life

Guns & Young Brains

I’m proud of President Trump for taking steps to address the growing epidemic of teen and young adult violence in our country. I’m proud of him for gathering a variety of law enforcement, mental health and education experts to give input.

Hertz, National and Enterprise might have something to say about it, too.

When I talk to kids, I tell them that the human brain is not fully developed until around age 25. The last portion to develop is the frontal cortex, which is associated with planning, reasoning, problem solving and thinking-before-acting.

That’s why they need the guidance of their parents, teachers, pastors, etc.

The frontal cortex also affects the amygdala, which regulates emotions.

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a teen’s “actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex. Research has also shown that exposure to drugs and alcohol during the teen years can change or delay these developments.

Based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to:

  • act on impulse
  • misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions
  • get into accidents of all kinds
  • get involved in fights
  • engage in dangerous or risky behavior

Adolescents are less likely to:

  • think before they act
  • pause to consider the consequences of their actions
  • change their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors

These brain differences don’t mean that young people can’t make good decisions or tell the difference between right and wrong. It also doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. However, an awareness of these differences can help parents, teachers, advocates, and policy makers understand, anticipate, and manage the behavior of adolescents.”

Adolescence, according to research in brain development, does not end until 25.

Most car rental agencies have been requiring a minimum age of 25 even before research and MRI studies showed that renting to a pre-twenty-five year old is risky.  They knew based on experience.

Perhaps the problem is not solely mental illness, perhaps the problem is mental illness and/or an immature brain.

Perhaps we should set a minimum age of 25 to purchase a gun.

As a general rule.

If a 23 year old woman has left an abusive relationship and is in fear of her life, she can seek an exception from the courts.

If an 18 year old wants to go hunting with his dad, his dad can purchase the gun in his name, and be held responsible as he would if he were co-signing a loan.

Given the research, can you think of a single good reason to put a semi-automatic weapon into the hands of an impulsive, not-yet-fully-developed, more-emotional-than-logical brain? Can you think of a good reason to put any gun into those hands?

I can think of at least 17 good reasons why we shouldn’t.

As I said in my last post, I am not for guns and I’m not against guns but I am for a bit of gun control.

Given the research.

Time cover.jpg

Click here for the text of an interesting May 10, 2004 Time Magazine article on Giedd’s research.

Giedd, J. N. (1999). “Development of the human corpus callosum during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology
& Biological Psychiatry 23: 571-588.

Giedd, J. N. (2004). “Structural magnetic resonance imaging of the adolescent brain.”

Adolescent Brain Development: Vulnerabilities and Opportunities: 77 – 85. Giedd, J. N., J. Blumenthal, et al. (1999). “Brain development during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.” Nature Neuroscience 2(10): 861-863.

 

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Jesus

A Bold, Crafty Devil

Between wiping my beagle’s bottom, wiping the kitchen floor and standing outside in the cold while she strains to go, I’m writing my sermon for this Sunday.  I hear you Baptists gasping.  Some of you.

We follow the Liturgical Calendar at the church I attend and this Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, is all about temptation.

And since the WordPress word of the day is “doubt,” I thought I’d share a little of what I’m writing – just to put Jesus on the grid.

I’m highlighting the crafty tools the devil uses to tempt us, reruns of the ways he tempted Jesus.

One such crafty tool is doubt.

“Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,

so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”  – Matthew 4

Jesus was tired. He was weak. He was forty days fasted. But He wasn’t stupid. And He had no doubt.

“Are you kidding me?,” He replied. “‘If you are the Son of God’? Please. What did my Father say right back there at the end of chapter 3, right before you led me into this God-forsaken wilderness? I’ll give you a hint:  ‘This is my Son!”? [paraphrase, italics, bold, underline and exclamation point mine.]

Jesus wasn’t stupid, but we are. Sometimes.  He didn’t doubt, but we do. Often. He had nothing to prove, but we think we do.  And that’s when the temptation to lie, cheat, claw, and shamelessly promote ourselves while holding others back does its best.

This particular trick of the devil’s trade – doubt – probably hits teenagers the hardest.  They want to know: Do I have what it takes? Am I desirable?

Do I have what it takes to be popular, to be cool, to get a man, to succeed, to make you proud?

That’s all they want to know.

And in seeking the answers to those questions they are enticed to do some foolish and sadly sleazy things.

Beat the devil at his game.  Instead of fasting from something this Lent, take something on. Take on the challenge of telling your teens – in big, small, creative and crafty  ways – every day for the next 40 days – that they DO have what it takes, that they ARE desirable – to everyone who does and will matter.

Tell them in ways that aren’t obvious. Tell them in ways that are true.

Tell them, tell them, tell them.

And leave no doubt.

I’m not going to say all this on Sunday ‘cuz I’ve got other stuff to say, but the word of the day got me elaborating.

Who’s had a paczke?

 

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life

She Was a Beautiful Girl

“You are remarkably lucid for being high,” I said, noticing her pupils.

“Oh, yeah,” she said.  “I’m normal when I’m high.  It’s when I’m not high, when I’m desperate for a fix, that I act crazed.”

She was a college student, home for the summer, in for a free pregnancy test and very concerned about the effects of heroin on a fetus.

We both let out a sigh of relief when the test turned out negative.

“Where do you see yourself in ten years,” I asked.

“Between the heroin and the Hepatitis C, I’ll be dead in ten years,” she answered.

“What’s so great about heroin that you are willing to die for it?”

“It’s not that the heroin is so great, it’s that the withdrawal is so horrible.  It can take 18 months to get the effects out of your system.  I’ve been in rehab three times and it’s just too hard.  I won’t try again.”

She didn’t think she got the Hep C from a dirty heroin needle, she thought she contracted it from an unsanitary tattoo needle.  Her plan was to stay high until she died.  In the meantime she was in college studying interior design.

I asked her how a talented, intelligent girl from the ‘burbs, with a loving family, ended up addicted to heroin.

She said when she was in seventh grade she learned that marijuana is a gateway drug.  She didn’t believe it.  So she and her friends tried it.  Before long they got ahold of some that was laced with LSD.  From there it was a short progression to heroin.  And heroin is a powerful addiction. (As I told you in I Still Break Her Heart, when I was a social worker I saw moms choose heroin over their children every time.  Not because they loved heroin more, but because it takes that strong a hold.)

She said I could tell her story and I do.   I tell it often.

I usually ask for feedback after I speak to a group of kids.  What did you like?  What did you learn?  What was helpful?

Most of them say they liked the stories best.

True stories.  Cautionary tales.  From my years as a social worker and pregnancy center director.

It takes 25 years for the human brain to develop completely.  The last thing to develop is the ability to look ahead and understand the long term consequences of your actions.  That’s probably why they like the stories best.  It helps to know how things play out.

And that’s why God gave them parents, teachers, pastors, principals, coaches, mentors, big brothers and big sisters.

So tell your cautionary tales.  And if you don’t have any, tell mine.

Kids need to know.

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restoration

Don’t Know if I Want a Relationship

Many of the 7th graders I spoke to yesterday told me that their parents set 18 or after-high-school as the dating standard for them.

And I said, “Wow, your parents REALLY love you!”

And they’re really wise.  Because studies show that those who start dating prior to age 16 are much more likely to become sexually active by the time they graduate from high school than those who start dating after age 16.

I shared that I didn’t set a minimum age for dating, I set a minimum maturity level.  My daughter was allowed to date when she could hold another human being’s heart in her hands without wrecking it.

Then I showed them a clip from the retreat:

I met T when I was the speaker for middle school week at a Bible camp in the mountains of Virginia one summer.  He was one of the campers.  I returned to that camp for the next three summers as the speaker for high school week.  T was there each year.  So I got to know him pretty well over those four weeks in four years.  And I really liked him.  He was polite, soft spoken, a deep thinker, kind and helpful.

So when I invited a bunch of young people to a retreat center to pilot my study, I included T and his sister.  T was in college in South Carolina at the time.  He picked up his newly-high-school-graduated sister from their home in Tennessee and the two of them drove many, many hours north to the retreat.  God bless him for that.

After the clip I asked the 7th grade boys to articulate what happened to T.  They got it.  Then I told the girls to be very careful with a boy’s heart.  Don’t be the girl who crushes a boy.

It would be such a waste of a very kind heart if T never marries.

I showed the clip when I spoke to a gathering of teens and their parents at a church in Ohio a couple of years ago.  At the break the pastor came up to me and said he totally identified with T.  That was his story, too.  And although he did marry, the experience led him into pornography.  Which became an addiction.  And a long battle.

So, parents of youngsters out there, when you teach your children to guard their hearts, don’t forget to teach them to guard the hearts of others, too.

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