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Lower Brain to Upper brain strategy with Children….It really works!!!

My dear kid is a wonderful child, who is full of energy and life which is the best part of him having ADHD/Dyslexia. His creativity, zest for life makes me happy most of the times but over the last 13 years, I remember a lot of moments were scary and I personally have to admit that I could have handled it a little bit better.

I happened to catch a workshop on parenting and the topic was about building “Self-esteem” in children. Never a big believer in parenting until recently, I was in tears after another episode with my son and not able to see eye to eye with him.  I know all the ADHD/Dyslexia books in and out but still failing. One fundamental reason…the child wasn’t getting the message and not absolutely co-operating with me..

Made me wonder…What am I doing wrong? I see the same child behaving like an angel with my sister and my brother-in-law and with me, it was a different story. I wondered why?

We make some progress and then we are back to square one.After the emotional roller coaster for years, I heard my sister saying to me one day “You use adult language with that kid. You are constantly ordering him around,  threatening him that you will remove TV or something, talking about what he does bad, his grades etc and so he has a built a wall around himself. Knock it off”.

First I took it personal and felt hurt, to be frank with you. The workshop was an eye opener for me. They talked about how children/adults have this “Fight or flight response” when they see a threat.

A little bit of science insight..

Wikipedia defines “The fight-or-flight response. (also called hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival”.  Animals do it all the time.

The autonomic nervous system is a control system in the human body that acts largely unconsciously and regulates bodily functions such as the heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal.[2] This system is the primary mechanism in control of the fight-or-flight response.

Research clearly indicates that 90% of the brain development happens before the age of 5.  The rest of the development happens incrementally through adulthood.  How we shape the experiences that the brain can see and hear is extremely important.

  Without getting too technical, Looking at the image, there are three parts of the brain.

a. The lower brain  – all it does is the “Flight or Freeze” response.  It’s job is to sense harm or threat. The minute it detects it, it immediately raises the wall and tries to get out of it, or fight back or freeze ( which I noticed with my niece ).

Attacking physically will definitely trigger a reaction in everyone. But ever wondered we all do that, even when attacked by words? What happens when a child or adult feel that they are being attacked by negative words like “you are lazy, you never do anything right, why are your grades low, I will take your TV away if you talk back” etc?

That is what was happening with my son every time. Over the years, the wall was a thick shell and boy, did he put a good fight.

b.  The middle brain – the emotional or “clingy” brain says it all.

c.  The higher brain –  the rational or the Executive center of brain which is involved in planning, organization, cognitive behavior, shaping personality, making decisions and implementation.

A number of us oscillate between the different brains and some of us spend most of our lives in one part of the brain make up more than the other.

My son, I have to admit was hanging around more on the lower brain part of it and I take full responsibility for building the wall. The minute the realization hit, I made a promise to remove the wall one bit at a time and it is  work in progress. We are making progress but slowly but steadily and that is all that matters.

Some tips from me..

a. Ask yourself “Which part of the brain really kicks in most of the times for my child?”.  Your goal should really be to elevate the child to a combination of 2 parts rational and 1part emotional part of it. You need that emotional part of it for being human.

b.  Watch your language. What words trigger the child? What sets him off? Watch your tone.

For me, it was him walking in and me pestering him with “How was your day?”. He was invariably tired and not respond and I was quick to respond with my motherly sermon.  Now, I just say “hello”, give him a hug and ask him if he would like to have something to eat and if he was tired. most of the times, he would just lie down on the carpet and just quietly chill out. I just give him the space and that definitely makes the evening better.

“Eat your veggies or you are not leaving the table” was another favorite one. No more threats..Now, we have played different kind of games with it or used rewards which are motivating for him to get the message across.

or “How many times do I have to remind you about homework?   is a bigger one that will definitely set him off. ADHD and forgetting homework goes hand in hand. So, what is the point in beating him up?   I tell him to write it in his notebook. If not, it is mom’s whats app group to the rescue.

Only suggestion I can make to parents is not to use words that will set off the “Flight or Fight” response. Tone down and soften your words to invite co-operation and it makes a world of difference. Try to meet them halfway for most of their requests are not huge.

Particularly with children, don’t use the past for it is a crime as they always are in the present.

Signing off by wishing you an Amazing day..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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