Learning What We Want to Teach

My last three blog posts have been dedicated to helping us understand how a child’s young brain develops. Understanding both the present limitations and the future potential of these incredible developing child brains is not only transformational for parenting — it is equally transformational for us adults. In fact, it may be the gateway we need to help us understand ourselves better.

If we overlay this new whole brain parenting template on our own childhood, it will become very evident that few of us got what was needed to provide integration between our young nervous systems and our future upper brain processing. The old parenting models did not have the benefit of the recent neuroscience and neurobiology breakthroughs; nor did these models address the invaluable role our emotions play in our mind/body connection.

This is precisely why Dr. Dan Siegel is such a strong proponent of adult personal growth work. We can’t teach what we don’t know. And in all likelihood, we were not taught emotional awareness and regulation, mind/body connection, and core relationship skills. I know that I never heard about co-regulation, attunement or attachment styles when I was growing up; and I didn’t read about them in my dog-earned copy of Dr. Spock’s child care book and no pediatrician ever explained brain development to me.

I had no idea that my own personal growth journey, started eight years ago, would lead me back to my childhood. It’s taken me a long time to excavate, unravel and detangle myself from the pitfalls of that old parenting model.

So many times throughout my eight years of self-discovery work, my friends and I would lament, “I wish I knew this stuff when I was younger.” That’s the gift embedded in hindsight. We truly can look back –with the insight and knowledge we now have — and see much more clearly how complicated our lives and experiences were because we were using coping strategies instead of meaningful life skills.

This is precisely why I feel so “connected” now when I’m interacting with my grandchildren — especially when they are overcome with big emotions. I intimately know how it feels to be little and overwhelmed; and I now have much better knowledge and tools for responding to them. I am playing an active role in teaching what “I wish I knew then.”

Looking Back Through the Lens of Hindsight:

I grew up in a very unpredictable and dysfunctional Petri dish. Like most in similar environments (very commonplace for my generation I have discovered), my coping strategies became my “super powers”. Just like Brene Brown, I too became hyper vigilant for the inevitable volcanic eruption of big emotional clashes between my parents and siblings. I became a first responder – calm under pressure; assessing both the situation and the damage quickly; applying first aid where needed and cleaning up the broken pieces. But my Nurse Nancy crisis tool kit had only “aftermath” tools in it. I can’t tell you how many times as a little girl I longed to live in an environment where first responders were not the order of the day.

I went out into the adult world wanting calm stability more than anything. I naively believed that I could somehow “create and maintain” that stable calm; possibly avoid unnecessary drama and routine chaos and crises.

Hindsight is the crystal clear rear view mirror that reminds us that life is as unpredictable as the ocean. We can’t avoid stormy seas, bad weather and engine troubles with our boat. All I brought with me from childhood was a tattered Nurse Nancy first aid kit and emergency responder capabilities (i..e. poor coping strategies and childlike behavioral patterns). What I have come to appreciate is the value embedded in Whole Brain Parenting — of being raised to be the “captain of our ships”, to trust our internal GPS system (emotions), and to have a fully integrated operating system (all parts of our complex brains).

Imagine the confidence and empowerment that would come when stepping into the adult world better pre-loaded and prepared for all the elements. Eighteen years of real life experiences, in meaningful, daily apprenticeship with our skillful parents, learning how to successfully navigate good times, adversity, obstacles and necessary course adjustments. This just takes my breath away — it is so exhilarating.

That Sticky Emotional Undertow:

Regardless of the entry point for self-discovery and personal growth, sooner or later we will come to realize that what happened in our childhoods did have some long lasting impacts on how we view ourselves and how we are showing up in the world as adults. That has surely been my personal experience. As I began to peel the layers off my own life onion, I discovered blind spots and behavioral patterns that had their origins in my childhood.

In my last blog post, I shared that my number one goal as a parent was to “calm” a distressing situation as quickly as possible. That was my childhood conditioning taking charge of what I was feeling coursing through me – even though it was now my own child who needed my attention first and foremost. (Just a little relevant reminder here — I stepped into adulthood craving calm). I did not have any bandwidth left at that time to cope with what I perceived as unnecessary hardships and drama.

My poorly functioning emotional system had a faulty modulator. My own emotional discomfort at witnessing my child in distress hijacked my logical brain. I needed things to be calm; I wanted my kids to be calm again — but all along it was me who needed to be the calm. The emotional undertow from my childhood was strong; like a rip tide.

I grabbed my first responder kit and leaned hard on what got me through my childhood, with a heaping dose of good intentioned consoling in the form of special activities, cookies or fun distractions — after all, I had the agency now as a grown up to offer these comforts to my child. (See the pattern? See how I was not able to “pre-load” and “teach” what I didn’t know?). My instinct was “get to calm” quickly and my “go-to’s” to achieve this was consoling (not connecting); tangible comforts with a short shelf life (not teaching emotional awareness, regulation and resilience). It was the old paradigm of dismiss those feelings, get back to happy, have a treat.

The flip side of this double-edged conditioning was that in my adult relationships, I’d stuff my emotions to give the appearance of being calm, reliable, self sufficient. I had a black belt in this coping strategy from childhood. I was the compliant child, the one my parents could count on to never make a scene or cause embarrassment. What I didn’t know was that stuffed emotions become the tempest in the tea pot.

These exiled emotions don’t go away and they don’t go silent. In fact, they will just keep pounding on the door trying to get our attention for the things that do matter most to us. When my emotions demanded that I let them out of storage, I would have an uncharacteristic, unreasonable blow up over something minor — which would cause me both shame and embarrassment. Or….I’d be engulfed in the mire of resentment on the inside while I gave the appearance of being the happy, efficient, dependable “helper” on the outside.

Stuffed emotions will most assuredly not ensure calmness. Stuffed emotions rock the boat.

Both of these scenarios — of me as a parent and of me as a partner – show how taking those childhood blueprints into the adult world become a “doubling down” of the very things we are trying to prevent. I’d ask myself over and over (for decades) why my well-intentioned parental lessons weren’t sticking; and why I was often cleaning up other people’s consequences of their own actions. I could not see the neon yellow post it note on my forehead that said “First Responder”.

Learning What We Wish to Teach:

I am no longer swooping in to stressful situations unconsciously trying to soothe and comfort my own younger self. Yes, I now have awareness that so often throughout my life, I was often doing just that — unconsciously trying to comfort myself at the same time I was attempting to care for others. I could literally feel my emotions (both old and new) swirling all through my body and I did not have the awareness or tools to attend to myself first — and then turn my full attention and skills to another.

As parents and grandparents, we have to put our own oxygen mask on first.

Being swept away in our emotional and somatic vortex will not help us attend to the basic human needs of our children in the calm and grounded foundational ways needed to be effective “teachers.” It will also not help us in being healthy, flexible, supportive partners.

This is precisely why Dr. Dan Siegel believes that the key to becoming a better parent, partner or grandparent is to begin by examining our own childhood:

How you make sense of your own past is the best predictor of how your child will get along with you. So, try out that work first. It’s amazing how often people then find unbelievable liberation — by just that knowledge…..that it isn’t what happened to you, it’s how you made sense of what happened to you.”Dr. Dan Siegel (on Becoming a Better Parent)

Dr. Siegel suggests we begin with our childhood attachment style. Discovering that our childhood attachment style may have been avoidant, ambivalent (anxious or preoccupied), dismissive or disorganized can shine a lot of light on our present day issues in life and our relationships. As he reveals, it can even help us discover why we may be having trouble relating to our own kids (in spite of our best intentions).

Start exploring who you were as a kid, who were your parents and how they influenced your development. It is not what happened to you as a child, it is how you made sense of what happened to you. People often freak out and are very resistant to going back to examine their dysfunctional or painful childhood. Yet if you focus on your own history — and in a methodical way — go through your memory systems, go through your narrative system, you can actually liberate yourself from the prisons of the past. This is supported by brain plasticity studies.” — Dr. Dan Siegel (on Becoming a Better Parent)

For the record, the prisons of the past are limiting beliefs we have about ourselves, emotional triggers that hijack us from staying calm and present in the moment, poor emotional regulation, our default (outgrown) behavioral patterns, and our inner critic. Clinical psychologist, Becky Kennedy shares that “our voice to our kids becomes their voice to themselves.”

I can attest to the liberation that Dr. Siegel says is possible. Going back through both memory and narrative was well worth my time and effort. I’ve often shared with friends that I opened up a lot of “real estate” for new and better ways of being. This inner work serves as a really good indicator light when I am faced with a familiar situation, but can catch myself before stepping into an old unhealthy pattern or reaction.

If we don’t cultivate our self-awareness and replace outdated reactions with better life skills and tools, we will inadvertently be teaching our kids the very patterns and coping styles we adopted in childhood. Good intentions alone are not the path forward. We need to be working on the same emotional regulation skills and relationship tools that we wish to teach.

I found the enneagram to be a very helpful accompaniment for this methodical work that Dr. Siegel proposes — and for teasing apart all the ways that childhood attachment styles contribute to our emotional armor and adaptive behavioral patterns. Even if you don’t determine what your own enneagram type might be, reading through all nine types descriptions and typical behavioral patterns is incredibly helpful for understanding ourselves and others.

The enneagram can be a window into the inner world of others and what may be submerged in their childhood. I found that it really helped me to recognize that how others were “showing up” in life was driven more by their core needs than by the relationship dynamic we’d created. This fresh perspective was enough to help me shift how I could show up in better ways for others; and it helped me not to take things so personally.

This is a meaningful link between attachment style and our behavioral patterns. We are often using those old childhood blueprints to get our adult needs met only to discover things are backfiring. We push away what we want the most; we make it hard for people to support us; we aren’t clear in our needs or boundaries.

The enneagram helps us understand just how those developing little brains of ours lacked the integration of what we were feeling in our young bodies with an upper brain that could help us make sense in a logical, more mature way. If our parents were disregulated, we learned to navigate disregulation. If there was a lot of chaos and uncertainty, we learned to silence our needs. Maybe we became compliant or defiant, peacemakers or troublemakers.

These childhood strategies worked because we came to count on the predictability of the unpredictably of our internal family systems. As children, we grew to know our parents and siblings patterns of behavior very well. So even if it was a Petri dish of uncertainty, confusion or volatility, we had our own “go to” patterns — all formed out of reactivity not inner resources.

Once we go into adulthood and start building our own lives and relationships, the Petri dish changes. The once familiar predictability of our family unit is replaced with new people bringing their own internal family systems with them into new relationships. Now we are in a whole new environment and we are fish out of familiar water.

I once saw an Australian TV show where a new love interest shows up for the main character, with an entire room full of suitcases, roller bags and totes — with a shoulder shrug and an impish smile, he announces “this is my emotional baggage.” Talk about a powerful image to drive home the point about all that we bring with us into our relationship dynamics and parents. The tap roots of our coping methods and behavioral traits can be traced back to childhood.

Here’s where things get even more interesting. In Atlas of the Heart, Brene Brown shares with us that a lot of emotions show up looking very similar to each other but in fact can be quite different. So, if we operate on only on sparse emotional knowledge, we may mistake a partner’s or child’s emotion for anger when it is really fear or confusion.

Brene’s research for Atlas of the Heart revealed that most of us have a very limited emotional vocabulary — happy, sad or angry. How can we possibly be teaching our children the invaluable gifts of our emotions if we possess such a limited understanding ourselves?

The relatable personal stories woven into Brene’s book will help shed even more light on how our childhood impacts our adult relationships and parenting. Atlas of the Heart is yet another remarkable resource for becoming better “teachers”. Brene Brown expands our emotional vocabulary and granularity from three to 87 familiar emotions and lived experiences.

Cultivating Self Awareness and Honing Our Teaching Skills:

Just look how much we have changed with each generation in order to protect our kids and learn from our past experiences. To be honest, a lot of the things we take for granted today were met with a lot of resistance early on. Just listen to Malcolm Gladwell share how reluctant we were to use seat belts in our cars! Can you imagine any new parent not putting their newborn in an infant car seat, in the backseat, for the drive home from the hospital? Can you imagine teaching a young child to ride a bike without a protective helmet?

All that we are learning from neuroscience, neurobiology, epigenetics, psychology and the social sciences are making very clear where we can do better — for ourselves and our children. As I have shared before, in just one generation, we can make the giant pivot in the right direction for present and future generations; for quality of life, the ability to successfully navigate the uncertainties of life, for strong inner resources, flexible relationship skills, emotional literacy, empathy and a grounded confidence in their own self worth.

The first step is learning what we need to teach. That requires being amenable to looking back at our own childhood with self-compassion, with honesty and clear eyes. Dr. Dan Siegel says that people are resistant to this because they don’t want to revisit painful memories. As Shrek would say “better out than in.”

“Better out than in” – one of Shrek’s most notable lines – means that rather than stuffing things (emotions, events, waste and irritants) into your being, it’s far better to have them processed, integrated, and/or released.

I believe in this process of looking back at our childhood and learning from our experiences through the lens of hindsight and new research. It is liberating and it feels expansive to be unburdened from old self imposed limitations.

I strongly believe that reframing parenthood as an “18 year apprenticeship for life” will lead to great teaching moments with our kids that we otherwise may have missed.


Listen to this converation about parenting with Adam Grant and Clinical Psychologist, Becky Kennedy:
Bringing Out the Good in Kids — and Parents
What a timely episode of Being Well. This one is chock full of invaluable insights about the body/brain connection and somatic psychology
Using the Body to Heal the Mind with Elizabeth Ferreria (2/27/2023)

You’ll want to listen to this podcast on Attachment Styles – Dealing with Common Symptoms and Becoming More Securely Attached (2/20/2023)
Please visit Dr. Dan Siegel’s Website to access all his incredible content and tools for Whole Brain Parenting, for his groundbreaking development of Mindsight and for greater insights into the impact of childhood attachment styles.

Whole Brain Parenting

In my last post entitled “Turning Personal Growth on its Head”, I shared that in just one generation we can have dramatic positive impacts on quality of life, mental health and well being. Imagine “pre-loading” our children with a strong sense of self worth, reliable inner resources like resilience and emotional regulation, self-awareness, and empathy.

This profound pivot starts with parenting.

The old approaches to parenting predisposed us to lack the skills and inner resources we needed to successfully navigate life, relationships and adversities. Instead of teaching children the value of their emotions, good coping skills, self-awareness, empathy and relationship skills, we were “disciplined”. We weren’t being “taught”, we were “punished” — mostly for emotional reactions we were experiencing and over which we had very little control. Prior generations did not know about how a child’s brain develops and the vital role parents play in a lifelong integration process of all parts of our brains.

So instead of honing invaluable life skills from an early age, we came up with patterns of behavior in response to whatever our parents were doling out. We became conflict avoiders, people pleasers, bullies or wimps. Even if we were able to bust out of those constraints as we matured, our inner critic would often chime in to remind us of our insecurities.

Before we dive into this concept of Whole Brain Parenting, think about what we got right about our children’s physical development.

As parents, we instinctively know that our young children are physically incapable of crawling, walking, using a potty, riding a bike or learning to swim until they have achieved certain levels of their body’s natural development. We do not have unrealistic expectations about when our child will be able to stand on her own or feed herself with a spoon. In fact, we encourage, role model and celebrate these milestones.

Yet, we often lack the basic understanding of how our child’s complex brain is in a similar state of “ongoing development.” We may be asking more of them with regard to logic and reasoning than they are capable of accessing. Those executive functions of their young brain will not come online for several years.

To complicate matters, there are the hormones and chemicals that get released from strong emotional triggers into those little bodies such as cortisol, dopamine and adrenalin — and suddenly we are face to face with meltdowns, temper tantrums and a torrent of tears that is a swirl of confusion and chaos for our little ones.

We just can’t “punish” this stuff into submission. We have to teach our children what is happening in their bodies, and be the “assist” they need til their brains are developed enough to process what’s happening. (This might be a good place to stop and ask ourselves — how good are we as adults at dealing with big emotions, inner emotional chaos and confusion when we are angry, tired, annoyed or hurt?)

Parenting is hard. Unfortunately it’s been a lot harder than it truly needed to be…but we didn’t know that. As we are discovering, the real pivot for parenting is in moving from a mindset of having to “discipline” our children to the more skillful mindset of “teaching” our children.

Did you know that the root of the word discipline comes from the Latin word disciplina, which means teaching, learning or instruction?

We often think of discipline as punishment and that belief was supported by old familiar parenting quotes: Spare the rod and spoil the child; children are to be seen and not heard; do as I say and not as I do. These old adages kept us trapped in a dysfunctional parenting paradigm that did not support helping our children integrate the full capacity of their brains in the same way we were fostering the integration of new physical milestones as their bodies grew and developed.

We put training wheels on our kids’ bikes to help them learn how to balance their bodies. We put flotation devices on those eager little bodies in the pool to keep them safe while they are having fun splashing. We use repetition and role plays to teach them words and identify familiar objects.

It turns out that we also need to put training wheels and flotation devices on our child’s emotional development until their brains are ready for the full installation of logic and reasoning.

In other words, we need to be their “executive function”– their emotional regulator — when they are young and unable to do this effectively for themselves.

The more we are able to support them with strong emotional scaffolding when they are young, the better they will be at emotional awareness, self-control, empathy and discernment between right and wrong when they are older — when we take off the “training wheels”. This is the “pre-loading” component that is a game-changer.

That old conventional approach to parenting bypassed an integral process to nurture and integrate the full capacities of our children’s developing brains.

The old conventional approaches often led to blocked integration of different parts of our brains. That blocked integration can linger with us far into adulthood, causing us to unconsciously rely on childhood behavioral patterns even when we should have outgrown them. It is also the reason we get emotionally triggered from something that occurred decades ago, have heightened anxieties or fears, and blind spots in our self-awareness.

What We Know Now…..That We Got Wrong Before:

We now have before us the most incredible neuroscience-based resources to seize this missed opportunity and support our children’s brain developments more skillfully than ever before. Our role as parents and caregivers is to “step in” and assist with the integrative process by providing the connection needed until a child’s developing brain is ready to take over on its own.

Two very important things are happening in this approach: (1) we are the scaffolding needed to ensure that a child feels safe, valued and connected and (2) we are preparing him to install that same foundation of his very own when he is older — when his brain has developed fully and he can now readily access the logic and reasoning part of his upper brain. Our children will grow up with reliable inner resources, a strong sense of self-worth, and healthy relationship skills.

As you will learn a little later in this post, the Whole Brain Parenting approach creates a “secure” attachment style which is the most beneficial life foundation we can give to our children.

The Whole Brain Way to Calm the Chaos & Nurture A Child’s Developing Mind:

Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson have been teaching their transformational new approach to parenting for over a decade. In their 2016 book, No Drama Discipline, they share very relatable stories that are commonplace for most parents. What makes this book so different however, is the time and attention they devote to teaching us about the child’s developing brain, what is happening in her nervous system, how her brain gets hijacked by emotional disregulation and her innate lack of capacity to deal with all of it. It is a real eye-opener about the complex inner world of our little ones.

It may be the very first time as parents that we get a clear picture of how we are asking for the impossible when we try reasoning, bribing or punishing to tame a temper tantrum or seemingly unreasonable meltdown.

This deeper understanding of a child’s developing brain should be the key motivation for most parents and caregivers to adopt a whole new approach to “disciplining” their children: The “No Drama Connection Cycle”.

The operative word for this contemporary Whole Brain parenting approach is “connection”. Connection calms the nervous system, which soothes a child’s reactivity in the moment, and moves them toward a place where they can actually hear us, learn and even begin to make their own “whole brain” decisions.

When the emotional gauge gets turned up, connection is the modulator that keeps the feelings from getting too high. Without connection, emotions can continue to spiral out of control. — Excerpted from No Drama Discipline, page 74

Connection is essential for brain integration. This matters because the brain is complex; it has many parts, all of which have different jobs to do, including memory and pain regions. Did you know that the same areas of the brain get activated when people feel emotional pain as well as physical pain?

Think about that — we are so quick to attend to a scraped knee or swollen lip, but often impatient with an emotional outburst. To a child, the pain feels the same.

The old parenting approach also led us to believe that if we “coddled” a child every time they got physically hurt, they wouldn’t be resilient. Turns out that was wrong also. Acknowledging how they are feeling when they get hurt, calming them and attending to their injury teaches them how to care for themselves, promotes strong coping skills, resiliency and better discernment of the actual level of pain.

Why Connection and Integration Matter:

The responses we heard repeatedly in the old conventional approach to parenting sounded like these: “Get over it”; “Pull yourself together”; “You need to calm down”; “Go to your room until you can be nice”.

Dr. Siegel points out that these responses actually do the opposite of connection — they amplify negative states and increase internal distress, which perpetuates more acting out. Not only did this lead to an ongoing cycle of disconnection and lack of integration of all those complex brain parts, it predisposed us to develop an unhealthy attachment style.

Attachment styles are developed in early childhood based on our relationship with our primary caregivers and how they respond to our needs. Whole Brain Parenting will help parents provide the optimum “secure” attachment style for their children.

If you are thinking that Whole Brain Parenting takes a lot more time and energy than the old school approach, let’s dispel that. While it may take a little more skill on the parent’s part initially, over time with all that consistency of calm and connection, the lessons you want to impart to your child will actually start to stick. Parents won’t be exhausted from repeating themselves over and over, feeling defeated about gaining any traction in their parenting efforts. So many times, our well intentioned lessons are falling on deaf ears because kids are just so disregulated, they cannot possibly take in what we are saying…..especially if our tone of voice conveys our angering frustrations.

Let’s dispel another myth while we are at it — the myth of spoiling our kids. This is a question that Dr. Dan Siegel has answered many times – and it’s one that is based on a misunderstanding of what spoiling really is — and what it is not.

Connection defuses conflict, build’s a child’s brain and strengthens the parent-child relationship. Connecting during discipline is quite different from spoiling a child.

“Let’s start with what spoiling is not. Spoiling is not about how much love and time and attention you give your kids. You can’t spoil your children by giving them too much of yourself. In the same way, you can’t spoil a baby by holding her too much or responding to her needs each time she expresses them. Parenting authorities at one time told parents not to pick up their babies too much for fear of spoiling them. We now know better. Responding to and soothing a child does not spoil her — but NOT responding to or soothing her creates a child who is insecurely attached and anxious. Nurturing your relationship with your child and giving her the consistent experiences that form the basis of her accurate belief that she’s entitled to your love and affection is exactly what we SHOULD be doing. In other words, we need to let our kids know that they can count on getting their needs met.” – Excerpted from No Drama Discipline, page 89 (Chapter entitled from Tantrum to Tranquility)

“Spoiling on the other hand, occurs when parents or caregivers create their child’s world in such a way that the child feels a sense of entitlement about getting her way, about getting what she wants, exactly when she wants it, and that everything should come easily and be done for her. We want our kids to know that their “needs” can be consistently understood and met, but we don’t want our kids to expect that their “desires and whims” will always be met. Connecting when a child is upset or out of control is about meeting the child’s needs, not giving in to what she wants. — Excerpted from No Drama Discipline, page 90 (Chapter entitled From Tantrum to Tranquility)

The Big Impact that Whole Brain Parenting Can Have in the Long Run:

I recently participated in a week long seminar about the newer approaches being implemented in counseling and therapy treatments as a direct result of the breakthroughs in neuroscience about brain integration. The most effective protocols are focused on helping clients integrate all the parts of their brain and nervous system. Because of neuroplasticity, as adults we can actually rewire our brains and reconnect to “whole brain” living.

Even patients with a history of trauma and PTSD do not need to go through the arduous and often painful experiences of sharing their trauma stories. The faster, less painful and more effective approach is to focus on integration and being fully present in the current moment. This is a groundbreaking new approach for anyone who struggles with issues that stem from dysfunctional attachment styles and the lack of integration of the full capacities of our most amazing brains.

There is one old adage that rings truer than ever: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Imagine how empowering it will be for our children to be able to name, process and learn from their emotions; being taught reliable, healthy emotional regulation and coping skills; and gifting them with self confidence, self worth and strong inter-personal relationship skills. This will become a much better foundation for our younger generations to have as they enter adulthood.

In upcoming blog posts, I’ll be sharing more about what we are discovering through psychology and neuroscience that will be game changers for all of us. In the meantime, check out these resources to learn more about Whole Brain Parenting and No Drama Discipline:


These two books by Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson are two of the most insightful Parenting Books you can read. They are easy to understand, relatable and refreshingly candid about the parenting issues we all face. Chock full of real life examples & reference guide.

Check out this brief and noteworthy clip from Dr. Andrew Huberman, about the role our childhood attachment styles play in choosing our life partners, and the impacts of our childhood attachment styles on our adult intimate relationships.


There is nothing like listening to Dr. Dan Siegel explain why Whole Brain Parenting can make such a dramatic difference for both you and your child.

Check out this short clip: Why Attachment Parenting Matters


The Magic of a “Good Enough” Parent

When I was a little girl, a guidance counselor once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer — “A good mother”.

A better goal might have been to be a “a good enough” mother. Not only is this a great bar to reach for, it is grounded in the reality that we will make mistakes and that learning never stops. I wish I had known just how much my children were going to teach me — about myself, about their uniqueness, and about human nature.

Like most of my friends, I went into motherhood striving for perfection. But parents are messy, babies are messier and life doesn’t go on pause during child-rearing years. This reality is precisely why I find Dr. Dan Siegel’s research so reassuring.

What a relief to know that there is no such thing as “perfect parenting”. It is a figment of our imaginations! Dr. Siegel tells us that the emphasis should be on “showing up”, being present for our children, making them feel seen and safe.

In The Power of Showing Up, Dr. Siegel explains how parental presence shapes who our kids become and how their brains get wired.

My book club friends and I had a good laugh about the truth of his findings. We could all relate to “old school” parenting styles that explained how we got “wired”. And why it’s taken us so long to unravel the resulting consequences.

We are so grateful for all that we are unlearning and relearning — about how a child’s brain develops, how emotions show up in our bodies and the importance of providing supportive resources for children to process their experiences and emotions. Even (and especially) if their emotions and experiences are much bigger than our own in any given moment.

As grandmothers, we are now showing up for our adult kids and our young grandchildren in much better ways. We often lament that we wish we had known then what we know now. We are having a lot of “aha” moments as we attend to our own personal development; especially when we share our childhood stories with each other.

This morning, I came across Nedra Tawwab’s post about motherhood and it touched my heart in a big way. Nedra is a beautiful soul, a noted expert in setting boundaries and a “lead-by-example” therapist.

Nedra’s insight that “parenting others is re-parenting yourself” resonated deeply with me. I do believe that we often treat our children with greater sensitivity around the very parts of ourselves that are most fragile. In that way, we are offering them protection and a safe place while also taking comfort in our awareness that this is what we’d hoped for — and what we needed when we were young.

As we become more attuned to the needs of our children, we begin to better understand ourselves and how events of our childhood impacted us. This introspection comes when we look at the world through our children’s eyes.

Self-awareness and self-compassion go hand in hand when we are “walking beside a younger version of ourselves” and reparenting ourselves to heal and grow from the insights.

It is an invaluable opportunity to discover more about ourselves and a launchpad for showing up for our children in healthier ways. Often this inner work makes our parenting job a lot less stressful. We can let go of our own fears or misconceptions which gives us more space and clarity for addressing what our child’s unique needs are.

This is an exciting time to be a parent – we know so much more now than we ever did about a child’s brain development, about their limitations for emotional regulation when they are young, and about healthy attachment styles.

Based on the latest brain and attachment research, The Power of Showing Up, shares stories, scripts, simple strategies, illustrations and tips for honoring the 4 S’s effectively in all kinds of situations – when our kids are struggling or when they are enjoying success; when we are consoling, disciplining or arguing with them; and even when we are apologizing for the times we don’t show up for them. Demonstrating that mistakes and missteps are repairable and that it’s never too late to mend broken trust this book is a powerful guide to cultivating your child’s healthy emotional landscape. –– Amazon Books

Now we know — the goal is not to be perfect — The goal is to be present, to offer a quality of presence that makes a child feel safe, seen, soothed and secure. That is the definition of an outstanding “good enough” parent.


HOW A DEEPER SELF-UNDERSTANDING CAN HELP YOU RAISE CHILDREN WHO THRIVE – Dr. Dan Seigel shares that knowing your own attachment style created in your childhood can help you be a better parent for your kids.

Parenting isn’t easy. Showing up is! One of the best scientific predictors for how any child turns out in terms of happiness, academic success, leadership skills and meaningful relationships is whether at least one adult in their life has consistently shown up for them. This book is parenting magic.