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Author • Speaker • Instigator of Hope


What to do when fear brain kicks in as a parent

Difficult Conversations

October 19, 2022

It happened again.

There was yellow just sitting there “mellowing” in the toilet. And yep, some sprinkles on the seat just to add insult to injury. I am so tired of my children forgetting to flush!! If I’m honest, my fear brain started to kick in. And it’s been doing it a lot lately. 

Here’s the thing…The pee in the toilet was not so much about “pee in the toilet” in that moment. It was about me failing as a mom and my children growing up to be alone and partner-less because they never learned to function as adults who FLUSH THE DAMN TOILET!

And those fears trigger my downstairs brain to take over. 

Cue big feelings, immediate desire for power and control, and reactive parenting.

None of which will help me and my kiddos!

With the current economic challenges and aftermath of the pandemic, there is a lot in the world triggering everyone to operate out of “downstairs brain mode,” that part of the brain that is all about SURVIVAL! 

Unfortunately, the quick reactions and narrow thinking that come from the downstairs brain are not our best tools for parenting. 

Those fight / flight / freeze responses are great if we are being chased by a bear, but they don’t help me raise thoughtful, responsible young men. On top of that, you might be finding that the typical challenges of parenting or teaching or counseling feel A LOT BIGGER right now after years (or maybe generations) of living in survival mode. Because of that…

We have to be really intentional about nurturing the upstairs brain. 

And if you just burst into tears and threw your phone across the room because it feels like I’m adding to your already endless “to-do” list, hang with me here. I promise this will actually reduce your mental load by building capacity and boosting motivation. 

I created the It’s a Brain Thing printable to help make it easier to notice upstairs and downstairs brain moments.

We will talk more about tiger and turtle and porcupine moments another time. For now, let’s focus on the calm, curious, problem-solving part of the brain that we need for parenting.

I pulled the list out (actually, I have the poster hanging on the wall of my home office) and chose one to get really concrete with myself about. 

Enter your email address below to get your own copy of the It’s a Brain Thing printable!

Notice the good.

After my boys were in bed each night, I took a couple of minutes to write down some of the responsible or considerate things they did that day. 

Here’s a sample straight from my journal:

  • Calm, fair game play
  • Ate dinner without complaint
  • Let brother win
  • Helped with laundry
  • Typed his paper well
  • “I’ll help him. I don’t mind.”
  • Asked nicely for quiet

​None of these are earth-shattering, right? But as I tune into the “positive opposite” of some of the things that have been driving me crazy, it settles my fear brain. Tuning in to these small moments helps MY brain, which empowers me to help their brains grow.

See how this can make your life easier??

  • Hang the It’s a Brain Thing printable up in your home where you will see it often.
  • Choose one upstairs brain quality to focus on each week–in yourself and your kids!
  • Celebrate and enjoy the brain-boosting!!

If you want to take it up a notch, you can find colorful poster versions of these concepts and more in our shop.

I’m so glad we’re in this together!








Author • Speaker • Instigator of Hope


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