In the first few years of life, because your child’s higher rational brain is so unfinished, his lower brain will be in the driver’s seat. Basically, the emotional systems and primitive impulses in his lower brain will all too easily overwhelm him at times. Hence, the intense bursts of rage, distress, screaming and rolling around on the floor in a desperate state is not being naughty: it is just a fact about the immaturity of the human infant brain. Your child’s higher brain cells has simply not developed enough yet to able to calm these massive feeling storms naturally.
The Parent Child Connection Connects Brain Cells Too !
Everything your baby experiences with you as his parent will forge connections between the cells in his higher brain. The human brain is perfectly designed this way so that it can be wired up to adopt to the particular environment in which it finds it self.
This adaptability works for or against the wellbeing of a child. If for example, a child has a bullying parent, he can start to adapt to living in a bullying world, with all kind of changes in brain structure and brain chemical systems, which may result in hypervigilance, heightened aggression or fear reaction, or heightened attack/ defence impulses in the reptilian part of his brain.
So the way you listen to your child, play with him, cuddle him, comfort him, and treat him when he is being naughty are of real significance. With emotionally responsive parenting, vital connections will form in his brain, enabling him to cope with stress in later life; manage anger well; be kind and compassionate; form fulfilling relations; have the will and motivation to follow his ambitions and dreams.
Pathway Formation Happens in Higher Brain
These diagrams show how a baby’s higher brain forms connections at a very rapid rate as it is sculpted by experiences in the first years of life. At the beginning, brain cells are unconnected, like dangling wires in a computer.
During the crucial years of Infancy, millions of brain connections are being formed, unformed and then reformed, directly due to influence of your child’s life experiences and in particular his emotional experiences with you.
The cells and pathways in the brain are activated by natural chemicals and hormones. oxytocin is a hormone released at birth and help mother and baby to bond. Opioids are hormones that give us a sense of wellbeing ; these chemicals are produced when a child is lovingly touched or held by a parent or a care giver.
When you help your child with his big feelings, a great number of cells in his higher brain start to form pathways. Higher brain functioning release anti-anxiety chemicals… so child feels calm again. Around age seven, this massive sculpting activity (pathway formation) is slowed down. As now the “insulation” of brain cell begins. This enables better communication between brain cells. It also strengthens brain pathways, fixing them in place. Whatever kind of pathways have formed till now will be getting fixed by this time. If a child has been exposed to unattended prolonged stress the “over-reactive” pathway will be fixed and he will carry this as “trait” in his personality and on the other hand, if he has received compassionate love and attention while he was overwhelmed, his “calming pathways” will be fixed in his brain. As a result he will be a person who can manage stress well, can think well under pressure. Hence, there is some scientific truth underpinning the quote “Give me a child untill the age of seven, and I will give you a man.”