Helping Children

Some Topics

Beginner’s Brain

Every educated person needs to know that the mind, spirit, soul, heart, personality, self, feelings, hopes, desires, values, preferences, personality all exist in the brain. We have old metaphors such as the “heart,” “spirit” or the “soul” that suggest otherwise, but the liberating truth is that it is all in the mind and the mind is all in the brain. This is not to argue against the body, but it is to notice that body, brain and mind are one integrated whole system.

The human brain is a wonder of computational ability and the brain initiates and supervises its own training.  The foundation of intelligence lies in the tuning ability of the brain and tuning circuits appear in the first animals alive on earth. Animals must tune into what is going on around them in order navigate through a world-space to find required materials such as water and food. An animal is more intelligent if he or she tunes accurately into what is going on and finds what is needed without injury or death. Despite an increasingly complex, manufactured world, most humans continue to do what all other animals do.

All humans who survive are capable of tuning into the basic events that are occurring out-there. With a little help from friends, family and community, children grow, learn how to survive.

The basic idea behind brains is to bring information about the outside world together with information from inside the body. In the human mind, images of the outside tend to be detailed and explicit in consciousness. In contrast, monitor images from inside the body are vague and variable.  Information originating inside the body is not clearly represented in consciousness. Inner senses belong to two groups - the most ancient chemical kind and a more modern and rapid electronic kind that travels along nerve networks that reach out to every cell in the body.

The human mind and human behavior is more comprehensible if you recognize that the brain is a multi-layered modular assembly of functions that retains features hundreds of millions of years old. The newest features were invented in the past few million years.  The idea is that the human brain we are now enjoying was more or less complete about 200,000 years ago.

A brand new baby is an old creature who could live in a cave and learn to make stone tools or live in an air conditioned house in the suburbs and watch TV. As children grow and develop, you witness displays of old animal behavior, good and not-so good, that must be selected and modified to achieve a happy citizen of planet earth. As you learn from your children, you will develop valuable insights into the workings of your own mind.

Each human brain is a more or less modern computer built into and on top of a museum of neurological parts. Human experience and behavior manifests this layered, multimodal assembly. Humans manifest behaviors that are common among all animals. Humans feel feelings that many animals feel and have social tendencies that all primates share.

Some old feelings are wild and exciting and some are disturbing. They come from a distant place and another time. Wild feelings and drives may interrupt the flow of a modern rational existence and propel an individual on an irrational adventure, sometime leading to discovery and liberation; at other times, to disaster.

New babies are not born with the new brain programs nor are they a “clean slate”. Brain programs are built in and need not be reinvented by each child. Old programs include some of our most negative qualities - predatory and territorial aggression, anger, rage and some of our most positive qualities - the tendency to bond and form social units with altruistic features.

Our destiny as a species still lies with the programs in the old brain. Individuals can transcend the old programs by diligent learning and compassionate practice but individual effort and learning does not change the genome. Whatever we value about civilized human existence - culture, knowledge, social justice, respect for human rights and dignity must be learned anew and stored as modifications of each new person's neocortex. 

Children are not little adults, nor are they modern beings. They are ancient beings who are not ready for modern human life for 20 or more years. Parents and other adults have to show these ancient little beings what we are doing these days, but before they update their children, they have to allow them to develop the basic skills and tendencies built into their brains.

To become a smart and nice citizen of planet earth the new infant must start learning to transcend old negative programs and parents lead the way by displaying the attitudes and behaviors that they want their children to manifest.  It doesn't matter what you tell a child, they are going to copy what you do.

More reading ... go to Brain Center