Science confirms what parents know

very parent has thought at one time or another, that their kids are immature in thinking and not able to process basic thought patterns. It makes sense that young kids don’t think clearly because their brains are continually developing. Still, at some point, you expect kids to get their act together and prove thinking capabilities for themselves.

The rub is that, while you, as a parent, are frustrated by kids’ disconnected behavior, you don’t have any evidence to back up your thoughts. Insurance companies figured out a long time ago what we don’t consider; the brain is fully developed at around age 25. In America, you get a lower insurance rate because your brain is fully developed. Hopefully, you can think clearly and make good decisions.

As a parent, what you’ve known all along, is finally confirmed. During the adolescent years, kids don’t think clearly, and can’t process complicated thoughts, but you aren’t sure why. The “why” behind the matter has to do with brain development, according to the Center of the Developing Child at Harvard University.

There are five stages of brain development, and after a certain age, it’s all downhill from there. There are four external stages of brain development, which are not included in the pre-birth stage.

Before Birth

Before a child is born, neurons are developing. The very matter kids need to have the best start in life is making its earliest connections and growing daily. Pregnant women do well to stay as stress-free as possible and eliminate toxins like cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs for the best fetus development.

Getting through this stage well offers a solid foundation for brain development.

The Early Years: Age 0–6

Until about age 3, children develop their senses through how they are comforted and how they play. The best development happens through playing, reading, and emotional connection when kids are stressed. Reading, even when language hasn’t developed, will foster thinking as children see colors and words on a page.

Childhood: Age 7–11

More advanced thinking happens during pre-adolescence years. Around age 8, the development of reasoning happens. According to Merriam Webster, it is “the time of life when one begins to be able to distinguish right from wrong.” Young children have a basic knowledge of what is right and what is wrong and can make appropriate choices regarding each.

The basis comes from the Age of Reason, a booming development of thinking from 18th Century thought leaders in England and France. Europeans led the way on a range of ideas centered around knowledge and advancing the ideals of liberty, progress, and government.

It’s no wonder why we refer to kids’ brains as sponges during these years. Their minds are adept at learning and ready to consider new ideas.

Adolescence Age: 12–22

Teenagers are selfish, reckless, and don’t process the needs of others before the desires of “self.” Every parent knows this to be true. Adolescents are irritable, and their emotions run hot and cold. What parents may not know is that they expect adult-like reasoning from kids who aren’t capable of giving it yet.

The grey matter is still developing. This is important because the frontal cortex controls emotions, language development, and memories. It is the “control panel” of our personality and sexual behaviors, according to Healthline.

The prevalent stressors teenagers deal with, like sex and emotional thinking, aren’t able to fully be processed for another few years. No wonder teenagers are confused and forgetful. Their decision-making capabilities aren’t fully functional.

Adulthood: Age 23–65

The brain is at its peak performance at around age 23, but it only performs at an optimal level for about five years, and after that, it’s all downhill. The insurance companies may have figured out that a fully functional brain has awareness, but they haven’t adjusted premiums for when adult thinking capacity is again limited.

After about age 27, it is more challenging to learn new things and hold memories. The brain doesn’t function as well or as fast as it does in early adulthood. If you’ve drawn correlations between the actions of your teenager and your parents, you are correct, and it’s not their fault. Their actions are directly tied to brain development.

These things promote overall health and wellbeing:

  • A balanced diet
  • Mindfulness/self-awareness
  • Reduced stress/meditation
  • Exercise

Wrapping up the Grey Matter

When we look at the science behind the behavior, we can understand why people act the way they do. And, when we know why certain things happen, we can take time to be more self-aware of our interactions and strengthen our parenting and relationships.

We can’t stop aging, but we can better understand the thought process behind the developing brain and better connect with the people who matter.

Put the knowledge to use and improve your relationships today.


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