Validation: Male vs. Female Brains…!!

In my DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) class, this week, we spent some time discussing the importance of validation and all the different levels.  Our instructor showed us this hilarious video which I just knew I had to share with you!  It’s only 1 min and 40 seconds – do watch!!  You will laugh 🙂

(Video Source: Vimeo: Nail in the head)

I believe the video was created to show how males are typically the ones to go straight to problem solving, whereas females are usually the ones who want to process their emotions and be heard.  However, when I watched the video, I immediately thought of our role as parents.  When our children are distressed, we want to spare them the suffering and quickly go straight to problem solving.  As I have quoted before, it’s important to remember…

Feelings First, Logics Last

~ Sharon Selby

 Why Is It So Important to Validate or Reflect Feelings First?

There is actually a scientific reason for validating feelings first and then moving into problem solving.  When the emotions of the right brain are activated, the logics of the left brain are not working!  A parent needs to connect right brain to right brain through understanding words, touch, empathetic  facial expressions, a warm tone of voice and nonjudgmental listening.  This kind of attunement creates a more balanced state in the brain, and then allows one to, in that moment, or later, connect left brain to left brain and go into the logical, problem-solving mode.


Reflection Photo Credit:  Patrick Kiteley

The Keys to Effective Validation

  • Mirror/reflect back the words that your hear – try to summarize in order that you’re not “parroting”.  Think of this beautiful reflection photo (from New Zealand) and think of creating this kind of peace inside your child, when you reflect and mirror back to them
  • Validate what you hear – this does not mean agree, it just means that you are hearing the other person’s perspective  Eg.  “I can hear that you’re feeling…”
  • Show empathy and acceptance
  • Let go of judgment
  • Use your imagination to try to understand his/her frame of reference
  • Try to understand the other’s person’s emotion and reflect that to him/her Eg. “I can imagine that you might be feeling…”  Help him/her build his/her emotional vocabulary
  • Be attentive to all body language
  • If your child is mad, then think of your words as a way to “melt” him/her.  As Dr. Gordon Neufeld reminds us, it’s healthy to move from MAD to SAD
  • Recognize this moment as a time for nurturing vulnerability

This week, think of the Nail in the Head video (!) and notice your responses to the people around you.  See if you can consciously validate them, before trying to fix things!

Have a wonderful week,



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