“‘Mom, you never leave me a note in the middle of the night, and I hate homework!’ ‘What are you doing out of your bed? Go back to your room, and I don’t want to see you again until morning?'”
If any of this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. This is an excerpt is from The Whole Brained Child written by world renowned neuropsychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegal and inspiring speaker and author Dr. Tina Payne Bryson. In this best-selling book Dr. Siegal says the goal is to simply survive through the screaming in the grocery store moments, you can use these moments to connect and THRIVE. Dr. Siegel coaches’ parents to teach their children 12 self-regulatory techniques to use during a high intensity meltdown. One of the techniques is fueled by an understanding of a child’s left and right brain.
Left and Right Brain Integration
It is probably familiar knowledge that the brain consists of two hemispheres that function differently. The left brain is the literal and rational side. It values organization, lists, and problem-solving. The right brain is its opposite. It plays a part in emotional processing, facial recognition, tone, context, and alerts us to feeling sensations in our body. The integration of both hemispheres trains a child or teen to value their reasoning side and also their creative feeling side.
However, human brains do not fully develop until the mid-twenties, so children are often dysregulated. Picture a teenager who says everything is fine, but you hear sobbing at night or a 3 year old screaming because his toy doesn’t fly like it does on the commercial. A parent who has tools to teach them to integrate earlier will help them learn to surf through big right brained waves of emotions and problem solve their way out of them in an understanding way
Here’s one way method to try:
Connect and Redirect
When Tina’s son was upset because he couldn’t climb on the walls like Spiderman, she explains that would not have been the best time to explain the laws of physics because he was acting out of his right brain and any left brain information like logic would be counterproductive. In children, especially young children, the emotions of the right brain often take over the logic of the left brain. Parents connect with the emotional side of their child by interacting right brain to right brain. After connecting, the parents appeal to the logical and reasoning side of the child by connecting left brain to left brain through problem solving.
What It Looks Like
Step 1: Connect with the feeling side of your child’s right brain. Attempting to connect with them from a logical perspective by asking questions and seeking explanation can prove ineffective. Recognize that the feelings are real and important to your child. Connect through the use nonverbal signs such as eye contact, lowering yourself to the height of the child, physical touch and warm facial expressions. Alter your tone of voice to be nurturing and listen without judgment.
Step 2: Redirect with the logical, linguistic and literal left brain. Sometimes the emotional waves just need to crash until the storm passes. After it passes, you can address your child’s left brain. He may simply need to eat or get some sleep. All the rules about respect and behavior still apply in moments of high emotion and inappropriate behavior (as defined by your family) remains off-limits. It may be a good idea to discuss misbehavior and its consequences after he has calmed down.
In the scenario described above, Dr. Siegal and Dr. Payne give an example of the mother’s response using connect and redirect:
“Mom, you never leave me a note in the middle of the night, and I hate homework!” “I get frustrated about things like that too. Want me to leave you a note, tonight? And I’ve got some ideas for homework, but it’s late now, so let’s talk more tomorrow.”
Fuller Life is here to help you and your child face fewer crises and live more integrated lives.
Dr. Siegal explains, “Connect and Redirect”
For the other 11 Strategies from The Whole Brained Child, go to http://www.drdansiegel.com/books/the_whole_brain_child/
Clinical Supervision by Amy Fuller, PhD, LMFT, LPC
- Melina, R. (2011, January 12). What’s the Difference Between the Right Brain and Left Brain? Retrieved July 18, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/32935-whats-the-difference-between-the-right-brain-and-left-brain.html
- McClellan, A. (2012, May 29). Tapestry Adoption & Foster Care Ministry. Retrieved August 18, 2016, from http://tapestryministry.org/whole-brain-strategy-1-connect-and-redirect/