Whole Brain Mama

I have started the Joyful Courage BOOK CLUB on facebook and our first book is The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Sttrategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel, M/D. (love him!) and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.  This book is SO GOOD and it is really bringing together all that I know and love about myself, my children, and Positive Discipline parenting...  Seriously, this is a game changer.

For example, one of the tools of PD is using Curiosity Questions - these are what and how questions that encourage our children to look inward and think.  I teach about this in the very first week of class, and encourage parents to be truly curious  when they ask these questions.

Examples would include:

What do you have left to do to be ready for school/bed/dinner?

How do you feel about what happened today at the park?

What can I do to help you?

What is your plan for getting your homework done?

What can you do that might help you sister feel better?

I am pretty good at using curiosity questions - what I am noticing though is the curious part is often missing.  I ask these questions with the answer I want already in mind.  My kids know this too - they can hear it in my tone, see it in my face, feel it in the vibe that is surrounding the moment.

Back to the Whole Brian Child...  So as I am reading this book, I am learning about the different parts of the brain and how they work best when they are integrated, meaning working together.  So it isn't enough to ask questions, trying to appeal to the logic of the left side of the brain, we need to also engage the right side, the emotional side of the brain.  Curiosity questions can do this when we are truly curious....

Here is a story that happened a few weeks ago.  My son gave me permission to share this...

One of the neighborhood boys had a "rip-stick" for sale.  This is a skateboard with only two wheels that your wiggle to move (totally pathetic explanation, but that gives you the idea...).  Ian had negotiated a price and came home to get some of his allowance to buy the rip-stick.  I needed to go to the store and told him we could swing by the neighbors house and he could do the exchange.  He was okay with that.

I dropped him off at the end of this kid's driveway and he ran up to the house.  Minutes later he came sulking back to the car.  He opens the door and slouches into his seat.

"He's not there and his brother says he can't sell me the rip-stick."

"Oh man, I bet that is really disappointing,"  I say.

"Yeah, and I'm not going to put on my seatbelt," my son says, angrily.

Here is the moment.  The moment that makes or breaks this situation.  One part of me is ready to get into it about the seatbelt, get over it dude, we are going to the store and you have to put your seatlbelt on!  The other part of me thinks, how can I use what I know about his brain to help him move through this experience?

I get out of the car without saying anything and come to his door.

"You were really excited about buying that rip-stick, huh?" I say, my face showing him the disappointment that I knew he must be feeling.

"Yes, and I am not going to put on  my seatbelt!"  he says, crossing his arms in defiance...  He is angry and hurt, and the logical way for a child to deal with this is to pass on the hurt.

"Hmm," I say, avoiding the seatbelt argument, "is there something you could do to let the neighbor boy know that you are still interested in buying his rip-stick?"  I used this questions in hopes of building a bridge to move him from his emotional right brain to his logical left brain.

"I don't know," he says, with a little less fire in his voice and posture.

I notice a pad of paper on the floor.  "What about writing him a note?"

"Ok," he says, sitting up taller, "will you write it and I will tell you what to say?"

"Sure, tell me what to write."

He then proceeds to dictate a letter to his friend and signs his name at the bottom.  He runs back down the driveway to pass the note off to the brother.  He makes his way bak to my van, hops in and puts his seatbelt on.  The end.

So its not what you say, its how you say it.  By learning a bit about the brain, I am learning how to better meet my children where they are at and offer opportunities for them to process their emotions to move to a more logical place.  

I had another time to practice this with the same child not many days later.  He had 10 minutes of screen time.  I mentioned to him that 10 minutes goes really fast and to be prepared to feel disappointed when the timer went off.

Sure enough, 10 minutes was over and Ian was pissed.

He came upstairs in a rant, trying desperately to pull me into his pain.

"Time sure goes by fast when you are on the ipad, huh?"  I said to him.

"Yeah, and dad's dumb for making me turn it off." he said, flopping facedown on my bed.

"When I am on an exercise machine at the YMCA, time goes by so slow, it's totally torture," I say, ignoring the dumb dad comment.

"When are some other times when time goes by fast?" I ask him, genuinely curious about what he will say.

He rolls over on his back and calmly looks up at the ceiling. "Recess," he says thoughtfully.

I am feeling like a Whole Brain Mama - I am using what I am learning to maintain my own self control and create space for my kids to integrate their brain and do/feel better.  Not only that, I am showing over and over that I can handle their emotions.  I can be solid for them as they fall apart.

So curiosity questions, coupled with understanding of how a child's brian works, is making a huge difference in my interactions with my kids.  I am feeling better about myself AND my children, and that is a lovely place to be :).

 Try it and share how it works for you!!!