The Whole-Brain Child: Chapter 3

This chapter is about how the bottom parts of your brain connects to the top parts. The bottom of the brain contains the amygdala which is responsible for decision-making, memory and emotional reactions. It is part of the limbic system which deals with the body’s emotional responses. This chapter describes the brain as a house. The bottom part of the house is the amygdala and the top part of the house are your higher functioning parts of the brain. We have to makes sure to build a staircase that will connect the two. Sometimes when children get really emotional about something, the staircase can get blocked and they get stuck.

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The really interesting thing is that your higher brain functions are not mature until you’re about 20 years old. Your lower brain functions are well developed when you are young. This is why teenage years are hard and when kids are in college, they are still learning. Earlier we went over that life’s experiences can shape how our brain is wired. College is a very important step in life and it’s a delicate transition into the real world. I never thought about it that deeply before. I was just really excited to go to college and gain new experiences that I didn’t do my research thoroughly (of course now it comes naturally for people to google everything. but when I was younger, we didn’t really rely on google too much. when I was in school, I still hand-wrote my papers and looked things up in the library.). If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have gone to a different college.

This chapter shows us how to help our children use the lower and upper portions of our brain. We have all seen a child who is having a tantrum, whether it be at home, in a store or in a restaurant. The easy thing to do would be to tell the child to stop and they would get a time-out if they misbehave. At this point, the child is only using his downstairs brain and the upstairs is blocked. The child is very emotional and there is no reasoning with them. We have to make sure that our children are calm before reasoning with them.

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There are two types of tantrums: downstairs and upstairs. The upstairs tantrums are when a child is acting out and actually decides to have a tantrum. We need to have firm boundaries and a discussion about appropriate and inappropriate behavior. When we dish out the consequences (e.g. not having a sleepover with a friend), we have to follow through with it so that our children understand that there are consequences with their behavior. A downstairs tantrum is one where our children are really upset and they can’t reach their upstairs brain. We need to nurture and comfort this child. We can use distraction methods to help them calm down.

It’s hard sometimes to figure out which tantrum it is but once you figure it out, it is smooth sailing from there. This chapter shows a few examples that we can use to help our own children.

 

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