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August 31, 2015 / 16 Elul, 5775
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The Whole-Brain Child: An Effective Approach to Parenting

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Name It to Tame It: If your fourth grader is dealing with bullying at school, she is most likely experiencing painful or scary moments. These moments can be overwhelming and can flood her with overpowering emotions. One way to help bring the left brain of logic into this right brain dominated picture, is to help your daughter retell the story of her pain. After retelling (or naming) the story several times, the pain she experienced is less overwhelming (is tamed).

Upstairs and Downstairs Brain

The brain is not just divided into two hemispheres; it also has an “upstairs” and a “downstairs.” Scientists identify the downstairs brain, made up of the brain stem and limbic system, as the part responsible for basic functions, such as breathing, blinking, instinctually reacting, and emoting strongly. The upstairs brain, with its cerebral cortex, is the place in which higher function mental processes take place, such as imagining, planning, empathy, and morality.

We are at our best when our instincts are in line with our higher-level thinking. Here is one suggestion of how to help our children integrate their upstairs and downstairs brains:

Our brains are like muscles, so if we do not exercise them, they will not work to their fullest potential. While often as parents we have an urge to make decisions for our children so that we can guide them in the right direction, it is also important to allow your child to make his own decisions. For instance, if your child has a baseball game and a friend’s birthday party on the same day, it would help to involve him in the decision-making process. Not only will he be less likely to be upset about missing the event if he was part of the process, but you will also be teaching him about executive function and weighing different options to come to a conclusion.

The above examples are just a taste of what parenting the whole-brain child is about; however, I have found great success when working with parents and teachers using this method. Like most things dealing with the health and happiness of our children, it’s worth a try!

About the Author: An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@gmail.com.


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