Malleable Minds

Amidst chaos in a vast, ever-changing, complex world, news stations and social media platforms focus on adults responsible for the mass amounts of daily terror that accompany our lives endlessly. Seemingly understandable because of expected “adult” competencies to know right from wrong, the focus on children lies in a nearly forgotten bed of irrelevance when it comes to catastrophe.

When you hear the word “child,” you most likely think small, adorable, helpless. Possibly annoying, messy, or difficult. However, children are much more than just small, helpless humans that babble and stumble across the floors in front of us. Children are perhaps one of the most important elements in the creation of a functioning society for future generations.

Of every single course required by school districts nationwide for a student to graduate, it baffles me how the most important ideas and concepts that will become relevant after high school are not required by states to be taught by educators to high school students. Although various child development courses are offered throughout schools in the nation, the students that are not choosing elective home-living style courses and learning basic skills are at a potential risk for raising future youth ineffectively.

Primarily, what brought my attention to this issue was a nonfiction story titled “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog” written by child psychiatrist, Bruce Perry. Perry discusses chapter-by-chapter different stories of children he encountered during his prime years as an upcoming child psychiatric therapist who worked with adolescents that had been exposed to extreme cases of emotionally and physically traumatic experiences starting from unbelievably young ages.

Working at a childcare facility for the first time, hands-on experience and knowledge allows me to form logical thoughts and opinions about the behaviors of individual kids from a wide-range of developmentally crucial age groups. Often, behaviors are immediately blamed upon the situations of how a child is being raised and disciplined at home outside of school. From what I have researched through the extensive knowledge of teachers and famous psychologists is that sometimes parents need guidance equally as much as their child does.

Far too often, we hear stories of the awful, lasting effects that neglect, abuse and abandonment have on children, but the overlooked factors are usually the simpler elements in parenting that shape the minds of adolescents. Parenting skills are usually accustomed to and learned naturally with experience rather than acquired by actual academic courses, but the endless cycle of improper childcare has lasting effects through genetics and brain chemistry passed down by generations of mothers and their babies.

Physically tending to the basic needs of a child provide the nutrients the body needs to grow healthy and strong as to how emotionally caring to a child’s needs shower the brain with the enrichment that is crucial to obtain during primarily infancy, toddler and preschool years, but is not limited to younger ages. Scientifically speaking, the brain and how we think is susceptible to change at virtually any age, but the malleability of the brain is active during the first few years of life.

A particularly unique case that Perry shared with the world was about a 4-year-old girl who is believed by her doctors to have the first documented case of “infantile anorexia” because despite countless tubing efforts amongst others, the child would not gain weight. A new perspective from Dr. Perry suggests that she has an unique form of “failure to thrive,” mostly seen in infants. The girls’ mother, although not neglectful, didn’t have the prior knowledge to understand that infants are in a critical stage where they need constant emotional and physical care to sustain healthy brain growth development. Because she didn’t receive enough attention as an infant, her body growth decelerated due to an immense lack of brain stimulation in those critical areas during that time period. She couldn’t grow physically because her brain wasn’t being showered with necessary “love” nutrients to help her systems flourish. The mother received knowledge quickly enough to be able to save the outcome of her daughter’s’ health, but in some cases, the clay that is molded becomes dry and is no longer malleable.

The importance of understanding basic childcare skills cannot be expressed enough-it’s mandatory. Kids are the future. Without guiding them, they’ll continue to grow and feed into negative habits that we hear about every single day on the news. Murderers were kids once. And so were their parents. So, with that being said,

mold cautiously and handle material with care.