Our childhood shapes our brain in many ways—and so it determines our most basic ways of reacting to others, for better and for worse. When parents consistently practice empathy toward a child—that is, they tune in to the way that child views and feels about her world—they help instill in that child a sense of security and an ability to empathize with others later in life. But when parents act dismissively toward a child, they can make it harder for that child to be in touch with her emotions and connect with other people.
Daniel Siegel has done years of research to support these conclusions. Siegel, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles, founded the field of “interpersonal neurobiology,” which explains the brain basis for our habits of bonding with others. His research shows how we can overcome emotional disadvantages that might have arisen from difficult childhoods.
“Let’s say a child’s angry and is starting to throw something,” says Siegel. A dismissive parent focuses on stopping the behavior, instead of acknowledging the emotion that might have caused the child to throw that object. “The emotion behind the behavior is not recognized. It’s not seen.”
If parents consistently fail to acknowledge and discuss the connections between a child’s behavior and her emotions, says Siegel, the child won’t gain any insight into her own thoughts and feelings, nor will she appreciate other people’s emotional states. Siegel calls this ability “mindsight,” and he argues that it serves as the basis of self-awareness and empathy, while also predicting what kind of parent that child will grow up to be.
However, Siegel points out that actual childhood experiences are less important than how we make sense of those experiences. In other words, we can learn to think about our experiences in ways that can help us overcome them. This is good news for parents who had miserable childhoods. In fact, it’s never too late for adults to develop mindsight, because we can always rethink our childhoods, gain a new understanding of them, and thus avoid repeating the mistakes of the past with our own children.
“GUIDING YOUR CHILDREN TO THEIR OWN NORTH STAR: BECOMING YOUR CHILD’S LIFE COACH” is a tele coaching/class I offer from time to time. Since my professional background included years of studying metacognition (teaching children how to think), it’s gratifying by no coincidence that Dr. Siegel’s research validates the practical info that I give parents.
Go to my website and register for a free preview call to learn more: www.createanewseason.com
Register today for the freebies. i’d love to have you as part of the call.