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Reactivity: emotion and logic

Within all of our brains, there are separate areas that have evolved to encourage us to respond to life situations in different ways.

The fast-thinking and instinctual ‘Emotional Brain’ (made up of the brain stem and limbic system), and the more calculated, reasonable ‘Logical Brain’ (that exists in our cortex) interact to create our reactions to the world.

Children are particularly excellent at engaging with their ‘Emotional Brain’, as it is the part of our nervous system that exists strongly from birth and instinctively responds to situations that create strong feelings. The temper-tantrum from a tired two year old at bedtime can serve as an excellent example of the emotional brain in action!

The ‘Logical Brain’ only becomes fully matured by the time people reach their mid-twenties. The often overwhelming reactivity of toddlers, children and teenagers isn’t an accurate indicator of success when it comes to a parent’s actions and decisions, but more a symptom of how instinctual and emotionally-charged their developing brains are.

Understanding this concept alone can provide valuable reassurance, as we move through the day with children that seem to want to push our buttons or resist our every request.

Dr Dan J Siegel and Dr Tina Payne Bryson have created an insightful New York Times Best-Seller in ‘The Whole-Brain Child’, which can help parents decipher the reasons why children react the way the do, and how to move through challenging times with our kids.

Amongst many other strategies, ‘The Whole-Brain Child’ provides readers with a simple and succinct source of knowledge to navigate the ‘Emotional Brain’, and how to start encouraging children to access their higher-functioning ‘Logical Brain’ too.


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