, and maybe it's not the
smartest move to cut an 18 year old totally free from every semblance of
structure, boundaries and parental accountability. Teens need lots of love,
but their brains still need some limits and rules.
The next time you're tempted to snap at a young person, "Why don't
you grow up?" remember this: They are just as fast as they can, but
maybe not as fast as we thought.
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© 2004, Lori Borgman
JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of , most recently, "Pass the Faith, Please" (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) and I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.