You might have found this website because you searched for toddler defiance, angry kids, power struggles or temper tantrums. Or maybe a friend sent you one of my articles or a poignant quote caught your eye on facebook.
No matter how you found me or your child’s age — as parents we are all in the same boat.
Here’s the thing…
When you have a child your world changes. You have a whole other little person with their own will, their own emotions, and their own needs.
Not only do you have to regulate your own emotions and needs, but you also have to regulate theirs too.
- The power struggles
- The tantrums
- The BIG emotions
- The clashes
It all boils down to this: self- and emotional-regulation (yours and your child’s!)
I know this because it was what I studied for over 15 years as a developmental child psychologist. And because I’m a parent too.
A child’s brain and body are completely immature when it comes to emotional and self-control.
The part of the brain associated with logical thinking, self-control, planning, and regulation of emotions is not even fully organized until age three. And not completely mature until sometime in your 30s.
If we take a step back and look at this philosophically, we might ask why human children are born so immature and unable to even handle their own emotions.
Maybe it so we as parents, as a society, can raise them to face the current world we live in. They cannot possibly be prepared for all they will have to face upon birth. We get to help shape their ability to handle challenging times. To rise above, to overcome, to be self-motivated. To look for kindness in a cruel world.
Yet, these seeds we plant early on grow so far under the surface it’s easy to get discouraged as parents. Are we doing the right thing? Are we giving them the right skills? Am I messing up completely?
I know because I’ve been there.
When my baby hasn’t slept, when my toddler refuses to brush his teeth, when my child is anxious about school.
Parenting is an art based on your best instincts and intuition.
But, knowledge is power. When I have struggled as a parent, and when I have questioned myself — I have turned to my background, to knowledge — to the science of child development.
While there is no manual or ‘right way’ to raise a child there is knowledge that can give us insight into what is happening under the surface where we hope to plant those seeds.
For example, did you know that there is a literal connection between the heart and the mind?
This connection is through a rather large cranial nerve, called the vagus nerve. This nerve creates a feedback circuit from the heart, lungs, and abdomen to the brain.
Babies have this nerve system, but it’s not fully developed in the first few years. To regulate their physiological state babies instead use primitive brain-stem circuits.
Think about that enormity of that, the heart-mind connection is not even fully formed when our babies are first placed in our arms. What an amazing task we have before us as parents to grow and strengthen that connection.
The vagus nerve is the first thing to react to emotion or stress. When you have a big emotion — especially fear or worry — but also it could be big feelings of love, the brain releases it’s hold on the heart — just in case it needs to start beating a little faster — it will be ready. This is before your palms start to sweat, before breathing accelerates, and before you even start thinking about fleeing or fighting.
All of this happens unconsciously, but you can teach yourself to be aware of it. Through things like meditation and yoga, you can strengthen the vagal system and thus your awareness of it.
When we teach our children to name their emotions — to speak them out loud and not suppress them — we strengthen this heart-mind connection.
When we teach our children to breath through the emotion — we strengthen this heart-mind connection.
When we teach our children to have empathy for others — we strengthen this heart-mind connection.
When we teach our children self-regulation skills we are strengthening that mind-body connection and creating the foundation for them to be emotionally strong and ready to face the challenges this world will throw at them.
Nurturing your child’s inner strength is something sorely needed in a world over-focused on external achievement and rewards.
Instead, we need to focus on nurturing our child’s:
- Self and Emotional Regulation
- Self Control
- Self- Compassion
Fostering emotional strength and mental resilience prepares children for life’s challenges and helps them learn to be true to themselves.
Join me in nurturing your child’s heart and mind connection based on the science of self-regulation. Let’s nurture them and watch them thrive.