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Parents can change a child’s brain

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Some of the research listed below suggests that parents (and teachers) are in the brain changing business. Although parents might struggle with changing a child’s “mind” they inevitably have a role in the child’s developing brain. A child’s experiences in life can alter the structures of the brain for good or ill.

The most important experiences are those they share with their caretakers. This might put a lot of weight on parents already weighty lives and cause them to feel that can’t do anything right. The only result, they might joke, is pay for the therapy latter! Fortunately, those therapists have long known that optimal is better than perfect. The idea of the “Good Enough” parent is a comforting one, to myself at least. We don’t have to do everything perfect. It is more important that we try, even in the event of failures (blow our top, pick the child up late from preschool, can’t help with a math assignment or get a divorce) a child can come out OK. It is our overall efforts and results that children judge us by and it is our consistent effort to provide structure and nurturing that create the healthiest brains/people.

“No matter what business you’re involved in, first and foremost you’re in the brain change business.” So asserts Houston neuro-psychiatrist, Bruce Perry. In line with that premise, it makes great sense to know at least a few of the basics about how your own and other people’s brains grow and change in ways that could possibly help make them work like Einstein’s, Michelangelo’s and Mother Teresa’s all rolled into one!

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The brain is perhaps best thought of as a collection of interconnected endocrine glands – roughly 52 individual parts controlling different actions. They all must work together to “process energy and information.” Thinking about the brain in such terms – as a network of organs that must optimally process the energy and information of our daily lives – turns out to be a very useful template to help us understand our own and others’ reactions to the world, and to make good decisions in response to them.

Ideally, we only want ourselves and our family and friends involved in activities that their brains are developmentally suited to handle, and perhaps a little bit more. It’s the “little bit more” that can become tricky, which is how we build resilience in ourselves and our kids.

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Child Behavior Problems were big concern for 2010

Recently I did a poll here on the ParentingToolbox to see what some of the biggest parenting issues were in 2010. Sixty percent of the parents that responded said that “child behavior problems” were their main concerns. It could be that parents that come to my blog do so because they are looking for help with their children’s behavior. The blog does focus on that topic over other parenting topics. Even with that possibility, I think it is still quite relevant to parents. It always has been in my 20 plus years of working with families. So it should surprise me to see that result. What the poll doesn’t ask is what kind of behavior issues is troublesome to parents. I did ask about teen drug use, bullying, child abuse and other stressful issues. These got some attention but not much. I am left with the assumption that parents are referring to the age-old concerns of defiance, noncompliance, sibling rivalry, etc. I will be addressing all these issues in my new Premium Parenting Toolbox Newsletter that launches this month. Get on board now while I have the introductory price available and you will find detailed parenting help on topics you need help with. Click here for more information!Leave a comment below on the behavior issues you have been dealing with. Be specific. I may provide some tailored answers to you in the newsletter.
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