An Article about Locus of Control & Cognitive Differences Between Childhood and Adulthood
Children’s brains are cognitively different from adult brains. Children don’t think and act like adults in a number of ways.
One way has to do with locus of control. Locus of control is a psychological concept that refers to how strongly people believe that they have control over those things that affect their lives.
Many children have an external locus of control. This means they believe that their successes, failures, or choices are outside of their own power. For instance, some children believe that they did well in a sport because they were lucky, or they got an A on a paper because the teacher was in a good mood. Other children think they did a certain thing because their mind told them to do it, so they followed the impulse blindly without thinking it through. These children don’t believe that they have the power to control their impulses or to direct the course of their own life paths. It seems to them that their mind is independent of their control, telling them what to do, and that they must obey. They don’t realize that their “mind” is not who they are; their “mind” is not the boss of them. If an impulse pops into their mind, they childishly follow that impulse without evaluating whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea. As they grow and become mature, they often find that their locus of control shifts and that they begin thinking more like an intelligent adult.
Many adults have an internal locus of control. This means that they believe that their successes, failures, and choices are within their power to change. Older, more mature students realize that they did well in a sport because they practiced hard, or that they did poorly in a game after they had missed several practices or had not pushed themselves to improve. They realize that when they got an A it was because they had studied hard, and a B or C might be the result of kicking back and not studying as hard. When they have an impulse to do or say something, they can evaluate it and decide for themselves whether they should follow the impulse or make a different choice. This is smart. It’s a more adult way of thinking and acting.
Teenagers are between childhood and adulthood. Some teens still have an external locus of control. They believe that when their mind tells them to do something (an impulse) they have no choice but to blindly follow wherever that impulse drives them. This can cause problems in their lives.
As children become more mature, they usually see a shift to an internal locus of control. Gradually, they find themselves stopping and asking, “Is this the right thing for me? Am I the driver in control of my life, or am I just a robot going along for the ride?” With adulthood comes greater power, and with great power comes great responsibility.
Imagine that your life is like a remote-controlled car. The car goes where the remote tells it to go. A child might hand the remote to someone else and just let things happen without driving. An intelligent adult knows how to take the remote back and tell the car where to go, rather than sitting back and letting someone else push the buttons. Who is driving your life? As you grow up and your brain matures, taking control of your choices is the smart thing to do.