Integrated: to make into a whole by bringing all parts together; unify.

When things become integrated, is simply known as integration.

In the Whole-Brain Child by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, this process refers to a child’s ability to integrate the varying parts of the brain that we discussed in an earlier post.

That is, integrating the right, left, upper and lower parts of our brain.

This is a very difficult task not only for us adults, but can be extremely difficult for our children since the brain isn’t fully developed until usually our mid-twenties. We talked about how the brain has plasticity and can change, but it’s still not fully-developed yet till later.

So as much as I would at times for my six-year old daughter and three-year old son’s brain’s to be capable of integration…it may not just happen till they reach their mid-twenties. Often I fail at integrating my 38 year old brain.

But don’t worry, there is good news:

“The good news is that by using everyday moments, you can influence how well your child’s brain grows toward integration. First, you can develop the diverse elements of your child’s brain by offering opportunities to exercise them. Second, you can facilitate integrations so that the separate parts become better connected and work together in powerful ways.” (p. 8)


How Do We Find Integration?
According to Siegel and Bryson, integration is achieved when our children are able to harmonize a spot between being overly rigid and overly chaotic. In the book, Siegel imagines what he calls a “river of well being.”

One one side of the river is the bank of chaos, and on the other side of the river is the bank of rigidity. We want to help our kids, through our parenting, not veer to close to chaos or rigidity, but instead help them stay down the middle of the river…which is where integration takes places.

Integration takes place because all parts of the brain are working together:

“So one extreme is chaos, where there’s total lack of control. The other extreme is rigidity, where there’s too much control, leading to a lack of flexibility and adaptability.” — we all move back and forth between these, especially in our parenting day to day. “When we’re closest to the banks of chaos or rigidity, we’re farthest from mental health and emotional health.” (p. 11)

“Harmony emerges from integration. Chaos and rigidity arise when integration is blocked.” (p. 12)

What does a child look like who is in a state of integration?

“she demonstrates the qualities we associate with someone who is mentally and emotionally healthy: she is flexible, adaptive, stable, and able to understand herself and the world around her.” (p. 13)

If you were to think about your own parenting style, do you think you encourage rigidity, or chaos in your kid’s lives?

Another way to phrase it is, do you think of yourself as a parent who is flexible or inflexible in your parenting style?

[Above image by Freewine]