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From chaos to calm at the zoo

The three brain states, and how the state your brain is in affects how easy it is to get your children to cooperate.

A while back, we took our kids to the zoo.

My then 6-year-old son was super excited about everything. He wanted to see ALL the animals.

One problem...he was so excited, he couldn't really stop and look at any one animal. While we were still looking for the tiger, he was already running to the elephants. And before we even had time to look at the giraffes, he was already on his way to the alligators.

Meanwhile, my daughter didn't want to eat the lunch I packed, so she started getting very hangry. "I want to go to the playground!" she screamed, before turning around and running away.

Finally, my husband and I split up. He went after my son, and I took my daughter to the playground.

But then, just before going home we all met up again at the zoo cafe. My daughter had eaten, and she was happy again. My son had finally calmed down, and was telling us about all the animals he had seen. My husband and I just sat back, relaxing and enjoying the moment of calm.

This whole experience made me think about a very useful concept that Shirley Pastiroff, the author of The Mindful Parent: How to Stay Sane, Stay Calm and Stay Connected to Your Kids, shared with me.

Shirley explained that your brain can be in one of three "states": Green, Orange, and Red.

For example, my daughter was in a Red brain state at the zoo. She was hungry, emotional, upset, and unhappy.

My son was in an Orange brain state. He was living in the future, in a hurry and running around, but forgetting about the present.

But when we finally calmed down and sat around that cafe table, we were all in Green brain state, focusing on the present moment and just enjoying each other's company.

Now, according to Shirley, the closer you can come to the Green brain state, the easier it becomes for your kids to cooperate with you.

When you are in the Orange state - in a hurry and focused on the future - it becomes very difficult to get your kids to cooperate.

And when you are in the Red state - agitated and emotional - it becomes almost impossible to get your kids to do what you want without using fear or force.

The difficult part is noticing when you are moving to Orange or Red. But in my interview with Shirley, she shares a simple 3-step technique she calls the A.L.L. method that she teaches her clients to allow them to move into the Green brain state at will.

This allows you to stay calm, which allows your child to calm down, which makes it much easier to get them to cooperate.

And the more you practice this technique, the easier it becomes to notice when you are getting more agitated. This means you get better at controlling how you react when your child does something that makes you want to scream.

If you struggle with keeping calm when your child upsets or irritates you, then practicing and using this technique can really help you.

Check out the full interview with Shirley Pastiroff, in our ebook How To Get Kids To Listen, available for free download here.