The Gun Control debate is still raging. I receive e-mails every day explaining that this politician or that has introduced some bill that will take away all the guns and stop violence. Yet, the rest of our evidence on the arm for “How the Brain works” points to a deeper problem. It’s not the guns. Violence in America is all about the “state of mind” or how information is processed in the brain. Let’s take a look at that arm one more time.
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We’ve discussed how the environment plays a role in the ideas formed in the brain. But what about the last eleven clues. They deal with the natural tendencies of any brain.
1. Evil is inherent. Babies come into the world as innocent and precious beings. Once they understand that there is a choice for food, toys, people and most every thing in life – selfishness appears. It’s not that the child is evil – but selfishness and desire is a powerful drive that children must learn to control. We need to experience desire because it helps us to achieve a better life and to reach for our goals. Yet, if we don’t learn at a young age how to control selfishness and other strong desires we will become bullies and we will hurt others to get what we want. This clue can be directly linked to the parenting arm. Every parent should understand that if you raise a spoiled selfish brat – they will always be a drag on the society they live in. It may be minor. They may not commit a crime, but they will hurt others.
2. Good must be practiced and learned. It’s much easier to give in to your desires and demand what you want. It’s hard to say “no” to the things you want in favor of doing what’s right. Our brain will always choose the “easy road” if given the chance. That’s why it is so important to teach small children to practice being good. Allowing them to give in to temper tantrums or fits of anger does not give them the tools they need to control emotions later. Start your child out with the tools he/she needs to practice doing the right thing.
3. Reading and writing about life issues will create an important neuro-pathway. Remember, a neuro-pathway is a rut in your brain that helps you find important information quickly. “The stove is hot — Don’t touch the stove”. Knowing that we can create and nurture a neuro-pathway is vital to the information in every arm on the chart. When you “re-inforce” what you are trying to teach your child by encouraging them to read a story about it or to write a report on it – you are entrenching that thought in their brain. Likewise, when you allow them to listen to, write or read opposing information – that too will become a deeper part of their thought process. As we will discuss when we talk about movies, music, education and television – when these inputs into your child’s brain “oppose” your beliefs on a daily basis – your child will question what you are trying to teach.
On a regular basis I pointed to opposing views and discussed them with my children. This allowed them to understand the world they lived in and it didn’t make opposing view so taboo that they were curious. However, they were not allowed to stream those opposing views into their heads as if they were a normal part of our life. We made sure the dogs of opposition remained outside the door to our home. I have known many good parents who didn’t check out the movies, television and music their child was listening to. While the parent took the child to church and tried to parent wisely, the child was listening to violent music and watching sexual content on cable. It didn’t take long for the opposing views to become stronger than the urging of the parent.
4. The brain can be tricked. It takes a determined and knowledgeable person to resist the soft sell of an opposing view. Because our brain will naturally look for the easy way out or the fastest road to the desired goal – we can be tricked into believing a lie. Training your child to be strong and not fooled by others is vitally important for his success.
5 – 7. Our brain is naive. We will believe what we see quicker than what we are being told is behind door number three. To avoid pain we must learn to work for information that will support our decisions. Because it is much easier to look for information that supports what we “want” we must push ourselves to look for information that “Doesn’t support” our desires. It’s very hard to accept change but it’s easier when we have a full grasp of the consequences.
8. We crave discipline. I don’t know why psychologists don’t talk about this more often. Discipline is one of the most primal desires we have. Humans like for situations to be “fair” – to be “honest” – to be “orderly” and to be “logical”. The only way to have those traits is to have discipline. Sure you can have those things if you are the only person on earth and you have no one else to answer to – but if there is just one more person on earth you will need discipline to achieve your goals.
9. Deep within our brain locked in our strongest desire is the need to belong. It’s a part of the human spirit. Murder and other crimes have been committed because a person was driven to belong. This primal desire is a huge part of every other arm on this chart. As politicians drive more and more wedges between the people of this country, there will be more violence.
10. We need the support of family. Again…we need to belong and our first desire is to belong to a family. I may get negative e-mails for this, but a huge reason for violence in this country is that we are systematically removing the link between the individual and family. Entertainment discredits the value of belonging to a family. Whenever a mom or dad is introduced in a sit com it’s always with frustration or disdain. Divorce, out of wedlock births, business transfers – they all create a disconnect with the family. When you build a strong family unit – as well as an extended family unit – you will always strengthen your child’s ability to resist anger and violence.
11.. We never change unless we are in pain. This is a huge insight into the function of our brain. How many times have you heard a person say, “My life is okay. I have some problems but nothing is terribly bad. So…beginning tomorrow I’m going to change everything in my life.” We never do that! If our life is rocking along without problems – we usually hold our breath and hope we don’t make any moves that would change it.
If your child is making bad choices, he probably won’t change until there is pain involved. The goal then is to link all bad choices to pain and all good choices to happiness. I’m not saying that you should inflict pain on your child – abuse will always trigger violence. Don’t do that! But you can point out the pain others are experiencing. You can be honest about the consequences of certain actions. You can let others who are in pain show your child that going down that road is not a good choice.
I hate reality shows because they refuse to highlight the evil consequences of bad choices. I especially despise shows like “Pretty little liars” or “Breaking Bad” because they leave the impression that those choices are somehow justifiable.
Never leave the brain to chance. Understand how it works and prevent violent behaviors in your child by helping the brain to process information properly.
Good parenting is all about helping your child’s brain react to life automatically. If you work to fill their brain with good information and to prevent (as much as possible) bad information from taking root – you will raise a wonderful successful adult without violent anger issues.