Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Mirror Neurons and Parenting ::Wired to Connect::

My desire to understand human development and psychology started far before I had children but admittedly it's become quite an obsession of mine. Who wouldn't want to understand the psychology of a toddler tantrum? No? Maybe I'm just weird...

The coolest part about understanding how the brain works is the ability to be calculated and stealthy in your parenting or caring and conscientious ::whichever you prefer::! Ha. There are lots of different components to the human brain but learning and understanding even just the basics has been so helpful in my parenting journey and it's given me a sense of calm understanding that has been invaluable. 

Now presenting the wild world of MIRROR NEURONS!

What Are Mirror Neurons?
According to the American Psychological Association, "Mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action. They were first discovered in the early 1990s, when a team of Italian researchers found individual neurons in the brains of macaque monkeys that fired both when the monkeys grabbed an object and also when the monkeys watched another primate grab the same object.

Cool, huh?? 
Your mind--a mirror that reflects onto others---
I'm basically telling you that the way that you feel and act will be emulated and imitated. Are you cool with that?
Ok. Yea. It's scary.

Using This Applied Science in Parenting
Children are inherently good and a bad behavior doesn't erase the inherent good-nature that they just are. Instead, when children act out in particular ways it shows where they are hurting. We must change the lens in which we view our children and their behaviors--what we deem as "good" and "bad."

Our minds set intention--"And so it goes with our kids. With them we can hold love in our minds, and our body language confirms our belief in them as good, capable, loving people. When our intentionally calm, gentle faces and body language are combined with our loving thoughts (and often, with a needed limit) the mirror neurons in our children’s brains fire to match the emotional state we are showing them, while their tantrums, crying and dramatic complaints release their feelings of hurt, so they can once again feel our love, and attune with us at last. The more we can intentionally hold this good thinking for them, the more their brains can align with ours, because our mind sets the intention.  We are giving them the experience of feeling felt, creating attuned connections and resonance, thereby restoring warmth and goodness to them and allowing their minds to self-organize." (Source)

Your Parenting Image
It's always interesting when I hear parents say, "little Johnny hates such-and-such" because MOST of the time the parent also hates such-and-such. We project onto our children the ideals, behaviors, and in many cases the inner self that we possess. If you want to see a clear picture of yourself just look at your children.

It is important to be true to who you are, because as a parent, you face a mirror that reflects everything you do and feel. When we pretend to feel and think in a specific way, our child’s mirror neurons will pick it up. Mirror neurons never lie. Your thoughts, feelings and behaviors will be mirrored. It is not what they say that counts the most, but what their brain projects and what our brain mirrors. 

Let Go of Guilt
I am a strong believer in attatchment parenting  but I'm also a firm believer in striving for balance. I hate that word, balance because it gives people like me (researchers), this notion that balance isn't being achieved if you're "striving for it" however this article says that we (I) aren't doing so bad. I feel like this is important to chat about though, we (as parents) have done a pretty damn good job of keeping busy, stressed, and frazzle-dazzled! This display of stress and "busy-ness" isn't what I want for my kids. I mean really take a step back and think about what you are exhibiting; are you running like a wild woman because you've stretched yourself thin, are you laying around all-day never putting forth the effort in achieving anything greater, or have you achieved perfect balance and you are the mother that we should all strive to be ::bullshit::! Obviously, there are varying degrees between but think about where you are on the spectrum and how it impacts your children.
Real World Application
I recently witnessed an incredible transformation in a special little boy that sort of spurred this need to know more about mirror neurons.

In the course of about 6 months his family went through some big changes that included; moving, renovating a home, moving again, and selling a business. Needless to say his life was busy and a bit unpredictable. He hadn't potty-trained yet, was a little shy socially, and verbally wasn't very expressive. Last week we spent some time with him and it was a night and day difference. He is fully potty-trained, verbally expressive, and socially engaged. After chatting with his Mama I left feeling confident that she really understood their mirror neuron connection. She explained, "Christian he was feeling my stress and after a week of being settled, at home, and me being less stressed it all came together." Mind you--this Mama was being questioned about his development by family so you can imagine the weight once things finally came together!

I leave you with this,
Remember--Your behavior speaks and your child is also listening.

P.S.--I could talk with you all day about; the great leap forward in regard to human evolution and the need for interdependence but I'll let this video get that point across.

If You Too Enjoy Research::