Focus on ME Explanation #1

Your Child's Foundation = Your PFC

How strong is YOUR pre-frontal cortex?

Your child will most certainly test your brain's strength...and thus give you the opportunity to become stronger and wiser.

Since your child's pre-frontal cortex is not fully developed during the first 20+ years of his life, and since your child's healthy PFC development partially depends on your ability to model brain balance throughout those many years, it is critical that you give your prefrontal cortex daily exercise and attention. In other words, if you want your child to successfully progress to the top of The Accountability Pyramid, you will need to stop focusing on fixing your child and instead focus on yourself--particularly how mindful you are.

To strengthen your PFC, study and practice mindfulness and apply it to parenting:

For example, remember “PFC” when your child misbehaves:

P = Pause when your body detects chaos or uncertainty

F = Focus your attention on accepting the present moment AS IS so you can build upon it

C = Choose which Accountability Pyramid Mindset your child needs

Personal Thoughts

P = Pause when your body detects chaos or uncertainty. Be still. Be grateful your senses can communicate information to you. Be grateful your body wants to warn you against potential danger. Be at peace. Meditate. Use the Past: ponder past events with an open, non-judgmental mind and notice why your body feels threatened. Take note about unresolved issues, or "past baggage" that you need to heal from. Use the Future: ponder the positive potential that's waiting on the horizon and let it fill you with hope. This prepares you to Be Present: accept the current maturity level in you and your children with a peaceful heart and be filled with the joy life brings in each moment.

F = Focus your attention on a situation/child with an open mind. With focused attention, great things are accomplished. In other words, whatever you spend your focused energy on, you will become very good at. And the opposite is also true: non-focused attention results in a lesser ability in any given area (see myelination and pruning under 'Brain Basics'). For example, cab drivers have more neurological mass in the spacial awareness area of the brain. Violinists have more neurological mass in the motor area of the brain that controls the left hand fingers. So, naturally, we should be thoughtful and wise about what receives our focused attention. If we want to exercise the PFC part of our brains (which controls moral behavior), we have to focus our attention on moral issues, empathy, emotional regulation, and genuine human connections.

Accepting current immaturity is often the hardest part of pondering. Our bodies are so good at warning us against immaturity or opposition or less than perfect outcomes. By paying close attention to my body, I notice when my alarm system sounds. Our bodies are also good at protecting or defending us from unpleasantness. But our natural walls of protection often make openly sitting peacefully with an immature moment (before my body automatically goes into a defensive or offensive "reaction mode") nearly impossible.

So you have to focus on it. Pay attention--usually without saying a word--to the discomfort you feel when your child cries or misbehaves. Until you feel comfortable with it.

Most faiths have a basic moral creed. Spirituality is a form of meditation. Spirituality helps to break down emotional walls. Truly pondering and practicing the values that give meaning to life every day exercises the PFC. and makes it stronger. Connecting with other human beings in a loving, accepting, forgiving way, also exercises the PFC neurons. Then, when noticing immaturity in your child, try "step #1", and then set aside trivial matters and turn your attention TO your stressed or misbehaving child in a loving, empathetic, and guiding way instead of isolating them, leaving them to cope on their own. As you focus on your child, your meditation skills will come in handy. You will be able to be in the presence of your struggling child without feeling anxiety or fear or anger or annoyance. Instead you'll have the empathy and courage to stay near and radiate love while your child processes their difficult emotions.

Personally, when I feel overwhelmed with the task of feeling peaceful, I use my religion's addiction recovery program to help re-wire my brain in favor of rejuvenating emotions like peace, hope, joy, and love and away from habitual destructive emotions like fear, worry, anger, annoyance, and bitterness. This process often requires painful mourning as I work through various personal weaknesses or past baggage, but mourning is a worthwhile bridge to cross on my journey over to the brighter side. And I never feel alone on this journey because of loved ones and especially because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, who ultimately makes the whole journey possible for me.

C = Choose which of the 6 mindsets will benefit your child's development most in that moment. As a child advances up through the natural stages of The Accountability Pyramid, conscientiously notice your child's deep down needs and choose a mindset to use based on the maturity of your child. In the early years, this often means spending an enormous amount of time and energy WITH a child, modeling appropriate behavior and absorbing natural consequences alongside them (as opposed to imposing consequences that isolate them from a caregiver). As they mature, accountability will gradually shift to their shoulders very naturally (starting around age 7 or 8) because their maturing minds choose to take it. By the teen years, expect a child to think and act more independently (because that's what teenage brains are programmed to do), while co-existing and contributing to the family community in respectful ways. It's likely that you'll need to show respect during the teen years by giving them significant responsibility for their personal affairs as you express confidence in and love for who they have become. At all ages, show charity by seeking to understand your children's challenges and by paying close attention to your relationship with them.

In general, value your child's individuality and agency. Do not force them to change their immature behaviors. Force, or parental control using unnatural rewards and punishment, causes coping mechanisms that inhibit both the child's and the parent's PFC, making life challenges more difficult for everyone as your child's body grows. Rather, exhibit supreme self-discipline by changing yourself--recognize your own weaknesses and turn them into strengths via spiritual capacities. This gives your child a foundation of security and inspires them to follow your example by their own free will.

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