Y Moments

In my role as principal, I often have conversations with young people related to their decision-making. Research into brain development tells us that the pre-frontal cortex is where self-regulation takes place. However, for children in middle and high school, this isn’t fully developed. In fact, it isn’t fully developed until a bit later - around age 25! So, what’s a tween or teen to do when they face a decision, and they are thinking with their amygdala, which prompts thought based on emotion? The answer is, there’s no easy answer, but as adults, we can support children in unpacking and understanding their own responses to outside stimuli, knowing that these conversations may need to happen often as children grow and develop.
In a recent conversation, I sat with a student and developed a visual cue for decision-making. It’s not earth-shattering by any means, but it is something worth sharing. Below is the image we constructed, along with a guide to what it all means.
  1. This is the person (a child, an adult, you or I) going about their own day. 
  2. At some point in the day, we come into contact with a situation, or a person, or some external stimuli that requires a decision. 
  3. After taking in the situation (and it really could be a split second in time), we can head one of two directions. This is where the moment becomes a Y moment. The two paths likely lead to different destinations, and here is where the individual must consider the options, and then act. 
Beyond the Y moment image, we can relate the entire concept to the question, “Why?”. When I consider my own actions, when I speak with my own children, or children here at LuHi about their decisions, it always comes back to you, “what’s your WHY?”. You see, to me, it’s important that we all recognize the possible paths forward in a situation, but also reflect enough to consider how our choices reflect our own WHY. For some people, the WHY is all about future goals, and decisions are made within that framework. For others, the WHY is all about how others feel and are treated in a situation. For still others, the WHY may be related to family expectations. Or, perhaps, it’s a combination of one or more of those. 

For me, part of my WHY includes the following: (1) I value how others are treated; and (2) I value the example I set for my children and children attending LuHi. So, let’s say that I’m in the car running errands and am running late to get to a particular store. If another driver cuts me off, I am at a Y moment. What do I do in response? Well, if my value is placed on getting everything checked off my list (incidentally, this is a value of mine), I may react by trying to get back at the person, perhaps cutting them off in return. If I stay true to the value that supersedes the value I place on getting everything checked off my list, then I would likely decide to take a deep breath, focus on remaining safe, and find joy in the time I have listening to podcasts in the car. 

Because the brain is not fully formed at this stage in development, it’s particularly important to engage in this kind of conversation with children in middle and high school, beyond enforcing a consequence for a particular choice. If we can get to the heart of the matter, through genuine and honest conversation, we can support students to reflect and consider their own WHY, and provide some context for how this might play into everyday decision-making. How might you use your WHY in those Y moments? 

By: Jessica Raba - December 4, 2019
Long Island Lutheran Middle & High School    |    131 Brookville Road, Brookville NY 11545    |   516.626.1700
Long Island Lutheran Middle & High School is a Christ-centered, college-preparatory school whose mission is to glorify God by educating young people in body, mind, and spirit.