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We Don't Control Our Kids and How to Strengthen Their Vagal Brake

Updated: Mar 27, 2020


One of the fundamental responsibilities of being a parent - Building the social engagement system effectively enough to build the child’s self-regulation.

They'll be better able to recognize cues of danger

  • Make better relationship choices

  • Make better friendship choices

  • They’ll be less likely to be in places of potential danger or traumatization

They’ll be able to handle play with others

  • They can engage without taking things personally

  • They can mobilize and handle the flight/fight energy

They’ll be more tolerant to those that are down the ladder

  • More likely to use dialogue as a way to handle situations

  • More likely to use co-regulation as a way to help

Individuals in a stuck defensive state are going to have a harder time utilizing their vagal brake and their self-regulation

  • Their social engagement system has been cut off

  • Social engagement system is the vagal brake

HOW TO BUILD THE VAGAL BRAKE, versus how to change bx or “gain control”

  • Our job, as parents, is to teach and guide, not to dictate how children should live their lives

  • Help them learn to make healthy decisions for themselves, not what WE want them to do

Through modeling

  • What we do, what we say, how we say and do it

  • And you know that they are ALWAYS watching

  • They learn way more from what we model than what we say

Through play

  • Being safe/social + being mobilized

  • Quick moments throughout the day, silly routines you do with your kids, structured activity (e.g. board game, park)

  • Exercises moving up and down the polyvagal ladder

  • Stronger social engagement = stronger vagal brake

Through consequences

  • Doesn’t exactly build the social engagement system, but can possibly build distress tolerance

  • So really, a kid has to have a strong relationship for the consequence structure to be effective

Through co-regulation

  • Which is the focus of our next episode


Important to let go of this idea

  • Will aid in moving forward with everything else we talk about in this series

  • Attempting to control our children only results in negative interactions that will accumulate into a negative relationship

  • When children are born, they very much feel like a part of ourselves. As painful as it might feel to say, they are not. Figuratively, sure.

Think of a time you broke a serious house rule

  • Did your parents have control over you? - Nope

  • Think of the last time your child broke one of your rules? Did you have control over them? Or did you just respond to their choice?

Logical sense vs emotional acceptance

  • Very challenging

  • But will be very liberating and allow you to be more creative with your parenting

We have a ton of influence

Music & Sounds by Benjo Beats -

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