“The brain is a social organ, made to be in relationship. It’s hardwired to take in signals from the social environment, which in turn influence a person’s inner world. In other words, what happens between brains has a great deal to do with what happens within each individual brain. Self and community are fundamentally interrelated, since every brain is continually constructed by its interactions with others.” (The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, pp. 122).
I absolutely love that quote.
And if we are going to understand strategies #11 and #12, we have to understand this concept. That our brain is shaped by our interactions with each other. Therefore, it is literally developed and lives in community with others. Thankfully to the increasing knowledge that neuroscience is providing us, ideas that may have seemed foreign and strange just a decade or less ago are now coming to light.
One of the reasons that I first became intrigued by this book was that I felt like a lot of my parenting was focused on the discipline and consequences/punishment associated with parenting. In other words, I felt like I was spending a lot of time trying to discipline my kids and it was exhausting. It was exhausting though because discipline and punishment were some of the only tools I had in my parenting tool belt. I literally needed some other strategies to help me day to day with my kids. Strategies that helped me interact with them in new ways when their behaviors needed to be corrected. And strategies that just helped me shift where my focus was in parenting. So when this book was mentioned, I was all over it.
Siegel and Payne write:
“Do you ever feel like you’re spending most of your time either disciplining the kids or carting them from one activity to the next, and not enough time just enjoying being with them?” (pp. 131)
“If you do, you’re not alone; most of us feel this from time to time. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to just have fun as a family. Yet we are hardwired for play and exploration as well as for joining with one another. In fact, ‘playful parenting’ is one of the best ways to prepare your children for relationships and encourage them to connect with others. That’s because it gives them positive experiences being with the people they spend the most time with: their parents.” (pp. 131)
It’s as simple as that.
So I have to ask you.
What are the consistent, intentional ways that you parent playfully with your kids each day? Every week?
What are the things you are doing?
And if you don’t engage your kids in play, why not? What are the hindrances, or excuses that you have often found yourself saying (either out loud or to yourself)?
My wife and I found ourselves in a very similar predicament as many of you. Two careers. Over planned schedule. Exhausted. No energy to be playful. We were neglecting ourselves and our kids.
So we took action by getting together as a team (my wife and I), and then later as a family — and we used The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family model by Patrick Lencioni for our own family life. You can read about that strategy here and how we have implemented it.
And even though we have a long way to go, we finally feel like we are in this place in life where we are more intentionally engaged on a daily basis in the act of ‘playful parenting’ with our kids. And that very act has changed how we relate together as a family. So much so that we find ourselves having to discipline less because the very thing that led to many problems in the first place was our disconnection as a family.
[Image: The Cameron Council Communique]