Does your child throw a tantrum in the middle of a store? Does your preschooler refuse to get dressed in the morning? Does your 10 or 11 year-old sulk on the bench instead of playing on the field? 

As parents you know your children’s bodies. You know what temperature is considered a fever, what medication and which dosage to give them, which foods the children are allergic to etc…

Surprisingly, even educated and concerned parents know very little about how their child’s brain works. Yet, the more parents know about how our children’s brains work, the more they will be able to teach them better decision-making processes, discipline them more effectively, increase their self-esteem, & nurture stronger, more resilient children. It can make parenting easier and more meaningful.

In his book the “Whole Brain Child” D. Siegel (2011) explains the concept of integration or creating connections between different parts of the brain. When the different parts of the brain work together, they create stronger connections. The more effectively connected or integrated the different parts of the brain, the more successfully those parts can work together.

Siegel explains that integration is like floating in the middle of a river – and avoiding the river’s two banks. One side, he explains is where you feel out of control. “Instead of floating in the peaceful river, you are caught up in the pull of the tumultuous rapids, and confusion and turmoil rule the day.” On the opposite bank lies rigidity. You are imposing control on everything and everyone around you.” You are unwilling to compromise or adapt.

We all move back and forth between chaos and rigidity throughout the day. When we are farthest from the middle of the river, we are also farthest from mental and emotional health. The better we are at avoiding the extremes, the more time we spend in “the river of well-being.”

Children float along their own “rivers” and when we are in situations in which they lose their tempers or throw tantrums, you can recognize which state of integration or lack of it your child’s brain is at and you can help guide him back to the middle ground.

Adapted from a book by D. Siegel.

Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT

<a href="">San Diego Couples and Family Therapy</a>