To understand why connection is the parenting key, we must first understand a bit about the brain. For a simple explanation, let’s talk in terms of the downstairs brain and the upstairs brain. The downstairs brain, fully functioning at birth, is the primitive part of the brain. This controls the body’s vital functions such as breathing, temperature, heart rate, and balance. This is where our survival center is, where fear and overwhelm send us to fight, flight, freeze, or faint. When we are out of control, our downstairs brain takes over.
The upstairs brain is the thinking brain. This is where logic and reasoning occur. This is also where empathy and compassion reside. This part of the brain is very underdeveloped at birth, and we parents actually have a major role at how the upstairs brain develops. The more calm and connected we are, the better the neural wiring in their upstairs brain.
Here’s how it works: When your child is really upset, the downstairs brain has control and she can’t access her upstairs brain. She’s being reactive, not receptive. Being receptive, taking in the lessons she’s being taught and internalizing them, involves logic and reasoning. That isn’t happening when she’s stressed out, only when she’s calm. This is why making children feel ashamed, rejected, or furious when we discipline has the opposite effect we’re hoping for. We literally hijack their ability to reflect on their actions and think through to a solution because they’re in their downstairs brain.
When we meet their turbulence with calmness (which requires us to be accessing our own upstairs brains!) we can help them reflect and make better choices. The best way to calm her down is to connect with her.