Whole-Brain Education: How to Improve Children’s Emotions

Children's Emotions

When children grow up, the right brain is dominant, so they live in the present completely, ignoring everything outside. If only the left brain is used, the child’s emotional world will become a desert. Through listening, attention, and experience sharing, parents can recognize the emotional state of their children, help them to combine the left and right brains, and balance the strong emotions of the right brain with the logic of the left brain. Once they learn to handle emotions correctly, they can become happier.

Thomas’s 4-year-old daughter Katie likes school very much, and she never cries every time her father sends her to school to say goodbye to her. Until one time, when she fell ill at school, the teacher called Thomas, and Thomas picked up Katie.

When she was going to school the next day, Katie started crying, but she was fine before. The same thing will happen every morning for the next few days. Even if Thomas dressed Katie to coax her to go to school while she was crying and resisting, the situation did not improve after arriving at school.

After getting off the car in the school parking lot, Katie will become more and more “abnormal”. Near the school building, she would have a “non- violent uncooperative” behavior. She clings to her father, her small body is as heavy as gold.

Under her resistance, Thomas had to drag her to the classroom step by step. After arriving in the classroom, Thomas was held tighter by her. In the end, Katie made a “hands-off”, she put all the weight on Thomas’s leg. When Thomas finally escaped Katie’s “devil’s grip” and was about to leave the classroom, he heard his daughter’s hysterical voice: “I will die if you go!”

This is a very common phenomenon of separation anxiety in young children. Sometimes school is a terrible place for children, but Thomas is puzzled: “Katie always looks forward to going to school before she gets sick. She loves school activities, loves making friends with classmates, loves to tell stories, and admires it. Her teacher.”

So, what went wrong? Why did an illness cause Katie to give birth to such extreme and unreasonable fears? How should Thomas respond? His first task is to find a way for Katie to go to school willingly. This is his “survival” goal. But he also hopes to turn this difficult experience into an opportunity to not only solve Katie’s current problems, but also to promote her future growth. This is his “developmental education”.

Later, we will return to the problem faced by Thomas and see how he uses the basic knowledge of the brain to turn the “survival” moment that only meets the minimum requirements into a “development moment” that helps children gain unlimited development capabilities. He knows the knowledge we will explain next: the simple principle of left and right brain work.

1. Left brain and right brain

Maybe you already know that the brain is divided into two parts, left and right, these two parts are not only anatomically separated, but also very different in function. Some people even think that the left and right brains have their own unique “personality”, and they all have “its own ideas.” The scientific community claims that there are “left-brain patterns” and “right-brain patterns” in the way the brain affects us, but for convenience, we will discuss the left brain and the right brain in lay terms.

The left brain loves and desires order, which is logical, realistic, verbal and linear. The right brain is comprehensive and non-verbal. It is responsible for sending and receiving signals so that we can achieve the purpose of communication. These signals include facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, body posture, and gestures. The right brain does not care about details and order, but only cares about the overall scene, that is, the meaning and feelings of an experience, and it deals exclusively with images, emotions and personal memories. “Intuition” or “feeling from the heart” comes from the right brain.

Some people say that the right brain is more intuitive and perceptual. From a professional point of view, it is more accurate to say that the right brain is more directly affected by the body and the bottom area of ​​the brain, and is responsible for receiving and interpreting emotional information. Simply put, the left brain is logical, verbal, and realistic, while the right brain is emotional, nonverbal, empirical, and autobiographical.

You can think of it this way, the left brain cares about the legal provisions. As children grow up, they will become very good at left-brain thinking: “I didn’t squeeze her! I just pushed her gently.” The right brain cares about the spirit of the law and pays attention to the emotion and experience in interpersonal relationships. . The left brain focuses on the text, while the right brain focuses on the context. It was the non-logical, emotional right brain that prompted Katie to shout to her father: “I will die if you go!”

In the growth process of children, especially before the age of 3, the right brain dominates. Children have not yet mastered the ability to use logic and words to express their feelings, and live completely in the present. This also explains why they will squat on the sidewalk without scruple to watch ladybirds crawling, or feel no guilt when they are late for class. Logic, responsibility, and the concept of time do not yet exist for them. But when a toddler starts to keep asking “why”, you know that his left brain is working, because the left brain wants to know the linear causal relationship between everything in the world and express the logic with words.

2. Connect the left and right brains

In order to make life harmonious, meaningful and build good interpersonal relationships, the coordinated operation of the left and right brains is essential, and the brain structure is also designed in this way. Take the corpus callosum as an example. It is a bundle of fibers that connect the left and right brains along the brain center. The left and right brains communicate through the fiber bundles, thus functioning as a whole-this is exactly what we want to happen to children. We hope that the children’s brains are integrated horizontally, and the left and right brains work together. In this way, children will face their own logic and emotions at the same time, better balance the two, and then understand themselves and the world.

The brain is divided into two parts, left and right, because each part has a special function, so we can achieve more complex goals and perform more difficult tasks. Problems arise when the brain cannot be integrated or we only get experience from one side of the brain. Using only the left brain or the right brain is like swimming with only one arm. Although one arm can also swim, isn’t it more direct to the target and easier to succeed if you use both arms together?

The same goes for the brain. In terms of emotions, if we want our lives to be more meaningful, emotions are absolutely indispensable, but we don’t want our lives to be completely controlled by emotions. If we are controlled by the right brain and ignore the logic of the left brain, we will be submerged in an emotional tsunami created by imagination and physical sensations. Similarly, we do not want to use only the left brain to separate logic and language from feelings and personal experience, which will make us feel trapped in an emotional desert.

Our goal is to avoid emotional tsunami or emotional desert. We hope that irrational images, autobiographical memories, and emotions that are vital to us can play a role, and we also hope that they can be integrated with order and structure. When Katie yelled at school, her right brain dominated her behavior. Katie’s emotional right brain did not coordinate with her logical left brain, and Thomas therefore witnessed an irrational emotional tsunami.

Here is an important point: not only emotional tsunamis can cause problems, but ignoring or denying emotional deserts can also cause some problems. This type of problem occurs more frequently in older children. The following is the story of a 12-year-old girl, many people have had this experience.

Amanda had an argument with her best friend. We learned from her mother that this dispute was very painful for her at the time. But when talking about this, she just shrugged, stared out the window, and said: “I really don’t care, but we won’t talk anymore, because she annoys me.”

Her expression was cold and calm, but from her slightly trembling lower lip and blinking eyes, I could feel the nonverbal signals from her right brain revealing her true emotions. At this time, “rejection” indicates a kind of pain. Amanda’s way of dealing with fragile emotions is to retreat to her left brain, to her left brain, which is barren like a desert, but predictable and controllable.

I need to make Amanda understand that even if recalling the conflict with friends is very painful, she still needs to pay attention and even respect what happened in her right brain, because the right brain is closely related to the body’s sensation and the information released by the underlying brain. Together they create emotions. Therefore, all the images, feelings, and autobiographical memories from the right brain are full of emotion. When we are sad, we tend to retreat from the unpredictable, perceptive right brain, and retreat to the predictable, controllable, and logical one.

In the left brain, so we will feel safer.

The key to helping Amanda is that I have to gently perceive her true feelings. I did not directly point out what she concealed from me or even herself , nor did I point out how important people in her life hurt her. I just tried to get my right brain to communicate with her right brain. Through my facial expressions and gestures, let her know that I really want to feel her emotions, and help her to “feel her feelings” empathically, let her know that she is not alone, because I care about her inner experience, Not just external performance. Once the connection between each other is established, the language will become more natural for the two people, and I can slowly enter her heart and see what happened.

By asking Amanda to tell about the dispute between her and her best friend, and paying attention to her pauses in the story, and observing her subtle emotional changes, I brought Amanda back into her true emotions and helped her effectively Deal with these emotions. This is how I tried to connect with the sensations, body sensations and images of her right brain, as well as the language and linear narrative ability of her left brain. Once we understand the mechanism of the left and right brains, we can understand that integrating the two will completely change the results of the interaction and how this radical change is achieved.

We don’t want our children to be harmed, but we also hope that they can not only survive the difficulties in life, but also face the difficulties and grow up. When Amanda retreated to her left brain and escaped the painful emotions surging in her right brain, she rejected some important selves that she needed to admit.

3. Stereotyped left brain

Denying emotions is just one of the dangers of our over-reliance on the left brain. As a result, we may become too rigid, lack the ability to distinguish different opinions, and lack the ability to understand events in light of the context, because this is the specialty of the right brain. Because of this, sometimes a kind joke you make to an 8-year-old child may cause him to be defensive and angry. Don’t forget, the right brain is responsible for interpreting non-verbal information, especially when the child is tired or in a bad mood, he may only notice the literal meaning of your words, but not your joking tone and funny expressions. .

Tina recently encountered an interesting incident that showed what happens when the stereotyped left brain completely dominates the brain.

Tina ordered a cake from the food store for her son who had just turned one year old. She wants a “cake made of cupcakes”, which is to connect many cupcakes together with frosting so that it looks like a big cake. When she placed the order, she told the cake master to write her son’s name “JP” on the cupcakes. As a result, she got the cake in the picture above before the birthday party started, and it said: JP is on the cupcake.

Our goal is to help children learn to use the left brain and the right brain at the same time, that is, to integrate the left and right brains. It is like a river of happiness. The two banks of the river are chaotic and rigid. To maintain mental health is to stay in the middle of the harmonious water flow between these two banks. Helping children connect their left brain and right brain will give them more opportunities to avoid chaos and stereotyped river banks, so that they can live in a healthy, happy and constantly flowing river.

Integrating the left and right brains can ensure that children will not get too close to both sides of the strait. If the emotion of the right brain is not combined with the logic of the left brain, it will drift to the chaotic river bank like Katie. This means that we need to help children get some ideas from the left brain and actively deal with emotions. Otherwise, like Amanda, once he resists emotions and hides in his left brain, he will hit a rigid river bank. At this time, we have to help children invite the right brain to participate more so that they can accept new information and experience.

4. Integrate ourselves

Now that you have a better understanding of the left and right brains, let’s think about the degree of integration of your brain. When you first became a father or mother, were you ever dominated by your right brain? Are you often involved in emotional tsunamis, leaving your children overwhelmed by your own confusion and fear? Or, do you tend to live in the emotional desert of the left brain, and as a result your reaction is rigid, making it difficult for you to interpret and respond to your child’s emotions and needs?

Here are the words of a mother who realized that she only used her left brain when interacting with her youngest son.

I grew up in a military family. Needless to say, I am not emotional at all! I am a veterinarian, a well-trained problem-stopper, not very good at empathy.

When my son is crying or sad, I will try to calm him down to help him solve the problem. Sometimes it was useless, and it even made him cry harder, so I had to walk away and wait for him to calm down.

Recently, I tried to connect emotionally first-right brain to right brain, which is completely unfamiliar to me. Now I will hold him, listen to him, and even help him retell his story, let his left and right brains work together. Then we will discuss how to take action or solve the problem. Now I try to remember: connect first, solve second.

It takes practice to do it, but once I get an emotional connection with my son, using both the right brain and the left brain instead of just the left brain, everything becomes smoother and our relationship is also smoother. Improved.

The mother realized that the neglect of her right brain made her miss an important opportunity to connect with her son and help her develop his right brain.

The best way to promote the integration of children’s brains is for our own brains to be more integrated. Once our own left and right brains are integrated, they can connect the realistic left brain and reason, allowing us to make important decisions and solve problems; at the same time, connecting the right brain and emotions allows us to perceive our feelings, body sensations and emotions, so as to respond cordially The needs of the child.

Also Read: Why is it healthier for couples to sleep separately? What the British doctor said

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