Thursday, March 5, 2015

No Drama Discipline Chapter 2: Your Brain on Discipline

So this chapter was hard for me to read, as are most things related to brain development these days. So before I get into my discussion of this chapter, I'm going to just direct you here, to my friend Libby's story about DIPG, a rare brain cancer that took her daughter Jennifer far too soon. Libby and her friends have worked tirelessly to raise money and awareness through the non-profit they established, Unravel Pediatric Cancer. If you want to know more, and help them in their mission, head on over and see what you can do.

This doesn't really have anything to do with this post, except he was whining about being bored and I said "if you've got time to be bored, you've got time to wash your handprints off the windows..."....and he did. He did a decent job, too.

Now, on to the original point of this post: Your Brain on Discipline.

So here's the deal: a lot of what's going on is related to how mindful we're being of ourselves and our reactions to situations. And it follows that what we're attempting to do here is teach our children to be mindful of themselves and their reactions to situations.

This chapter was chock-full of good information about brain development in children - they break the brain into two sections: upstairs and downstairs. The downstairs is the primeval brain, the reptilian brain that is only concerned with getting what it wants (whether it is actually needed or just thinks it is) when it wants it. The upstairs brain is the thinking brain, the rational brain, the brain that can see reason and logic and be taught to react in certain ways to certain situation. The upstairs brain can be mindful...or, as they say, can be taught to use "mindsight":

"Mindsight is a teachable skill at the heart of being empathetic and insightful, moral, and compassionate. Mindsight is the basis of social and emotional intelligence, and we can model this for our children as we help guide the development of their changing brains....this [their changing brains] is not an excuse for bad behavior - this is why they need clear boundaries and our help understanding what's acceptable...our frame constrains what their brain can't." - pp. 38-39

He was working within the "make snack" frame but missed the "use a napkin" detail...
Like the French cadre talked about in Bringing Up Bebe, a strong framework of expectations allows for lots of room to learn and explore within it. But sometimes those boundaries are pushed and that's when we have opportunities to help our children reach the right decisions about their actions, rather than just telling them what to do.

The trouble is, sometimes we react with our reptilian brains...I have found a little solution. I saw this post on Modern Parents Messy Kids and recognized a tool that a) I handily already owned and b) was super easy to institute. A stack of 5 rings that I purchased when my fingers were swollen from pregnancy and so, I confess, sometimes when it's cold now my fingers shrink just enough that I can't wear them, lest the literally fly off and land across the room...anyway, they normally go on the right hand and should I lose my temper I take a single ring and move it over to stack against my wedding ring. The next morning, I start over. Her post on the ritual is well worth a read. (The update is here.)

My 5 rings...hanging out on kitty's heiney while I wash dishes.

The bottom line is that this is a learning process and requires a lot of practice to become second nature. Like cooking, or bike riding, or playing the drums. Take a deep breath, remember that you're dealing with an under-developed brain (in relation to yours) that hasn't harnessed impulse control, let alone reasoned why one would even need impulse control...and then give yourself a break. The same reasons your child flips out are the same reasons you flip out. Have a snack and a rest, hug it out, and start with all 5 rings on your right hand tomorrow.

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain Child. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth. This week at Natural Parents Network, our volunteers are discussing Your Brain on Discipline from the book No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain Child. Hop on over and read about what they have to say about how your child's brain is developing, the three brain C's, how you can use your knowledge about how the brain works to appeal to your child when helping them through situations, and for some resources to help you tame your own reactions. Are you tired of the drama going on in your family? Are you looking for more peaceful solutions? Pick up a copy of No Drama Discipline and join us over the next few months as we talk about what is going on in your child's brain and how you can learn to connect with your child, help them to learn, and leave the drama behind.

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