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Brain-Based Approach to Behavior
April 27, 2022
Conflict cannot survive without your participation.
-Wayne Dyer (1940 – 2015), American author

"How many of us feel open and receptive to new ways of thinking or doing when backed into a corner?" asks Kirsten Haugen in the newest Out of the Box Training, "Brain-Based Approach to Behavior." She describes how our brains react when in a conflict with someone, or someone refuses to cooperate with us. "These perceived threats," she explains, "are processed in the same way as physical threats, and the amygdala responds in the same way to focus our minds and bodies to react rather than to reflect."

Haugen describes how this response can make it nearly impossible for children to regulate their behavior when their brains are engaged in this way. Knowing how to recognize what Haugen calls these "unteachable moments," can be essential to de-escalating tense situations. "Learning will not occur while the brain is flooded with cortisol. Accept this and move on to some very helpful things you can do during an unteachable moment."

Haugen provides much food-for-thought about what to do when a child’s brain is flooded with cortisol. Here are a just few examples:

  • "Keep your focus on calming things down, starting with yourself.
  • Avoid trying to teach a lesson or make a point. It won’t be heard and it will likely prolong the conflict by keeping the child in a neurochemically-charged state.
  • Recognize that the best time to confront the issue is later on, when all brains involved have returned to a receptive, reflective state."

Out of the Box Training

Developing Empathy to Promote Equity

Perhaps a child resists classroom routines or expectations, a team member rubs you the wrong way, or a parent challenges program practices. Sometimes, difficult moments offer us rich opportunities, especially when a deeper sense of empathy gives us insights and tools to respond productively. Explore diverse aspects of empathy as a powerful tool for enriching relationships, exercise your empathy skills, and foster a culture of equity and understanding in your early childhood environment.


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