Counselor Maddy shares a review of The Yes Brain by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. A transcription of this video is available below.
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Good morning, everybody. My name is Madeline. I am a counselor with Garrett Counseling. Today, I wanted to talk about a concept called the yes brain. This is a concept and it’s also a book developed by Daniel Siegel. I don’t have the Yes Brain book with me, but I do have the Whole Brain Child book with me and this is developed by the same author. This is also something I’m going to be talking about in another video, but this is just a concept that we follow in therapy. It’s also a concept that parents can follow as well to help promote better emotional regulation in your children. Highly recommend reading the Whole Brain Child, and also reading the Yes Brain Child.
What is the yes brain? The yes brain is a concept developed by Dr. Siegel that promotes the concept of children adopting a yes way of thinking. It’s important to know that this yes brand concept is not a means of always saying yes to your child. Just by hearing the name of the concept, it can be easier to think of well, what is that? Is that just me saying yes to my child and letting them do what they want all the time? No, that’s not it.
This concept encourages children to open their minds to new challenges. It really builds on the concept of emotional regularity and coping skills. It helps promote curiosity, bravery, and self growth. It’s also allowing children to understand that frustrations and setbacks are normal.
A part of having a yes brain concept is having a balanced yes brain. A lot of times when kids become angry or frustrated or when they throw tantrums, they lose what’s called their emotional balance. Losing your emotional balance can involve a lot of things. It can involve feeling out of control. It can involve something we call emotional dysregulation where you’re no longer regulated. It is being overwhelmed. It’s losing control of your feelings, but this is just a part of being human. It happens in children and it happens in adults as well. A lot of what childhood is finding that balance of emotional regularity and being human and sometimes that involves losing your balance when your feelings are intense and overwhelming.
A big concept of the yes brain is figuring out how to help your child have a balanced brain and have regularity and know how to handle their emotions when they’re feeling very overwhelmed or feeling very out of control. The yes brain has a model that helps us better visualize how our brains can become imbalanced and how we can better help our brains balance.
Pull this up. It’s kind of hard to see. As adults and as children, we have what ideally we want to have is a balanced brain, but we can use this model to think of this as three sections. We have the red zone, we have the green zone, and then we have the blue zone. With our children, the zone that we ideally want them to be in is this happy middle ground zone. This is the green zone. This is where they’re going to feel balanced. It’s where they’re going to feel in control. It’s where they’re going to be regulated and calm. In an ideal world, it would be good to stay in that zone all the time but even as adults, we tend to slip between either the red or the blue zone.
The red zone is most often what we kind of see our children go into. This is where they are angry. This is where they are overwhelmed. This is where they are not regulated. This is where they are not in control of their own emotions. This is most often what kind of zone they’re in when they are very angry and there’s a lot of things that can kind of set off this zone. It can be as simple as just being upset and just they want something to go their way and it doesn’t and suddenly they’re overwhelmed by all of these negative emotions and they don’t know how to regulate them or keep them from not feeling overwhelmed.
Alternatively, we also have the blue zone. Some kids have the opposite effect. In the red zone you’re lashing out, you’re angry, you’re out of control. In the blue zone you are still overwhelmed and you are still out of control, but rather than lashing out, you emotionally shut down. This is more of a freeze response. This is emotional withdrawal. This is isolation. This is just a different way of feeling overwhelmed and losing control of your emotions.
As I said, the yes brain is, excuse me, the yes brain is all about helping find your balance. How can we as adults, how can we as therapists, and how can we as parents find a way to help keep our children balanced and keep our children in the green zone. What’s kind of important to know is that rarely does a child ever willingly choose to leave the green zone. All children will enter the blue or green zone or even red zone at some point, but what’s important as parents is that we encourage them to experience the full range of emotions and acknowledge and honor them. In allowing them to feel what they’re feeling and reflecting what they’re feeling and letting them hear you know what they’re feeling, you in turn are helping create a feeling of safety and trust for your child to help them get back into the balance of the green zone.
Something that you can do at home is you can talk to your child about the red and blue zone and the feelings connected to those zones and the feeling of being overwhelmed and the feeling of not knowing really why you’re upset, but just knowing that you’re upset. Take measures to teach them calming techniques. To help them be able to develop the tools they need and skills they need to better regulate their emotional imbalance.
A good example of this is maybe you have a four-year-old and he’s been playing outside, he’s been having a great time. It’s getting late. It’s about that time. It’s almost dinner time. You tell him it’s time to come in and he doesn’t like that. You tell him he has to come in, suddenly he’s just, he’s angry. He begins to throw his toys and he’s like, no, I don’t want to come inside. He just all of a sudden, all he is seeing is red. All he is seeing is this red zone. He is flooded with these negative feelings, anger, disappointment. He’s in that red zone, he’s unbalanced.
Something that you could do as a parent is you could say, you know what? I know that you really wanted to stay outside longer and I can see that you’re feeling really angry right now and that’s okay and I’m here for you.
This is kind of where acknowledging those feelings and just being there and allowing that child to feel that way and just being there is going to make an impact. It may not seem like it, but they are going to hear you and they are going to understand that you are there for them. This is a concept that we do in therapy and this is something that you can take away and practice at home too. In turn, this is going to allow your child to feel safe, it’s going to allow them to feel in control, and it’s going to most importantly allow them to feel heard when they’re feeling these very strong, negative emotions.