Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson describe a concept in their book “The Whole-Brain Child” that helps us understand the brain in a simple way. They call it the upstairs and downstairs brain. The downstairs brain houses basic functions such as breathing, strong emotions, and innate reactions to danger. The upstairs brain is much more complex. For example, thinking, imagining, and planning come from the upstairs brain.

The literature suggests that attuned parenting is key to building emotionally healthy children. Attunement, in short, is putting yourself in your child’s shoes and then meeting their needs with the wisdom of a parent. Understanding the concept of upstairs/downstairs brain can help parents provide attuned parenting. In the following video, Michelle Kinder coaches parents on how to become more attuned to their child’s emotional needs.