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Links to Think: 14.07.07

July 7, 2014

14.07.07.ltt

Less-structured time in children’s daily lives predicts self-directed executive functioning” – Frontiers in Psychology recently released this article on research that confirmed what many parents (and what parents of other generations and cultures) are recognizing to be true: kids with free time eventually are better able to set and make their own goals. (For a slightly less academic, slightly more summarized report of this study, see the article, “Kids whose time is less structured are better able to meet their own goals, says CU-Boulder study.

“Why do young children often forget (or outright refuse) to put on a coat before leaving the house on a snowy day? The choice to put on a jacket may seem frustratingly obvious to parents and older siblings, but this simple decision arises from a surprisingly complex interplay of behaviors. Children must keep in mind a goal (staying warm and dry) that is not yet relevant in the comfort of a warm house. They must inhibit the urge to proceed with a regular sequence of tasks (put on socks and shoes and head out the door), and instead modify their routine to include something new (pulling a coat from the closet). Unless someone intervenes, this change in the status quo must be accomplished without any external reminders (a visible coat, or a well-timed reminder from a caregiver).

To accomplish each of these tasks, children must engage executive functions (EFs), the cognitive control processes that regulate thought and action in support of goal-directed behavior. EFs develop dramatically during childhood (e.g., Gathercole et al., 2004Zelazo et al., 2008McAuley et al., 2011Munakata et al., 2012), and support a number of higher-level cognitive processes, including planning and decision-making, maintenance and manipulation of information in memory, inhibition of unwanted thoughts, feelings, and actions, and flexible shifting from one task to another. Researchers have used a variety of laboratory tasks to measure child EFs, including table-top behavioral tasks (e.g., the classic marshmallow test, card-sorting tasks) and computerized tasks (e.g., Go/No-go, Flanker), many of which tap multiple aspects of EF. Over the past decade, EFs have emerged as critical, early predictors of success across a range of important outcomes, including school readiness in preschoolers (Miller et al., 2013), as well as academic performance at school entry (Blair and Razza, 2007Cameron et al., 2012) and beyond (St Clair-Thompson and Gathercole, 2006Best et al., 2011). Moreover, children with worse EF go on to have poorer health, wealth, and social outcomes in adulthood than children with better EF, even after controlling for differences in general intelligence (Moffitt et al., 2011).”

(Interestingly, this study (as well as many others) are directly opposite from the somewhat pseudo-scientific, pseudo-religious popular parenting book, Babywise, which states this on pages 70 and 71:

“We believe learning deprivation occurs when parents consider a pretoddler’s or toddler’s impetuous and momentary desire to be their prime source of learning. For example, allowing a child to crawl or walk around the house unhindered, without any guidelines, directions, or restrictions, represents a dubious channel of learning.”

“Trial-and-error self-exploration is inferior to structured guidance with proactive teaching.” (70)

“Learning opportunities should be predominantly the result of planning, not chance. The establishment of healthy learning patterns is the result of providing the right learning environment, one in which controlled stimuli (those factors that normally call for curiosity and investigation) are part of your baby’s day. To achieve this end, plan some structured time into your baby’s waketime.” (71))

Of course, over the course of childhood, both are important. Yet, this emphasis against curiosity and exploration sometimes serve to create fear-mongering among young and new parents, as well as create a much greater burden on young parents.

Faith and Mental Illness” – Michael Horton bears some helpful words on mental illness and how Christians can better respond and evaluate this issue.  (These are only excerpts; the entirity of the article is helpful.) My friend Kristen helpfully commented regarding this article, “A Christian culture that misunderstands, undermines, or spiritualizes mental illness hinders the health – physical and spiritual – of suffering people and perpetuates theological imbalance, if not outright error.”

“According to a 2013 survey by LifeWay Research, one-third of Americans agree that “prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness.” Nearly half (48 percent) of evangelicals agree. (1)

Why on earth would Modern Reformation imagine that it had something important to say, from a distinctly Reformation perspective, on mental illness? That was a big question we discussed in our editorial meeting. By the end, though, after sharing our own experiences, the answer became clear. To the extent that evangelical attitudes reflect theological imbalances—and even errors—we think we have something indeed to contribute.”

“And yet, when it comes to mental illness, we still don’t really believe that it is a medical problem. Many of us were raised in an era when “it’s all in your head” meant that mental illnesses weren’t real—at least not as real as a broken arm. This tendency reflects not only a lack of appreciation for the rapid growth in medical diagnosis and treatment of such disorders, but a cluster of theological misunderstandings. So here are a few introductory theses to consider.

1. We are not souls incarcerated in bodies, but body-soul creatures.

Contemporary brain science has shown the remarkable extent to which our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions are connected to our bodies—specifically, our brain and chemical interactions. This leaves no room for the soul if we reduce ourselves to what can be subjected to observation and repeatable experiments. The fact that body and soul are so intertwined is elementary for a biblical view of humanity.”

“2. Sin is a condition, not just actions.”

“When combined with a mind-body dualism that places mental illness exclusively on the spiritual side of the ledger, this linking of suffering to particular sins (and therefore its remedy of simply more faith and obedience) is toxic—both spiritually and physically. If psychology (more than psychiatry) as a discipline reflects an obvious bias toward reductive physicalism, many conservative churches tilt toward a reductive spiritualism or moralism. That leads to the next point.”

“A robustly biblical theology of the cross and resurrection fixes our hope on Christ, who knows our suffering more than we do and who has overcome it objectively. We live in our Christian families and in our churches in that in-between time, awaiting the day when we share fully—in body and in soul—in Christ’s glory. Our churches have to be a place where we “wait for it with patience” together. In the process, we need better soul care that appreciates the extent to which physical—and mental—suffering can be relieved in the meantime. Christians should welcome these advances as signs of God’s orderly providence and compassionate care for his creatures. There will always be a central place for spiritual care—especially the faithful ministry of preaching, teaching, sacraments, prayer, and discipline. But, like a kid with a broken leg, getting people to the “emergency room” may be the first order of business.”

Sounds of the Andes

My sweet girl, who is definitely a hyper sensitive person/child (HSP/HSC), is often moved to tears by music, and in an attempt to shut off her overwhelming emotions (because they scare her), often requests that we not listen to sentimental music. Meanwhile, we’ve all been a little “homesick” for Ecuador, so I’ve been listening to the Ecuador Manta Pandora station. Somewhat ironically, that same daughter just loves it, and requests it most mornings.  When we were in Ecuador, I listened to the local radio station every morning as we got ready for our day, and so it makes me a little sentimental. 🙂 Such beautiful music!

origenquote

“When you see the work of an artist your mind burns to know how and why it was created. It is the same with the world. God planted in us an unspeakable longing to know the how and why of his great works.” —Origen

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