Raising Calm Kids – Tip #2: Recognize Failure of the frontal lobe

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain responsible for problem-solving and planning and, incidentally, does not reach full maturity until we are in our early 20s. I am not a neuroscientist and I don’t know if a frontal lobe can fail. What I do know is that at a certain time each day (around 6:30 PM for my little ones), it looks as if a light switch flicks off in my kids’ brains. All rational thought is out the window. Sometimes, this presents itself as “the crazies”. Too much movement, too much talking, a little wild look in the eye. And most of the time, it shows up as ignoring all verbal requests, being unable to do skills that were previously mastered (like putting pajamas on), or at its worst, tantrums. Do you see this in your home? Here are some tips. First, make sure your kids get enough sleep. Toddlers and preschoolers need 12-14 hours a sleep a day. Most should still nap. When people say “My child doesn’t need sleep” or “My child doesn’t want to sleep,” they are cheating their kids. All kids need sleep. So, let them have it (for great books on sleep, see our Resources page)! Second, be mindful of the fact that little kids can’t tell time. If you see the failure of the frontal lobe setting in, draw the evening to a close as soon as possible, even if it means a slightly earlier than usual bedtime. And, finally, have appropriate expectations once failure of the frontal lobe sets in. This is not the time to head out for icecream, or start quizzing a preschooler on their barely-developed reading skills, or asking a child to clean up every last toy in the playroom. Keep verbal instructions very simple, don’t make too many demands, and most important of all, stick to that comfortable, over-learned routine.

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