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Why Even Smart Children Don't Think Before They Act

Tuesday, 11 Jan 2022

Psychologist and one of Australia’s most respected and popular parenting authors, Dr Justin Coulson, helps parents to understand why even "smart children" don't think before they act.

Why do they act without thinking?

Until our children are adults (in their 20s) their brains are not fully developed. As a result, it means they often make decisions that we’d probably call unwise. Risk analysis is carried out by the prefrontal cortex, or executive of our brains. Because these are not fully developed in our children, another part takes over – the limbic system – the emotional centre of the brain.

We see the limbic system in action when our children go into a meltdown or become overwhelmed with emotion.

When are they likely to do it?

There are two scenarios where our children are significantly more likely to display this type of thinking, when they are with friends and when they are emotional.

3 ways parents can help?

1. By investing time in your relationship, you build trust as a parent.
2. By understanding the basics of their brains (like the relationship between the prefrontal cortext and the limbic system) you can support them in their thinking
3. By talking early and often. Like time, this will build trust but also good habits of sharing their challenges.