We are sitting in my consulting room. The mom and dad, who are consulting with me, are seated alongside each other and I am opposite them. I say something and notice that their eyes open wide and they look at each other with an ’oh my goodness’ kind of expression. Then mom turns to me and says with amazement in her voice, ‘I have never ever heard it put that way. Why did nobody ever tell us that before?
Interestingly enough, I get pretty much the identical response every single time I tell parents this…
‘You are not responsible for changing your child’s behavior. You are responsible for changing the chemistry you are stimulating in your child. Once you know how to stimulate the good chemistry the behavior will take care of itself.’
Why is this such a huge ‘Aha’ moment for most parents?
Parents well-intentionally, but mistakenly, believe that what they need to learn are better parenting tools and techniques that will help them change their child from being difficult, disruptive, rude, angry or withdrawn to being normal, happy and nice. But it doesn’t work that way. What moms and dads need to know is that parenting tools and techniques are only useful if the child’s spirit, body and brain are ready for this.
If you are trying to use parenting tools with your child, no matter how good the technique is or how well you use it, in a situation where your child’s body-brain chemistry is working against you, you will not succeed in bringing about sustainable and real behavior change. In fact, you may even create even more negative behavior and increased frustration for yourself and your child! This is because your child is not choosing to be difficult or behave badly. It is an inner chemical imbalance that is driving the behavior you are trying to change. And it is this imbalance that is disabling your child’s ability to hear you and behave differently. So it is your responsibility to rebalance your child’s inner chemistry.
Using parenting tools prematurely is like wanting to learn how to lay out the pieces for a backgammon game but putting the pieces on the wrong board. You can move those pieces around forever, but you will not be able to play the game – until you are placing the pieces on the right board.
Think of the backgammon board in this situation as referring to the chemical foundation of your child. When your child’s serotonin, adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, oxytocin (to name a few) are functioning at the correct levels, your child will be happy, calm, smart, focused, caring, pleasant, sociable, engaging, motivated, curious, excited and responsible. If you are not seeing these kinds of positive behaviors, this tells you that your child’s body and brain chemistry (they always work together) have been thrown off balance . You are playing with the wrong board.
Mom, Dad, You are Your Child’s Best Medicine … or not!
Think of the energy that passes between you and your child as having medicinal qualities. By the way this is not a metaphor – it is a scientifically proven fact. Every word we say out loud, every single thing we think but don’t say, every sigh, our body language, the expression on our face, the look in our eyes, the sound of our voice and the kind of energy that is broadcast from us to the child, represents good medicine or not so good medicine for the child.
The kind of parenting behaviors that are ‘Good Medicine’ will stimulate a wonderful, healthy, balanced blend of chemicals within the child. These are the chemicals that help your kids feel good, think clearly, focus, be inspired, excited and motivated, socialize positively and respond to the world with a strong inner sense of how amazing they are.
Not so good parent-child interactions will stimulate too much of some chemicals and too little of others. The result is what some practitioners like to label as learning, behavior or mood disorders. This is a mistake. The vast majority of issues that kids and parents grapple with are not disorders – they are symptoms that occur because something is happening in the child’s world that is messing with the child’s chemistry and preventing the child’s body and brain from doing what they are designed to do, easily and naturally.
(The same good medicine-not so good medicine effect can be caused not only by the parent-child interactions but by other relationships in your child’s life – with siblings, caregivers, teachers, peers, sports coaches, for example. It is vital for you to be aware if this is happening – and to Take Charge and remove the child from the chemically toxic situation! (However, this article focuses specifically on the impact of the parent-child interactions).
Remember what I started this article with – what I tell parents?
You are not responsible for changing your child’s behavior. You are responsible for changing the chemistry you are stimulating in your child. Once you know how to stimulate the good chemistry the behavior will take care of itself.
So what do you do?
- Study the latest research. You will discover that it is now scientifically proven and accepted that what goes on inside your child, is in large part, the result of what happens between you and your child.
- Then change your mindset… change your perception of what the problem is … and change your belief about what the solution is. The problem is this: what is occurring between you and your child may be unintentionally upsetting the child’s healthy chemical balance. Can you accept this? If so, you now have a new understanding of what the real problem is, what you need to do, and the skills you need to learn in order to help make the problem go away. Once you know this – really know it, not just in your head, but in your heart, then you are on your way to becoming a good medicine parent.
- Now – and this is very important – let yourself feel empowered and excited by this information. Feel excited by the knowledge that YOU HAVE THE POWER to impact your child’s chemistry in ways that can have life-changing effects – for your child as well as for the whole family. YOU CAN RESOLVE THE PROBLEM.
Knowing how to do this is what I call NeuroParenting. And my clients will tell you that it is fun, and easy to do! Once you put NeuroParenting into practice, you will begin to see the very changes in your child’s learning and behavior, that you had dreamed of bringing about.
Now, I would love to hear from you. The very best medicine you could ever offer me and my readers is to share your thoughts, experiences, and opinions below. We are all on the same journey. We all have the same dreams of raising happy, robust and resilient kids. Please take a moment to share your insights in the comment section below so we can learn from each other.