By now your child’s brain is almost adult-sized and a huge number of connections will have been made since birth. However, the journey to full emotional maturity is gradual and can take up to 25 years or even longer!
All the emotional support that you give your child will help them to make strong connections in the neocortex (the ‘upstairs brain’). These connections help them to learn about:
managing their emotions & behaviour (self-regulation)
dealing with challenges (resilience)
the way others see things (empathy)
By now, your child has started to develop independence and learn 'right from wrong' but sometimes they show strong feelings and emotions and they will act without thinking. This is because they are still being influenced by the lower parts of the brain (the 'downstairs brain').
Every time you respond in a calm and loving way, your child is learning from you - it takes time, patience and connection. When you read your child's behaviour as 'distressed' rather than 'naughty' you are more likely to react in a kind and comforting way. 'Time in' is the new 'time out'. By viewing distressed behaviour as a learning opportunity, you will be providing the very best brain care for your child.
Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘connect before you correct’? You can do this when your child is distressed by seeing things from their point of view:
First tell them calmly that you can see that they are frustrated/angry/sad and you know how difficult that is; this helps you to connect.
Then explain clearly why they can’t have, or do, what they want
Finally support them with problem solving so that they may handle things differently next time. This will help your child to think for themselves and to be able to cope.
We’re not perfect all the time, so if you have not responded to your child’s behaviour in the best possible way, always make a repair (explain in a simple way why it happened) and stay connected. It’s never too late to change the way that you do things. This shows your child how to learn and move on from mistakes.
Even as an adult, you can sometimes get so upset that you need to connect with someone else to help you with your emotions and comfort you. Humans are wired for connection. People need other people. Your child needs you.
All behaviour is communication. You may notice that giving your child words for their emotions and feelings will help their behaviour. Supporting your child to make mind-body connections can also be helpful:
What is your body telling you when you get butterflies in your stomach?
What is happening when your heart starts racing?
How can you make yourself feel calmer when this happens?
When you help your child to understand how their body works and what it is telling them, it becomes easier to cope with their feelings & emotions.
Your child can understand some basic things about their brain just like the children in the video:
The Triune Brain