Every parent has likely had the struggle of attempting to rationalize with their irrational child. Be it over wanting to wear Superman pajamas vs Batman pajamas to bed, wanting to eat dessert before dinner, why they can’t crawl around on the ceiling like Spiderman, or something else. When children get upset, they tend to lose all reason and just want what they want. As parents, this can get frustrating. Many end up falling into the trap of losing their patience and using terms like, “Because I said so”, “Why don’t you understand ____? We’ve gone over this”. Often this leads to bigger arguments, tears, and an unhappy household.

In the Whole Brain Child book, Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson give some strategies on how to take these situations and turn them into calm, learning moments that promote bonding and understanding. The Connect and Redirect strategy is to first remember that we were taught logic over time, it is not our brain’s natural response to our feelings and frustrations. Even as adults we struggle to add logic to our big emotions, so imagine how difficult that is for our children who are still learning to even put words to those big feelings. It may seem counterintuitive, but trying to rationalize with them using logic isn’t the best approach.

Instead, try meeting them where they are at: Get down to their eye level, use a calm voice and body language, engage empathetically, listen non-judgmentally, and take their problems as seriously as they are. When we approach our emotional children with emotion, it lets them know that we are hearing them and are taking the time to consider what they are saying versus feeling brushed off and sent back to bed. In this state, they are only using their emotional right-side brain. When we connect with their right brain, using our right brain, it helps to bring them back into balance. Then, once they are calm again, we can introduce left-brain logic and redirect.

Here they can take the time to learn how to problem solve and make a plan to ease their worries or frustrations. This may not always work, as sometimes their emotional storm is too far gone and just needs time to pass before introducing the Connect and Redirect strategy, but remember, it’s never okay for them to harm others, themselves, or property when they are experiencing these right brain emotional floods. They still need to be safe, and your rules and boundaries still deserve to be respected.


Written by Emily Brown