Whole-Brain Parenting Strategies

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.

Brandon said these techniques offer something that’s going to help our children for the rest of their life navigate whatever it is that they’re dealing with.

Starting with connect and redirect.

Think about your child like they maybe just got in a fight with their sibling or they got hurt physically, or they got frustrated with something they were trying to do. Think about your child having a temper tantrum and what does that look like? So often we see our kids doing, expressing a lot of emotion. They might be crying, they might be whining, they could be yelling or screaming. They could be shutting down. Sometimes they just shut down and won’t respond to us, at all. They could even be acting it out and throwing things or hitting someone so they’re probably in a really right brain at that moment and so we want to come in and we want to help them calm down. And sometimes there needs to be repairs made or sometimes there are consequences for things. The idea of connect and redirect is we want to help get them into a place of that 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 problem-solving, the repairs, or potentially the consequences.

The idea is that we want to approach our children, acknowledging the emotional experience that they’re having. It’s important to connect with the child first before going into the problem-solving phase.

Dr. Siegel and Bryson say that it’s helpful for parents to reframe from their children when they’re having a hard time and see this as a sign that their brain isn’t integrated and they need outside help. Sometimes we or our kids encounter situations where there’s something difficult that happens and they can kind of work through it and come back to a regulated kind of normal state, but other times it sort of overwhelms them and they need our help.

One way for parents to help their children is through touch. Touch is a great way to connect with your child and of course, it has to be a nurturing touch so this is why parents need to make sure that they’re regulated. Maybe put your hand on their shoulder or their back and say, “It looks like you’re having trouble.”

Now with this, parents have to have discernment because sometimes if children are really dysregulated in a full-blown tantrum, it may not be the best time to touch them. They may need a little extra space. But when you can see that they’re starting to calm down and kind of return to themselves 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 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 they’re 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.

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.”

It can be kind of a matter of fact but also needs to be somewhat of a warm way to communicate with them that you’re going to work with them.

Also, 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 that, uh, having those warm eyes, having that soft facial expression that, uh, 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, and then 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 would give them encouragement for what they’ve got to face.

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