Discussion Questions: Chapter Sixteen

“Brain Science: Cultivate the Positive”

Brain science is proving what the “soft science” of positive parenting has always known. This chapter contains some amazing discoveries that can change your perspective, and improve your family life.

“Day-to-day interactions shape the child’s brain for better or worse. Love shapes the brain positively, while fear shapes it negatively. Children whose needs are not met, or who experience early neglect or abuse, are more likely to become aggressive than children whose needs are fulfilled.” (p. 277)

Q: The deepest, oldest part of the brain—the amygdala or “lizard brain”—is in charge of survival. It is always looking out for danger. Once triggered, fear floods the body. What can parents do to keep babies and children feeling safe and calm, to prevent or manage “emotional flooding?”

“Just up from the lizard brain is the mammalian or limbic brain. This brain is hardwired for connection. Think of mothers and cubs of all species…the playing, the licking, the nursing, the carrying, the purring. All of these physical interactions create a bond and stimulate the right kind of brain growth for mammals…. All kids need love to keep their brains on track.” (p. 279)

Q: What are ways that mothers naturally attach to their babies? What happens to the baby? To the mom? To the relationship?

“Young children…are mostly nonverbal, emotional, and intuitive…. Kids live completely in the now,  feeling their feelings in the present moment…. Many people are uncomfortable with their feelings because they have been taught to devalue and hide their emotions, that they should instead be rational. This has caused much confusion, shame, and harm….” (p. 280)

Q: Parents sometimes talk to their children like little adults, telling them to calm down or behave, and being upset when they don’t “listen”. Does this new information change your understanding of what your children might need, and what might actually calm or help them?

“By now you realize that the root cause of explosive outbursts is the emotional brain hijacking the thinking brain. You also realize that children’s brains are ‘under construction’ and… they are doing the best they can with the brain they have. When a child has a tantrum, this knowledge (along with deep breathing) can help you calm yourself and shift into your own thinking brain for a better outcome for all.” (p. 286)

Q: What helps you respond positively with compassion to your child, instead of reacting with anger? Which tips on the list on pages 286 and 287 are most helpful to you?

“Trauma and painful experiences are stored in the body; if they have not been processed, integrated, and resolved, they may continue to cause trouble. Painful issues from your own past that weren’t resolved, integrated, and healed can trigger outbursts…. You now have the opportunity to defuse the hot buttons, so they no longer blindside you.” (pp. 287 and 288)

Q: With awareness comes choice. Understanding that you have unconscious memories (we all do), can you figure out why certain things your child does might trigger you? What other choices can you make?

“The plasticity of the brain makes it possible for  us to not pass on old hang-ups and traumas to our children, but actually change the wiring of our brains in a positive way…. With determination and new skills, we can create a love-based family and heal ourselves in the process. We can retrain our brains and ‘get over’ negative patterns and wounds.” (pp. 289 and 290)

Q: Since reading this chapter, have you noticed how your own brain reacts, “automatically,” to certain triggers? Has this chapter, or this book, also helped you become aware of how “plastic” your brain is, or your child’s brain?  Have you noticed the “Empathy Reflex” at work, for better or worse? It is never too late to change, once we discover new tools. What will you try next?

This question is always a good one:

Q: What sentence, paragraph, or idea popped out at you, or stuck with you after reading?

Reply in the Comments, below!

Looking for resource links? Click here.

<< Chapter 15 | Chapter 17 >>


Discussion Questions: Chapter Seventeen

Hardwired for Resilience

Hurts don’t always become wounds, and wounds don’t always become scars. This chapter discusses the qualities and skills that protect kids from damage and can help healing take place. Resilience can help kids cope, reduce risks, and even mitigate the damage of ACEs.

“When life knocks us down, resilience is what helps us get back up. Resilience is the ability to rebound, to withstand hardship, to repair or rebuild a good life, in spite of all the bad stuff.” (p. 304)

Q: In your own life, what or who has helped you deal with the hard stuff, the problems, the impossible, the pain? What strengths, skills, and/or support did you have that helped you bounce back?

“For children to become healthy, happy, and successful, three fundamental needs must be met: (1) they must have caring relationships; (2) these relationships must convey positive and high expectations; and (3) children must be given opportunities for meaningful participation…. These three positive ‘ingredients,’ … lead directly to positive outcomes—good kids who are caring, competent, and confident.” —Bonnie Benard, author of Resiliency: What We Have Learned, (p. 317)

Q: Think of your kids. Do they have close, caring connections at home or at school? Do adults hold “just right” expectations—high, age-appropriate, and attainable—for them? Do they feel like they “belong” at home, at school, or elsewhere?

“Parents, grandparents, and teachers who believe in kids have great power to build their confidence and resilience from the inside out…. One person can put a child on track for a better future and start an upward spiral. One powerful experience can shift a mindset—and change a life.” (p. 305)

Q: When you were a child, who was the most powerful positive influence in your life? Share with others how they put you on track for health and positivity? (Extra credit: Have you thanked them?)

“What makes children resilient are the inner resources consistently nurtured by moms, dads, grandparents, and other adults who comfort, teach, and play with them. Those fortunate children raised with positive parenting have a reservoir of self-worth to steady and sustain them. They have the internal scaffolding for resilience.” (p. 308)

Q: How the ‘reservoir of self-worth’ that positive parenting provides relate to bullying?

“People don’t build this resilience alone. Gabor Maté explains what helped him survive the horrors of war in Budapest: ‘Resilience doesn’t come from adversity; it comes from love…. For what resilience I do have, I credit my mother. Despite all those terrible circumstances, she did her powerful best to love me and get me through.’” (p. 309)

Q: Of all the ideas presented in this chapter, which is the most helpful for you?


Reply in the Comments, below!

Looking for resource links? Click here.

<< Chapter 16  | Chapter 18 >>

Discussion Questions: Chapter Fifteen

“Restructuring Family Power”

Anytime you have two or more people in a group, there is a power dynamic. This is also true in families, and always has been. Every family has its own power structure, and understanding how yours is built can give you insight into what your children are experiencing.

“This chapter explains in detail the dynamics of families that support a culture of bullying, and shows how those families can be restructured so that all those involved can be happier.” (p. 252)

Q: Looking at the bullets on pages 252 and 253, which of those common and widespread childrearing practices sound familiar to you?

“This section will illuminate some familiar parenting patterns that emerge when we are parenting on automatic.” (read “Autocratic Parenting Style” pp. 255; “Permissive Parenting Style” p. 258; and “Finding a Balance” p. 260)

Q: Were you raised by autocratic parents? Permissive parents? One of each? Ping-pong parents? What are you? 



“Old family patterns feel ‘right’; they seem like the way we ought to or have to do things. When unexamined and unquestioned, old patterns get automatically passed on from one generation to the next…. Evaluate each one, and then repeat the good stuff, repair the bad stuff.” (p. 254)

Q: Thinking of your childhood, what patterns helped make you a good person? On the other hand, have you ever declared, “I’ll never do that to my kids?” Talk or write about the troublesome and/or painful family dynamics you do not want to pass on to the next generation. Do you have a plan or strategy to help you do that?

“Nurture and structure are both important. Without structure, a nurtured child becomes self-centered. Without nurture, a structured child feels unloved. Both permissive and autocratic parents attempt to build these dimensions—but fail.” (p. 262)

Q: Why do children crave structure and thrive on routines? Why is nurturing essential? Working together, how can moms and create develop a balance? 



This question is always a good one:

Q: What sentence, paragraph, or idea popped out at you, or stuck with you after reading?

Reply in the Comments, below!

Looking for resource links? Click here.

<< Chapter 14 | Chapter 16 >>

Discussion Questions: Chapter Fourteen

“Assertive Communication=Effective Communication”

People sometimes interpret assertiveness as aggressiveness, seeing men, women or children asking for what they want as being “pushy.” But appropriate assertiveness, or what we call in this chapter, “the gutsy middle road,” is the only way out of the bullying dynamic. It is “speaking truth to power.” Learning assertiveness skills is recommended both for those who have been bullied and those who are bullies alike. In fact, it is the key to Zorgos!

@ Kristen Caven slide from Beyond Bullying workshop

@ Kristen Caven slide from Beyond Bullying workshop

“Assertiveness skills help people get out of the bullying trap. Youngsters who are assertive do not bully, and they do not attract bullies. They get their needs met without being mean, bratty, coy, or manipulative. They find their voice and speak up; they stand up for themselves and for their friends. Assertive kids have the inner strength and moral compass to be upstanders when aggression and injustice occur.” (pp. 235, 236)

Q: What are examples of the “mouse” communication style, of the “monster” communication style, and of the “me – assertive” communication style?

“Asking assertively is direct communication that is also kind and respectful. A request, not a demand, allows the other person to say ‘no’; it does not use force to get what you want.” (pp. 241, 242)

Q: Recall a time when your child whined or cried or what being mean. Perhaps you were frustrated because you didn’t know what was wrong. What’s your hunch about what was really going on? What do you think they needed? What “I-statement” could have helped him/her shift the focus to what they want and need, clearly communicate that need, and move toward a solution?

“Saying NO, like brakes on a bicycle or car, defines and upholds boundaries. Saying NO defines how far others can go, how far we are willing to go, and where we draw the line. Saying no helps us be in the driver’s seat of our lives…. Saying NO lets us stop what we don’t want and get more of what we do want.” (p. 246)

Q: Is it difficult for you to say NO? Do you feel guilty, that you’re hurting their self-esteem, that they won’t like or love you? Share what comes up for you with other parents in your group.

“It’s the job of parents to stop unacceptable behaviors by saying “No” and “Stop that.” Practicing saying NO builds power and gets easier the more you do it. You might even learn it from your two-year-old!” (p. 247)

Q: What good is NO? What are the benefits? What does saying NO give you?

“You can probably bet the people in your life won’t like it when you first start saying NO, especially if you’ve never said it before. You might notify them (especially your partner) that you’re learning new skills and you’d appreciate their support. You can even encourage them to say no as well…. Balance is important…. Both yes and no are essential for structure, flow, and effective communication.” (p. 248)

Q: Teach your children what you are learning. Help them talk about their feelings, to ask for what they need, to say NO to what they don’t want. These skills will benefit them and you for all your days.


And here is our favorite question of course:

Q: What sentence, paragraph, or idea popped out at you, or stuck with you after reading?

Reply in the Comments, below!

Looking for resource links? Click here.

<< Chapter 13 | Chapter 15 >>

Discussion Questions: Chapter Thirteen

“Good Communication = Good Relationships”

This chapter is packed! Covering the words we choose, non-violent communication, better listening, criticism and feedback, problem solving, peace making, and communication rituals, there is a lot to think about—and talk about! Please note on page 222.

“How children turn out depends on family communication skills. What people say to them at home shapes how they think and feel about themselves, and consequently, their behaviors.” (p. 214)

Q: What is the tone of communication in your family? Are swear words common, and if so, what are the rules around them? Is it okay for people to say anything to each other, or are some things off-limits? Is it more ‘normal’ to say positive things to each other or negative things?

click to download this poster!

click to download this poster!

“All parents say things they regret. And sadly, careless words can have unexpected, lasting consequences.” (p. 225)

Q: Have you said words to your child that you regret? Did you ‘undo’ them once you realized it? How so?

“Positive feedback is validating. It encourages, acknowledges, appreciates, compliments, and supports.” (p. 226)

Q: Using the chart on page 228, ‘reframe’ a common statement that you have used or heard recently in your family.

“Most people think they are good listeners, but few really are.” (p. 218)

Communication Exercise: find a partner and ask them to tell them about their day. Using the Active Listening Techniques on page 218, let them talk for 5 minutes. Then take turns. Q: How did it feel to fully listen? How did it feel to be fully listened to? 




Try that exercise with your child. Try it with your partner.

Also, choose one or more of the following:

  • When a conflict arises, use the steps of Non-Violent Communication on p. 217
  • Use the Twelve Steps to Peacemaking on p. 230
  • Choose a new parent interaction from p. 233
  • See bottom of p. 231. How many family dinners do you have per week? If less than three, can you try for one more? (If you can, shoot for 5!)


Do you know someone whose child has been bullied? Have them read “Listening to Trouble” on pages 221 and 222.

Reply in the Comments, below!

Looking for resource links? Click here.

<< Chapter 12 | Chapter 14 >>

Discussion Questions: Chapter Twelve

“Social and Emotional Learning”

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is a concept teachers use, because you can’t teach academics if kids don’t know how to get along. If your school speaks frankly about SEL, that is great news. Here are some discussion questions for parents.

“When children have learned social and emotional skills, they experience fewer negative emotions, are better behaved in school, can pay closer attention to academics and manage themselves better, have more quality friendships, and are happier.” (p. 192)

Q: Can you recall the five core groups of social and emotional competencies listed on page 193? (It’s okay to peek!) Which do you think are most important?

“Building emotional skills is a positive psychology technique. It involves identifying strengths and building upon them, rather than focusing on weaknesses and berating or excusing yourself. (p. 194)

 Q: As a child, who taught you how to identify your emotions? Did anyone? Do you have a high or low “EQ?” Do you talk easily about your emotions and those of others, or is that difficult for you?


“The practice of mindfulness can improve attention and develop emotional regulation. Mindfulness has been used in hundreds of hospitals around the United States to treat stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and AD/HD.” (p. 198)

Q:Parents and teachers often complain that children are not paying attention. Has anyone ever told you to “pay attention?” Did anyone ever teach you how to do that?

“Pro-social skills refer to positive ways in which people interact with others. Children with pro-social skills … can make friends and maintain healthy relationships; they do not bully others.” (p. 201)

Q: What do pro-social skills and behaviors—social intelligence—look like? Give examples. Do you agree with Corinne Gregory (p. 49) who says we focus too much on ‘anti-bullying’ when we should be focusing on ‘pro-social skills’?

Every parent must also help their children with emotional intelligence—managing emotions. “Parents who have trouble accepting their feelings can have a hard time accepting their children’s feelings. The process of parenting awakens us to all of our lost feelings and gives us another chance. Getting comfortable with all of your feelings can help you re-parent yourself as you parent your child.” (p. 206)

Q: What does the word “re-parent” mean to you?

“Emotions can be viewed on a continuum. At one extreme is an emotional desert of numbness or apathy. When emotions are blocked, unprocessed, unheard, or stuffed inside, kids can lose their ability to be caring; yet those who don’t care may become destructive—to themselves (e.g., cutting or suicide) and to others (violence). At the other extreme is emotional flooding, having tantrums and meltdowns.” (p. 195)

Q: As a child, did you experience either of those extremes? Do your children? Talk about a time when something like this happened. Try the “Emotional Coaching” techniques on page 208 on your child.

@Kristen Caven from Beyond Bullying workshop

@Kristen Caven from Beyond Bullying workshop

Putting feelings into words puts brakes on upsetting feelings. It’s hard to talk about anything without nouns, so the first thing to do with feelings is name them. Naming feelings weakens their power and keeps you from getting lost in them.” (p. 207)

Yelling at or punishing kids who are acting out may quiet them down, but it doesn’t change their emotional state. The feelings get stuffed inside; they will remain there until something triggers them to come out.” (p. 207)

Q: What happens inside you when you talk about feelings with a trusted friend, family member, or a counselor?



This question is always a good one:

Q: What sentence, paragraph, or idea popped out at you, or stuck with you after reading?

Reply in the Comments, below!

Looking for resource links? Click here.

<< Chapter 11 | Chapter 13 >>