What I’m learning from Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

mom-lower-than-childI’m currently in a 9-month, on-line webinar on parenting with Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., co-author of The Whole-Brain Child and No-Drama Discipline plus I’m watching some of her DVD’s. The tip I’d like to share with you is her brain-based strategy “Communicate Comfort Rather Than Threat.” She explains that the brain has a threat-detection system in the lower brain from birth. When our children are upset (in their emotional/downstairs brain) and we look down on them, their brain perceives us as threatening. When we get below their eye level, that behavior tells the threat centers of their brain, “I am not under threat. I don’t have to fight, flee or freeze.” She suggests that, once we get below their eye level, all we have to say is, “You’re having such a hard time. I’m right here with you.” And then stay with them until they are calm. While there, we can ask them if they need help calming down.

If there is a behavior we want to address, this is not the time to do so, as their upstairs/thinking brain is not online and available for learning. Later, when they’ve calmed down, we can say, “Gosh, what you were doing earlier was not OK.” You don’t need to go into lecture mode. Frequently they’ll say, “I know” and tell you what was bothering them.

Parents tell her they are amazed when they do this. They say it is the most magical thing they have learned from her.

Dr. Bryson says the hardest part for parents is to wait until their kids are calm. Their most common mistake is to move into addressing the behavior too soon.

Try this and let me know how it works out for you.

The picture below represents what most parents do. Can you see the threat in this mom’s body language? Imagine how different it could be if this mom were to get below her son’s eye level and non-verbally communicate comfort.

Angry mother scolding a disobedient child