Wizard/Lizard Brain: BrainWise Curriculum for Impulse Control in Anxious, Angry Kids

Is your lizard brain taking over?

Everyone has a pre-frontal cortex and an amygdala. When we take in information to our brain, we either send it to our “lizard brain” or our “wizard brain.”

The BrainWise curriculum was designed to help kids build social and emotional control and self-regulation skills. When I previously worked in the Saint Louis Counseling School Partnership Program, I received training in this program, and still use components of it in my practice today. To be clear, I’m not TECHNICALLY providing brainwise as I’m not maintaining really strict fidelity with the model. And honestly, I felt parts of the program were not so helpful - but the framework can be good to keep in mind for parents and teachers, as you work on helping your children and students take a step back and make better decisions.

Below you’ll find an brief summation of the different BrainWise modules.

  1. Everyone Has Problems

    Kids learn that they’re not the only person who has problems - everyone does! Other kids, grown ups, teachers, zookeepers. For parents, it can be helpful to explore problems other people face in order to help kids build up their empathy.

  2. Wizard Over Lizard Brain

    Our Lizard Brain (fight/flight/freeze) and Wizard Brain (stop and think through problems) aren’t always on the same page. In this module, kids learn the difference between the two.

  3. Constellation of Support

    Who can we go to for help in solving problems? In different situations, different people are helpful.

  4. Red Flag Warnings

    We learn to recognize internal and external warning signs that something not so good is about to happen.

  5. Emotions Elevator

    There’s a big difference between when we’re low on our emotions elevator and just have a little bit of that emotion, vs. when we’re all the way at the top of our emotions elevator and feel like we’re going to explode. One guess as to what part of the elevator makes it easier to use our wizard brains!

  6. Fact v. Opinion

    A fact is something that’s true, and an opinion is something that we THINK is true, but other people may think is not true.

  7. Ask Questions to Gather Information

    We ask questions to get more information, but how and when we ask questions is important.

  8. IDC

    Notice we always have more than one choice. Choices can be helpful or not so helpful, and our wizard brains can help us start to think about the pros and cons of each.

  9. CNL/CAO

    In this module, we learn about the consequences of our choices now and later, and investigate how these choices impact the people around us.

  10. Action Plan

    We set our goal and break it into manageable steps, where each step builds on top of one another.

  11. Communicate Effectively

    Practice “I” messages, taking someone else’s point of view, and develop empathy by identifying other people’s nonverbal communication.

Curious to know more about building wizard brain skills? Reach out via kelsey@compassionatecounselingstl.com or 314-339-7640. Kelsey specializes in anxiety and anger management for kids, teens, and college students - who all benefit from not letting their Lizard Brain take over. She works in Clayton, MO and families meet her from University City, Ladue, Town and Country, Brentwood, and Creve Couer.

If you’re interested in finding more about BrainWise, or you have questions about the model that you want answered by an expert, you can email info@brainwise-plc.org

I also strongly encourage parents, teachers or therapists to consider buying the BrainWise curriculum if these seem like helpful tools.