The Whole-Brain Child

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Tell and retell the events so that he could process his fear and go on with his daily routines in a healthy and balanced way.

Children whose parents talk with them about their experiences tend to have better access to the memories of those experiences. Parents who speak with their children about their feelings have children who develop emotional intelligence and can understand their own and other people’s feelings more fully.

Whole brain strategy 1:
Connect and redirect: surfing emotional waves.
“when a child is upset, logic often won’t work until we have responded to the right brain’s emotional needs.”
Step 1:
Connect with the right
Step 2:
Redirect with the left

Whole brain strategy 2:
Name it to tame it: telling stories to calm big emotions.

One of the best ways to promote this type of integration is to help retell the story of the frightening or painful experience.
Dough helped his daughter name her fears and emotions so that she could then tame them.
We can gently encourage them by beginning the story and asking them to fill in the details, and if they are not interested, we can give them space and talk later.
This is what storytelling does: it allows us to understand ourselves and our world by using both our left and right hemispheres together. To tell a story that makes sense, the left brain must put things in order, using words and logic. The right brain contributes the bodily sensations, raw emotions, and personal memories, so we can see the whole picture and communicate our experience.

The upstairs brain isn’t fully mature until a person reaches his mid-twenties. In fact, it’s one of the last parts of the brain to develop. The upstairs brain remains under massive construction for the first few years of life, then during the teen years undergoes an extensive remodel that lasts into adulthood.

Whole brain strategy 3:
Engage, don’t enrage: Appealing to the upstairs brain.

Every time we say “convince me” or “come up with a solution that works for both of us,” we give our kids the chance to practice problem solving and decision making. We help them consider appropriate behaviours and consequences, and we help them think about what another person feels and wants. All because we found a way to engage the upstairs, instead of enraging the downstairs.

Whole brain strategy 4:
Use it or lose it: exercising the upstairs brain.

The upstairs brain is like a muscle: when it gets used, it develops, get stronger, and performs better.

Sound decision making:
We need to give them practice at making decisions for themselves.
“Do you want to wear your blue shoes or white shoes today?”
An allowance is another terrific way to give older kids practice at dealing with difficult dilemmas. The experience of deciding between buying a computer game now or continuing to save for that new bike is a powerful way to exercise the upstairs brain.
Whenever you can do so responsibly, avoid solving and resist rescuing, even when they make minor mistakes or not-so-great choices.

Controlling emotions and the body:
An important task for little ones is to remain in control of themselves.
Teach them to take a deep breath, or count to ten. Help them express their feelings. Let them stomp their feet or punch a pillow. You can also teach them what’s happening in their brains when they feel themselves losing control – and how to avoid “flipping the lid”

When your child is old enough to be able to write – or even just draw – you might give him a journal and encourage daily writing or drawing. This ritual can enhance his ability to pay attention to and understand his internal landscape.

When you ask simple questions that encourage the consideration of another’s feelings, you are building your child’s ability to feel empathy.

All of the above attributes of a well-integrated upstairs brain culminate in one of our most important goals for our children: a strong sense of morality.

Whole brain strategy 5:
Move it or lose it: moving the body to avoid losing the mind.

Bodily movement directly affects brain chemistry. So when one of your children has lost touch with his upstairs brain, a powerful way to help him regain balance is to have him move his body.

Whole brain strategy 6:
Use the remote of the mind: replaying memories.

Storytelling is also a powerful activity for integrating implicit and explicit memories.

Whole brain strategy 7:
Remember to remember: making recollection a part of your family’s daily life.

During your various activities, help your kids talk about their experiences, so they can integrate their implicit and explicit memories. The more you can help bring those noteworthy moments into their explicit memory – such as family experiences, important friendships, or rites of passage – then the clearer and more influential those experiences will be.

Whole brain strategy 8:
Let the clouds of emotions roll by: teaching that feelings come and go.

Whole brain strategy 9:
SIFT: paying attention to what’s going on inside.

Help them learn to SIFT through all the sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts that are affecting them.

Whole brain strategy 10:
Exercise mindsight: getting back to the hub.

Emotional contagion: The internal states of others – from joy to playfulness to sadness and fear – directly affect our own state of mind. We soak other people into our own inner world.

Every discussion, argument, joke or hug we share with someone else literally alters our brain and that of the other person.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the kind of relationships you provide for your children will affect generations to come. We can impact the future of the world by caring well for our children and by being intentional in giving them the kinds of relationships that we value and that we want them to see as normal.

Whole brain strategy 11:
Increase the family fun factor: making a point to enjoy each other.

Children need structures and boundaries and to be held accountable for their behaviour, but even as you maintain your authority, don’t forget to have fun with your kids.

Whole brain strategy 12:
Connection through conflict: teach kids to argue with a “We” in mind.

See through the other person’s eyes: help kids recognise other points of view.
Listen to what is not being said: teach kids about non-verbal communication and attuning to others.
Repair: teach kids to make things right after a conflict.

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