Raising a Dangerous Child is One of the Most Difficult Things One Can Do

Dangerous Children master at least three ways of supporting themselves financially by age eighteen. They are expert with a variety of methods of self and group defence. They speak at least three languages fluently, play multiple musical instruments, understand basic banking / investment / finance / trade / taxation, and will be able to make their own way through life and higher education without outside assistance.

Getting To That Point is Difficult, Since Parents Must Learn to Improvise

There is no single curriculum which will serve to educate every Dangerous Child. Nor is there any one single approach to child-rearing, discipline, or talent development that will serve everyone. This means that if parents decide to raise multiple Dangerous Children, they will need to adapt the method to each child as he reveals himself in development.

Parents must be prepared to offer a large number and variety of experiences, experiments, and projects to each child. And they must also be prepared to follow up on particularly promising experiments. Some experiences will cause the child to come alive and want to do nothing else. Such “golden” experiences can be very useful for motivating the child to do other experiments and projects which may not move the child nearly so well, at first.

Young children do not always see the need for variety, particularly when they have discovered something they already know that they like. Using “preferred activities” as rewards for doing more exploratory activities — or for delving into projects whose early stages are a bit tedious — will accomplish multiple ends.

First, using one skill-building activity to motivate another skill-building activity helps reveal to the parent more about how the child’s mind works. This will be useful for future structured explorations into skills training.

Second, piggy-backing on a pre-existing enthusiasm, children discover that new experiments that seemed unexciting at first can turn into experiences that generate a new enthusiasm.

Third, while diverted from the initial preferred activity, the child’s subconscious mind is devising better and more skillful ways to perform the preferred activity, while at the same time learning a new skill consciously.

The early years are quite tricky, since what is very exciting to a two year old can become old hat to a three or four year old. The skills and competencies that are being developed before the age of six or eight tend to be foundational skills. But they are critically important all the same.

Very few Mozarts, Nureyevs, or Michaelangelos reveal themselves before the age of six or eight. Albert Einstein was labled a “slow learner” in grammar school. Several fine symphony orchestra musicians began playing one instrument (often the piano) then switched to another instrument that made them famous. But the musical appreciation, movement training, practise in thinking things through, and the early musical instrument are all critical foundations to later development.

Early enthusiasms should be treated as foundational learning and as motivation for further development. If there is a long-term future in that early gold strike, it should become obvious as the child develops many additional skills, but keeps coming back to the mother lode.

When the child reaches the age of six to eight he will begin to select his own experiments

The prefrontal executive functions do not begin to develop and function well until around the age of seven or eight, for most children. They are not fully developed until adulthood, but by age eight the basic pattern has typically been set for that child.

The executive system is thought to be heavily involved in handling novel situations outside the domain of some of our ‘automatic’ psychological processes that could be explained by the reproduction of learned schemas or set behaviors. Psychologists Don Norman and Tim Shallice have outlined five types of situations in which routine activation of behavior would not be sufficient for optimal performance:[13][page needed]

Those that involve planning or decision making
Those that involve error correction or troubleshooting
Situations where responses are not well-rehearsed or contain novel sequences of actions
Dangerous or technically difficult situations
Situations that require the overcoming of a strong habitual response or resisting temptation.
__ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_functions

More

Overcoming innate impulses can be almost impossible in children whose prefrontal executive functions are not well developed. In some research, executive function is up to 90% heritable. Compare that to IQ which is up to 80% heritable in mature adults.

Another perspective on the brain’s executive functions:

Executive function skills help us plan, focus attention, switch gears, and juggle multiple tasks—much like an air traffic control system at a busy airport. Acquiring the early building blocks of these skills is one of the most important and challenging tasks of the early childhood years. Their strength is critical to healthy development throughout childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. __ http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/building-the-brains-air-traffic-control-system-how-early-experiences-shape-the-development-of-executive-function/

The above quote suggests that early experience affects the development of executive function. More in this 20 pp working paper from Harvard (PDF).

In the Harvard working group, executive functions primarily consist of working memory, inhibitory control, and mental flexibility.

So You Can See Why Parenting Very Young Dangerous Children is Such an Arduous Task

Parents of Dangerous Children must provide the executive function for the very young child, while exposing the child to the formative experiences and skill-building experiments/projects that will assist in the robust development of the child’s own executive functions. For most reasonably bright, healthy, and balanced children, all of this takes place almost automatically, within an environment of love and playfulness — for the very young child.

Most of a Dangerous Child’s schooling after the age of eight or ten is self-monitored and self-supervised (to a point), development of executive functions within the critical window of ages five to eight is crucial. But just as crucial is the development of basic skills and competencies which facilitate executive function training during the sensitive period.

In The Robinson Curriculum, students are taught to teach themselves

While the subject matter, can be mastered with or without a teacher, the student who masters it without a teacher learns something more. He learns to teach himself. Then, when he continues into physics, chemistry, and biology—which are studied in their own special language, the language of mathematics—he is able to teach these subjects to himself regardless of whether or not a teacher with the necessary specialized knowledge is present. Also, he is able to make use of much higher—quality texts — texts written for adults. __ Teach Them to Teach Themselves

Both Arthur Robinson and his wife were intelligent, self-disciplined persons. Robinson only discovered the “trick” of children self-teaching after his wife died suddenly, leaving the six-child homeschool without a teacher.

From that “sink or swim” experience, it became very clear that the children could indeed swim very well. They learned early to teach themselves.

For Most Bright Children of Disciplined Parents, Executive Function Develops Almost Automatically

But that is no reason to ignore the process. Before the age of four or five, one does not attempt to teach executive functions directly — not before the sensitive period has had time to truly begin. But foundational skills can be taught. More on that later.

Competence… Confidence… Coping… Control… Character…

Building Resilience in Children, Teens, and Young Adults

Dangerous Children learn a lot more than how to be dangerous, and how to support themselves financially at least three different ways by age 18. By age 18, some of them have finished college, while others will find their ways around the world through skilled and creative work, without a college education.

All of them must learn to be resilient, which involves character and “grit,” among other things. More on one approach to teaching resilience to children and teens:

The seven “Cs” that are introduced below come from the book “Building Resilience in Children and Teens” by Kenneth Ginsburg. Notice that the super-concept of resilience incorporates basic concepts of “competence, confidence, character, coping, and control,” among others. Coincidentally, these are all crucial components of The Dangerous Child Method. More from blogger Adenia Linker:

Competence

Competence is cumulative, acquired through actual experience, and manifests in children as “I can do this!” As children struggle with skill building and say, “I can’t”, they often feel hopeless. They need to hear “yet” at the end of their declaration …

Confidence

Our children’s confidence flows from their competences. When they feel competent after mastering a skill, they are charged to take on even more challenges…

Connection

…By building rituals that guarantee a calm opportunity for family time, we show them we are present without weighing in on their daily activities…

Character

Today’s pop culture sadly dismisses the value of character by advocating celebrity heroes and elite America as role models. Our children need access to ordinary heroes – realistic role models to emulate, and opportunities to observe how true heroes are givers. Adolescents have a fundamental sense of right and wrong, and understand that character is doing what’s right when no one is looking….

Contribution

Everyone needs a sense of purpose, especially our youth who are identifying his or her own strengths… Giving and contributing to another’s welfare develop new skills and talents…

Coping

Resilience is all about learning to cope with setbacks and disappointments, and it is entirely dependent on developing skills that employ positive strategies…

Control

… responsibility for behavior ultimately lies with our child…

Cultivating the 7 C’s: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, Contribution, Coping, and Control build youth resilience. This is simply the most comprehensive approach to bolster our children against physical symptoms, fatigue, disinterest, dropping grades, sad mood, irritability, and substance abuse – all which can surface when resilience is limited. __ Adenia Linker

These “skills of resilience” are closely linked to the brain’s prefrontal cortex executive function skills, character, and grit.

Executive function skills take place in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and other areas of the brain working in concert with it. We use these skills to manage our attention, our emotions, our intellect, and our behavior to reach our goals. They include:

Focus — being able to pay attention;
Working memory — being able to keep information in mind in order to use it;
Cognitive flexibility — being able to adjust to shifting needs and demands; and
Inhibitory control — being able to resist the temptation to go on automatic and do what we need to do to achieve our goals.

As children grow older, these skills include reflecting, analyzing, planning and evaluating. Executive function skills are always goal-driven. __ https://secure.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-galinsky/executive-function-skills_b_1412508.html

Although the prefrontal cortex’ executive functions are thought to be highly heritable, there is some evidence that many of the skills can be built up through training.

It is clear that exec­u­tive atten­tion and effort­ful con­trol are crit­i­cal for suc­cess in school. Will they one day be trained in pre-schools? It sounds rea­son­able to believe so, to make sure all kids are ready to learn. Of course, addi­tional stud­ies are needed to deter­mine exactly how and when atten­tion train­ing can best be accom­plished and its last­ing importance.

In terms of health, many deficits and clin­i­cal prob­lems have a com­po­nent of seri­ous deficits in exec­u­tive atten­tion net­work. For exam­ple, when we talk about atten­tion deficits, we can expect that in the future there will be reme­di­a­tion meth­ods, such as work­ing mem­ory train­ing, to help alle­vi­ate those deficits.

Let me add that we have found no ceil­ing for abil­i­ties such as atten­tion, includ­ing among adults. The more train­ing, even with nor­mal peo­ple, the higher the results. __ http://sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/10/18/training-attention-and-emotional-self-regulation-interview-with-michael-posner/

Cognitive neuroscientist Michael Posner — interviewed at the link above — uses advanced brain imaging technologies to support his stance in favour of executive functions training.

Until recently, most economists and psychologists believed that the most important factor in a child’s success was his or her IQ…. But the scientists whose work I followed for How Children Succeed have identified a very different set of skills that they believe are crucial to success. They include qualities like persistence, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control. Economists call these non-cognitive skills. Psychologists call them personality traits. Neuroscientists sometimes use the term executive functions. __ http://www.paultough.com/the-books/how-children-succeed/extras/

Paul Tough, author of “How Children Succeed,” is another proponent of “character education,” or the teaching of “grit” and executive function.

A recent critic of the teaching of grit, is Jeffrey Aaron Snyder, assistant professor at Carleton College, and the author of a recent book on black history.

Inspired by the field of positive psychology, character education at KIPP focuses on seven character strengths—grit, zest, self-control, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity. These seven strengths are presented as positive predictors of success in “college and life.” Grit, for example—a term Angela Duckworth used to mean “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”—has been shown to correlate with grade point averages and graduation rates. Levin envisions that character education will be woven into “the DNA” of KIPP’s classrooms and schools, especially via “dual purpose” instruction that is intended to explicitly teach both academic and character aims. __ http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117615/problem-grit-kipp-and-character-based-education (via http://Isegoria.net )

Snyder goes on to complain that KIPP training places undue emphasis on “talking about character training rather than doing it,” teaching grit without also teaching values, and focusing too much on college preparation rather than “life preparation.”

The truth is that any large program approved for teaching in government schools is likely to be sadly deficient in many ways. That is one reason that homeschooling is so crucial for parents who are most concerned about full spectrum education. Even if you must send a child to government school, he should still receive additional homeschooling on top of his regular schooling.

Children are confronted every day with efforts to break down their personal integrity, and to shape them to conform to mass norms at the lowest common denominator. The more resilient they are through development of competence, confidence, character, coping, self-control, connection to virtues and values, and ability to contribute positively to his surroundings — the better able the child and teen will be to grow into a responsible, productive, and positive adult.

The more individual skills and unique positive talents and characteristics the child has developed, the more difficult it will be for the skankstream to pull him deeply into the current where he will lose control.

Resilience and dangerousness. Not politically correct by any means. But necessary if humanity is to have a free, open, and abundant future.

Bonus: Portraits of Competence from original Al Fin blog

Articles on Competence from original Al Fin

Adapted and re-published from Al Fin Next Level