Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Science of Parenting

I have a book called The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland that I purchased before my first son was born.  It's filled with information about brain development and how to tailor your parenting based on the stages of your child's mind.  I bought it mostly to prove to my husband that I was right about my parenting methodologies (Hey, I wasn't as mature then as I am now) and it has actually had quite the opposite effect.  Although it is affirming in many areas, there are even more things that have shown me I have a lot to learn.

I mentioned the other day that my boys are fighting over toys.  A lot.  I have a sitter today and so I busted out the book to see what eye opening facts I can learn.  I zeroed in on the chapter entitled "Trying Times - Toy Sharing."  It can't get much more focused than that!  It explained that, "The toy is the child's territory.  Any animal is likely to respond with rage to an invasion of its territory; it is an instinct triggered in the ancient reptilian core of our brain."  It goes on to say, "As he is in real pain and his brain and body are awash with strong hormones, he needs help and compassion when having to share a toy and not an angry response."  Uh oh.

This is when I start talking to myself.  Is my response angry?  Is it compassionate when I say kind words through gritted teeth?  Is he going to be in therapy someday over my "angry response?"  I decided to stop thinking and keep reading.

My Happy Little Reptile
The book recommended helping them find a solution together by showing them how they take turns or trade.  This works perfectly well if I am sitting there with them but not so well if I have to, you know, pee or something.  Then I hit the jackpot.  "It if gets 'reptilian' again, take away the toy and say something like, 'Okay, you two, I am taking this away until we have found a way to share the time with it.'  If the toy is no
longer there, children often move from intense feelings to thinking.  If they do come up with a solution, give them lots of praise, because negotiation and compromise are sophisticated human skills," shared Sunderland.

It's so easy to hear techniques but not so easy to understand the "why" in their behavior   This has helped me to understand that my sons simply are not capable of playing nicely quite yet.  Under stress, they apparently turn into reptiles.  I can buy that.  It doesn't mean I let it go but it does mean that I have to be patient with the learning process.  I read a bit more about sibling rivalry and realized much of this may be rooted in my older son's need for one on one attention.  It can be hard to have a sibling and share the attention of parents.  I will continue reading and share any other insights I have with you. 

Do you have any good resources for me?  What techniques have worked the best for your children?

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