We have all been kids, some of us have kids, some of our kids have kids – bottom line, it is difficult being and also managing a child. After a bit of a family meltdown moment last night, I revisited a book called No Drama Discipline (in summary, Supernanny was Superwrong about most things) and while planning for the next blow up, I came across a surprising fact that made me rethink my early twenties. 

Brief neurology lesson, the brain can be crudely broken up into an upstairs, or thinking part (sound decision making, planning, emotional regulation, empathy, morality and personal insight) and a downstairs or instinctual part (strong emotions, protecting offspring and basic functions like breathing, sleep regulation, wake cycles and digestion). As we grow, and with sound parenting, the upstairs brain learns to regulate the lower brain, enlarging the space between stimulus and response. 

The surprising part for me that this process isn’t complete till our mid-twenties, which, along with explaining some very teenage decisions I made well into my third decade, also highlighted the responsibility we hold toward young people we lead to occasionally be their external upstairs brain, not to excuse bad behaviour, but to help them become less black and white. When your lower brain is calling the shots, it necessarily disregards nuance and context which, perhaps, explains the fervent ideology felt by so many of us when we were young!

As the authors say, “connect and redirect”, don’t try and teach your kids a lesson when tensions are high – hold them, listen, calm them and thenredirect to help them engage upstairs brain. Works on adults too.