Tuesday, July 14, 2009

No Anger, Lectures or Threats... Go Brain Dead Instead

The brain is an amazing thing. The brain stem (back of the head, top of the spine) is in control of automatic things (like respiration ) and important fast responses to danger or stress ("fight or flight"). But, in an everyday interaction with another person, it is usually not a helpful thing to be dealing with a walking talking brain stem or to be one. So, what can you do when you suddenly find yourself near boiling point or can see that your child is?

Go brain dead! Go brain dead with empathy.

Focusing and speaking with sincere empathy first will help move your thinking and the other persons thinking from the brain stem to the frontal lobe where logical thinking resides. Use just one empathetic phrase like "This is so sad" or "O-oh Ma-a-an."

If your child is complaining or making accusations like "You don't love me" or "Other mothers are better," you can also say things like "I know" or "I am sure it seems that way." Some parents use, "I love you too much to argue." But then stop. You can repeat the same phrases but don't add anything new. You are brain dead so you're not supposed to be thinking.


  • Your words could put thinking back in the brain stem.

  • Your words could become fuel for the fire.

  • Fewer words on your part means your child has fewer words to use against you.

  • You'll be calmer and more relaxed because you don't have to think about what to say or even about what they are saying. Go to your happy place :)

This is not the strategy to use in every situation. It works great to neutralize arguing. We'll talk about more strategies for avoiding anger, lectures, and threats another day.

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