Inside the Child’s Mind

By Madison Ahles, School-Based Mental Health Therapist at Fruitville Elementary (originally published as a Sarasota County Schools blog)

Screaming, crying, whining, eye rolling, hitting, kicking and more are all things that teachers and parents may be a little too familiar with. While every child is unique in their expressions, understanding a child’s mind can be a quick fix to de-escalating a child’s “hard behaviors”.

The left side of the brain is logic based, problem solving, and literal, while the right side of the brain is emotion, expression, and feeling. When a child is in their “right side” of their brain, we cannot expect them to use their “left side” brain to problem solve and understand their emotion in the moment. As parents and teachers, connecting both sides of a child’s brain is a great tool to meet a child’s needs and resolve challenging situations.

To connect with the right side of the brain, we want to be aware of tone of voice, non- verbal cues, and present with empathy before we can connect with the left. Once we connect with the “right side” we can redirect to the “left side” and use words, solutions, and problem solving. We can also name the problem for a child and show understanding and find ways to solve the problem with them.  When teaching a child with traumatic experiences we also want to remember that little problems can be perceived as big problems and the “right side” brain needs more work and more time before integrating it with the “left side”. So next time your child or student is having a tantrum, think about their mind and how you can connect their feelings (right) and words (left).


Madison Ahles provides school-based mental health services to children and families at Fruitville Elementary. The program, a partnership between the Florida Center for Early Childhood, the Sarasota County School District and Community Foundation of Sarasota County, is meant to keep high-risk children in school and help them meet their academic milestones through multi-generational therapy for the students and their families.