All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits,—practical, emotional, and intellectual,—systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be. __ William James in 1892
Our habits make us who we are. Once learned, these habits tend to be unconscious from start to finish. Clearly it is best to learn good habits well, beginning in childhood. Habits of thought, habits of action — the principle is the same.
The typical “habit loop” consists of a “cue” — a “craving” — a “routine” — and a “reward.” Something inside or outside of us triggers a conscious or unconscious cue. This cue calls up a craving which then motivates us to perform a routine. Successful performance of the routine results in a reward. To set good habits for young children, we need to exercise some ingenuity to make the learning of good habits as easy as possible.
Making a New Habit Easy
Jim Cathcart’s tale of the running shoes:
I needed an action that I knew I could get myself to do, so I set a minimum commitment: Even if I could not make myself run every day, at least I could make myself available for a run. I grabbed a piece of paper, picked up my pen, and wrote, “I will put on my jogging shoes and walk outside to the curb every day, no matter what else is going on.” __ The Self-Motivation Handbook by Jim Cathcart
By setting an easy goal, Jim Cathcart built a lifelong habit of health and fitness that served him for 30 years and counting. Once he was at the curb with his jogging shoes on, it was easy to walk or run some distance on suitable days. This allowed him to drop 30 pounds to his ideal weight, and maintain ideal weight ever since.
BJ Fogg’s tale of dental floss:
I asked myself: How can I make flossing easier to do?
I came up with an answer I didn’t dare tell my hygienist. She would have been horrified.
I decided to floss just one tooth.
After I brushed my teeth in the morning I would floss just one tooth. __ BJ Fogg in Tiny Habits
Once you have flossed one tooth, it is easy to floss the rest.
James Clear’s “Make it Easy” advice on habits:
Habits are easier to build when they fit into the flow of your life. You are more likely to go to the gym if it is on your way to work . . .
The central idea is to create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible. Much of the battle of building better habits comes down to finding ways to [make good habits easier and bad habits harder].
Making the Habit Cue Easy and Obvious Reinforces the Behaviour
Putting a full bottle/thermos of water in plain sight and within easy reach makes it more likely that it will be used. The same principle applies to a toothbrush, a bath towel, dish-washing tools, or any other useful cue that helps to encourage a good habit.
Below is another way to look at the habit loop with the emphasis on the “hook” concept that is popular in writing, advertising, public speaking, and political/religious/military recruiting. In this approach, finishing the “habit lazy eight” with an investment, the author turns the loop into a growth tool.
The trigger is the actuator of a behavior—the spark plug in the Hook Model. Triggers come in two types: external and internal.
After the trigger comes the intended action.
Research shows that levels of dopamine surge when the brain is expecting a reward. Introducing variability multiplies the effect, creating a frenzied hunting state, activating the parts associated with wanting and desire. Although classic examples include slot machines and lotteries, variable rewards are prevalent in habit-forming technologies as well.
The last phase of the Hook is where the user is asked to do bit of work… now that the user’s brain is swimming in dopamine from the anticipation of reward in the previous phase, it’s time to pay some bills.
This approach to habit formation was new to me, but I am beginning to see that what I first thought was a “lazy eight” is actually an infinity sign. Just as in a loop, the infinity loop feeds back into itself, but it includes an “investment” step that raises the performance bar for the next time through — hence the reference to infinity (as in “approaching infinity”).
Remember, once habits are learned they tend to remain largely unconscious as long they fit smoothly into your routine. Newer habits are built on top of older habits or work alongside. Sometimes a new habit will displace an older habit if it seems to serve a purpose in a better way.
Since habit formation is such a crucial part of raising a child, we will be spending more time with the underlying ideas — and findings from cognitive science research that further our understanding of the underlying concepts of habit formation and dissolution.
So far as we are thus mere bundles of habit, we are stereotyped creatures, imitators and copiers of our past selves. And since this, under any circumstances, is what we always tend to become, it follows first of all that the teacher’s prime concern should be to ingrain into the pupil that assortment of habits that shall be most useful to him throughout life. Education is for behavior, and habits are the stuff of which behavior consists. __ William James
Are boys and girls the same on the inside? Are their hearts, lungs, and brains the same? Should we expect to see identical achievement and performance from men and women, once the playing field is leveled?
Perhaps twenty or thirty years ago an educated person might have been excused for denying any differences in structure and function between the brains of human males and human females. But things have changed.
… over the past 15 years or so, there’s been a sea change as new technologies have generated a growing pile of evidence that there are inherent differences in how men’s and women’s brains are wired and how they work. __ Neurobiologist Nirao Shah
If not for the Y chromosome gene Sry, no embryonic testicles would be produced. If not for embryonic testicles and their large-scale production of testosterone, no males — and no male brains — would be produced.
Many sex differences in adult brain structure and behaviors are the result of in utero organizational effects of gonadal steroid hormones, in particular androgens and their aromatized derivatives, estrogens, both of which are present in substantially higher concentrations in male fetuses due to testicular steroidogenesis. Brain differences between the sexes can also arise from diverse factors, including the expression of genes carried on the sex chromosomes and discrepancies in maternal treatment of male and female progeny. Together, these factors mediate differences in neurogenesis, myelination, synaptic pruning, dendritic branching, axonal growth, apoptosis, and other neuronal parameters. __ Neuroscientist Margaret McCarthy in The Scientist
Neuroscientists have been homing in on brain differences between men and women for many decades. Thanks to better tools for brain imaging and genetic analysis, our understanding of these stark sex differences is growing clearer and more detailed.
Sex differences in lower animals often reflect sex differences in humans, providing a clue that a large part of human sex differences in brain and behaviour have been programmed in by long periods of evolution.
… animal-research findings resonated with sex-based differences ascribed to people. These findings continue to accrue. In a study of 34 rhesus monkeys, for example, males strongly preferred toys with wheels over plush toys, whereas females found plush toys likable. It would be tough to argue that the monkeys’ parents bought them sex-typed toys or that simian society encourages its male offspring to play more with trucks. A much more recent study established that boys and girls 9 to 17 months old — an age when children show few if any signs of recognizing either their own or other children’s sex — nonetheless show marked differences in their preference for stereotypically male versus stereotypically female toys.
… “These findings have all been replicated,”… Women excel in several measures of verbal ability — pretty much all of them, except for verbal analogies. Women’s reading comprehension and writing ability consistently exceed that of men, on average. They outperform men in tests of fine-motor coordination and perceptual speed. They’re more adept at retrieving information from long-term memory.
Men, on average, can more easily juggle items in working memory. They have superior visuospatial skills: They’re better at visualizing what happens when a complicated two- or three-dimensional shape is rotated in space, at correctly determining angles from the horizontal, at tracking moving objects and at aiming projectiles. __ Stanford Medicine
A large meta-analysis of brain volumetric studies recently established that there are significant sex differences in the volumes of various compartments of the brain.
On average, males have larger total brain volumes than females. Examination of the breakdown of studies providing total volumes by age categories indicated a bias towards the 18–59 year-old category. Regional sex differences in volume and tissue density include the amygdala, hippocampus and insula, areas known to be implicated in sex-biased neuropsychiatric conditions.
… On average, males have larger grey matter volume in bilateral amygdalae, hippocampi, anterior parahippocampal gyri, posterior cingulate gyri, precuneus, putamen and temporal poles, areas in the left posterior and anterior cingulate gyri, and areas in the cerebellum bilateral VIIb, VIIIa and Crus I lobes, left VI and right Crus II lobes. Females on average have larger volume at the right frontal pole, inferior and middle frontal gyri, pars triangularis, planum temporale/parietal operculum, anterior cingulate gyrus, insular cortex, and Heschl’s gyrus; bilateral thalami and precuneus; the left parahippocampal gyrus and lateral occipital cortex (superior division). __ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3969295/
These results can only be considered preliminary, although they came from a large set of compiled data from 126 detailed scientific studies of male and female brain and brain compartment volumes.
Human Males and Females Have Complementary Brain Talents
The study below used brain tensor imaging to look at the brains of 428 young human males and 521 young human females.
Sex differences are of enduring scientific and societal interest because of their prominence in the behavior of humans and nonhuman species (1). Behavioral differences may stem from complementary roles in procreation and social structure; examples include enhanced motor and spatial skills and greater proclivity for physical aggression in males and enhanced verbally mediated memory and social cognition in females (2, 3). With the advent of neuroimaging, multiple studies have found sex differences in the brain (4) that could underlie the behavioral differences. Males have larger crania, proportionate to their larger body size, and a higher percentage of white matter (WM), which contains myelinated axonal fibers, and cerebrospinal fluid (5), whereas women demonstrate a higher percentage of gray matter after correcting for intracranial volume effect (6). Sex differences in the relative size and shape of specific brain structures have also been reported (7), including the hippocampus, amygdala (8, 9), and corpus callosum (CC) (10). Furthermore, developmental differences in tissue growth suggest that there is an anatomical sex difference during maturation (11, 12), although links to observed behavioral differences have not been established.
The study revealed fundamental sex differences in brain structural architectures of young human males and females. Such structural differences will need to be correlated with behavioural differences — such as the differences in choices of occupations which have proven to be so troubling to feminist academics and policy-makers.
Larger Study in Brains of Grown Men and Women Reveals More Sex Differences
In the new study, a team of researchers led by psychologist Stuart Ritchie, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Edinburgh, turned to data from UK Biobank, an ongoing, long-term biomedical study of people living in the United Kingdom with 500,000 enrollees. A subset of those enrolled in the study underwent brain scans using MRI. In 2750 women and 2466 men aged 44–77, Ritchie and his colleagues examined the volumes of 68 regions within the brain, as well as the thickness of the cerebral cortex, the brain’s wrinkly outer layer thought to be important in consciousness, language, memory, perception, and other functions.
Adjusting for age, on average, they found that women tended to have significantly thicker cortices than men. Thicker cortices have been associated with higher scores on a variety of cognitive and general intelligence tests. Meanwhile, men had higher brain volumes than women in every subcortical region they looked at, including the hippocampus (which plays broad roles in memory and spatial awareness), the amygdala (emotions, memory, and decision-making), striatum (learning, inhibition, and reward-processing), and thalamus (processing and relaying sensory information to other parts of the brain).
When the researchers adjusted the numbers to look at the subcortical regions relative to overall brain size, the comparisons became much closer: There were only 14 regions where men had higher brain volume and 10 regions where women did. __ Sciencemag
The point is not that men have larger brains than women. The important thing is to look at specific brain regions where men’s brains seem more developed, and compare this with the specific brain regions where women’s brains seem more developed. Then you can move forward in the attempt to correlate brain developmental and functional differences with the abundant real-world behavioural differences between men and women.
A Closer Look at the Above Study
… performance on mental rotation tasks (Maeda and Yoon 2013) and physical aggression (Archer 2004) are on average higher in males, whereas self-reported interest in people versus things (Su et al. 2009) and the personality traits of neuroticism (Schmitt et al. 2008) and agreeableness (Costa et al. 2001) are on average higher in females. A full explanation of these cognitive and behavioral phenomena might benefit from a better understanding of brain sex differences.
… There is more to sex differences than averages: there are physical and psychological traits that tend to be more variable in males than females. The best-studied human phenotype in this context has been cognitive ability: almost universally, studies have found that males show greater variance in this trait (Deary et al. 2007a; Johnson et al. 2008; Lakin 2013; though see Iliescu et al. 2016). This has also been found for academic achievement test results (themselves a potential consequence of cognitive differences, which are known to predict later educational achievement; Deary et al. 2007b; Machin and Pekkarinen 2008; Lehre et al. 2009a, 2009b), other psychological characteristics such as personality (Borkenau et al. 2013), and a range of physical traits such as athletic performance (Olds et al. 2006), and both birth and adult weight (Lehre et al. 2009a). __ Cerebral Cortex Ritchie et al 2018
The greater variance in cognitive ability in males as compared to females is another source of concern for feminists in academia, politics, and in both governmental and non-governmental bureaucracies.
Men Dominate at the Highest Levels
Whether looking at the number of male vs. female CEOs of large corporations, leaders of governments, winners of Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, top chefs, most skilled chess grandmasters, the best aircraft pilots, the most dominant athletes, top surgeons, best violinists, most successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, etc. etc. — males tend to outnumber females.
Charles Murray’s masterful book “Human Accomplishment” looked at the achievements of top mathematicians, scientists, artists, etc. between the years 800 BC and 1950 CE. Murray discovered that — just as in contemporary Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals — men vastly outnumber men when it comes to historical accomplishments.
Murray found that women consistently make different career choices than men, which divert them from the path of great achievement time after time.
The women with careers were 4.5 times as likely as men to say they preferred to work less than 40 hours a week. The men placed greater importance on “being successful in my line of work” and “inventing or creating something that will have an impact,” while the women found greater value in “having strong friendships,” “living close to parents and relatives” and “having a meaningful spiritual life.” As the authors concluded, “these men and women appear to have constructed satisfying and meaningful lives that took somewhat different forms.” The different forms, which directly influence the likelihood that men will dominate at the extreme levels of achievement, are consistent with a constellation of differences between men and women that have biological roots.
… Men take more risks, are more competitive and are more aggressive than women. The word testosterone may come to mind, and appropriately. Much technical literature documents the hormonal basis of personality differences that bear on sex differences in extreme and venturesome effort, and hence in extremes of accomplishment–and that bear as well on the male propensity to produce an overwhelming proportion of the world’s crime and approximately 100% of its wars.
But this is just one more of the ways in which science is demonstrating that men and women are really and truly different, a fact so obvious that only intellectuals could ever have thought otherwise. __ Charles Murray
And yet, both intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals in positions of influence and power continue to force destructive policies on institutions such as universities, government agencies, corporations, and others — and are fully backed by the inferior intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals who infest most mass media outlets.
…the two siblings had something of an inflated understanding of their abilities, developed from their being fresh-faced, and still in need of a few life lessons learned. So they marched themselves into the men’s ATP office to announce rather confidently they were ready to beat any tour player ranked around the Top 200 if someone wanted to take the challenge.
It just so happened that Karsten Braasch of Germany, once a top-40 player, but at the time ranked 203rd, was in ear shot. He thought it would be fun so stepped up to say he’d be happy to take them on.
The date was set and the day arrived. Braasch played a warmup round of golf in the morning, then came to Melbourne Park. The threesome went out to a back court where each sister would have a one-set shot at Braasch. Word had spread around the grounds that the event wsa taking place, which caused tournament officials to restrict admittance to the area to only those with badges.
Braasch would smoke cigarettes and sip beer during the changeovers, and to be honest no longer looked the part of a fit professional athlete. It made no matter. Braasch led 5-0 over Serena before winning the set 6-1, and then posted a 6-2 set victory over Venus.
Society cannot afford to live in a make-believe world where its best women are just as capable in all areas as its best men. It isn’t true, and it is a great waste of talent from both sexes to try to prove the egalitarian ideal.
And so we are faced with a world that needs the best of all of its talented people — male and female. But our bureaucratic planners and policy-makers refuse to allow our best people to do their best. Instead, these functionaries insist on quotas, mandates, affirmative actions, and a long list of other ruinously expensive and damaging regulations and policies that handicap us from doing our best.
In a large sample of mathematically gifted youths, for example, seven times as many males as females scored in the top percentile of the SAT mathematics test. We do not have good test data on the male-female ratio at the top one-hundredth or top one-thousandth of a percentile, where first-rate mathematicians are most likely to be found, but collateral evidence suggests that the male advantage there continues to increase, perhaps exponentially. __ Charles Murray
A strong dose of reality at the highest levels is needed, but it is not clear who will do the dosing — and whether anyone in need of the dose will be capable of learning anything from it.
Dangerous Children can provide a useful antidote to the zombie world of widespread academic lobotomy and politically correct drone minds that dominate in media, academia, government, corporate bureaucracies, activist groups, and other social institutions.
Social engineers would like to destroy the past and start afresh, programming young minds with the new agenda. But the past is written in our genes and manifest in our brains and bodies, generation after generation. The “new agenda” of the social engineers contradicts what any discerning person can see before their eyes — and today’s new agenda quickly becomes the “old agenda” as new whims and fads for social engineering invariably emerge. Without a solid foundation, such ideologies become like layers of slime upon slime.
The following is an excerpt from the book “Peak” by Anders Ericsson and Robert Poole. It illustrates the musical phenomenon known as “perfect pitch,” and explains the “critical developmental window” aspect of the childhood development of perfect pitch. By understanding the time-criticality of the learning of such skills, parents and coaches of Dangerous Children will have a much better idea of how to proceed from the beginning.
The term is “absolute pitch,” although it is better known as “perfect pitch.”
… Beethoven is thought to have had it; Brahms did not. Vladimir Horowitz had it; Igor Stravinsky did not. Frank Sinatra had it; Miles Davis did not.
It would seem, in short, to be an example of an innate talent that a few lucky people are born with and most are not. Indeed, this is what was widely believed for at least two hundred years. But over the past few decades a very different understanding of perfect pitch has emerged, one that points to an equally different vision of the sorts of gifts that life has to offer.
… a good deal of research has shown that nearly everyone with perfect pitch began musical training at a very young age — generally around three to five years old. But if perfect pitch is an innate ability, something you are either born with or not, it shouldn’t make any difference whether you receive musical training as a child…
… perfect pitch is much more common among people who speak a tonal language such as Mandarin, Vietnamese, and several other Asian tongues in which the meaning of words is dependent on their pitch… people of Asian heritage who don’t grow up speaking a tonal language are no more likely than people of other ethnicities to have perfect pitch.
… The true character of perfect pitch was revealed in 2014, thanks to a beautiful experiment carried out at the Ichionkai Music School in Tokyo and reported in the scientific journal Psychology of Music. The Japanese psychologist Ayako Sakakibara recruited twenty four children between the ages of two and six and put them through a months-long training course designed to teach them to identify, simply by their sound, various chords played on the piano… The children were given four or five training sessions per day, each lasting just a few minutes, until he or she could identify all fourteen of the target chords that Sakakibara had selected. Some of the children completed the training in less than a year, while others took as long as a year and a half.
Then, once a child had learned to identify the fourteen chords, Sakakibara tested that child to see if he or she could identify individual notes. After completing training, every one of the children had developed perfect pitch, and could identify individual notes played on the piano.
Mozart is famous for his “perfect pitch,” which doubtless assisted him in his lifelong work as composer and musician. By the time young Mozart reached the age of four, his father was already working with him intensively on the violin, keyboard, and other instruments. Wolfgang came from a family of musicians, so his genetic complement probably made him more receptive to this training than, say, the son of a chimney sweep would have been. But if started at an early age — and given the right kind of training for a long enough time — even the progeny of chimney sweeps now are thought to have had an excellent chance to develop perfect pitch.
The Book Goes On to Describe Other Unlikely Skills That Can Be Developed or Enhanced by Training
Humans are believed to be limited to about seven consecutive digits of recall, when remembering long numbers. But Anders Ericsson developed a method to extend that ability in college students up to 82 digits — eighty two! There is a big difference between memorising seven digits, and memorising eighty-two digits. The key was in the training that Ericsson had developed.
Proper and Deliberate Practise Transcends Plateaus
Research has shown that, generally speaking, once a person reaches that level of “acceptable” performance and automaticity, the additional years of “practice” don’t lead to improvement. If anything, the doctor or the teacher or the driver who’s been at it for twenty years is likely to be a bit worse than the one who’s been doing it for only fife, and the reason is that these automated abilities gradually deteriorate in the absence of deliberate efforts to improve. __ Anders Ericsson, Robert Poole in “Peak”
Ericsson packs a lot of meaning into the word “deliberate.” Deliberate efforts to improve, or “deliberate practise,” is designed in a particular way to help you break through the barriers, and transcend the plateaus of learning on which you have been stuck. By learning deliberately you combat the natural degeneration of memory and expertise which tends to occur naturally with time.
Consider “Purposeful Practise”
Purposeful practice is all about putting a bunch of baby steps together to reach a longer-term goal…
Purposeful practice is focused . . .
Purposeful practice involves feedback…
Purposeful practice involves getting out of one’s comfort zone …
Children who began musical training early in life, had different patterns of brain development as adults than those who did not begin training so early. The age of development when purposeful and deliberate training is initiated and maintained, shapes later development of the brain for life. If the person later neglects his special skill, his brain will regress to an extent, but the traces of the earliest training will remain and will provide scaffolding for building skills if purposeful training is re-instituted.
What is true for music is also true for chess, mathematics, scientific reasoning, and many other skills — many of which are critical assets for success in a modern high-tech world.
Different skills are better learned at different ages, but for most basic skills such as music, foreign language, strategy & tactics, three-dimensional dynamic movement and visualisation, creativity and invention etc., sometime before the age of six, eight, or ten, is best, depending …
And we have known for a long time that the development of pre-frontal executive functions and character should be developed before the age of eight, and as early as the age of four. Executive functions are probably more important than IQ to a child’s ultimate life success.
Do Not Neglect This Time in A Child’s Life
If the development of the child’s mind is left to institutions and society in general, parents will get what they deserve — another groupthinking member of the herd. But if parents want something very special for their child, they will mind the brain calendar and begin playful but purposeful practise at very early ages, according to the skill being developed.
Always remember that each skill requires a foundation, and most early skills foundations are quite easy and fun to teach and learn. But if they are neglected, later training is more difficult and is likely to leave cracks and holes of weakness and vulnerability.
Left to society, no children would ever become uniquely and optimally Dangerous, as they were meant to be. Society can never educate and raise a Dangerous Child. Only the Dangerous Child can achieve that, with the help of wise parents and coaches.
The education provided by society operates in two directions at once. It suppresses every nonconformist tendency through penalties of withdrawal of support and simultaneously imbues the individual with values that force him to overcome and discard spontaneous desires. These conditions force the majority of adults today to live behind a mask, a mask of personality that the individual tries to present to others and to himself. Every aspiration and spontaneous desire is subjected to stringent internal criticism lest they reveal the individual’s organic nature. Such aspirations and desires arouse anxiety and remorse and the individual seeks to suppress the urge to realize them. The only compensation that makes life durable despite these sacrifices is the satisfaction derived from society’s recognition of the individual who achieves its definition of success. The need for constant support by one’s fellows is so great that most people spend the larger part of their lives fortifying their masks. Repeated success is essential to encourage the individual to persist in this masquerade. __ M. Feldenkrais p12 in “Awareness Through Movement”
Moshe Feldenkrais was an engineer and former student of physicist Marie Curie, at the University of Paris in the 1930s. He trained in judo and became a judo instructor to co-workers at the Radium Institute. On the eve of WWII, he fled to London with a quantity of heavy water and “a sheaf of research material” on nuclear fission from the Institute in Paris.
Working on the slippery deck of a submarine, he aggravated a childhood knee injury to the point that he was unable to practise his judo. During this period of physical convalescence, Feldenkrais developed a unique method of self-healing of soft tissue injury, now called “The Feldenkrais Method.” In this method of healing, the person himself takes over the training, completely re-learning what it means to perform a movement, or integrated suite of movements.
Over the years he has treated thousands of people, from statesmen (Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion) to violin virtuosos (Yehudi Menuhin), with his unique method of movement that—he claims and his disciples devoutly believe—results in a kind of heightened self-awareness and improved physical coordination. __ People Magazine Feature on Feldenkrais
If there is a secret to the success of the Feldenkrais method of brain and body rehab, it is the combination of confidence of ultimate success with the infinitely incremental approach to recovering lost body/brain functions. Baby steps are encouraged and celebrated — then built upon. The reality of this method is far more complex than any short summary, but re-building and re-shaping of both brain and body seem to be taking place for these self-trainers. See Feldenkrais’ book “Awareness Through Movement” for more details. Also visit the webpage Feldenkrais.com for more information.
Dangerous Children Learn Skilled Movement by Similar Methods
For most children, learning to move occurs spontaneously with “growing up.” But that does not mean that the child has developed anything close to “optimal movement” for his body and brain. A playful training in folk dancing helps to expand the child’s repertoire of movements, but to become a truly Dangerous Child one should tuck away many clever tricks of motion and thinking into one’s portfolio.
That is where parents and coaches of Dangerous Children can learn from methods such as that of Feldenkrais. Although these children are not convalescing from injured brains and bodies, they are learning to move in ways which are unlikely to come naturally without a significant amount of self-training and mental control. If the method is to achieve the most it can for each unique child, the training (self-training) should begin early, as a type of play.
We have said this before, but it cannot be repeated too often: For young children, play is an indispensable tool for teaching and learning. For very young children to learn self-training, a playful approach is crucial.
Raising a Dangerous Child is Never Easy
If a parent or coach does the job right in the early years, the Dangerous Child’s brain will adapt to self-training and self-teaching as natural functions of daily life. By the time the child is teaching himself music, languages, creative approaches to story and art, science and maths, and methods of physical dance and self defense, the self-training and self-teaching approach will feel like the only comfortable approach to intensive learning, once an idea has been introduced.
Keeping the child balanced and making sure that opportunities are not needlessly neglected, is difficult. It is natural for the child to dive into an absorbing area of interest, to the exclusion of all else. But that is what parents and coaches are there to guard against. Let the child explore and dive deeply, but always bring him back to what is needful, if he does not return on his own.
Dangerous Child Training is Not Mysterious
There is nothing mysterious about raising a Dangerous Child. If done right from the early days, these children unfold mostly on their own. But the process is detailed and often tedious, and if the parent or coach does not tend to his or her own mental and physical well-being — and maintain a healthy sense of humour and play — turbulence may set in.
The end result of Dangerous Child training — just like the end result of pregnancy and childbirth — can seem miraculous.
Fine Detail Learning is Front-End Learning
You could say that this type of learning has a steep learning curve, or is heavily loaded at the front end of the process. It has high capital costs up-front in terms of time, personal energy, and careful attention. But once the habits are learned to instinctive levels, your child will never be “just one in the crowd.”
Once the habits of precision learning are fine-honed and instinctive, the Dangerous Child becomes a force of nature into the future.
The most dangerous thing about Dangerous Children is their minds. Natural contrarians, they are immune to the commonplace brainwashing and indoctrination that often overcomes young people during their formative years. How do Dangerous Children come to possess the thinking skills and self-confidence that allows them to stand against popular delusions and dysfunctional systems of thought and action?
Brain Development Sets the Stage
Beginning at birth (and sometimes before), Dangerous Children are kept away from mainstream entertainments, and are immersed in special fables, riddles, rhymes, myths, and tales explicitly formulated to help young minds learn to deal with an expanding reality. These “thinking memes” take a wide range of linguistic, musical, visual, and kinesthetic forms. Such memes are incorporated into a wide range of experiences, so that strong thinking skills are shaped quite early in development, and continuously added to. The best early thinking memes incorporate plenty of “hooks” on which to hang later useful skills.
The first few years are a busy time for the child’s mental and physical development. Brain connections proliferate wildly, then are massively pruned by the child’s experiences, over a relatively short time period. The mental structures that remain after this rapid proliferation and subsequent pruning will be the foundation for the child’s mental and psychological development from that time onward.
Puberty is a lesser period of proliferation and pruning, although still wild and crazy — heavily influenced by cascades of sex hormones that bathe the brain during this time.
Ways of Thinking Are Built Upon the Changing Neural Substrate
Dendritic pruning is shaped by the child’s experience, and continues throughout the person’s life to a much less intense degree. The earliest mind structures that survive the prunings will likely be the most influential.
What the child is capable of learning depends to a large degree upon his earliest experiences, which shaped subsequent brain pruning and dendritic tree structure.
Neglect is Commonplace
If a child’s mind is left to steep in front of a television, or if the young child is left at the mercy of caretakers who are ignorant of or indifferent to a child’s critical development windows, the young brain will be hobbled and needlessly stunted compared with what he might have otherwise achieved.
To outward appearances, no significant damage may have been done by surrendering one’s child to daycare or other low level third party forms of child raising. But deep inside the brain, the neglect of crucial experience in the early years will leave subtle forms of mental impoverishment and limitations to learning and development.
Most parents do not know any better, and thus we see a progressive mental and psychic fragility of newer generations of children and youth, raised by largely indifferent third parties. Too many of these youngsters never learned to think on their own, and seek refuge in groupthink and mindless mass movements.
A Dangerous Child’s Experience is Specially Shaped From the Earliest Years
Parents and mentors of Dangerous Children tend to be both more informed and more involved in the Dangerous Child’s formative years. As a result, these lucky children are given the gift of powerful mind-shaping linguistic, musical, visual, and kinesthetic memes that boost their later learning and development to higher levels.
The effect of early childhood interventions may not be obvious to outside observers — even to full-time parents. Consider this example: The First Cut is the Deepest. Even a brief exposure by newborns to a second language achieves lasting brain changes similar to how a bilingual brain is structured. Another interesting fact: some languages can never be perfectly learned unless the child is exposed to it during early infancy.
One would never learn about the critical importance of early childhood exposure from most mainstream sources. Modern societies are too deeply invested in the “two parents working” model to consider whether farming infants and toddlers out to a third party caretaker is the best plan for the child’s future competence and well-being.
And So Fragile Generations Beget Fragile Generations
The more intelligent and educated the parents, the more likely the children will be “thrown to the wolves” without thought for long-term consequences. All sorts of justifications will be given, but the end result is another contribution to the coming Idiocracy.
Dangerous Children represent a partial antidote to this general dumbing down and weakening of society’s complement of brainpower and problem-solving skills. Because Dangerous Children constitute a small minority of all children, the best that can be hoped for over the long term is the creation of “islands of competency” which network with each other to reach a “breakthrough” stage of societal and technological development which allows for a definitive branching out and rising above the dominant skankstream mainstream.
Never in history has so much information been at the fingertips of so many human beings. And yet never have so many humans been so confused, so dismayed, so driven to addiction and a compulsive aimlessness.
Modern humans confuse data for information, information for knowledge, knowledge for truth, and truth for wisdom. So easily misled and waylaid by purveyors of false data and false knowledge, yet so certain of the rightness of our mashed up beliefs and clapped together causes.
The data signals never stop: 24 hours of highly processed and inbred news – opinion – internet – social media shaded by the warped reflections and highly processed backwash of the same from friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. But what does it all mean — and more importantly — where should it all lead in terms of personal action?
Beliefs are Cheap, Actions are Risky
Everyone has a full load of beliefs, many of them quite passionate. But what are these beliefs worth, and where are they likely to take us?
In fact, beliefs are much like fecal waste. They are a natural mind byproduct of the digestion and processing of data. Excremental as they are — they form the foundations of our future actions. Given the neglectful and absentminded way that our beliefs are typically formed, this nugget of information should frighten you — but it probably doesn’t.
A More Thoughtful Formulation of Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom
The sad nature of modern societies — from widespread addiction to a fetish of victimhood to a growing urge to societal suicide — testifies to the need for better pathways to forming knowledge, ideas, understanding, and wisdom.
Modern Children are “Raised by Society” not Parents
In place of largely absent parents, the role of “child-raiser” has been taken up by schools, videogames, television, movies, internet sites, social media, and other self-interested parties who have no real concern for the child. As a result, the minds of children develop in a willy-nilly way — always distorted and dysfunctional, but the nature of the distortions and dysfunctions somewhat random and arbitrary.
Through it all, the child is deluged by the data stream, and is pushed compulsively from rapid to waterfall, with no control. By this process, children arrive at college and “adulthood” without any solid way of understanding the larger world. As a result, they are too often at the mercy of parasitic mind-warping professors and others who seek to subvert the energy and innocence of youth to their own purposes.
But for the children of passive and neglectful parents, this is nothing new. The difference is that at the early adult stage, these older youth are expected to be able to think and fend for themselves. The future existence of society depends upon new generations of young adults being able to take up the responsibilities that those generations who are now retiring are letting go of.
Unfortunately, society is awakening to the reality of new generations that are almost entirely unprepared for a life of mature self-direction or for personal and civic responsibility. The consequences of this ingrained perpetual helplessness and incompetence are just now being perceived, but they are bound to get worse.
Everything Links Back to a Lack of Cognitive Foundation
The newborn child has the ingredients he will need to learn how to face a demanding world. But he must be given the opportunities and experiences necessary to learn his lessons well. And quite early in life, he must learn how to learn. He must learn to teach himself so that he can navigate his own way through the challenges and rites of passage which a good upbringing and education will lead him to.
The foundations for this learning must go deep and be strongly placed.
The following article is republished in slightly edited form from an earlier posting on this blog.
Children are Born with Primed Brains
In the real world, babies are born with brains primed to learn and enjoy using language, movement, elements of music, visual and conceptual patterns, and symbolic art. This is in stark contrast to the leftist belief in the newborn’s brain as a “blank slate (PDF)” or tabula rasa.
The baby’s brain is predisposed to a rapid learning of language — even multiple languages. Even inside the womb a fetus begins to recognise the cadence and tone of the mother’s voice. Within just a few weeks after birth, the infant’s brain shapes itself around the sounds of the language it hears. Other, unheard sounds will be very difficult for the brain to hear or comprehend when encountered later in life.
New brains are likewise tuned to the enjoyment of music, movement, pattern, and simple art. Enjoyment leads to imitation as a form of learning which commences quite early, proceeding in a playful manner until the early lessons are learnt well enough to build upon. The playful element of learning for young humans is obvious from the beginning.
The brain is most sensitive to particular types of learning at different stages of development. Good habits and emotional control should be learned in the early years, no later than 5 or 6 years. These are particularly important traits for later learning — particularly self-monitored learning.
Language and music should be learned early — and together. Multiple languages are best learned before the age of 9 or 10. Music cognition complements language cognition, just as language learning can be combined with music learning in songs and rhymes.
Music learning likewise complements spatial and number / size learning — so that music learning can be an important forerunner to maths learning. Keyboards and fretboards are spatial in nature, and counting and “sizing” of intervals are part of learning such instruments.
Dance movement and other rhythmic movements have been linked to improved executive function in young children. Dancing can be learned even before walking, with a bit of assistance and gravity mitigation. Rhythmic and choreographed movements involved in playful dancing are good training for the cerebellum and basal ganglia of the brain, as well as for insular cortex training.
Pattern is implicit within art, music, language, and movement — and leads naturally into pre-mathematical foundational concepts, best experienced through play.
The development of artistic judgment and perspective boosts spatial development while giving the child a sense of confidence in creating something that others can appreciate. Children are intrigued by dynamic art such as mobiles, and very much enjoy the tactile aspect of art.
The child should have the opportunity to observe skilled adult musicians, artists, writers, dancers, and craftsmen at work. Children should see where their efforts can lead them. The child’s early efforts should be appreciated for what they are, as long as he has put his heart into them. If a child is a budding prodigy of art, music, language, or movement, it will be difficult for him to conceal his talent so long as it has been allowed to develop in a playful, creative manner.
A human brain is not fully developed until around the middle of the third decade, and remains in its prime for only about ten years before beginning to subtly lose ground. The earlier a child can find a strong talent for independent learning and skills-building, the longer the part of his life that he can develop and exercise that talent.
A television will not do much to help a young child, nor will a computer — at least as computers are currently made and programmed. Children need to see that human beings create music, art, stories, and dance. If a child is particularly talented in a given area, he should be encouraged and given opportunities to pursue development of the talent. In this area it is best not to force the child along any one path. If the motivation is not there, forcing the child will only prevent him from finding a talent he is willing to develop.
Play is the strongest motivator for younger children. During the early period of childhood, children crave the company of their parents and other family members. It is the period of greatest opportunity for self-development and foundation-building for the child. If this time is squandered by day care and television watching, it can never be retrieved.
Once simple play has lost its appeal, and once the child no longer craves a parent’s company, if the child has not learned good habits and self-control, a parent’s ability to guide the child becomes severely limited. Hasta la vista, baby.
This is important: A young child’s mind is a sponge. Be very careful what you allow it to soak in. You cannot take it back, once it is absorbed.
Dangerous Children are Both Playful and Inquisitive
Asking questions is one of the most important ways that children learn. Ordinary preschool children ask about 100 questions per day. But by the time they reach middle school they have essentially stopped asking questions.
This is one of the tragedies of modern schooling and child-raising. Something happens when children go to conventional schools, which stamps almost all the inquisitiveness out of them. The suppression of inquisitiveness in children goes a long way toward making sure that they will grow obsolete far too quickly.
The world and workplace of the future will demand that its workers and entrepreneurs be observant, nimble, and able to anticipate important trends and changes that are likely to take place. If children and youth never learned to ask the important questions about things and events happening around them, they will be lost and at the mercy of prevailing powers.
Five Basic Questions
Children can learn any number of ways to approach new phenomena, but to begin with it is best to give them a simple checklist of questions to ask, and make sure they acquire sufficient practise to make it a skillful habit.
Evidence: How do we know what’s true or false? What evidence counts? Viewpoint: How might this look if we stepped into other shoes, or looked at it from a different direction? Connection: Is there a pattern? Have we seen something like this before? Conjecture: What if it were different? Relevance: Why does this matter? __ From Chapter 1 in “A More Beautiful Question,” by Warren Berger
The graph above from a Gallup study reveals the steady decline in student engagement over time. This says more about teaching methods in conventional schools than it does about the students themselves.
Along with Inquisitiveness, A Sense of Playfulness is Indispensable
Play is central to the learning processes of very young children. And even as children grow older, play is a key component to learning foundational skills and for developing latent talents.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena discovered that recent engineering hires who were meant to replace older engineers who were retiring, did not know how to solve basic engineering problems with which they were confronted on the job. After investigating the reasons for this disturbing shortcoming of new engineers, they discovered something important about the type of engineers they needed to hire:
The JPL managers went back to look at their … retiring engineers… They found that in their youth, their older, problem-solving employees had taken apart clocks to see how they worked, or made soapbox derby racers, or built hi-fi stereos, or fixed appliances. The younger engineering school graduates who had also done these things, who had played with their hands, were adept at the kind of problem solving that management sought. Those that hadn’t, generally were not. __ From “Play” by Stuart Brown MD with Christopher Vaughan
The same problem with new hires and recent graduates is being seen in workplaces across the US as young people who were never given the experience of creative play and tinkering are hitting the workplace. People who developed the skills of improvising and tinkering in their youth will never forget these playful forms of problem-solving. Those who passed through their youthful years without developing these skills are at a serious practical disadvantage in a world of accelerating change, with newer unconventional problems popping up regularly.
[Nate] Jones ran a machine shop that specialized in precision racing and Formula One tires, and he had noticed that many of the new kids coming to work in the shop were … not able to problem solve… After questioning the new kids and older employees, Jones found that those who had worked and played with their hands as they were growing up were able to “see solutions” that those who hadn’t worked with their hands could not. __ Play
We know that children pass through windows of sensitive neurological development as they grow older. If certain “connections” in the brain are not made during these sensitive periods of development, it will be more difficult — if not impossible — for many of these young people to make these important connections when they are older.
Asking the Right Questions Meshes with Skillful Improvisation
Solving problems in the real world is altogether different from scoring points on multiple choice exams in school. Improvisational problem-solving facilitated by asking the right questions makes a worker or an entrepreneur far more valuable and sought after in the real world — especially in a world of accelerating change where novel problems are always appearing.
Children and youth who develop the skills of asking good questions combined with competent and playful improvisation will find themselves in demand. And if these youth and young adults have also learned how to manage their finances, they are likely to eventually fined themselves reasonable well off financially.
Dangerous Children learn to master at least three means of financial independence by the age of 18 years. Besides having multiple skills that are sought after in the marketplace, they have also learned to manage the finances of a household and of multiple small businesses by that same age.
But that is just the beginning of what makes Dangerous Children skilled and nimble in this world or virtually any other human world. It is never too late for a Dangerous Childhood, but the sooner begun, the better.
The well-known failure of modern schools has been explored by many scholars, including the respected Yale professor of artificial intelligence and cognitive science, Roger Schank. The quoted excerpts below come from Schank’s online e-book, “Engines for Educators.” In his book, Professor Schank exposes the problem, then describes a few steps toward possible solutions.
Small children love to learn, at least before they get to school. No two-year-old has ever taken a walking class, yet any physically healthy two-year-old can walk. No three-year-old has ever taken a talking class, yet every physically healthy three-year-old can talk. No four-year-old has ever taken a course in geography or planning, yet every physically healthy four-year-old can find a room in his home, knows his neighborhood, and can navigate around in his own environment.
Children are little information sponges. They gulp down information because they want to become full-fledged members of the “secret society” of grownups, who seem to know what they are doing.
Children are little learning machines. Before they ever reach school, they manage to progress from newborns with innate abilities and minimal knowledge to children with an enormous amount of knowledge about the physical, social, and mental worlds in which they live. They accomplish this feat without classrooms, lessons, curricula, examinations, or grades. They are set up for learning before they enter this world. It is the job of parents to help them learn by protecting them from danger and exposing them to new situations. This should be the job of teachers in school as well, but we have long since lost the model of education that would allow it to happen.
Preschool infants and toddlers are avid learners — because they want to learn! They are desperate to learn to do the things they see older people doing so effortlessly. They want to belong!
In their natural state, that is, prior to school, children do not have motivation problems. Excited by learning, they are eager to try new things, and are in no way self-conscious about failure. We never see a two-year-old who is depressed about how his talking is progressing and so has decided to quit trying to improve. We never see a two-year-old who has decided that learning to walk is too difficult and thus has decided to not try to get beyond crawling. For almost every child, the love of exploration, the excitement of learning something new, the eagerness for new experiences, continues until he or she is about six years old.
Like busy beavers working on a tree trunk, young pre-school learners keep chipping away at the tree of knowledge, desperately striving to internalise the action secrets that make grownups the powerful people they seem to be.
The natural learning mechanisms children employ are not much more sophisticated than experimentation, and reflection, with a small amount of instruction thrown in when they are in the mood to listen. They try new things, and when they fail to get what they want, they either try an alternative or are helped out by an adult whom they then attempt to copy. Children learn by trying to do something, by failing, and by being told about or by copying some new behavior that has better results. This perspective is founded on the simple but central insight that children are trying to do something rather than to know something. In other words, they are learning by doing. Doing, and attempting to do, is at the heart of children’s natural acquisition of knowledge. They see things they want to play with and learn to grasp. They see places they want to go and learn to walk. They feel the need to communicate and they learn to talk. Learning is driven by the natural need to do. Knowing is driven by doing. Children learn facts about the world because they feel the need to know them, often because these facts will help them do something they want to do. It isn’t until school that knowing becomes uncoupled from doing.
Children do not know in advance what will be helpful in later life, so they delve into all kinds of things they encounter — until they tire of them, or until an older person unhelpfully “disinterests them” in the matter. When everything is new, many more things are curious and interesting. Particularly if the thing seems to be something that will help the child become more like an all-powerful, all-knowing grownup.
As the brain develops through infancy and the toddler years, and as the child approaches puberty, his brain matures to become more capable of thinking abstractly. The brain becomes more able to “know” separate from “doing,” as it develops. Thus it often acquires a love of knowledge (usually of particular kinds) just for the sake of knowledge. But for most people of any age, knowledge that is of immediate or intermediate use is more powerfully sought after than is knowledge of uncertain use into the indefinite future.
The Development of a Self-Teaching Method is Key to Lifelong Learning
Schools do not teach children to teach themselves. Such a thing would represent a threat to the school system itself. But children who can map their own course through the knowledge labyrinths of the world have a distinct advantage over those children and youth who remain ever-dependent upon authority figures to chart their path.
And thus the need for the Dangerous Child Method. Dangerous Children learn to teach themselves at a very early stage. Beyond the core learning of topics that are closely related to useful real world applications, Dangerous Children began to chart their own courses very early — including running their own businesses and developing their own general curricula.
Children reveal their identities quite early, if allowed to do so. If ample opportunities for experimentation and exploration are incorporated into early training in movement, pattern, language, music, navigation, and narrative, the child will unconsciously reveal his own optimal learning pathways as he grows.
If a Dangerous Child masters at least 3 different ways of financial independence by the age of 18 years, it is clear that he will not likely be wasting a lot of time in conventional classrooms.
Or Why Lesson 1 and Lesson 15 Must Often Be Taught as One
The minds of infants are ejected into the world with no sequential lesson plan. Immersed in a turbulent cauldron of sensations and ideas — alternately startled, alarmed, and fascinated. Their emotions strained to the breaking point, their newborn powers of reasoning constantly twisted like painful pretzels. Breaking all the proper rules of pedagogy, it is how we all learned as babies, as toddlers, as young children.
There is no step by step, logically sequential plan for growing up and learning how to think and how to live. If we are lucky, we are exposed to a wide range of badly diced, sliced, and mangled lesson plans with no logical connection to each other — which our minds must then try to make sense of. For the most part, tiny brains do amazingly well.
Real Education is More Like a Perpetual Stew Than a 12 Course Meal
Modern school curricula are laid out as logical step by step sequences of knowledge acquisition. Each content module follows another, like building blocks each supporting the next. But some lessons cannot be adequately understood until one first digests the ideas hiding inside lessons that will not come for weeks, months, or years in the future.
The human brain often retains disconnected pieces of poorly formed knowledge fragments long enough to make later connections with other knowledge fragments — which is how baby brains are often able to bootstrap themselves into the mastery of language, movement, pattern, and social connections.
Trying Too Hard to Fit a Sequential Lesson Plan to the Child Will Backfire
Because we cannot see into the minds of small children, we can never really know what has been left out and what has been incorporated in latent form. Wiser persons of experience learn how to probe for knowledge fragments, and how to supplement them with often-useful supplementary concepts and experiences. But there are always missing pieces needing to be supplied, before a satisfying comprehension can emerge.
If we want to make a child’s mind into a rickety and brittle structure — unable to stand up to the inevitable stresses of the real world — we should probably just keep doing what school systems are doing.
Politically Correct Educations are Criminally Incomplete Educations
Teachers who force students to endure politically correct indoctrinations — and who filter all educational materials through the lens of politically correct dogma — are starving children of crucial concepts and factual information which will be of critical importance at later stages of life. Too much crucial information is left out of a politically correct curriculum.
Life is Never Fair
Because life itself can never be entirely sensitive, equal, or nurturing, every child’s feelings will be hurt. Every child will sooner or later be treated unfairly, or will fall short of others on his own merits — in one area of measurement or another. Children must learn how to deal with the inevitable inequities and injustices of life as early as possible.
The modern approach of attempting to shelter children from scraped elbows or bruised egos is ultimately crippling. Rather than training children to be sensitive to every imagined insult or injustice, a real life education would train them to formulate meaningful goals and to sustain a reasonable focus on those goals — at least until they have learned the lessons the goals were meant to teach, and usually a lot more.
Where other children rank on the infinitude of measurements utilised in schools should be largely irrelevant. Particularly irrelevant are any perceived insults or non-PC attitudes displayed by classmates or others in the child’s environment. It is a waste of time for a goal-oriented child to stop his advancement in order to attempt to bring an insensitive cohort to heel. He should have better things to do, farther places to go.
If You Wait Until College to Teach Them, It Will Be Too Late
In many school systems, classrooms below the college level have become glorified daycare holding cells. Reading and teaching materials are carefully screened and dumbed down to fit with the dominant political themes of the system. Sensitive periods of development come and go without having been primed by the necessary experiences and concepts which would have allowed for a fuller development of body and mind. By the time the child grows to a college aged youth, many of the crucial components of careful and meaningfully creative thought will be missing.
Unfortunately, even in college education today, politically correct constrictions deprive students of vital ideas, facts, and experiences needed before the youth can become a responsible and responsive adult in the real world — as opposed to the incoherent fantasy world which professors and administrators are attempting to build.
You can observe in the video clip below how the absurdity has come full circle, to consume its own:
There may be no better argument for homeschool than the real world environment that one finds on campuses of mainstream politically correct schools — from K thru university.
And So We See the Circularity of Life and Mind
We miss a lot of things the first time around. How can we help it, we are only babies? But we keep coming around again in a cycle — as embodied in the daily sleep-wake cycle, in the cycle of the seasons, and ultimately in the cycle of life we observe in shorter-lived species and in the others of our kind who pass away before us.
But we keep coming around, being given second – third – fifteenth — and hundredth chances to learn more completely what we learned only partially in earlier attempts. And by reading the experiences of many generations of historical figures, communities, and societies, we can experience many cycles of learning by proxy.
Children and youth who are indoctrinated in politically correct or religiously correct mindsets will have many of their mind-windows shuttered and nailed closed. We can see that in the video above, and we can see it in the way that people keep returning to failed ideologies of the past without any insight into their ongoing self-sabotage. In the minds of modern systems of education, it has become anathema to build strong, independent, well rounded minds, capable of deciding things on their own merits without guidance from a central committee’s daily talking points.
Real Life and the Human Brain Are Not Politically Correct
And reality as it is incorporated into the brain is neither tame nor sequential. It is cyclical and wild. The sooner we learn to equip our young to deal with the evolving world as it is — rather than an idealised world of fantasy mongers — the better.
Understanding Your Child’s Mental and Emotional Development in Real Time
We want to raise children who grow up to feel confident and free to walk their own paths through life. Unfortunately too many children, youth, and young adults become twisted up and paralysed by the dominant messages of anxiety, fear, hatred, insecurity, and hostility which pervade media, academia, and other cultural institutions.
The best way to prevent your child from being programmed by the destructive emotional ambience of modern societies is to limit his exposure to mainstream nonsense and to follow his emotional development on a regular basis. Then it will be possible to intervene with useful projects and exercises the moment it seems the child is losing his self-direction to an invasive cultural meme attack of mass destruction.
How Many Ways Do Things Go Wrong?
David Burns MD, in the 4 million-copy bestseller “Feeling Good,” lists 10 common cognitive distortions which are often at the heart of modern misery and dysfunction. We are all prone to falling under the spell of one or more of these distortions. The sooner a child comes to recognise these mental parasites and how to deal with them, the better.
All or Nothing Thinking —
Anything less than perfect is a complete failure
Overgeneralization — a few negative events are seen as a never ending pattern of defeat
Mental Filter — Everything is seen through a filter of negativity
Disqualifying the Positive — Positive attributes are discounted when tallying the personal accounts
Jumping to Conclusions — This can take the form of “mind-reading” and “telling the future,” believing strongly in negative attitudes in the minds of others and bad outcomes in the future, that cannot really be known
Magnification or Minimization — Undesirable qualities are magnified and desirable qualities are minimized
Emotional Reasoning — Allowing our feelings to define our reality
“Should” statements — “should statements” involve many assumptions which are probably either not true or grossly exaggerated
Labeling and Mislabeling — Attaching harsh labels to oneself or others which emotionally loads how one reacts to that person
Personalization — You see yourself as responsible for something you are not responsible for; eg, a child feels responsible for the divorce of his parents.
The alternative to following the emotional and mental development of your children closely — and being ready with playful but effective interventions when needed — is to watch your child slowly become wrapped up in the contradictory and paralysing insecurities and hostilities of parent societies and their institutions.
Best Ways to Intervene?
David Burns has written several books for laymen and therapists alike, describing interventions that he has found helpful over the course of his career for helping clients out of the ditches they dig for themselves. The book “Feeling Good” is the best starting point for most people — including prospective parents of Dangerous Children.
I am not aware of any work by Burns that is applicable solely to children and child-raising. But any parent clever enough to raise a Dangerous Child, will also be clever enough to adapt the ideas in “Feeling Good” to the circumstances of his own family and child.
The David Burns Method Uses 50 Strategies
In order to “untwist” the distortions caused by the above 10 self-made delusions, David Burns utilises 50 methods to untie the knots of misery and dysfunction. Here is a short list of the first 10 out of the 50 strategies:
Identify the Distortions
Double Standard Technique
Examine the Evidence
The average psychotherapist may use no more than 4 or 5 out of the 50 strategies in an average week of practise. And no one can expect a parent to study all 50 methods on the off chance that his child may require one of the less frequently used techniques. But it is good to be aware of the depth of possibilities when one is thrust into the psychotherapy profession — even as an amateur.
Observe Your Child Closely; Be Prepared to Intervene in a Timely and Responsive Manner
A child of 3 is different from a child at 6. Likewise, children change radically between the ages of 10 and 18. A failure to monitor mental and emotional changes of your children as they happen is like leaving your dream car in a back alley in Harlem unlocked with its keys in the ignition. Too many people are ready and willing to hijack the complex processes of self-development which your Dangerous Child is undergoing, to neglect regular close and thoughtful interaction with your child.
Sometimes an Outsider Can Spot Developments Which a Parent Overlooks
If it can be arranged, it is good to have friends and associates on the Dangerous Child path who are involved in effective methods of psychotherapy as a profession. Informal outings where such people can casually observe your Dangerous Children can yield important insights and avenues of change and self-empowerment which many parents might not see on their own, if an honest interchange of ideas is allowed to be comfortable and non-threatening.
Dangerous Children Are More Effective When Well Balanced
It is crucial that parents allow their children to develop the strength of character and emotional balance which allows them to make their own way through life according to a well informed set of maps, including opportunities and cautions.
U. of Toronto’s Jordan Peterson has a series of class videos titled “Maps of Meaning” which provides an interesting foundation of concepts for helping university students to assemble a functional set of personal beliefs which facilitate meaningful action for their own benefit and enrichment.
Here at the Al Fin Institute for The Dangerous Child, we always say that if you wait to educate the child until he reaches university age, you have waited too late. On the other hand, at university age not all of the windows of development have closed irrevocably. Much can still be salvaged, although much is also lost by that time, if not already somewhat developed.
Thinking is a set of skills we learned at a very young age, in an automatic and mostly unconscious manner. We cannot remember how we learned to think the way we do, and so we are stuck with a large number of thinking “tics and foibles” that we might be better off without. This is unfortunate for us, and even the most intelligent of us must often struggle to compensate for our sub-optimal set of thinking skills.
If we started at the beginning, we could provide a better path to deep, powerful, and independent thinking for our children — if we only took the time and trouble to discover how. First, we need to learn to think better for ourselves. Then we can do a better job setting the stage for our Dangerous Children, in their adventures in thought and learning.
How Does One Learn How to Think (Better)?
If you do an internet search query: “How to Think,” the search engine response is likely to contain a large number of links to websites telling you how to think in particular ways. “How to think critically,” “How to think creatively,” “How to think logically,” etc. It can be difficult to find information on “how to think” in general. Almost all webpages from such a search are oriented toward adults — whose thinking is already set in concrete by this time.
Even so, some websites provide bits of interesting advice that may help youth and adults to think more effectively, within conventional boundaries. For example:
Thinking is something that happens naturally in each individual, but there are ways to deepen your thinking abilities. It takes time and practice to become a better thinker, but it’s a process you can hone all your life. Being a better thinker and keeping your mind sharp can help your mental and physical health in the long run!
__ More: How to Think
When I applied for my faculty job at the MIT Media Lab, I had to write a teaching statement. One of the things I proposed was to teach a class called “How to Think,” which would focus on how to be creative, thoughtful, and powerful in a world where problems are extremely complex, targets are continuously moving, and our brains often seem like nodes of enormous networks that constantly reconfigure. In the process of thinking about this, I composed 10 rules, which I sometimes share with students. I’ve listed them here, followed by some practical advice on implementation.
The short articles linked above contain some useful tips for improving one’s thinking skills. But even the most unconventional suggestions are still quite conventional. If we are to help to liberate the minds of future generations of Dangerous Children, we will need to unleash our own minds in some radical ways.
Making Radical Improvements in Thinking is Difficult After a Certain Age
De Bono has also written a book on teaching children how to think. The slide presentation below provides a quick introduction to the ideas in Teach Your Child How to Think.
We should keep in mind that thinking is a set of interlocking skills and processes, which work behind the scenes in most adults in an almost wholly unconscious manner. These skills were developed from a very early age, beginning in the womb. They were automatically bootstrapped onto the rapidly developing neural substrate of the developing fetus, neonate, and infant. The process of thinking skills acquisition continues in childhood, is knocked off the tracks in puberty, and settles more or less in place by early adulthood.
If you want your Dangerous Child to have the most powerful and independent mind he can have, certain approaches to child nurturing and child raising will work better than others. If a parent or caretaker waits until college age — or even high school age — to provide an environment conducive to developing thinking skills, it will be much too late.
Teaching a Child to Think is Teaching Him to Be
The Dangerous Child Method is based upon the development of creative skills in movement, language, music, art, and pattern. Because the foundations of these skills are built long before the child can walk, talk, and meaningfully converse — even before birth — the approach to guiding Dangerous Child development in skills competency (including thinking skills) must take a primarily nonverbal form.
By developing the latent patterns of space, time, language, music, and motion, the Dangerous Child is prepared for a fuller range of possible skills when his brain moves through the sensitive periods of development in childhood.
For a very young child, there is no difference between thinking and being. It is only later that he learns to deceive, and create a secret inner life. It is crucial to facilitate the development of powerful thinking skills in the formative years, before the child begins to feel the strong tug of popular, nonsense culture.
Children are Born Creative
It is not necessary to teach a child to be creative. Rather, it is necessary to restrain yourself from destroying the child’s innate creativity. Some discipline is always necessary, since the child’s basic needs must be met in spite of the turbulent impulses and inner demands that most children are prey to.
Give the child a wide range of opportunities to experiment and exercise his creativity. Children begin to reveal their aptitudes and inclinations from an early point in their existence. Look for particular strengths which can be utilised for growth, and look for particular weaknesses which will need to be either eliminated or compensated for.
At each state of development, the process of developing new thinking skills will evolve and take different forms — building on older skills and integrating themselves, new into old.
Coaches Must Understand How New Thinking Skills Fit In
Some skills, such as music, art, motion, and language, seem to progress in a logical fashion. The toddler is not so different from the olympic athlete, in basic neuromuscular function. The development from one to the other is a matter of qualitative refinement and quantitative progression over time — and entirely plausible.
The development of a world class mathematician or theoretical physicist from a babbling infant is a little more difficult to conceive, but the basic ingredients are all there. Most infants who have the latent potential to be productive mathematicians or theoretical physicists will never develop into those professions, for many reasons. One of the reasons for such a failure to evolve is that the necessary early forms of pattern experimentation and exploration were never attempted. And so the tools for personal evolution were not provided at the needed time — usually long before parents even have an inkling that any useful skills of such a nature exist.
Children must be nurtured, but allowed to experiment and fail. They must be supported, but also taught to develop natural skills of hard work and independence. They must be valued, but not be led to see themselves as the centre of the universe.
Eventually the child himself will teach himself to bootstrap his own thinking skill sets. The real world will provide plenty of challenges against which to test himself and his unique approach to thinking.
Fantasy Self of Superpowers vs. Genuine Self of Competence and Growth
Remember when tennis legend Andre Agassi was the poster child for “pretty-boy losers?” No matter how many times he said “Image is Everything,” his perfect image still lost tennis matches. Only after devoting himself to the hard work of becoming a better tennis player was he able to escape the “image trap” and develop the master inside of himself.
Although the popular culture of celebrities is all about the fantasy life, the “image is everything” life, the real world only has room for so many celebrities and artificial role models. For most people, a successful life would be better achieved through facing reality head on.
Genuine Self vs. Fantasy Self
Becoming a Dangerous Child is hard, but playful, work. The art of personal unfolding and self-realisation which all Dangerous Children must undergo leads naturally into a deliberate and self-guided ascent up the mountain to becoming a genuine — as opposed to fantasy — self. Genuine selves are aware that they are fallible, with faults and weaknesses. It is this awareness which allows genuine persons to push themselves to grow.
This is in stark contrast to the “fantasy self”:
Because the main goal [of the fantasy self] is the attainment of glory, he becomes uninterested in the process of learning, of doing, or of gaining step by step — indeed, tends to scorn it. He does not want to climb a mountain; he wants to be on the peak. Hence he loses the sense of what evolution or growth means, even though he may talk about it. Because, finally, the creation of the idealized self is possible only only at the expense of truth about himself, its actualization requires further distortions of the truth, imagination being a willing servant to this end. Thereby, to a greater or lesser extent, he loses in the process his interest in truth, and the sense for what is true and what is not true — a loss that, among others, accounts for his difficulty in distinguishing between genuine feelings, beliefs, strivings and their artificial equivalents (unconscious pretenses) in himself and in others. The emphasis shifts from being to appearing. __ “Human Growth” by Karen Horney
It is easy to recognise the modern perpetual adolescent in Karen Horney’s description above. Today’s university student may spend years exploring college coursework before finding a field of study which does not require too much exertion. Because they had always been told how “special” and “smart” they were, and how they could accomplish anything at all to which they set their minds — and because they had never learned how to work or to discipline themselves — today’s generations of psychological neotenates find themselves at a loss. As they move out of the respective wombs of their childhood homes and the artificial school environments, they become aware that the world that awaits them may not place as high a value on their abilities as they do themselves.
Limit Early Exposure to Supernatural Fantasies
Since very young minds are exquisitely impressionable to all ideas — no matter how unrealistic or absurd — Dangerous Children are not exposed to the concept of superheroes or perfect humans until they have acquired the character and self-discipline they need to teach and guide themselves through the difficult process of self-discovery. They must avoid groupthink and become natural independent contrarians.
In the young years, teaching the child to love working hard to achieve his own goals should take precedence over any religious concepts of “perfection through faith” or other ideas that could easily be taken as magical by very young minds. Children must grow from the stage where everything is done for them to later stages where they are able to do more and more for themselves and eventually for their own families. “Magical solutions to real problems” can become lifelong impediments to a child’s development of personal competence.
For this reason, Dangerous Children spend most of their early years experimenting and discovering their interests and aptitudes, developing grit and character (executive functions), and in establishing footholds for future learning and self-teaching. This is all done in a playful context, allowing for plentiful serendipity, but within a deliberate framework.
Modern Culture is a Cesspool of Mindless Fantasy
And this is why so many college graduates and college dropouts cannot pay their student loans, and are forced to live in their parents’ basements or garage bedrooms. This is why young men who should be working and starting families spend their lives playing video games, watching internet porn, and living in fantasy worlds imagining themselves as superheroes and superstuds.
When the early years are frittered away on television comics and fantasy tales, invaluable time is lost which should have been spent developing basic foundations of competence and character. When children are handed over to institutions run by persons who have no real interest in the child’s development of a genuine self — but prefer instead to mold the child into a groupthinking zombie mind to make things easy on the institution — opportunities for developing personal competence and individual mastery of aptitudes and skills are squandered.
Today’s Youth are Disappointed In Reality, but Helpless to Make Things Better
Because most modern youth have been pampered, sheltered, made to feel special even when they are not, and are never given meaningful foundations for learning, self-teaching, or common sense — they are apt to have trouble finding a place for themselves. Their genuine selves were never developed, so they are left with fantasy selves and overactive imaginations necessarily disconnected from reality.
The modern world is evolving rapidly as a result of disruptive innovations in science and technology. In addition, the foundations of modern societies are being eroded by unwise energy policies (green energy scams), scientific hoaxes perpetrated by political activists (climate apocalypse cult), suicidal debt levels, and a dysgenic undertow that threatens to carry everything away.
Modern youth have never been prepared for such a world of increasingly precarious foundations. They have not even been prepared for a normal world of real-life expectations. But this world? It is an impossible situation for them.
And So the Need for Raising Dangerous, Self-Teaching Children, Who Love Hard Work
The perfect is the enemy of the good. And the perfect — the Platonic ideal — does not exist in the real world. Dangerous Children understand this, and are taught early to learn the shade-tree engineer’s approach of optimising, rather than perfecting.
The real world is where things get done and where there is money to be made — as opposed to government, organised crime, and academia where there is money to be stolen and stripped away from the productive world of work and enterprise.
Dangerous Children Teach Themselves Money Skills and Entrepreneurship and Much More
There are dozens of $billionaire college dropouts and thousands of millionaires who never went to college or dropped out to participate in the real world. They are largely self-taught. Self-Teaching for Ordinary Adults
The Dangerous Child movement is about more than building a strong personal base of operations. It is about building a competent society, one Dangerous Child at a time. Dangerous Children go on to network with other Dangerous Children to form Dangerous Communities, and networked Dangerous Communities. As these networks of competent communities proliferate, they provide a safe redundancy for the larger society in case of disaster or catastrophe. If worse comes to worse, networked Dangerous Communities can provide the nuclei for a more robust, resilient, and anti-fragile society to come.
An abundant and expansive human future of free people is only possible if children grow into their genuine selves, rather than into the fantasy selves which today’s degenerate societies seem to prefer.
Skip forward to around 6:10 in the video above to the start of Adam Gazzaley’s (MD, PhD) talk on his quest to optimise the human mind using advanced tools of cognitive neuroscience.
Gazzaley’s lab at UCSF is working to enhance brain function using sophisticated technologies capable of observing the brain at work, and of helping individuals to achieve more with their brains than they currently can do.
The lab designs video games that are based upon real-time neurofeedback. The player’s brain reacts instantly to events in the game — and the game reacts to what is happening in the brain. Gazzaley describes this videogame neurofeedback learning process as a “closed loop system” (see image below).
Much of the experimentation with these neurofeedback videogames has focused on combat-oriented training, being funded by the US Pentagon. But a moment’s reflection suggests that this “closed loop neurofeedback videogame” approach to brain training could be readily applied — with appropriate adaptation — to humans at almost any age, for multiple purposes of enhanced development, enhanced performance, rehabilitation after injury or disease, or for mitigation of the effects of ageing and neurodegeneration.
Gazzaley’s published efforts are so far still quite primitive, but the possibilities for the future are impressive on many fronts.
Modern societies have grown stagnant and corrupted by a widespread philosophy of rent-seeking, of minimising risk for the sake of long-term security. This philosophy is the opposite of what we at the Dangerous Child Institutes train and teach. We train contrarian thinkers to develop a broad range of skills and competencies which build self-confidence. This self-confidence fuels innovative thinking and risk taking — which are what drives societies to be great.
We are on record as opposing passive popular entertainments for children such as mainstream television and cinema. The developing mind has enough to do without being stuffed full of the low-quality nonsense that movie and television producers crank out for popular consumption.
We are also not enthusiastic about most popular video games and the modern obsession with electronic social media, which takes away from time that would be better spent developing competence in movement, music, language, pattern, and practical skills of all kinds. Electronic gadgets also tend to alienate children from their immediate environments, which can be a deadly failing in many situations.
But real-time EEG and MRI neurofeedback — particularly when combined with sophisticated virtual reality — is different, and holds the potential for enhancing brain function for general learning and for perfecting specific types of tasks.
The brains of children are naturally attracted to play and games of all kinds. The danger that the child will become lost in some types of game-playing is quite real, in the modern age of abusive commercial and ideological child baiting. But if game-playing is used to drive learning and competence-building, the natural child’s drive to play can be used to motivate him to build parts of his brain that can bootstrap later learning which might have otherwise been very difficult to achieve.
Again, even videogames that are used in training skills and competencies should be used sparingly, so as not to create barriers between the child and the real world around him. The competence and confidence for working within the real world is what Dangerous Child training is meant to build.
Teachers, parents, mentors, and coaches cannot ignore developments in advanced applied cognitive neuroscience. Every child runs up against barriers to some subject area of learning or another. Clever and timely use of closed-loop videogame training can help move a child from one learning plateau to a higher plateau — enabling a new and higher world of competence on the road to mastery.
For many parents there can seem to be a divide between them and their kids’ lives – where their kids want to spend more and more time alternating between phone, tablet, Xbox, Wii, DSi and for some kids the usage of technology either borders on addiction or has tipped over into addiction. __ http://www.digitalparenting.ie/technology-addiction.html
There’s a reason that the most tech-cautious parents are tech designers and engineers. Steve Jobs was a notoriously low-tech parent. Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enroll their kids in no-tech Waldorf Schools. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to no-tech Montessori Schools, as did Amazon creator Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.
Arthur Robinson — creator of the Robinson Curriculum — has some simple and firm rules concerning electronic gadgets and devices:
There is no television in our home. We do have a VCR that was donated to the civil defense project. As a family we watch a video tape approximately once every six months. Television wastes time, promotes passive, vicarious brain development rather than active thought, and is a source of pernicious social contamination.
No child is allowed to use a computer until after he or she has completed mathematics all the way through calculus. (At one point Saxon calls for a little use of the hand-held calculator. I permit this, but only on a very few occasions.)
… People who can think do so with their brains. Surely their thoughts often lead to problems that require experimental test, and often computers are essential equipment in those experiments. The thinking, however, is done with the brain. The arithmetic ability involved in that thinking must also be in the brain during the thought process.
Needless to say, there were no videogames, no smartphones, no social media.
Researchers have linked social-media use with a host of typical teenage woes, including low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. The pressure of responding to texts and instant messages causes sleeplessness in teens. It’s hard to ace an exam when you’ve been up all night staring at a screen, wondering why your friends aren’t writing you back. __ http://www.city-journal.org/html/back-school-still-offline-14715.html
The rapid brain development that takes place in the formative years is too important to be wasted on frivolous pursuits that block opportunities for necessary foundational learning, and turn the child into passive receptacles for the use of societal puppet-masters. (Like their parents have become.)
We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex.
These are good reasons for limiting — or prohibiting — the use of electronic gadgets and exposure to television and the internet for children whose brains are still in rapid development. This type of control is easier for home-schooled children who mainly socialise with other home-schooled children, but within the home it is possible for any parents who take the trouble to know and influence what is actually happening under their own roofs.
For Dangerous Children, the Stakes are Higher
Dangerous Children have very intense — but playful — upbringings. There are not many idle moments when the child is not either actively learning, or actively reflecting upon and applying things that he has learnt. Television, videogames, and social media often begin as ways of “killing time” and filling the idle minutes and hours. But soon they exert more and more control over one’s schedule and actually create more idle hours, afternoons and evenings, and entire weekends to be “killed.”
Many modern parents are okay with the use of electronic gadgets as “baby-sitters” and time-fillers for the developing minds of their young children. They will reap the result, and are unlikely to be happy with it.
Parents of Dangerous Children know better, because they want to make as close to optimal use of their child’s “growing brain time” as possible. That is why they choose to be parents of Dangerous Children in the first place.
Most children are not expected to play three musical instruments well, speak three foreign languages fluently, master a wide range of dangerous and potentially lethal skills and competencies, or master at least three means of achieving financial independence by age 18.
If you are contemplating Dangerous Child training for yourself or your child, it is best to understand the nature of the commitment before you begin. The brain — like the body — is shaped by its environments and its habits. Dangerous Children have to use this shaping to their long-term advantage.
The elitist “Masters of the Universe” in government, media, academia, big corporations, and other powerful cultural and societal institutions, simply want to stay in control. To them, your future and the future of your children have always been secondary to that goal, at best.
… if a historically vibrant portion of the population doesn’t feel as much desire to work, this could harm the economy’s future and the ability of government to use policy to create jobs. “That’s a big chunk of labor that could be used for something, and we’re not using it,” said Greg Kaplan, an economist at the University of Chicago who was not involved with the new research.
Boys and young men have been subjected to an education and child-raising that prepares them for nothing so much as a life of useless obsolescence. Everyone is complicit in this travesty, including parents, teachers, government bureaucracies, news & popular media, and a generally decadent culture.
Apple founder Steve Jobs didn’t let his kids use the iPad, or really any product their dad invented, according to a 2014 report from Nick Bilton in The New York Times.
“They haven’t used it,” Jobs told Bilton. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” Every night, the family had a phone-free dinner together, according to Walter Isaacson, author of the definitive biography Steve Jobs. “The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices,” Isaacson told Bilton.
… Bill Gates revealed he had both age and habit-related rules for his three children. “We don’t have cellphones at the table when we are having a meal,” he told The Mirror,, a British newspaper. “[W]e didn’t give our kids [cell phones] until they were 14 and they complained other kids got them earlier.” The rules about how long before bed phones had to be off probably wasn’t popular either. __ https://www.popsci.com/industry-insiders-dont-use-their-products-like-we-do/
Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship and become better. No one escapes pain, fear, and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength — if we have the virtue of resilience.
… To master a skill, to build an enterprise, to pursue any worthy endeavour — simply to live a good life — requires that we confront pain, hardship, and fear. What is the difference between those who are defeated by hardship and those who are sharpened by it? Between those who are broken by pain and those who are made wiser by it?
To move through pain to wisdom, through fear to courage, through suffering to strength, requires resilience.
__ Eric Greitens
Greitens’ book is one of the sourcebooks for the course, “The Psychology of the Dangerous Child,” and is mandatory reading for prospective parents of Dangerous Children, and for Dangerous Children in training. From time to time we will publish short excerpts from the book to illustrate important concepts for use in assisting the blooming of the Dangerous Child’s mental and emotional habits.
A quotation that Greitens uses in his book comes from an Anonymous source, but illustrates the importance of “habit-formation” in child raising:
We sow a thought and reap an act;
We sow an act and reap a habit;
We sow a habit and reap a character;
We sow a character and reap a destiny.
The human brain is shaped on a day-by-day basis, from the moment of its fetal formation to the moment of death. The most rapid brain development and plastic change takes place in the first and middle trimesters, in infancy and early childhood, and in adolescence and early adulthood. But the brain never stops shaping itself on the basis of brain activity — sensations, thoughts, emotions, actions. That is why we say “It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood.” Because you can always move toward the state of being a Dangerous Child, with the right thinking and action.
More from Eric Greitens:
Every time you act, your actions create feelings — pleasure or pain, pride or shame — that reinforce habits. With each repetition, what was once novel becomes familiar. If you are cruel every day, you become a cruel person. If you are kind every day, you become a kind person. It is easier to be compassionate the tenth time than the first time… it is also easier to be cruel the tenth time than the first time.
When a habit has become so engrained that actions begin to flow from you without conscious thought or effort, then you have changed your character __ Resilience“Habits” Eric Greitens
The same processes of brain-shaping and habit formation take place every day, with repeated choices that we make on what to do, what to think, how to feel/react, and which doors we choose to open or close to the future.
If we avoid strenuous effort, hard work, all potential pain, we close off many of our most promising avenues into the future. If we go further and blame all of our problems and weaknesses on others, we make it almost impossible to achieve any kind of resilience — much less the graceful and ultimately near-effortless resilience that comes from constant practise and intentional habit formation.
We will continue to provide short excerpts from Eric Greitens’ book to help illustrate many of the foundational concepts that underpin the Dangerous Child Method. As mentioned above, the book is mandatory reading for parents of prospective Dangerous Children, and for Dangerous Children in training. But you can read it too, if you are interested in that sort of thing.
Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood.
Intense Late Adolescent Psychological Re-Orientation Takes Many Forms
Why Is Boot Camp So Intense?
You have to train 18-year-olds to run to the sound of gunfire and perform under fire and the threat of death.
This act defies all logic, goes against all human instinct, and takes one of the most intensive acts of psychological reprogramming to overcome.
… There will always be the need for young men and women who are willing and able to run to the sound of imminent danger and many, to their death. Nations need this. You need this. It is a horrible thing, but the sanctity and security of every nation on Earth requires young men and women capable of doing this.
To do this, however, we need a form of psychological training that is able to forge individuals who can do this. That is why boot camp has evolved to become such a potent tool in today’s military machine.
__ Jon Davis, Marine Sergeant
Sergeant Davis does not mince words. In order to create marines out of raw recruits, an intense form of psychological re-orientation (or reprogramming) is required. Why? Because most raw recruits arrive at basic training fresh from an extended childhood. They have been pampered, sheltered, told they were special, provided with their every need — and often their every whim — just like a child. But real adult life is not childhood in a productive society. “Children” need to undergo some form of transformation before they are able to understand the distinction.
Not Every Form of Rite of Passage Need to be So Intense as US Marine Boot Camp
Throughout the church’s history, over one million missionaries have been sent on missions. __ Wikipedia
Missionaries intentionally go after people in desperate situations. On my mission, we’d go into the worst parts of town to talk to the meth addicts and crackheads. Sure, they need help and attention more than anybody, but most of my colleagues were distinctly upper middle class white Mormons. Short of bursting out into an impromptu rap about how “drugs are for thugs,” there’s no way they could have been more conspicuous.
Training for “missionhood” is regimented, with long hours.
The whole thing is divided up like the underclass in some dystopian sci-fi world — we’re separated into wards, zones, and then six-man districts. You don’t associate with anyone outside your zone while you’re training. Every missionary has to be in sight of their companion at all times. For two solid years, our only alone time was in the bathroom. Do not, under any circumstances, picture the state of that bathroom.
… It’s pretty much like The Hunger Games…
Mormon Missionaries are given this intense programming so that they can get results for the church. They must be committed before they begin — because they pay for their training in hard cash and precious time. And on top of all that commitment ant training fees, the church expects a larger return.
Among other things, you’re not allowed to use a computer if a companion can’t see the screen, and you’re never supposed to be out of their earshot. The logic is that you can’t break the rules if you’re never, ever alone…
… We log everyone who shows interest — or even talks with us — and follow up on a regular basis. That’s because the whole “converting souls” thing is very much a competition. The higher ups in the church are obsessed with numbers. They want people baptized, inactive members brought back to the fold, etc. __ Time as Mormon Missionary
The fatality rates among Mormon Missionaries are lower than among combat marines, during wartime. But Mormon Missionaries are always at war against the dark forces of human nature, so there is never any letup.
Much Beyond Religious Conversions Often Emerges From the Mormon Missionary Experience
Being thrown into strange and dangerous settings and experiences forces the young Mormon to think on his feet, to sink or swim. Many missionaries develop robust resilience in the field, which they bring back with them to their subsequent lives.
The notion of the Mormon mission as a crucible is a common one, and the benefits gained from going through it have been used to help explain the prominence of LDS Church members in business and civic life. Mission experience has also helped prepare RMs for later engaging and prospering in non-Mormon environments. __ Wikipedia
Other Common and Usually Constructive Rites of Passage for Late Adolescents
Any intense extended experience — either solo or group — can serve as a rite of passage from childhood into adulthood. Immersing oneself into particular occupations can serve the “passage” purpose quite well. Examples may include training as EMT / Paramedic, Search and Rescue, Police or Fire Department training, Commercial Deep Sea Diving, Wild Fire Jumpers …
Not all of the 20 Deadliest Jobs in America would qualify as rites of passage, but one can get a sense of which jobs may be more intense — and transforming — than others.
A Dangerous Child Will Have Mastered Multiple Dangerous Skills Before Age 18
Dangerous Child training is different from the run of the mill “rite of passage” discussed above. Dangerous Child training begins before birth and continues throughout the lifetime. Multiple rites of passage succeed each other, as mastery is applied to mastery, and complementary skills are added to complementary skills.
The point of it all is to help build a more abundant and expansive human future, using networked Dangerous Communities as pivot points and backup systems for larger societies that are too often subject to failure from dysgenic and ideologic Idiocracy.
Faux Rites of Passage
In lieu of meaningful rites of passage, modern children and youth are typically trusted to educational institutions and other institutions of culture and society at large, throughout their formative years. When youth are shunted off to college and university without having faced significant passage rites, they typically undergo what is known as “academic lobotomy,” or a brainwashing / reprogramming process carried out by idologues among university faculty and staff.
Instead of preparing youngsters for productive, creative, and fulfilling lives, such indoctrination only introduces and deepens broadly-held delusions and misconceptions about the underlying mechanisms of the natural and the human universes. Such academically lobotomised persons will find it an uphill battle to see through their brainwashing to the solid world beneath.
Other false rites of passage include a young woman having a child out of wedlock and going on welfare, or a young man joining a criminal gang that brainwashes him and limits his future just as surely as any academic lobotomy.
Rites of Passage Open Doors into Multiple Futures
There is a reason why military-trained persons are considered prime recruits for several types of occupation. The skills and mature attitudes that can be learned in military service prepare a young person for several avenues of productivity.
As noted above, the same is considered true for returned Mormon Missionaries. As a result of being forced to innovate and think outside the box, the returned missionary is of more value to prospective employers, and more capable as an entrepreneur.
Any process that teaches a young person to utilise his knowledge, skills, and resourcefulness under unforeseen and unpredictable circumstances — over a significant period of time — can serve as a rite of passage, if empowering lessons are learned.
But if “lessons of disempowerment and futility” are learned, any passage that occurs is likely to be in a backward direction.
Best to begin the process of serial rites of passage at an early age, and build upon it in a solid and progressive manner.
… grit is hardly distinguishable from conscientiousness, one of the classic Big Five traits in psychology. The study, which included a representative sample of U.K. students, measured grit against conscientiousness. Grit, researchers discovered, accounts for only an additional 0.5% of variation in test scores when compared with conscientiousness. IQ, on the other hand, accounts for nearly 40%, according to Plomin.
Schools in the Anglosphere are spending a lot of money in an attempt to increase the level of “grit” in children. But what is it that needs to be bolstered, and what part does a child’s genes play in “grit?”
Grit is Persistence, Motivation, Conscientiousness, Focus, Impulse Control, and more
The author of a best-selling book on grit, Angela Duckworth, is stepping back from some of the hype that has been propagated in her name.
The consequences of hasty applications of grit in an educational context are not yet clear, but Duckworth can imagine them. To be sure, it’s not that she faults these educators — in many ways, she says, these are the best in the field, the ones who are most excited about trying innovative new ways of helping their students succeed. But by placing too much emphasis on grit, the danger is “that grit becomes a scapegoat — another reason to blame kids for not doing well…
… Grit, as Duckworth has defined it in her research, is a combination of perseverance and passion — it’s just that the former tends to get all the attention, while the latter is overlooked. “I think the misunderstanding — or, at least, one of them — is that it’s only the perseverance part that matters,” Duckworth told Science of Us. “But I think that the passion piece is at least as important. I mean, if you are really, really tenacious and dogged about a goal that’s not meaningful to you, and not interesting to you — then that’s just drudgery. It’s not just determination — it’s having a direction that you care about.” __ Questioning Grit
Duckworth is the recipient of a 2013 MacArthur genius grant. She gives TED Talks, has written a bestseller on grit, and has made a good career from promoting “grit” in all its ambivalence.
But it is time to “deconstruct” grit so that we know what we are talking about, and can apply the relevant concepts to helping children develop their potential as individuals and members of various work, social, and civic groups. We know that executive function and personality play as large a role in success as IQ, and that all are strongly influenced by gene expression.
Previous research has shown that a child’s personality can predict a significant, although modest, proportion of the differences between children’s grades at school. For example, a link between conscientiousness and school achievement can explain around 4% of the differences in children’s grades.
… whether or not a person has more or less grit is substantially influenced by their DNA – and explains around a third of the differences between people’s level of grit. We showed that grit is highly similar to other personality traits, showing substantial genetic influence and no influence of shared environmental factors.
… the big Five personality traits – mainly conscientiousness – explained 6% of the differences between exam results of the 16-year-olds in our study. But after controlling for these personality traits, grit on its own did little to influence academic achievement, explaining only an additional 0.5% in people’s GCSE results. __ Conversation
The above comments and research results help somewhat in untangling grit. We know that IQ is up to 80% heritable and executive function (including conscientiousness) is up to 90% heritable. Twin studies suggest that personality is 40% to 50% heritable in the early years, and more so as a person ages.
Grit is usually seen as a combination of self-discipline and persistence / determination. But as Angela Duckworth herself points out, “passion” when seen correctly is a vital part of “grit.” Humans are not robots. They are driven — and drive themselves — by emotion. On top of passion, a sense of purpose is often overlooked when discussing “grit.” For grit to mean anything at all, a person must be “gritty” about something, some purpose.
So if the purpose is unclear, and the passion is weak and opaque, what good is grit?
Additionally, grit can be counter-productive when it fails to adapt to the nuances of particular situations. Persistence, determination, purpose, and passion are important, but they all must be modified somewhat at times by self-discipline, another pre-frontal executive function that is up to 90% heritable. And self-discipline must be informed by wisdom, which is a combination of cognitive aptitude and the ability to learn from one’s own and others’ experience.
The Dangers of Jumping on Popular Bandwagons
Dangerous Children are taught contrarianism, which helps them to avoid the oft-fatal error of bandwagon riding. For example, the mainstream was carried away by Angela Duckworth’s book, Ted Talks, and other contributions to the grit crusade. But since every concept contains multiple errors and pitfalls, carrying any monolithic theme too far without examining all of its components and ramifications, is certain to lead one to overstep himself into a quagmire.
Dangerous Children take grit for what it is, a useful — although ambivalent — trait that parsimoniously incorporates several important aspects of ultimate success.
Grit: Nature vs. Nurture
As mentioned above, IQ is up to 80% heritable, executive function is up to 90% heritable, personality is roughly 50% heritable early in life, and so on. Passion is part of personality, and persistence and conscientiousness are part of executive function. All of them are shaped by intelligence as influenced by experience.
Purpose is the vision, or the guiding light. Purpose utilises all of the above, but contains something extra — something that comes from the turbulent currents and possibilities within the “real world” as the child’s mind sees it. This is where the “community IQ” and “community executive function” influences the child’s intelligence, character, personality, and sense of purpose — via experience, and via genetic and epigenetic mechanisms.
It is impossible to untangle nature from nurture, and neither should be denied its role in the weaving of the character, personality, and life trajectory of the child.
Dangerous Children Do Not Care for Ideology or Crusades
To the extent that “grit” has become a crusade in education and pop psychology, the idea is ignored here at the Institute. But to the extent that the word can be used as a trigger to release a child’s unique orchestra of purpose-supporting strengths, it is invaluable.
The human mind drifts from state to state, from intention to chaos to intention again. The self-management of most intelligent minds can be very difficult unless the flexibly tough integrity is built in from the earliest age. Genes and gene expression will vary between individuals, but all minds can be reinforced and empowered to some degree of increased self-discipline, purpose, strong character, success-promoting personality, and enhanced aptitude across a wide range of competencies.
Modern education and psychology have missed the boat, largely out of a sense of political correctness and groupthink. But there is no reason why you or your children should ride the same bandwagon over the abyss.
What is the Best Approach to Early Childhood Learning?
Three well-known European approaches to early learning include Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia.
All three approaches view children as active authors of their own development, strongly influenced by natural, dynamic, self-righting forces within themselves, opening the way toward growth and learning.
… Underlying the three approaches are variant views of the nature of young children’s needs, interests, and modes of learning that lead to contrasts in the ways that teachers interact with children in the classroom, frame and structure learning experiences for children, and follow the children through observation/documentation.. __ Three European Approaches to Early Learning
The three approaches generally developed long before modern educational theory, pictured in the graphic below. As such, they are useful for their relatively pristine approaches, unpolluted by modern social science jargon.
Contemporary designers of approaches to early childhood education generally draw from some academic theory — such as those illustrated in the graphic above. This “sanctification” of early childhood curricula is unfortunate — not necessarily for what it includes, but for what it leaves out.
Consider Friedrich Frobel and the original “Kindergarten” concept:
Friedrich Fröbel’s great insight was to recognise the importance of the activity of the child in learning. He introduced the concept of “free work” (Freiarbeit) into pedagogy and established the “game” as the typical form that life took in childhood, and also the game’s educational worth. Activities in the first kindergarten included singing, dancing, gardening and self-directed play with the Froebel Gifts. Fröbel intended, with his Mutter- und Koselieder – a songbook that he published – to introduce the young child into the adult world. __ Wikipedia Friedrich Frobel
Frobel’s goal was to assist the early unfolding and development of the parts of the child’s mind that are necessary for further independent development. Contrast that pre-Prussian approach, with today’s fashion of indoctrination that pervades modern educational institutions from K – 12 thru university.
Or consider Edward de Bono and his approaches to creative thinking. Because “lateral thinking” and other creative thinking approaches encourage independent, divergent thinking, they are avoided by the dominant educational cultists of today, for fear that too much independence and creativity might lead to a loss of control by those in charge.
Modern education is all about conformity to groupthink and preparing children to sing in echo choirs, in unison. Modern parolees from official systems of incarcerated education are too often already under a lifetime’s burden of school loan debt, but at the same time suffering from an academic lobotomy and permanent lifelong adolescent incompetence, that makes ultimate freedom almost impossible.
Established orders and power hierarchies have little to fear from these zombie-drones, living in parental basements, their expectations squashed by the very system that was meant to empower them.
When children are very young, the possibilities seem endless. But the moment the parent hands control of the child’s mind to institutions whose only loyalty is to their own existence and enlargement, the child’s potential begins to shut down and collapse.
Dangerous Children master the abilities to live independently — financially, cognitively, emotionally, socially, educationally, and in many other ways — by the age of 18. That is how it should be, but not how it usually is, for most youth.
How Do You Get from Conventional Lifelong Incompetence to the Dangerous Child Who is in Control of His Future?
By beginning at the beginning, and not diverging from the exciting and unpredictable course in front of you.
The Dangerous Child Method takes the useful parts of the hard-earned experiential insights of Montessori, Steiner, Vygotsky, Doman, Piaget, etc., and combines them with the fundamentals of Garcia’s early curriculum, and Robinson’s hard-nosed approach to self-teaching and “mental junk food avoidance.”
A Dangerous Child follows a path that he sets for himself, but he builds his own path upon a foundation laid by many others, using tools chosen from what is provided by caregivers, coaches, mentors, and guides.
Conventional thinking in this area will only destroy a child’s potential, and make him into another statistic.
You may ask, “What can one child do?” And of course, it all depends upon the child. What could one Einstein do, or one Edison? What could one Leonardo, one Newton, or one Archimedes do? Mozart, Galileo, Darwin, Leibniz? More
More important than those individuals mentioned above, are the thousands who took their ideas and turned them into sciences, technologies, and advanced societies and civilisations.
You may think that all of that is in the past. In that, you would be mistaken. It is in the future. Choices you make now can help determine how that future unfolds.
This is the first mistake people make with small kids. They try to teach them by TALKING to them as if small children can simply reason along with their TALKING and automatically see the adult’s intent and adopt the adult’s logic. But even young adult brains do not learn so well by the TALKING method — much less small children!
Verbal language is processed in a relatively “serial,” straight-line manner. Visual information is processed in a highly parallel manner. Large amounts of information can be transferred in a short amount of time via parallel pathways. The image to the right illustrates the “serial bottleneck” that verbal language suffers from. Never forget that each word is slippery beyond belief, and each thought accompanying a word is both highly viscous and subject to total fragmentation.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
In the learning pyramid below, we can see that humans retain far less from a lecture than they do from a demonstration. This is infinitely more true for toddlers and pre-schoolers than it is for university students — and it is true enough for them.
For particular areas of special interest, many young children may be ready for self-directed learning practise by the age of 2 or 3, but most of the time — for most areas of learning — they will need careful guidance, with an emphasis on exploratory play, expanding movement skills, simple music appreciation and training, basic underpinnings of art, and creative story-telling.
Such young children are not ready for lectures, or even group discussions of any depth beyond a rudimentary analysis of characters in stories.
They need to be shown, encouraged, guided, and playfully cajoled, but always with a consistent end in mind. No lectures, no debates, no group discussions except in playful, creative mode.
The cognitive pyramid of learning by Williams and Schellenberger, demonstrates how academic learning depends upon a deep and broad set of nervous system functions. Most meaningful learning takes place automatically, well beneath the level of consciousness.
Many years of profound preparation are needed before children and youth will be able to easily and automatically adapt to the style of learning common to modern secondary schools and universities. Unfortunately, 90% of young students never receive the preparation they need, to achieve broad success and competency in the larger world beyond their parents’ homes.
The hierarchy of useful skills by Kokcharov is a useful concept. But it is meant to be applied much earlier in child development than is done in many societies. A large number of “children” reach university without having acquired more than a sprinkling of basic knowledge — the bottom-most layer of the skills hierarchy! One hates to tell the young darlings and their parents that they are starting too late to achieve anything close to their best.
Keep in mind that where the term “knowledge” is used in the above pyramid, non-verbal knowledge will be key during the early years, and will serve as a foundation for later learning. An early mastery of many non-verbal skills will put the child at an early advantage in Dangerous Child training — particularly in areas of movement, art, basic mechanisms and forces, music, and the non-verbal aspects of language.
Very young children should be exposed to a wide range of situations where they must develop problem-solving skills. In fact, besides executive functions (including basic social skills), the love of difficult problem solving is at the top of vital childhood lessons to be learned.
Again, these vital early lessons are largely learned on a non-verbal level, by observing and by doing — and by creatively varying the basic approach.
The image above illustrates development of competence in the field of clinical medicine, for medical students and doctors in training. Going from novice level to the level of mastery requires many years of training. By this time in a person’s education, he is expected to have mastered verbal knowledge acquisition, which involves a great deal of reading, testing — written and verbal — and little by little, practical hands-on skills training. The old saying in medical training is: “See one, do one, teach one.” And in basic terms, that is how medical and surgical skills propagate in training.
But a medical student, resident, or fellow will not reach his optimal levels of competence if he has not built a solid foundation of basic skills, competencies, executive functions, and a love for problem-solving, in his early years. These basic skills and competencies need to be mastered to the point of “conscious automaticity.” More on that seeming contradiction later.
The OODA Loop pictured above was developed by USAF Col. John Boyd, several decades ago. It was used to help fighter pilots to gain the advantage in dogfights against enemy fighters. But over time, it has been seen to be useful in a much wider range of situations.
Here are the four steps:
It is called an “OODA Loop” because it should be running constantly, feeding back into itself at different points, as the situation changes.
But . . . humans should not have to wait until they train to be fighter pilots to learn this basic concept of moment to moment interaction with their environment. We have talked about “situational awareness” and “mindfulness,” but the OODA Loop gives tangible and actionable bones and structure to those verbal concepts, once it is mastered and applied to daily living.
How old do children need to be before they can learn the OODA Loop? If taught properly (nonverbally through play), children as young as 3 can learn to apply the OODA Loop automatically and unconsciously — long before they would be able to learn the concepts verbally. And to be sure, one never knows when his own life may balance on the ability of his child to act automatically with wisdom beyond his years.
More on OODA and John Boyd:
Human reaction time is defined as the time elapsing between the onset of a stimulus and the onset of a response to that stimulus. The O.O.D.A. Loop, which stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, is Boyd’s way of explaining how we go through the process of reacting to stimulus. First we Observe, and keep in mind that although we process approximately 80% of the information we receive with our sense of sight, we can and do make observations with our other senses. For instance you might hear a gunshot and not see the person who fired it. Once you look and see the source of the gunfire you are now in the Orient stage of the process. In the Orient stage you are now focusing your attention on what you have just observed. The next step is the Decide step in which you have to make a decision on what to do about what you have just observed and focused your attention on. Finally you have made your decision and the last step is to Act upon that decision. Keep in mind that the O.O.D.A loop is what happens between the onset of a stimulus and the onset of a reaction to that stimulus.
The ideas are there, but the way it is presented above is not truly practical, in action. Going through the OODA Loop step by step in a conscious, “check-list” manner is a good way of getting yourself and others you care about, killed.
Ideally, Observe and Orient should be combined and Decide and Act fused together by practice, so the opponent’s action triggers your automatic reaction, without your needing to decide. Even below such a level of automatization, not having to think about your movements improves your reaction time because reaction time is shorter when set on “signal” than when set on “action.” (For example, if you are in a car stopped at a red light and you are thinking “green,” you will move faster than if you are thinking “green: press the gas pedal.”)
Children will go much farther in life if they are provided with useful and productive strategies along with a broad range of skills, competencies, and real world experiential knowledge of how people, groups, and institutions behave.
The foundations for all of this are built of non-verbal material. Sure, one should always talk to the child on a child-appropriate level (each child is unique). But in the early years, non-verbal forms of communication are much more potent than any semantic meaning of the words themselves. Even the “non-verbal” aspects of language itself exercise far more influence on the young child than the word or phrase meanings: Tone and speed of speech, prosody, speech melody and inflection, as well as facial expressions and body language that accompany the speech.
Dangerous Children master at least 3 different ways of supporting themselves financially by the age of 18. But as we have said, that is the easy part — and only the beginning.
Before the child is old enough to walk or talk, or to begin training in controlled movement, music, art, and language — from birth to about 1 year — is the time to begin shaping critical brain – body connections and correspondences.
The child is born with most of the brain cells he will have as an adult, and with far more synaptic connections. These numbers are determined by the child’s gene expression and his environment within the womb.
Early in life, before and during “the synaptic pruning” (PDF) up to early adolescence, is a prime time to take advantage of early childhood brain plasticity. Early infancy is a particularly dynamic time, when both pruning and rapid synaptic formation are occurring simultaneously. By the ages of 3-5, pruning begins to outpace new synaptic formation — as the young brain continues to specialise (and limit) itself. The early environment of infants (and toddlers) makes a huge difference in the ultimate competence of the child’s brain.
Infants learn the particular quality of sounds in human languages that are spoken within his hearing. Familiarity with these early language sounds facilitates later language learning of the particular language(s) that the young infant hears. For example, if a child is destined to grow up and make his way in China, it is better if he hears proper “Chinese” spoken during his early months of life.
The same applies to music, which is but another form of auditory “language.” Music heard during the first few months of life will not be remembered as an adult, but its effects on the young brain will be profound — in terms of brain rhythms and subtle brain logics. It will influence the child’s later learning of language, maths, and, of course, music itself.
Movement training for newborns and young infants is a far more subtle thing than it will be at the toddler stage. It is best with the very young to combine movement training with simple holding, massage, and soft gentle rhythmic speech to accompany the subtle movements.
Again, the older child or adult will never remember these early trainings. But the deep, pre-verbal brain that forms the core of later learning will not forget.
Art training for the very young is just as much tactile as visual. Objects of various shapes should hang above his crib, and adorn the walls. Gently and slowly allowing the baby to feel surface textures of various items, as well as their shapes, edges, and temperatures, helps to form early concepts of art. As soon as the baby’s vision becomes clearer, allow the baby experiences that reinforce the correspondence between what he sees and what he feels.
Reading or telling stories to the child is excellent training in the prosody — the timing, accents, emphasis, and melody — of language. The child will not remember the stories as such, but more and more of the words and style of spoken language will stay with the child, over the months.
Infants should be raised within an enriched sensory environment, where they can trust that their needs will be met promptly, and their safety and comfort considered. Allowances for ample sleep and proper diet must be made.
As the child grows in infancy, movement training can become more vigorous — and even somewhat rowdy, depending upon the infant’s sensibilities. Bungee devices that allow the infant to initiate movements he would not otherwise be able to make, expand his imagination of movement. Zip line devices will teach basic gravitational concepts — even to children who may not tolerate being tossed gently into the air and caught.
As the child’s senses are refined, provide him with toys and safe objects of various distinct shapes. Children love spherical balls and cubic blocks, but they also need exposure to pyramids, other polyhedra, various classical curves, and objects that demonstrate symmetry and perspective. Rudimentary artistic puzzles are very useful.
By the time the child is ready to begin walking, he should have been exposed to applied art, such as simple machines and simple construction.
Whether the child creeps, crawls, rolls, or ambulates in other interesting ways, such early body movements should quickly be made goal directed — in the same way that reaching for a mobile that hangs above the infant’s crib is goal directed. Problem-solving should be made an early part of the infant’s life, and posed as a slowly graduated phenomenon. Expect setbacks, and be prepared to begin again at an earlier level from time to time.
Early infancy training should not detract from sleep, meals, play, outdoor time, or other normal occupations of infancy. In fact, the training should be seamlessly rolled into play, meals, going to sleep, waking up, exploring the outdoors, etc.
What the infant experiences during early infancy will help determine how well his mechanisms of gene expression can lay the foundations for later learning and development.
Very few children in the history of the world have been raised optimally, according to their unique needs, and the nature of their world. While it is true that young children possess significant resiliency, it is also true that you will never see the child’s missed opportunities to develop unique personal skills that might have served him well in later life.
Infants should be sung to (and with), have music played to them with various instruments, be held and moved safely in a comforting way — but in ways that gradually help expand his sense of movement. Stories should be told with expression and emotion, and ended in a way that leaves the infant settled and comforted.
Match the child’s facial expressions and body movements, as he grows older and begins to incorporate motor “mirroring.” As he learns to mirror your expressions and motions, his brain is learning how to physically respond to the outside environment.
These are a few of the ways that early infancy training can be shaped to morph cleanly into the Dangerous Child training for toddlers and pre-school children.
Dangerous Child training begins, of course, well before conception. And it continues throughout the prenatal period.
But it is often difficult for parents to visualise how one could possibly apply the Dangerous Skills taught to pre-adolescent and adolescent youth, to newborns and very young infants. Providing these few examples provides grist for the imagination.
Thanks to advanced psychology and neuroscience, it is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood. But the earlier the training is begun, the more profound its effects over a lifetime.
More from “Doman-Mom:”
1. Teach joyfully
You must approach the game of learning with the same abandonment and enthusiasm you would approach the game of patty cake or peek a boo. All children are drawn to joyousness. Your attitude towards a subject determines his. Never approach your teaching with soberness and seriousness. Learning is the greatest game you will play with your child: keep it as such. Present learning as a privilege he has earned: never, never as a chore.
2. Teach clearly
When we talk to tiny children, we naturally talk to them in a loud, clear voice. Teach your tiny child in such a voice and make your materials large and clear. Present the information in an honest, factual, and straightforward way. If you give a tiny child the facts, he will discover the rules that govern them.
3. Teach quickly
You must teach your tiny child quickly and briefly. He has much to do and can’t stay in one place long. You must be content to teach him for only a few seconds at a time. That is all it takes. Present him with a set of information, and then come back to it later. When you teach in many ten- and fifteen-second sessions, you can accomplish more than you ever imagined possible.
4. Always leave him hungry for more
You must always, always, always stop before your child wants you to stop. Always stop before he wants to stop. Be sensitive to your child’s attention and mood, and leave him hungry for more, every time, without fail.
5. Teach only at the best times
The key to teaching your tiny child is to only do so at the best possible times. Never try and teach him in a distracting, chaotic environment. Never try and teach him at a time when he is hungry, tired, or out of sorts. Never try and teach him when you are out of sorts. You must be ever-discerning of your child’s temperament and mood and be willing to put your teaching away for the morning or day if needed.
6. Teach with consistency
If you are to be successful in teaching you must teach with consistently. If you child is to remain interested you must keep the ball rolling. Starting and stopping constantly will cause him to lose interest because he will believe the information you are bringing out again is old hat. Organize yourself to teach in such a way as to be able to remain consistent in your endeavors.
7. Teach new information
You will be surprised at how quickly your tiny child learns new information. Don’t go over the same information over and over again when he already knows it. You must be keen to sense when he knows something, and regularly give him that which is fresh and new.
8. Teach as a gift
We have come to equate teaching and testing as two sides of the same coin. You must forget this notion if you are to be successful in teaching your tiny child. Teaching is the process of giving information, as you would give a gift. Testing is asking for it back. Never test your child. It is essentially disrespectful and he will sense that you don’t trust that he knows the information. If he learns that your teaching always has strings attached, he will push you and your teaching away. Learning is a gift, the most precious one you can give your child.
Good advice — except for the part about never testing the child. Life itself is a test, and if you never put your child into situations that challenge and test him, you are treading the edges of parental malpractise. Domanmom has a good heart, but like most well-meaning and kindly moms she fails to see what is coming, and why growing children to be Dangerous is so important.
Children are not taught, they learn. How well and how much they will learn depends upon the skills that they master, long before they are aware that they are learning. Whether or not they have the chance to master those skills depends upon their caretakers.
Even the best of us is limited in what we can learn and what we can conceive. Such limitations applied to Albert Einstein and they apply to you, and your dangerous child. But all of us can learn ways to push against our limits, if we wish. Most people never come close.
The video above, “Cognitive Limits,” is a useful introduction to the cognitive science of human learning and memory.
Concepts of “Attention and Memory” are key to understanding how a relatively inexperienced and ignorant human infant can develop into a skilled walking and talking toddler who is into everything he can reach, learning and remembering as he goes.
Everyone is limited in what he can hold in his short-term working memory — some more limited than others. Likewise, each person is limited as to how many active thinking processes he can maintain simultaneously — how many dynamic activities he can keep track of.
Brief intro. to Cognitive Load Theory:
In essence, cognitive load theory proposes that since working memory is limited, learners may be bombarded by information and, if the complexity of their instructional materials is not properly managed, this will result in a cognitive overload. This cognitive overload impairs schema acquisition, later resulting in a lower performance (Sweller, 1988). Cognitive load theory had a theoretical precedence in the educational and psychological literature, well before Sweller’s 1988 article (e.g. Beatty, 1977; Marsh, 1978). Even Baddeley and Hitch (1974) considered “concurrent memory load” but Sweller’s cognitive load theory was among the first to consider working memory, as it related to learning and the design of instruction…
…Schema acquisition is the ultimate goal of cognitive load theory. Anderson’s ACT framework proposes initial schema acquisition occurs by the development of schema-based production rules, but these production rules may be developed by one of two methods (Anderson, Fincham, & Douglass, 1997), either by developing these rules during practice or by studying examples. The second method (studying examples) is the most cognitively efficient method of instruction (Sweller & Chandler, 1985; Cooper and Sweller, 1987; Paas and van Merriënboer, 1993). This realization became one of the central tenets of cognitive load theory.
Once learners have acquired a schema, those patterns of behavior (schemas) may be practiced to promote skill automation (Anderson, 1982; Kalyuga, Ayres, Chandler, and Sweller, 2003; Shiffrin & Schneider, 1977; Sweller, 1993) but expertise occurs much later in the process, and is when a learner automates complex cognitive skills (Shiffrin & Schneider, 1977), usually via problem solving. _Cognitive Load Theory
Reference examples for the deeply interested who have a research bent:
Advanced educators not only try to introduce useful “schemas” to the learner — they also try to choose conceptual schemas that will be useful in multiple contexts:
But many educational theorists take this concept too far in an attempt to force students to think in the same way and along the same lines as the educational theorist. That is a large part of what is wrong with early education — an attempt to regiment not only what is known, but how a student comes to know it.
Remember: The teacher does not teach. Instead, the learner learns. If the learner’s mind is not primed and ready to learn the concept for the day, it will not matter how well the teacher has prepared his lesson.
The learning mind must be “empowered” from the earliest age, and continuously reinforced — until it is the child himself who is doing the reinforcing. This self-reinforcement occurs at different ages for different children — even under the most ideal conditions. Young Mozart, for example, probably required much less external reinforcement after a certain age to achieve a given level of mastery than did young Salieri.
So far, we have danced around one of the central issues: how to help the child to learn difficult concepts which do not come naturally to most children. Here, again, each child is unique. Strong early foundations of language, music, dance, and art will help in developing the underlying cognitive structures. Choosing the proper time — for that child — to introduce more difficult concepts is important.
We must all learn to walk before we learn to run a marathon up a mountain. Mastery occurs in a step-wise fashion. The goal is a self-taught, self-disciplined child of broad competency and knowledge. With competence comes confidence. With confidence comes a healthy and rational self-esteem. The learning of new skills and the solving of new problems never stops.