Navigating Conflict: understanding the development of the child

As children grow and develop, they undergo a process of reshaping their experiences and connections to the world around them. This activity has a significant impact on brain function at any given point in their development. Understanding the dynamics of the ever-growing brain can help adults support their children in emotional regulation, relationship building, conflict resolution, and learning.

According to International Neurologist Dr Perry, our stress response to threat and conflict is influenced by the consistency and predictability of the challenges we face, as well as the level of attentiveness and attunement of our adult caregivers.

 Children learn by example, and parents serve as powerful role models for emotional regulation. When parents demonstrate healthy ways of expressing and managing their own emotions, children are more likely to adopt similar strategies. By acknowledging the difficulty of challenges, talking openly about emotional experiences, and demonstrating problem-solving techniques, parents provide invaluable lessons in emotional regulation.

Successful modeling of self-regulation can assist children in developing the fundamental building blocks of their intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, such as compassion, empathy, honesty, and boundaries. During heightened states of dysregulation, relational skills are often compromised, leading to conflict. This can manifest anywhere in our central or autonomic nervous system and can be observed as tantrums, concentration difficulties, oppositional behavior, biting, and even bullying.

When your child is too dysregulated, the best target of intervention should always focus on the lowest functional domain, such as the limbic system, where our capacity to self-regulate or stress response is affected. Only when the limbic system is regulated can we move toward higher functional domains that assist us with problem-solving during conflict resolution.

In essence, optimal modeling should assist children in moving from sensorial regulation by caregivers to relational regulation by caregivers, and finally to becoming self-regulated.