Teach Your Kids About the Two Sides of the Brain
Integrating Ourselves: Connecting Our Left and Right Brain
Now that you know more about the left and right sides of the brain, think about your own integration. When it comes to parenting, are you too right-brain dominant? Do you frequently get swept up in emotional floods, leaving your children drenched with your own chaos and fear? Or maybe your tendency is to live in a left-brain emotional desert, so you are rigid in your reactions and have a hard time reading and responding to your children’s emotions and needs?
Here are the words of a mom we know who realized that she was primarily interacting with her young son using only one side of her own brain:
I was brought up in a military family. Needless to say, I am not very touchy-feely! I’m a veterinarian and a trained problem solver, which doesn’t help me in the empathy department.
When my son would cry or become upset, I would try to get him to settle down so I could help him solve the problem. This was not helpful and sometimes exacerbated the crying, so I would walk away and wait until he calmed down.
Recently, I learned about trying to connect emotionally first—right brain to right brain, which was totally foreign to me. Now I hold my son, listen, and even try and help him tell his story, using both the left and right brain together. Then we talk about the behavior or solve the problem. Now I try to remember to connect first and solve second.
It took some practice, but when I related to my son emotionally first, using my right brain, along with my left, instead of using only my left, everything else went more smoothly and our relationship in general improved as well.
This mother realized that by ignoring parts of her own right brain, she was missing out on important opportunities to connect with her son and to enhance the development of his right brain.
One of the best ways to promote integration in our children is to become better integrated ourselves. (We’ll discuss this more fully in chapter 6 when we explain mirror neurons.) When right and left brain are integrated, we can approach parenting from both a grounded, left-brained, rational place—one that lets us make important decisions, solve problems, and enforce boundaries—and from a right-brained, emotionally connected place where we’re aware of the feelings and sensations of our body and emotions, so we can lovingly respond to our children’s needs. Then we’ll be parenting with our whole brain.