Have you heard the phrase, “He’s flipped his lid!”? This phrase refers to someone losing their cool, getting angry, and going off the hinges. What is really happening? This leads us to our third “Brain C” in our study on No-Drama Discipline. We are going to learn about the third "Brain C" and how we can help keep the ‘lid’ on our child’s emotions.
The third ‘C’ refers to how the Brain is Complex. Our brains are complex with many different parts that oversee different tasks. Different parts of our brain are responsible for our language, emotions, memory, and many more functions. When disciplining our children, we ignite different parts of their brains. When our children ‘act out’, we can appeal to either the downstairs brain or the upstairs brain.
Last month we learned that the downstairs brain is responsible for the flight or fight response, whereas the upstairs brain is responsible for more logical and sophisticated thinking. When we respond to our children’s behavior with threats, we lead our children to “flip their lids”. If you refer to the attached image, your brain can be viewed using your hand. Your thumb refers to the amygdala which is responsible for keeping you alert and sounding an alarm if there is a threat. This is where all our big emotions are. If you tuck your thumb in and cover it with the other four fingers, you are covering those big emotions like a ‘lid’ with the pre-frontal cortex. The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for helping us to stay calm and think during a situation.
When we respond to our child’s behavior by labeling their emotions and staying calm, we are helping the pre-frontal cortex keep those big emotions covered. If we respond by demanding our child to calm down and threaten them with a time-out or other punishment, we then engage the amygdala and the child’s ‘lid’ flips which sends them into the flight or fight mode of survival. It is our goal as parents/caregivers to help our children engage their upstairs brain when they become upset and act out. The key to discipline is to help our children develop the internal skill to calm the storm before their ‘lid’ flips. We want our kids to engage, not enrage.