“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?
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