Right brain or left brain? Logic or emotions? Did you know you can actually consciously program the brain and develop it. Sure, you know that all your life’s experiences contribute to shaping your thoughts, feeling, emotions and personality. But did you stop to think, that in physiological terms, all that you do – from breathing to deep analytical thinking, everything is controlled by the brain. How then as parents, can we ignore this important aspect about our babies and children? Surely when we parent children and aim to give them the best of food, health, experiences, skills, we can also focus on the brain, right? Wow, one more thing added to the list. Hurray, or maybe not!
The whole brain child
I had heard of the word, Whole Brain and understood that it meant using a balance of right brain and left brain thinking. However I did not think that it could be extremely effective when applied to raising a child. Parenting is hard and raising a child can be really absurd sometimes. Children go through emotional upheavals and you see tantrums, emotional outbursts and how do we parents react? We attempt patience, but that runs out pretty soon. What if we knew how to deal with what was going on inside our children’s brains and accordingly provide the right mode of parenting. I would bet my bottom dollar on it.
And that’s exactly how I felt after I chose this topic for W for the #AtoZblogging challenge. I got myself a copy of The Whole Brain Child: 12 proven strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind by Dr Daniel Siegel and Dr Tina Payne Bryson. If there is one parenting book I would recommend you to read it is this one.
This is an affiliate link. I will earn a teeny tiny commission if you buy the book from this link. However it costs you nothing extra.
While this book is very exciting and I would love to present all the ideas presented in it, I think that is beyond the scope of my blog post today. So I am choosing to dwell on the concept of the right brain and left brain and why it is important to use the whole brain.
The book starts by asking the reader what they want for their kids? And the answers are always pretty much the same, we want them to be happy, have the best opportunities and develop to be healthy in body, mind and spirit. We want them to be conscious citizens of the world and do good in life.
However most of our energies and efforts are not in tune with these objectives we have out of our parenting role. Most days are routine days where you wait for bedtime to arrive and the kids to be asleep so that your life can begin. Terrible twos, threenagers, angsty teens are all phases where we just hope and pray that we will survive and live to tell the tale. However Dr Dan and Dr Tina the authors of this book say that these moments of tension are just as important as any other interaction we have with our children which can be used to mould their fragile minds and brain. Every moment is an opportunity to guide them on the path of becoming balanced individuals – balanced here referring to the use of the whole brain.
We know the brain is comprised of many parts. We also know that the brain has two sides – the right and the left. Research has shown that the right half of the brain is what controls the emotions, feelings, memories and the left side is all about logic, application of facts, organization. Most people have one dominant side – some of us are emotional fools and some are practical, fact believers.
In fact mental health issues are identified as situations where one part is significantly dominant over the other and results in dysfunctional behaviours. However in most situations in life a balance is key to achieving the best outcomes. Why settle for a one sided working of the brain, when we know that both sides working together is guaranteed to give the best chance to our children to understand themselves and the world around them.
Dr Dan and Dr Tina say that as parents we must understand how the right and left parts work and aim to integrate them. When situations arise us parents must provide the emotional support that children are actually asking for and then when the time is right, bring in the logical arguments.
Take for example, the case where a child is upset because his birthday is still 6 months away (borrowed example from the book, but its relevant to me, I’ll tell you why below) To an adult it may seem like a very silly reason to be upset about because no one can control that it is still so many months till December and no one can speed up time. If a parent reacts as though he is amused or surprised or worse shows that this is a stupid thing to be upset for, it can further cloud the child’s mind and confuse him.
Instead a parent should appeal to the emotional (right) side and comfort the child first – empathy tops the list in terms of acknowledging how the child must be feeling. Combined with physical touch like hugging, running hand on child’s back or hands further comforts the child. He is then ready and open to have a logical discussion on this topic. However claiming that time cannot be controlled will lead to nowhere. The parent must aim to provide facts – let’s have a look at the calendar shall we, let’s count how soon your birthday will arrive or involving them in some planning or organizing for this birthday.
The ten days that followed babyT’s birthday, every morning babyT would wake and claim that it was his birthday today and wanted a party. It got to the stage that he started getting annoyed when no party happened. So we did the next best thing we could. We talked about what he would like to do for his birthday this year. The cake is going to be yellow and will have a red fire engine on top of it. Sometimes the cake is orange and has a yellow school bus on it. If anything I think my boy has a fine sense of what colours would look good together.
This book is brilliant. I label it as a must read for every parent (biological, foster parents, grandparents, teachers, caretakers all inclusive in the parent category)
This blog post is part of a series for the #AtoZBloggingChallenge where my theme is
New Age Parenting: Parenting in 201x.
Read my theme reveal post here.
To read all the posts for the #AtoZChallenge go here – #AtoZ2018
You may also find this post on Disciplining the gentle way very relevant too.