Children from 18 months to 6-8 years are in the emotional state while undergoing a lot of development in the brain’s limbic system. Adults might hear back-talking, sassing and phrases like “I hate you,” “This is stupid” and “No!” According to Spencer, “What they need is connection and understanding and love.”
When a child misbehaves, “It’s not about the blocks. It’s not about cleanup time,” she emphasized. There’s a deeper problem and if an adult simply reacts, “nobody learns any new skills.” Spencer suggested using active calming and problem-solving to improve the behavior.
From around 8 until 25 is the executive state, when a youth’s prefrontal lobes are developing, which helps with impulse control, flexibility and time management.
Spencer said children need safe places where they can recognize and express their feelings and learn how to manage them. For infants, “the safe place is your chest and you breathe with them. With a toddler, the safe place is your lap so they can feel you breathing.” For preschoolers, it’s by the adult’s side. “Our goal for older children to adults is inner peace.” The aim is to have kids go to the safe place by themselves.
What triggers adults to get angry? She listed all the ways a child can get under someone’s skin: arguing, whining, talking back, pouting, blaming, interrupting, not listening, lying, showing anger, tattling, showing disrespect, physical aggression, sulking and laziness. The teacher recommended, “Instead of getting away, get closer. Have a relationship.”
She admitted, “The last thing you want to do when they call you stupid is connect with them.” Later, Spencer noted, “The most difficult children are the most disconnected children.”
“Self-regulation is the ability to regulate your thoughts, feelings and actions in service of a goal,” the speaker reported. “It is the No. 1 skill necessary for success in school.” Yet 40 percent of children enter school without that ability.