Why did I research this?
My two year old cries a lot. Now when I say a lot, I really do mean it. He has days where he is so happy, loving, fun spirited and then days where he shouts at me, can’t let things go and basically just needs to cry and cry and cry. I remember my now five year old doing exactly the same thing when he was two and three and how finding out just why the days were filled with drama after drama helped me to respond without being pulled into the emotional chaos.
What did I find?
The research by Siegel and Payne Bryson tells me that we have a left and right hemisphere. Traditionally we know the left side to be about logic and the right side to be about creativity. The details however include this: The two sides should in fact be a collaborative team that effectively identifies feelings, rationalizes feelings so they don’t turn into an emotional crisis, being ordered but not too rigid, using words and logic but also understanding emotions and so forth. At different stages of development the left side and right side are trying to figure out how to work together in harmony (integrate) so that the person can feel happy, calm and emotionally healthy. This integration is still happening at 12 years with one side being more dominant than the other at different stages. (2011).
When my five year old was four he began to articulate how he was feeling, when he couldn’t cut the crust of his toast or join a piece if lego. He could recognise his feelings and started to say them out aloud. He had less meltdowns over zips, shoelaces, food, clothes and the word “no”. He, of course is human and little things still bother him as they do all of us but now that I hear my two year old devastated and screaming at me because he wants to get out of the car “his way” I can picture his little brain, the left side much more dull as it learns logic, language, linear and the literal and the right side overbearing and bright much like a fluorescent light flickering with highs and lows.
As parents we can help our children integrate their left and right hemispheres by doing something called ‘connecting and redirecting’ when they are annoyed, upset or frustrated. Connecting and redirecting involves listening to the problem or complaint, understanding what your child is feeling, comforting your child and then redireting them to do the task you want them to do. By connecting to your child through his right brain’s emotional needs, he feels nurtured and more able to listen, make sense (logic) of the situation and solve his problem (Siegel and Payne Bryson, 2011).
How is this useful?
Knowing why your child is so emotional day in day out (after ruling out hunger, sleep, sickness, etc) is reassuring.
Knowing that the constant whaling, tears and shouting is not because you worked today or that you are a shocking mother is a good feeling.
Knowing that your child will learn how to manage his emotions through logic, language and literal thinking in good time and that this too shall pass is pleasing.
By helping your child to use both sides of the brain together, you will be helping him to avoid the two extremes – rigidity and emotional chaos as well as giving him more chance of experiencing harmony and happiness as a young human being.