How Using Positve Discipline and The Whole Brain Child Nipped a Meltdown in the Bud

Since my last post I have been really working on parenting in a more positive way. IN fact John and I have been taking a seven week course on Positive Discipline and the Whole Brain Child.

If you haven’t heard of Positive Discipline it’s an approach to parenting that has TONS of tools to help you navigate everything from bad habits to tantrums to anything else you can think of. Their approach is respectful and although I have been using a lot of their techniques with my boys for years it has been an awesome refresher course. Plus Positive Discipline (PD) works really well with the research presented in The Whole Brain Child (WBC).

The Whole Brain Child is a book by Daniel J. Siegel, neuropsychiatrist and author of the bestselling book Mindsight, and parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson. It demystifies the meltdowns and aggravation, explaining the new science of how a child’s brain is wired and how it matures. It basically explains with science why so many of the tools PD uses WORKS!

One way I have seen this work together was in a situation with my five-year old son. I had just picked up Little Man from preschool and he was happy and fine until we got to the car. On the way home I shared that Grandma would have lunch ready for him, a quesadilla which he had asked for earlier in the day. He immediately lost it and started screaming that he didn’t want a quesadilla. Now in the past this would make my blood boil and I would just yell right back. But in a moment of clarity (thank you Lord!) I did the following:

Me: Whoa bud! Sounds like you’re really upset. What happened at school today?

Little Man: Ethan wrecked my Lego spaceship.

Me: Oh no! I’m sorry bud. What happened next?

Little Man: He got in trouble and had to sit in a chair. But then when I walked past him he called me ‘Stupid’. 

Me: And how did that make you feel?

Little Man: Bad….and sad

Me: I bet. 

I continued to have him re-tell me the story and by the end he was back to being happy and content. It was NEVER about the quesadilla. He was still upset from something else and didn’t know how to process all his feelings. I utilized a tool from PD called “Connection before Correction” and a concept from WBC about the Right Brain, Left Brain and what they call the River of well-being.


By connecting with him he felt safe to share. I gave words to his feelings. Research from WBC shows that when a child is in their Right Brain (chaos, disorder, ruled by emotions) it’s hard for them to get back to using their Left Brain (logic, reason, rigidity) and vice versa. When I saw he was stuck in his Right Brain I had to use tools that would make him engage his Left Brain, like story telling. When you have to think about what happened in a memory it engages the logic side of your brain and pulls you back into what they call the River of Well Being. BUT this tool could never have worked unless he felt connected first! He needed to feel validated and not judged.

I am feeling so much more empowered by this course and loving using so many of their tools and concepts. Plus the science part of it really geeks me out. 😉

One more fun fact I learned: Kids are COMPLETELY ruled by their Right Brain until age three. That’s when the Left Brain begins to develop. Makes sense why my just turned three-year old lives in meltdown city right now. Right!?

What are some parenting tools you use?




  1. Jessica Flick says:

    Thank you for sharing! I don’t have kids yet, but I’ve been reading a lot about the power of positivity in managing all sort of relationships. This is incredible research, thank you!

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