father playing with his two children in the living room

Understanding your child: Strategies for all parents to nurture and understand your child’s developing brain PT 1.

Strategies to nurture and understand your child’s developing brain

Parenting is not easy at all. I think we can all agree on that, right? No matter how many classes we take, how many seminars we attend or books we read, parenting is challenging and is different from everyone’s. The main reason is that all children, including the ones from the same family, are different. Different personalities, traits, ways of learning, expressing themselves etc., so parenting it is like an art or a marketing strategy where we need to tailor different strategies to each child and see what works and what does not.

 

mom and father teaching their child how to paint and draw


This blog will help you understand and teach you some strategies about your child and their developing brain according to Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson from their book, The Whole-Brain Child. We will break this blog in 2 different blogs with 3 strategies on each that will talk about the stages of your child’s brain and things to implement to support this process.

Part 1: Crafting resilient children.

Our human brains shape our identity, responses, govern our actions and our life experiences mold our brains. This means that when we encounter an event, learn something new and acquire a new skill, our neurons light up with repetition and form robust connections. Therefore, this concept about the human brain emphasizes the importance of teaching our children how to grapple and handle with events whether, pleasant and challenging.

Daniel and Tina talk about an approach called: Integration. This approach encompasses what forms the bases of the whole brain parenting philosophy.

How does integration work during parenting?

  1. First step begins with YOU, the parent(s). The parent must lead by example as we are their role models and everything we do or say, our child copies them from us. This is specially true during a baby’s sensitive period and first plane of development (0-6 years old) where the baby has an absorbent mind like a sponge and soaks up everything around the baby (ref Simone Davies and Junnifa Uzodike). For example: something that you can do as a parent when your child is having a meltdown, instead of succumbing to anger or retreating to indifference, try to empathize with them and understand the reason of their distress.
  2. The most important part of the integration, and during events like the one mentioned above, is to keep your (as the parent) emotions on check and understand your own brain. This way you can assist your child and understand the root to this behavior and help your child understand it.
mom with her son at the park blowing bubbles and playing


Part 2: Mastering the balance and understanding both hemispheres of the brain.

The brain is made of two different hemisphere that control different actions and emotions of our body and ourselves. As parents, have you tried reasoning with your child? It’s almost impossible. For example, the left hemisphere develops more slowly and thrives on order, excels on language and logic. The right hemisphere is more about the bigger picture dealing with non-verbal cues, imagery, and emotions. It develops more rapidly and sways over the left (logical) hemisphere until the age of 3. Which explains why it is difficult to try to rationalize with a toddler. However, if you try to nurture one hemisphere more than the other, you can create unbalances.

What to do in this case?

  • Make sure to nurture both hemisphere as this is very important for your child. As you child turn 3 years old you can implement these two strategies to aid the process:
    1. Connect and redirect: To ease their irrational fears such as supposed monster in the closet. Begin by empathizing with their emotions to sooth their right brain and the redirect them to their more logical left brain by demonstrating the absence of the monster.
    2. Dub name it to tame it: Encourage your child to narrate their experiences and identify the accompanying emotions. This technique weaves together the language skills of the left brain with thoughts and emotions of the right brain. This enables your child to regulate their feelings better.

Part 3: Unlocking the brain’s full potential: Assisting your child in harnessing their full potential: (upper and lower brain)

As per part two, besides the brain having two different hemispheres; the brain also has an upper and lower side that contains different parts in charged of and control different actions in our bodies. The amygdala, which is found in the upper side of the brain, controls our emotions

and it is still developing in our child’s brain. Daniel and Tina state three strategies that parents can implement to find a balance to help your child’s emotions:

  • Engage, don’t enrage: When your child misbehaves, you as the parent, engage them in a conversation about what triggered their anger and how they can solve the issue. This will activate the higher functions of their brain and help them develop problem-solving skills when encountered with a difficult situation.
  • Use it or lose it: As a parent foster your children to help them regulate the usage of their higher brain functions. Encourage them to make decisions and ask them to explain their actions. This strengthens the higher brain but also fosters the connection with their feelings and impulses of the lower brain.
  • Move it or lose it: Use physical exercise to calm the lower brain. For example: if they are feeling overwhelmed with homework, a run around the block can soothe their stressed lower brain and uplift their mood. 
boy playing with a soccer ball in a grass field

 

In conclusion, parenting is not an easy task and parenting differs from child to child and family to family; however, there are basic elements that all human beings share during their brain development. Daniel and Tina talked about how to understand the developing brain of our children and strategies about how to help them during these phases. During the first part, crafting the child, integration was a strategy to aid with your child during this stage. Then, during part 2, learning about both hemispheres of the brain, two strategies: connect and redirect and dub name it to tame it were great integrations to aid your child in this stage. Finally, part 3, the upper and lower side of the body, three strategies: engage don’t enrage, use it or lose it and move it or lose it, were the main strategies during this stage.

If you enjoyed and learned something new with this blog post, don’t forget to register your email to notify you for part 2. Stay tuned for the second part and don’t forget to follow us on social media channels, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok to stay up to date with new posts. Also, shared this blog with people who might be interested or can learn from this as well.

Supplementary readings:

If interested in learning more about it, we recommend reading the book: The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson.

Montessori Baby by Simmone Davies and Junnifa Uzodike.

 

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