top of page

Positive Guidance at Wellspring

“Trust is earned in the smallest of moments. It is earned not through heroic deeds, or even highly visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and gestures of genuine care and connection.” Brene Brown

Ever wanted to learn more about our Positive Guidance philosophy?

First, let’s take a moment here to realize that positive guidance all starts with understanding how our brain handles stress, anxiety, and learns and processes new information.

Let’s get into the 3 different parts of our own brain:

Our Brain

1: Primal (brain stem)

2: Limbic system (emotions)

3: Frontal Cortex (reasoning)

Brain Stem

The brain stem's job is to keep you alive. This is the part that regulates your breathing, your heartbeat, and temperature. All information from your body to your brain and vice versa brain to body has to go through your brain stem. Even if the other parts of your brain are damaged, your brain stem will keep you alive. This part of the brain takes precedence over the other parts. Pass out? That’s your brain stem keeping you breathing and heartbeat going.

Limbic System

This part of the brain manages your emotions and relationships. It’s more advanced than the brain stem portion of your brain. Anger, fear, love, jealousy, happiness, pride are all rooted here. It is also reactionary and emotional, which is amazing, but can lead us to being reactive and impulsive if we don’t learn how to regulate it. In this part of the brain, we have our anxiety response, the flight, fight, freeze, fawn response. This part also learns what is a threat and what is safe.

Frontal Cortex

The human brain. The part of the brain that is responsible for your thinking, organizing, value systems, self reflection, prioritizing, reasoning, planning, and memory are all here. Unfortunately, it is the lowest in the hierarchy of the brain system, The other two are more survival, and usually take precedence over this part of the brain.


The brain stem senses survival threats and sends out a signal to the emotions, instincts, and subconscious drives to help us survive the threat. The higher level cortex system is shut down and we are in the primal, survival state. The bigger the threat, the more action that our primal brain stem does. The brain activates this flight, fight, freeze, fawn response to increase your ability to handle the perceived threatening situation.

This can also happen when you are highly emotional. Your primal brain can activate your limbic system which then activates the anxiety/fear response. Your cortex is sidelined and all power is going towards your limbic system.

This situation works if there is a rattlesnake in front of you, but not so much when you are in charge of a child or about to go on stage and present an idea. You need help to switch off or regulate that limbic system and activate the frontal cortex.

Nervous system to the rescue!


The sympathetic system is what activates the 4 responses during the perceived threat or danger. It heightens your awareness, your pupil size, increases heart rate, makes your palms sweaty, makes you pale, and brings about your instinctual response. It primes your body to get ready to take action.


The parasympathetic is the nervous system that returns your body to a state of calm. Rest and digest is happening. Your immune system is working and you are finding yourself able to think creatively and functionally. In this state you can heal, learn, empathize and control your emotions.

A good tip is to think of this as the ‘parachute’ of your nervous system. It’s there to help you get back to a normal state.

How to Move Forward / Turn on Parasympathetic Response

  • Become aware of your triggers.

  • Learn to notice your body signs.

  • Acknowledge that you are “flooding.”

  • Pause.

  • Use calming techniques.

  • Ask for a break.

  • Commit to addressing triggers.

  • Take time to soothe yourself during the break.

  • Calm? Come around.

There's a time and a place for everything. Sometimes, we need help to quickly activate our parasympathetic response and sometimes, we need to build skills that will last us over a longer period of time. Let's dive into both quick and long techniques to help our nervous system.

Quick Techniques

  • Breathing.

  • Laugh.

  • Say a mantra.

  • Grounding through senses. 5-4-3-2-1. See 5 objects, 4 sounds, 3 textures, 2 smells, 1 taste.

  • 3-3-3. Move three body parts. Ankle, elbow, head.

Longer Techniques

  • Connect with others.

  • Do a chore that is mindful and brings you happiness.

  • Interact or play with a pet.

  • Journal.

  • Create with art.

  • Meditate.

  • Exercise

  • Stretch

A Child’s Perspective

Same as ourselves, children also have these brain modes. They have the brain stem (primal), limbic system (emotional) and frontal cortex (reason). Our children are unable to know what state they are in, they don’t have the skills necessary to help activate the parasympathetic system and they don’t all have the skills to apply reason and knowledge to future situations.

Supportive Roles

Our role in our child’s life is to be their support and positive guidance. We develop strong bonds with each child so that we can provide the support that they need in all different types of brain modes. We can teach them the techniques to activate their parasympathetic response and gain the social and emotional skills they need.

Affirmative Language

Positive guidance is done with affirmative language, affirmative choices, and positive reconnection. We give them skills with each and every interaction. We can work through short and long techniques to handle their emotions and responses.

Children will naturally cycle through these modes multiple times throughout the day. We give them the space to learn and grow. We build relationships, hold boundaries, give skills, listen deeply, and are empathetic to all people in our space.


“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eye for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau

On our next blog, we’ll talk about our affirmative language, classroom habits, keys to building relationships, praise, prevention techniques and more!

bottom of page