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Whole-Brain Parenting: definition and benefits

By Josette Kehl, MSW, LCSW, CCTP | January 13, 2023 

In this episode of the Family Care Learning Podcast, Brandon and Josette share tips from the parenting book, The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. Josette is our Family Coaching supervisor. We hope this brings more parenting tips and insight for children struggling with trauma and gives parents whole-brain parenting strategies.

“We want to parent in a way that helps integrate our brain… both sides of our brain,” Josette said. “We need to be able to know how to experience the feeling side and be able to integrate that with the logical side as well, so that we can problem solve and put things, you know, in perspective,” she added.

These techniques offer something that can help our children for the rest of their lives to navigate whatever it is that they’re dealing with.

Let’s start with connecting and redirecting.

Envision your child having a temper tantrum. What does that look like? So often we see our children expressing a lot of emotion. They might be crying, they might be whining, or they could be yelling or screaming. They could be shutting down and won’t respond to us at all. The idea of connecting and redirecting is that we want to help get them into a place of brain integration. But if they’re fully in their right brain, we’ve got to do something to connect with them before we can get to the proper time and place for problem-solving, repairing, or potentially passing down the consequences.

We want to approach our children in a way that acknowledges the emotional experience they’re having. It’s important to connect with the child first before going into the problem-solving phase.

Doctors Siegel and Bryson say that it’s helpful for parents to refrain from correcting their children when they’re having a hard time. This can serve as a sign that their brain isn’t integrated and that they need our help.

One way for parents to help their children begin to regulate is through touch. Touch is a great way to connect with your child, and of course, it has to be a nurturing touch. In order to use touch effectively, parents need to make sure that they, themselves, are regulated. Gently placing your hand on their shoulder or their back and saying, “It looks like you’re having trouble,” is a great way to help them regulate.

Even in this, parents must have discernment, because there are times when children are really dysregulated and in a full-blown tantrum. This may not be the best time to touch them, and they may need a little extra space. When you can see that they’re starting to calm down, a little bit of touch is a great way to just remind them that, “Hey, I’m here for you.” Let them know that you’re on their team and that you love and accept them.

“It’s really important to be mindful of our tone of voice,” Josette said. Children are typically really sensitive to their parent’s tone of voice, and they can tell when parents are angry and upset. So again, parents have to regulate themselves first and come to their children with a natural tone. You might be stern, but you have to know your child and know what’s going to be triggering for them.

Here is an example: “Hey buddy, I can see you’re having a really hard time. I think we need to sit down and talk about this.”

You can be “matter of fact”, but you should also communicate with them in a way that lets them know that you’re willing to work with them.

Also, you should be mindful of what your facial expressions are.

“If we want our children to be able to calm down, if we want them to be able to come back to their fully integrated brain where they’re using both sides, and if they’re fully in their right brain or they’re fully dysregulated having those warm eyes, having that soft facial expression that warm tone of voice is going to help them come back to that place where they can use both parts of their brain.”

“I think sometimes parents are afraid to do some of these things because they think it’s almost like letting their child off the hook,” Josette said. “That’s not what we’re talking about. There may be consequences. Your child may have to go and pick up the things they threw or help pay for damage,” she added.

Next, we are going to talk about the “Name it to Tame it” strategy.

“You can take a difficult experience that your child has just had like a fight, a situation where they didn’t do well on something in school, or even a situation that’s coming up that they’re worried about, and you can apply the “name it to tame it” strategy to help them approach that difficult situation,” Josette explained.

Talk to your child about what happened, maybe how it happened, and their feelings about what happened. End with a message of empowerment to try to encourage your child going forward for the next time they face that difficult situation, or if you’re talking about something that’s coming up that they’re dreading, that message of empowerment could give them encouragement for what they’ve got to face.

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In this episode of the Family Care Learning Podcast, Brandon and Josette share tips from the parenting book, The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. Josette is our Family Coaching supervisor. We hope this brings more parenting tips and insight for children struggling with trauma and gives parents whole-brain parenting strategies.

“We want to parent in a way that helps integrate our brain… both sides of our brain,” Josette said. “We need to be able to know how to experience the feeling side and be able to integrate that with the logical side as well, so that we can problem solve and put things, you know, in perspective,” she added.

These techniques offer something that can help our children for the rest of their lives to navigate whatever it is that they’re dealing with.

Let’s start with connecting and redirecting.

Envision your child having a temper tantrum. What does that look like? So often we see our children expressing a lot of emotion. They might be crying, they might be whining, or they could be yelling or screaming. They could be shutting down and won’t respond to us at all. The idea of connecting and redirecting is that we want to help get them into a place of brain integration. But if they’re fully in their right brain, we’ve got to do something to connect with them before we can get to the proper time and place for problem-solving, repairing, or potentially passing down the consequences.

We want to approach our children in a way that acknowledges the emotional experience they’re having. It’s important to connect with the child first before going into the problem-solving phase.

Doctors Siegel and Bryson say that it’s helpful for parents to refrain from correcting their children when they’re having a hard time. This can serve as a sign that their brain isn’t integrated and that they need our help.

One way for parents to help their children begin to regulate is through touch. Touch is a great way to connect with your child, and of course, it has to be a nurturing touch. In order to use touch effectively, parents need to make sure that they, themselves, are regulated. Gently placing your hand on their shoulder or their back and saying, “It looks like you’re having trouble,” is a great way to help them regulate.

Even in this, parents must have discernment, because there are times when children are really dysregulated and in a full-blown tantrum. This may not be the best time to touch them, and they may need a little extra space. When you can see that they’re starting to calm down, a little bit of touch is a great way to just remind them that, “Hey, I’m here for you.” Let them know that you’re on their team and that you love and accept them.

“It’s really important to be mindful of our tone of voice,” Josette said. Children are typically really sensitive to their parent’s tone of voice, and they can tell when parents are angry and upset. So again, parents have to regulate themselves first and come to their children with a natural tone. You might be stern, but you have to know your child and know what’s going to be triggering for them.

Here is an example: “Hey buddy, I can see you’re having a really hard time. I think we need to sit down and talk about this.”

You can be “matter of fact”, but you should also communicate with them in a way that lets them know that you’re willing to work with them.

Also, you should be mindful of what your facial expressions are.

“If we want our children to be able to calm down, if we want them to be able to come back to their fully integrated brain where they’re using both sides, and if they’re fully in their right brain or they’re fully dysregulated having those warm eyes, having that soft facial expression that warm tone of voice is going to help them come back to that place where they can use both parts of their brain.”

“I think sometimes parents are afraid to do some of these things because they think it’s almost like letting their child off the hook,” Josette said. “That’s not what we’re talking about. There may be consequences. Your child may have to go and pick up the things they threw or help pay for damage,” she added.

Next, we are going to talk about the “Name it to Tame it” strategy.

“You can take a difficult experience that your child has just had like a fight, a situation where they didn’t do well on something in school, or even a situation that’s coming up that they’re worried about, and you can apply the “name it to tame it” strategy to help them approach that difficult situation,” Josette explained.

Talk to your child about what happened, maybe how it happened, and their feelings about what happened. End with a message of empowerment to try to encourage your child going forward for the next time they face that difficult situation, or if you’re talking about something that’s coming up that they’re dreading, that message of empowerment could give them encouragement for what they’ve got to face.

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Check Out Another Helpful Podcast!

Check Out Another Helpful Podcast!

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