“You love her more!”
“You never want to talk to me!”
“You only spend time with her.”
All of these accusations were hurled at me one morning after having a catch up session with one of my daughters. She had worked a weekend full of doubles and we hadn’t had a moment together. Instead, I had spent the whole weekend with the child accusing me of never talking to him or spending time with him. His accusations, to quote Spock (from Star Trek) were ‘illogical’. Why? He wasn’t using the left side of his brain. He wasn’t integrating both sides. He was dis-integrated.
“Your left brain loves and desires order. It is logical, literal, linguistic (it loves words), and linear (it puts things in order). the left brain loves that all four of these words begin with the letter L. (It also loves lists).
The right brain, on the other hand, is holistic and nonverbal, sending and receiving signals that allow us to communicate , such as facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, posture, and gestures. Instead of details and order, our right brain cares about the big picture-the meaning and feeling of an experience-and specializes in images, emotions, and personal memories.” – Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, The Whole-Brain Child
The temptation with a child who mostly operates in the right brain is not to connect with them. They are so busy accusing, being angry, melting down that we don’t want to deal with them until their behavior improves. Then it doesn’t. It gets worse. Remember self regulation? Not there. What these kids need is for us to connect and redirect. Logic is not going to produce any fruit when the child is deep in a right brain emotional reaction.
What can we do?
- Connect with the Right.Acknowledge their feelings. They might not seem logical or real to you, but they are to them. Use a calm tone of voice. Touch them on the shoulder or hug them (if they are not in sensory overload). Use your right brain to connect. Remember, you are the adult. You can integrate both halves of your brain.
- Redirect with the Left. Use your left brain to help them. If a child cannot self-regulate, be their regulator. Strategize. Plan. In the situation with my son, I could say. “Would you like to play a game later?” or “How can we spend some time together? Ideas?”
I’m not talking about letting a child manipulate or control. I’m talking about helping them regulate, integrate, recognize emotions and feelings and apply some logical steps. It would not have done any good if I said, “You are just jealous!”
Connecting and Redirecting is a process that must be repeated over and over again. Then one day…..there will be a moment, a pinprick of light when he uses the right/left brain together. Again, this is not a magic potion to be used once. Repeat often for good results.
*Disclaimer- Sometimes a child is past the point of no return and you cannot connect and redirect when all they need is a long nap, a nourishing meal, or they are just finished with being out running errands.
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