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Addiction/Brain Science

Hey Kids! Freedom Begins in Your Brain

This article was originally published on our website on July 3, 2014, and updated July 4, 2023.

Let's celebrate our freedom to use our thinking brain!

Freedom is fought for and celebrated all over the world. The cool thing is that our personal freedom begins in our brain. The thinking brain, or prefrontal cortex for us grown ups (as explained in Good Pictures Bad Pictures), is where kids learn to make choices. And those choices either lead to more freedom or less freedom.

The thinking brain is not fully mature in kiddos, but it develops every day. For example, my kids learned that if they chose to follow certain rules, they got certain freedoms or rewards. (Well, at least when I was being consistent!) In order to follow rules, they had to exercise their thinking brain muscle to do stuff they didn't want to do so later they could do stuff they did want to do.

My Sad No-Beach Lesson

When I was young, we spent the summers with my dad and step mom. In the morning, we were expected to make our beds before we could go out and play. One morning we got invited to go to the beach with some friends, but guess what? By the time they came, I hadn't made my bed! No beach for me! I had lost my freedom to do what I wanted. I was a sad little girl that day.

However, my thinking brain remembered this very bad consequence, and I learned to discipline myself to make my bed every morning--at least in the summers!

Related: Ultimate Parent Hack: Teach Kids to Use Their “Thinking Brain”

Addiction = Losing Freedom

Losing your freedom to porn is even worse than losing a day at the beach. Viewing pornography can become an addiction. Imagine how it would feel to be driven by your brain to look at pornography instead of playing with your friends or having fun with your family? That’s what often happens to people who develop a pornography addiction.

When an addiction develops, the part of the brain that controls survival instincts (we call it the feeling brain) becomes convinced that it needs to see pornography in order to survive. And it sets up extremely strong cravings to push us to get what it feels we need. In fact, all addictions work this way and end up taking away the addict's freedom.

Why? Because with an addiction the feeling brain gains control over the thinking brain. And the feeling brain is all about instant gratification—getting what it wants right now even if it can hurt you later on.

The thinking brain, on the other hand, can remember consequences and judge right from wrong. Given the chance, the thinking brain can make better decisions.

Watch this video to teach your kids the negative consequences of addiction.

Related: Porn Addiction and Kids–Neuropsychologist Reveals Who Is Most Vulnerable: An Interview with Dr. Gola


3 Steps to Teach Kids that Good Choices Lead to Good Consequences

Step 1: Teach kids that there’s a link between choices and consequences, including the consequences of pornography addiction.

One mom asks her kids the following simple questions to teach this concept:

  • What happens when you jump in a pool? (You get wet!)
  • What if you don’t want to get wet? (Don’t jump in the pool!)

Sounds simple, right? But these questions remind kids that choices often have predictable consequences which kids can either pursue or avoid. Linking choices with consequences (over and over again!) helps kids develop their thinking brain muscle.

Step 2: Teach kids that they can choose their actions, but they can’t choose the consequences of those actions.

  • Ask: Can you jump in the pool and stay dry? (No way!)

Step 3: Teach kids to use their thinking brain to choose which consequences (or results) they want.

Again, this helps to develop a child's thinking brain. If they choose the end result they want, they can more easily see which good choices to make. (I don’t want to get wet, so I’m not going to jump in the pool OR I want to get wet, so I am going to jump into the pool!) Teach them the consequences of pornography addiction and empower them to make informed choices with their thinking brain.

This is real freedom! Kids can make the decision to never participate in any thing that can become an addiction, including looking at pornography.

Two Questions to Strengthen Kids' Thinking Brain

To increase your child’s ability to make good choices, keep asking these two questions. As they answer them, they will be developing their ability to plan. What's more, they'll develop confidence that they can have a lot of control over their life and what they achieve:

  1. What consequence (or result) do you want?
  2. Then what action should you take?

Remind kids that making good choices leads to freedom, including freedom from the consequences of pornography addiction. And that’s something to celebrate!

Good Pictures Bad Pictures

Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids

"I really like the no-shame approach the author takes. It's so much more than just 'don't watch or look at porn.' It gave my children a real understanding about the brain and its natural response to pornography, how it can affect you if you look at it, and how to be prepared when you do come across it (since, let's face it... it's gonna happen at some point)." -Amazon Review by D.O.

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