Yes Brain

I just read an interview with Dan Siegel about his book called  “YES Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child.” Dr. Siegel starts out the interview saying that the concepts in this book are a “no-brainer” Actually he said they were a “yes brainer”

“The idea for parents or anyone caring for a child is to understand that the brain can get into a “yes brain” state and approach life with all of these positive features versus a “no brain” state, which is created when we feel threatened and we shut down. You are actually empowered as an adult to help raise children where these states of a yes brain that repeatedly created to become a trait of positivity in life.”

“No brain” is where you’re either getting ready to fight or you might get ready to flee and even freeze up and hold on until you figure out whether you’re going to run or fight. Those are the activating threat states of a no brain. There’s also a deactivating no brain threat state which is where you collapse in a faint. So whether you’re fainting or moving toward the freeze, flee or fight, all of those are reactive states that are activated. For example, if I said “No” harshly several times, you’d feel that kind of reactivity building up in you depending on your history. We’re all different from each other, but in any of those F’s of a no brain state, you shut down learning and you shut down connection to other people. When it’s repeated in a child, a child’s development becomes curtailed because they’re not open to new learning and connected with others.

Dr. Siegel goes on to say“when you as a parent are yourself in the “no-brain”, it is hard to do good parenting. When you’re fighting with your kid, wanting to run away, when you’re freezing up, or even collapsing, all of these reactive states shut down good, open, receptive parenting.” The main part of the book walks parents through four yes brain fundamentals. The acronym is BRIE. The B is balance, the R is resilience, insight is I and empathy is E. A brief summary of each is:.

The 4 Elements of a “Yes Brain”

1) Balance – the state of receptivity that allows us to embrace the whole range of our emotional experience

2) Resilience  – the capacity to shift from reactivity to receptivity and come back to balance

3) Insight – awareness of our own internal state that cultivates understanding of ourselves and others

4) Empathy – the sensations and feelings we get in response to others’ emotions as well as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person

Dr. Siegel goes on in the interview to dispel the notion that this is just a book about permissive parenting. He emphatically states that this is not at all what he is saying. The “yes brain” approach to parenting is something like this:

“A child is asking for ice cream before dinner, and you say “No way! That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard all day that is dumb!” So that would be one response. Here would be another one. “Can I have ice cream before dinner?” “Are you out of your mind?! How many times are you going to ask me something as ridiculous as that?!” Versus this: “Can I have ice cream before dinner?” “You know, I’m hungry too and ice cream before dinner sounds like such a cool idea. We need to eat our dinner first, and then, you know something, I’m so in the mood for vanilla. But why don’t we figure out which flavor we’ll get later. Let’s have dinner and we can plan on when we’ll get the ice cream together.” So you’ve heard the request—I call it PART, another acronym—you’re present for the request, P, you attune to the feelings behind the request, you resonate with it, you go, “Hey I’d like to ice cream too, I’m with you”… you develop the T trust. And then you say “No, we’re not having ice cream.” But I love the feelings behind the request. And it is totally understandable for you to ask for it so let’s figure out a way to share our love for ice cream after we eat the nutritious food. So that’s an example where you’re creating structure and you’re teaching a child that they can express their desire and how they’d like something to go. You’re creating structure and saying “No, it’s not going to go that way,” but the desire behind your request I see and the feeling is a feeling I can even relate to. So that’s the yes brain approach while being given structure and putting limits that we don’t eat ice cream before dinner.”

If you would like to read or listen to the entire interview with Dr. Siegel please click on the link below.


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