This article is for those who want to understand why when kids are having a meltdown, a tantrum or ‘a wobbly’, that it isn’t personal and how you can better teach them to align logic with their emotions.
Who doesn’t love a tantrum?!
And who doesn’t love a tantrum that is perfectly timed to the moment we actually need to get something important done or leave the house…
So, what is the solution, and how can we use design a solution that isn’t completely caught up in short-term solutions like spoiling with lollies and properly teaching some long-term solutions for emotional regulation?
A Tantrum Isn’t Personal
One thing that is unavoidable as a person who cares for another, is an emotional attachment. Doesn’t matter if it’s your first day with them or someone that you’ve known for 30 years, us humans have an innate way of forming an emotional attachment with others in our care (unless you’re a psychopath…). Obviously, our level of attachment is going to vary in certain cases, family vs. stranger, annoying kid vs. one that you might steal… etc. But we have a big ‘sympathy muscle’ that has been working hard for us since ancestral times that works subconsciously.
If we focus more on those close to us, every time our little legend cries, gets angry at us or starts having a TOTAL MELTDOWN, we are going to feel somewhat responsible for them feeling this way or a responsibility to fix it.
But here’s one for you…
You’ve probably done absolutely nothing wrong.
There are countless possibilities of why they are having a tantrum.
They got in trouble in class, they are tired, ate too much food or you are wearing that embarrassing shirt again…
The Two Brains
As part of being human, we have an ‘upstairs brain’ and a ‘downstairs brain’. One that controls the logical order of thinking and the other which is responsible for the emotional decisions in our life.
Both are incredibly important and the interplay between them will vary on the development of your child. If there is good interplay, we have rational thinking. If have poor interplay you will have an endless number of tantrums well into their adult years.
The important thing to understand is the biggest improvements will be from the nurture and care YOU provide to them.
Upstairs or ‘Computer Brain’
The upstairs brain is the logical brain. It’s made up of the cerebral cortex. It’s responsible for higher order thinking and planning, imagining, analysing, problem solving and decision making. This is why it’s called the ‘computer brain’.
If we can maintain our upstairs brain working, we will have rational decision making and the ability to regulate our emotions.
Downstairs or ‘Lizard Brain’
The downstairs brain is the emotional brain. It’s made up of the brain stem, limbic region and the amygdala. Very primitive and crucial for our survival. It’s our beating heart, our breathing, our digestion, our quick reactions and the necessities for us to survive in this dangerous world. It’s our ‘gut instinct’ and that feeling when something feels a little off. It’s our reptilian or ‘lizard brain’.
The downstairs brain is our ‘fight or flight’ response and also the reason why we produce strong emotions of happiness, sadness, fear and anger.
Can you see where this is going?
The House of Interplay
If you can imagine a house with two floors. A functioning house is one with a staircase between the two to connect them. A house with no staircase will leave no connection between the brain where logic does not meet emotion but meets an existential tantrum every time they need to put on their socks.
How Do We Create the Stairs
To create the stairs we need to do one thing in particular!
Validate their emotions.
When we tell them what they are feeling is valid, we can start to logically solve why. It’s about creating a narrative on why they are feeling this way. This will help them create a map, or take the first step to reaching their upstairs brain.
We can do this by storytelling, journaling, drawing or a number of methods of self-expression.
The more we do this, the better they are at utilising the stairs between the two brains to both enhance the logical and emotional side of their brain.
This equals more rational thinking and less tantrums!
The is crucial for the emotional regulation of not just your little legend but yourself too!
If you want to know how you can personally self-regulate your emotions, read this blog.
Until next time,
Siegel, D. J., & Payne Bryson, T. (2011). The whole-brain child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind. Bantam Books. https://drdansiegel.com/book/the-whole-brain-child/