Select Page

Robert Brooks11-18-21 Tenacity in Children: Nurturing the Seven Instincts for Lifetime Success

In reviewing many studies and writings, Pediatric Neuropsychologist Sam Goldstein, PhD and Harvard Medical School Professor Robert B. Brooks, PhD identified 7 instincts present from birth that have proven to be of the greatest significance in our development. They have evolved over thousands and thousands of years, ensuring the success and survival of our species.

For example, the early manifestations of such attributes as optimism, motivation, empathy, and altruism are present at birth, waiting to be nurtured and brought to fruition by parents and other caregivers.

In light of the role that these instincts play throughout our lives, the doctors believe that it is imperative for parents, educators, mental health and childcare professionals to strive to identify and reinforce them in children

Intuitive Optimism is the belief that gratifying and successful outcomes can be achieved despite existing challenges. Children retain the belief that with perseverance as well as assistance when necessary from parents and educators, they will ultimately experience success. Strategies to foster Intuitive Optimism include: reinforcing a sense of personal control from an early age, teaching problem-solving strategies, identifying strengths to build confidence, and helping children view setbacks and mistakes as experiences they can learn from.

Intrinsic Motivation posits that children are motivated to engage in tasks when certain inner needs are being met without the presence of contingent rewards. These needs include: belonging and connecting with others, providing a feeling of security; self-determination and autonomy, reinforcing a belief that they are being heard, respected, and that they have input into situations impacting their lives; competency as the source of a child’s ability to successfully perform, master tasks, and reach goals in their world; and a sense of purpose, often represented by children subscribing to a greater good.

Compassionate Empathy is composed of two main dimensions: empathy is the ability to understand the world of another person both on an affective and cognitive level, while compassion involves using that understanding to initiate actions that express caring towards others. This instinct serves our deepest needs to survive, to connect, and to find our partners in life. Using empathic communication with our children can secure important benefits, including having enriched relationships with them. This provides the opportunity for children to nurture this instinct in themselves and thereby connect in a more gratifying way to others.

Simultaneous Intelligence is how different pieces of information fit together into a whole in order to understand, interpret, and solve problems. Children become more effective critical thinkers and problem solvers when they create categories and classify items, identify relevant information, construct and recognize valid deductive arguments, recognize reasoning fallacies, and distinguish between evidence and interpretations of evidence. Parents and teachers can reinforce this instinct whenever children are navigating through problems by encouraging them to consider alternative explanations and solutions, talk about biases, ask open-ended questions, and encourage thinking in new ways.

Genuine Altruism is an unselfish concern for others, represented by acting to alleviate their distress with no expectation of reciprocation. Altruism is an instinct worthy of cultivation through socialization and modeling. Children benefit from helping others. These actions improve mood, behavior, and self-image; reinforce positive relationships with others; and encourage a sense of purpose. As children observe and practice altruistic words and actions, they are inspired for this instinct to reach its full expression.

Virtuous Responsibility is the ethical and moral responsibility we have to enhance the lives of family, friends, and members of our society. This instinct extends beyond the scope of helping others, because it involves making decisions and engaging in behaviors that demonstrate that we can be trusted and accountable for our actions.

Assuming responsibility is rooted in the ways in which parents and caregivers discipline children in order to nurture qualities of self-discipline and accountability.

Measured Fairness is an important foundation of morality and the evolution of cooperation in human beings. It is allied to pro-social behaviors such as effective communication, empathy, cooperation, problem-solving skills, and forgiveness as the basic underpinnings of connected, generous, and successful lives.

This instinct is nurtured in children by helping them develop a sense of personal control. They learn to believe that while they may not always have control over challenging situations, they do have control over their attitude and behavior.

Sam Goldstein, Ph.D. is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, the University of Utah School of Medicine (USA). and certified School Psychologist in the State of Utah. He is also Board Certified as a Pediatric Neuropsychologist and listed in the Council for the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the National Academy of Neuropsychology. He has authored, co-edited or co-authored over fifty clinical and trade publications, three dozen book chapters, nearly three dozen peer-reviewed scientific articles and eight psychological and neuropsychological tests. Since 1980, he has served as Clinical Director of The Neurology, Learning and Behavior Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Robert Brooks Ph.D. is currently on the faculty of Harvard Medical School (part-time) and is the former Director of the Department of Psychology at McLean Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital.  He is Board Certified in Clinical Psychology, as well as listed in the Council for the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology. He has authored, co-edited or co-authored 18 books and, in addition, authored or co-authored almost three dozen book chapters and more than three dozen peer reviewed scientific articles.

​Learn more about Dr. Bernie here:

Visit Us
Follow Me