Monday, August 13, 2012

The Science of the Heart

My husband and I watched a documentary last night called
I Am
written and directed by Tom Shadyac, who set Jim Carrey on his career by directing him in Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty and many other movies. His story is about his journey, after a life-threatening accident, to answer two questions
What's wrong with the world?
What can we do about it?
We found the documentary fascinating, especially the information about the science of the heart, being conducted at the Heart Math Institute. What does this have to do with parenting? A lot! It helps us to understand how powerful the human heart is and that it has a stronger electromagnetic field than the brain, that our magnetic field influences other peoples electromagnetic fields, either positively or negatively. I know,it sounds very woo-woo but bear with me here. The heart has its own neurotransmitters and sends messages to the brain. Science also confirms that the heart produces hormones, stress hormones or oxytocin, the love hormone. What the documentary also showed through interviews with scientists was that new science supports that we humans are genetically encoded to be cooperative and compassionate rather than violent, it just depends on how we are raised in the family and the influences of the culture. It's no wonder that infants are so sensitive to our moods and to separation from their primary caregiver. An infants heart rate will synchronize with the mother's heart and the mother's brain will also synchronize with the infant's heart. It is a reciprocal physiological process in many known and unknown ways. It's very likely that the heart plays a large role in the parent-child attachment process. For certain, our heart is the seat of intuition and instincts, a fundamental principle of our book, Attached at the Heart. You can check it out yourself at the I Am documentary website. There's another You Tube video that's ten minutes long called Language of the Heart that's an interesting compilation of television clips on the heart science. The video quality isn't great but the information is very interesting. Ironically in the end, Tom Shadyac found a lot more of what is right with the world; that if we all just do our part to make the world a better place, no matter how small, it will significantly change our world for the better. I'm inspired by all the mothers, fathers, grandparents...all child advocates who truly get this message and are the conscious chain-breakers in their families.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Quit acting like a brat!
Stop acting like a sissy!
I brought you into this world, I can take you out!
Shut up or I'll slap you to kingdom come!
And the worst
I wish you had never born.
You may have heard these horrible words from your own parents or heard other parent say similar things to their children. Sometimes we get so frustrated we slip into another reality and hear ourselves saying the very words we told ourselves we would never say to our child. You are not alone. Just this month, in the August 2012 issue of Pediatrics, the Journal for the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study that found that verbal maltreatment and abuse is the most challenging and "prevalent form of psychological and emotional abuse and neglect" in our country. Verbal abuse has been linked to attachment disorders, socialization and conduct disorders, as well as educational problems. Given given is ironic that they mention that there are no known universal interventions but write that
prevention before occurrence will require both the use of universal interventions aimed at promoting the type of parenting that is now recognized to be necessary for optimal child development, alongside the use of targeted interventions directed at improving parental sensitivity to a child’s cues during infancy and later parent-child interactions.
This has long been the goal of Attachment Parenting International, a nonprofit I cofounded with Barbara Nicholson eighteen years ago. Barbara and I spent many years sifting through and compiling the research that supported optimal child development for our book Attached at the Heart. Lo and behold, most of the research was supportive of the principles of attachment parenting (AP). There are mountains to climb yet because some researchers and academics claim it isn't so, which only speaks to their lack of knowledge about AP. The media's portrayal of AP as extreme only serves to harm and confuse parents. While the results of the studies in this article may seem obvious, we still have a long way to go in learning how to treat children with respect and kindness. There are many tools and many programs available to teach positive parenting and positive discipline, including our new curriculum based on our book (still in testing mode at this date.) As they say, "when we know better we do better." It's been a lifelong journey for me and although my sons are adults now I am still learning and wishing I had evolved faster. It takes several generations to make lasting changes in families so I've learned to be kinder to myself as I have grown as a parent and a person and I have every confidence you will too.