The importance of the emotional brain in our children


Your child's brain as a baby already has practically all the neurons it will have when it grows up. The main difference between your children's brain and yours is that yours has already developed trillions of connections (sympases) between neurons thanks to learning from its life experience.

In the brain of your son or daughter, the reptilian and emotional brain (located in the lower part of the brain) are the ones that take the lead, while in yours the rational brain also intervenes, located in the upper part of the brain, the of the brain that takes longer to mature.

The brain is made up of four parts, differentiating between the upper zone and the lower zone. The upper zone is a more evolved brain and gives us a broader perspective of life. Thoughts, imagination and planning are developed in this area. The lower brain deals with basic functions (such as breathing and blinking), innate reactions and impulses (such as fight or flight), and basic emotions (such as fear and anger). It is the most primitive area of the brain, which does not take into account the feelings of others.

“Due to the maturational development of the brain, their reptilian brain and their emotional brain have a great presence in the behavior of our children, that is, the lower part of the brain, the most primitive, the one that does not take into account the feelings of others.”

The capabilities of the higher brain are: 

It is the brain that distinguishes us humans from other animals, and allows us to be aware of ourselves. communicate, reason, put ourselves in the other's shoes or make decisions based on logical thinking.

It does not fully develop until beyond the age of 20. It is built in great strides during the first years of life, and in adolescence it goes through a major remodeling that will last until adulthood.

Among its capabilities is:

  • make decisions and plan with clarity
  • pose consequences of different situations and solve problems.
  • manage emotions, feelings and body
  • empathize with other people's feelings
  • understand yourself

upper brain left hemisphere

  • Development of logic, mathematics and language
  • Helps to think logically and organize thoughts to build sentences
  • It is linguistic and linear (uses an order and sequence)
  • He is detail oriented.
  • This brain has a rational, logical, positive and controlled character

upper brain right hemisphere

  • Development of creativity and art
  • This brain presents and interprets language or non-verbal signals.
  • Helps experience emotions
  • Creates quick and general impressions, has a view of the context.
  • This brain has a more intuitive, artistic and emotional character.

The capabilities of the lower brain are: 

It is the most primitive brain, common to reptiles and the one that allows us to fight for our survival. It is fully developed at birth. Among its capabilities are:

  • It is responsible for basic functions such as breathing, etc.
  • It deals with innate reactions and impulses, for example flight, etc.
  • Basic emotions such as fear or anger, responsible for our survival, are presented in this area of the brain.

brainstem or reptilian brain

  • It allows you to act instinctively and intuitively. This part of the brain allows us to breathe, detect changes in temperature, detect the sensation of hunger, etc.
  • Lets act before thinking
  • It is the most primitive brain, common with reptiles and the one that allows us to fight for survival.

Limbic system

  • Also called the emotional brain since it houses the primary emotions
  • guides us to relationships

The brain in our children:

In the child, it is the reptilian and limbic brains that call the shots. Until our son or daughter is one year old, we practically only interact with their most primitive brain, the reptilian one. At this level, it is of little or no use to reason with a baby who is upset or hungry, since it is not the rational part of the brain that is presenting the need or the problem. The only way out therefore is to satisfy the needs of our baby.

From one year of life, the limbic, emotional part coexists with the reptilian part and it is from then on that we as parents must develop different strategies to be able to satisfy the most primitive instincts of the boy or girl as well as their emotional needs, such as needs for love and security. At this level, affection, empathy and limits for their safety are going to be essential strategies as parents.

From the age of 3, the rational brain, from the upper area, has greater prominence, the predominant part being the right hemisphere. Our children still do not understand the meaning of words, they cannot express their feelings and they live totally in the present. At this age he is able to control his most basic instincts and let himself be guided by reason. Despite this, our son needs affection and understanding to be able to manage his emotional brain and when he is tired his reptilian brain can acquire an important presence.

In these cases, when the child cries, he does not find comfort in the words of his parents, he only seeks, like the baby, that his most basic needs be met. It is important as fathers or mothers to be able to manage education strategies depending on which part of the brain has the singing voice in said situation. It seems strange, right? Yes, but it is important to think about the possibility of distinguishing, for example, a tantrum if it comes from the upper or lower brain.

"Did you know that depending on whether a tantrum comes from the upstairs brain or the downstairs brain, we have to act differently as fathers or mothers?"

Lower brain tantrums

  • It is dominated by the amygdala. The amygdala is the part of the brain in charge of emotions, it triggers rapid emotional reactions. Various parts of the amygdala are related to aggression and anxiety.
  • It is the stress hormones that are having a presence and therefore it is of little use to reason.
  • The parents' response should be more affective and understanding, seeking emotional support. Soothing voice and affection.
  • Until the boy or girl does not feel understood and contained, they cannot begin to reason about what is happening to them.

Upstairs Brain Tantrums:

  • It is the child who "decides" to have a tantrum.
  • How can we tell if the tantrum is decided by your higher brain? We can try to give in to their demands, if the tantrum stops, it is being organized from the higher brain, so limits should be set.
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