I had the pleasure of interviewing world-renowned scientist and author, Dr. Dan Siegel, who has written prolifically about the mind, coining the term, “Mindsight” which refers to the awareness we develop as we begin to understand the impact that our own brains and minds have in our day-to-day lives. He is also the co-author of the book, The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child.
Let’s all say “YES!”
Our interview on the whole brain approach to parenting was fascinating – particularly when he did his “No!” exercise with me. It’s best to watch it in the interview (if you want to see a grown woman made little-kid vulnerable in a matter of seconds!) but suffice to say, I was blown away when I realized both in my mind and body just what it feels like for a kid to be told “No” in the way we often say it to them. The purpose of this exercise was to highlight the difference between the Yes Brain and the No Brain. The No Brain is a state of threat – one where you begin to freeze up your muscles and figure out if you’re going to fight or flee. While you may assume that a Yes Brain means being permissive and giving in to your child’s every little demand, according to Dr. Siegel, a Yes Brain is simply the state of being receptive and open and he encourages parents to adopt this Yes Brain approach to parenting.
One of the major benefits of employing a Yes Brain strategy includes positively shaping your child so that as they grow up, they view their life experiences in a balanced way, hopeful and full of confidence. Who wouldn’t want that for their child? I know I do!
Understanding ourselves and empathizing with others
Dr. Siegel is full of so much knowledge and encouragement when it comes to parenting. In addition to his work on the Yes Brain, he also coined the term “Mindsight,” which he describes as the ability to sense the inner subjective lives of oneself and others and work those into your daily life. In parenting, instead of reacting negatively to an experience or a request that you may find completely outlandish, such as your child wanting to take their night time bath decked out in goggles and a bathing suit, you take the time to understand their behavior and respond in a way that educates them on why their thought process about this particular situation is not in line with what you as the parent think is best. According to Dr. Siegel, it’s okay to allow yourself to feel frustrated about the situation as long as you can allow yourself to let the feeling go and change it for the better. When we do this regularly with our children, we’re allowing them to experience their feelings, learn, and reflect.
We as parents are the guardians of not only our brains but our children’s brains as they grow up. As we learn to be more receptive as adults, we help them become more receptive and filled with wonder instead of feeling anxious, emotionally guarded, and ready to flee. If you have time, please do the yes/no exercise – I’d love to know how it made you feel!
Dr. Dan Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute is our featured guest on the Parenting Today video series. Watch the full episode here as he discusses the whole brain approach to parenting.