Understanding Your Child’s Behavior
Parenting can be a challenge, particularly when children suddenly switch from being perfectly sweet and smart to difficult and unmanageable. This change can trigger frustration and impulsive disciplinary actions from parents. However, understanding the basics of brain development and how it affects behavior can be crucial to achieving better success in parenting “The Developing Mind.” Counterproductive measures like impulsive discipline can often do more harm than good. It’s important for parents to have a fundamental understanding of how their child’s brain develops and how it can influence the behavior.
The “Upstairs Brain” and the “Downstairs Brain”
Understanding children’s brains is the key to whole-brain integration. According to Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson in their book “The Whole-Brain Child,” children’s brains can be simplified into the “upstairs brain” and the “downstairs brain.” The primitive “downstairs brain” controls basic body functions and innate emotional responses such as fear and anger. The amygdala supervises this part of the brain and responds to perceived threats, triggering the fight-or-flight response. Children often have tantrums during emotional floods because of stress hormones and strong emotions. Above the downstairs brain is the sophisticated “upstairs brain,” where higher thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving occur, and emotions are regulated.
Reinforcing the Staircase from the Downstairs to the Upstairs Brain
Since the upstairs brain is not fully developed until a person’s mid-twenties, children cannot access it all the time, especially during emotional floods. Adults can help integrate the two parts of the brain by reinforcing the metaphorical “staircase” from the downstairs to the upstairs brain. The SKILLZ Child Development approach advocates for attunement and connection instead of discipline during downstairs tantrums, helping children resolve their emotions and engage decision-making skills. By doing so, children can learn to self-regulate and retain information better.
Adults must become informed about brain development and function to understand children’s behaviors better. Upstairs tantrums are due to a lack of skills in the upstairs brain and not a lack of motivation to be good. Knowing this, parents can take a more productive approach to parenting by being patient and understanding during upstairs tantrums.
The Developing Mind Conclusion
In summary, understanding children’s brains is crucial for whole-brain integration, which involves reinforcing the staircase from the downstairs to the upstairs brain. Attunement and connection during downstairs tantrums help children resolve emotions and engage decision-making skills, leading to better self-regulation and learning. Adults should become informed about brain development and function to take a more productive approach to parenting during upstairs tantrums.
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