One major adjustment all parents face when they bring their new baby home is that life no longer centers around their own needs and wants. That seems simple enough and is perhaps a common sense assumption, but when the time comes to make this child-centered lifestyle your reality it can be jarring.
Gone are things like last minute weekend trips with only one small bag in tow, taking a nap just because, or lazily reading on the couch at your leisure. If you have a baby, you have a dictator and their demands will be met on their time or you’ll suffer their wrath. And, since a baby’s wrath comes in the form of the most pitiful, heartstring-tugging cry you’ve ever heard, you’ll do it with urgency.
Excuses are easily made for infants. They lack the skills to verbally communicate. Their brains aren’t developed enough to comprehend the needs of others much less take them into consideration when making demands, but what about when a child grows beyond infancy and toddlerhood and reaches the grade school years? At that point should we expect them to recognize that their needs and wants aren’t what makes the world go ’round?
According to a recently published study in the journal Neuron, kids can’t be blamed for their inability to control their selfish impulses. If you want an answer as to why they can’t wait until you are off the telephone or out of the bathroom before making their demands, blame their immature prefrontal cortex.
During a study performed by the Max-Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, researchers found that the immaturity of this part of a child’s brain renders them less altruistic and more self-serving. This means that even though your child may possess the ability to distinguish fair from unfair, until this part of their brain develops with age they are less likely to strike a compromise and more likely to behave like an egocentric tyrant.
Scientists are hoping that the findings of this study will have a positive impact on the ability of educators to encourage positive social behavior as they have a better understanding of why children act the way they do.
In the mean time, when your 5-year-old drags you out of bed at 6 a.m. to make a breakfast they decide they aren’t hungry for, blame it on their immature brain and not a cold, calculating desire to ensure you don’t feel well-rested for at least two decades.