Understanding the Stressed Brain

I was introduced to the “Hand Model of the Brain” when I was a new parent taking a continuing education class to maintain my licensure. Not only did this example stick with me, it’s something I continue to use when working with parents today because  it’s such a simple way to understand behavior and the brain.

Watch this video (90 seconds) as Daniel Siegel, author of Parenting from the Inside out (along with Mary Hartzell), explains these brain processes, then we’ll talk about what we can do as parents.

This demonstration is a useful visual to help us understand what happens in our brains when our buttons are pushed and we “lose it.” When we’ve had a hard day, we didn’t get enough sleep & our kids are really acting out and pushing our buttons we literally “flip our lids.” So now our pre-frontal cortex is not functioning. We have

  • no ability to regulate our own emotions
  • no ability to be appropriate in interpersonal relationships
  • no intuition
  • no ability to respond with flexibility.
  • We are not even usually aware of how inappropriate we are being in the moment!

So, given that we all have mirror neurons, if we come home from work this way, what is going to happen to our kids? They will do the same thing. Or if our kids hare having a rough day & they have flipped their lid, what is likely to happen to us? But if we stay calm, what is are we more likely to invite from our kids?

Our ability to re-gather ourselves and allow our brain to think again is a critical skill for both parents and kids. And because we have mirror neurons, our modeling of this skill is very, very helpful.

So it’s worth thinking about what kinds of things help us re-gather. What kinds of things can you do?

Learn even more about the brain from Dan Siegel in the video below!

Learn more about Mirror Neurons in this 14 minute Nova episode

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