Four Steps to Connect With and Redirect Your Child

In 2012 I hosted a book group on my blog discussing The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. This post is the second in a series of reflections on each chapter. I’ll post them over the next couple weeks. I hope you find them helpful! [This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.]

This week we read Chapter 2 of, The Whole-Brain Child, Two Brains are Better Than One: Integrating the Left and the Right.  The authors explained the differences in the right and left sides of the brain, and the importance of helping our children integrate them.


They gave a fantastic explanation of the two hemispheres of the brain and how they function, which I recommend you read, but in the simplest terms, the left brain loves order and details, while the right brain cares about the big picture.

I like this quote,

“…the left brain cares about the letter of the law…As you know, as kids get older they get really good at using this left-brain thinking: ‘I didn’t shove her!  I pushed her.’ The right brain, on the other hand, cares about the spirit of the law, the emotions and experiences of relationships.  The left focuses on the text — the right is about the context.”

When my children come to me emotionally upset (functioning in their right brain), I am inclined to immediately begin solving the problem (left brain).

The authors urge parents to follow these four steps:

  • Connect with the child’s right brain – Engage emotionally and feel what the child is feeling.
  • Once you are attuned – truly listen.
  • Let the child tell the story of what happened.
  • Then begin solving the problem, which engages the left brain.

They call this strategy Connect and Redirect; connect with the right brain, then redirect to the left.

I’ve been thinking about this over the week and trying to apply it to interactions with my children, taking the time to emotionally connect before solving the immediate problem.

Let me begin by saying that this does not come naturally to me. I like to be efficient and solve problems quickly.

When I initially read this book, the boys were five and six. My youngest son came to me very upset and angry after a confrontation with his brother.  I pulled him onto my lap and said, “You seem very upset.”  “I am,” he replied, “My brother is a meanie and I don’t like him!” “Those are some big feelings,” I replied.

Then I asked him to tell me what happened and let him tell the story sequentially (engaging his left brain). When he was done I said, “How can we solve this problem?” Together we bridged between his right and left brain.

We want our children to learn how to manage their emotions and solve conflicts.  We want them to have the ability to consider new and creative ways of viewing problems and solutions.

We don’t do this by simply shutting them down and saying, “You two boys get along or you’re taking a nap!”  Although that is tempting, and I’ll admit to having said those exact words, it does not encourage optimal development.

Four years later, I still think about this concept as I parent my teens. They come to me in an emotional state and everything in me wants to solve the problem.

I have to silently tell myself, “Be quiet, be present, connect with her heart.” I listen for a few minutes (or maybe it’s only thirty seconds) then the urge to solve the problem comes again, and I nearly speak. I remind myself again, “This is not the time, stay connected with her heart and close your mouth.”

I am NOT kidding.

How about you? What can you add to this idea of Connect and Redirect? I would love to hear from you.

You might also like:

Reflections on Chapter 1: The River of Well-Being



This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Chantel Austin
    September 28, 2016

    Lisa, I love this post. As I parent my own children and as I assume the role of Nanny of other people’s children I will be implemeting this right away. Since we moved to Portland I have had the pleasure of working with many new families I am not ever sure exactly how to navigate the emotions of children I have just met ,but this method is applicable because all kids want to have that heart connection and be heard. Thank you for sharing

    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 29, 2016

      I’m so glad this is helpful to you, Chantel. The Whole-Brain Child is a wonderful book and packed with many great tips. I’ll continue to share more of my reflections on it! Many blessings to you.


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