Brain-Based Parenting

Brain-Based Parenting

What Neuroscience is Teaching Us About Connecting With Our Kids

By Jonathan Baylin and Daniel Hughes

January/February 2012

We’re two aging therapists who’ve worked with abused children and adolescents for many years and are keenly interested in the neurobiology of attachment. We met a few years ago, when we were asked to work with an agency that wanted to incorporate an attachment-based model in their treatment of highly stressed kids, teens, and their parents. This story of the new therapeutic path that emerged as a result of this collaboration starts, as so many do, with a failure.

There was one case at that time that Dan found particularly galling. He’d begun providing treatment for a young mother, Rebecca, and her 4-year-old son, Eric. The family doctor had described her as being a tense, discouraged mother, overwhelmed by the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for her son. Still, she’d seemed to want help for herself and her son, and agreed to see a therapist.

Yes, she said, when Dan did her intake; she was discouraged, all right—and frustrated! Eric was impossible! Why wouldn’t he just do what she asked? Why was everything a fight? Why wouldn’t he play by himself when she just wanted to relax? Why wouldn’t he eat? Sleep? The list of complaints seemed endless.

By contrast, Rebecca recalled how happy she’d been when he’d been an infant. He needed her! He loved her! She didn’t think that she’d ever felt as close to anyone as she’d felt to him. Certainly, she told Dan, she’d never felt close to her own parents. When they weren’t fighting with each other, they were…

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Saturday, December 12, 2020 2:09:51 PM | posted by Babs Schmerler
This was a great article and gave me a lot to think about. We therapists often forget that we too are part of the equation and that our behavior serves to stimulate those mirror neurons and processes described in this article in our clients. We get triggered just like they do and that gets our brains off and running. This article does a great job of laying out that process and giving us some guidance in how to better attune to what is going on in parents in order to better help them better attune to their children.

Monday, May 27, 2013 4:24:14 PM | posted by Pamela Masaniello
A very useful piece. I have a client currently who has been a mystery in her lack of emotional availability to her 3 yo son and his younger sister.

Monday, December 31, 2012 4:35:05 AM | posted by keripik buah
How about pregnant women? Any relation neuroscience between pregnant women with her baby? Anyway, nice article.

Monday, November 5, 2012 10:42:45 AM | posted by sharmistha chaudhuri
It is really a good article, and I felt good while reading it. I am currently doing B Sc in psychology from the The Open University, and my knowledge from the course helped to understand and relate to the the article better. I could now relate to the significance of parental care, and how it can leave a lifetime effect on the kind of parenting we would offer.

thanks for the article.
sharmistha chaudhuri.

Saturday, September 15, 2012 7:45:46 PM | posted by Rye Uisce
It is striking how irresponsible Daniel Hughes has been in not recognizing his own "blocked care" towards the parents of challenging children. Where is the revelation of the source of his own blocked care? I have been confronted numerous times by acolytes to his now past view that parents are to blame for their children's negative behavior. As the adoptive parent to two children that came into my life at older ages, I find it hard to accept my responsibility for the trauma suffered by my children in the years before our lives became connected.

Thankfully rigorous methodology has entered the domain. The responsible act surely would be for Mr. Hughes to re-educate all those that have adhered to his "parental blame" doctrine.

Thursday, June 7, 2012 11:42:10 PM | posted by Dr. Laura Markham
What a terrific article! I work with parents every day, and I find that shifts in their relationship with their children can only happen when I offer understanding of their frustration, their fears, their impulse to lash out at their child. I've heard from so many parents that they begin to hear my voice coming out of their mouth with their child. I think that's because they start talking to themselves in that loving voice first. Thanks for the neurobiological explanation of blocked care -- and healing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 4:28:19 PM | posted by Connie Colvin Lee
love this concept! While an undergrad at South Arkansas University, I did my psychological research on "Why We Fall In Love With Who We Do" and the research concluded along this same concept. I got an A+. I use the information and research to share with teens in schools, child sexual assault survivors, and others, to help them better understand their desires, and tendencies of continually choosing the wrong mate; which in turn creates a multi-generational epidemic of abuse and child sexual assault. Well done!

Friday, January 13, 2012 10:56:47 PM | posted by Clyde Tigner
Thank you! I can't thank you enough. You have confirmed and enhanced my own realization of this situation.

Thursday, January 5, 2012 3:53:34 AM | posted by Sarah Roehrich
Thank you so much for providing this article, it is one of the best articles I have ever seen on this topic. And, as a mother of young children, and a therapist, it is extremely helpful and comforting to know that one is not alone in one's quest for the secret pearls to parental success! It also extremely helpful to know how the brain works within a parenting interaction with a child who is being cheerful and interactive, and one who is being challenging and difficult. Thank you again for this marvelous article! I first heard about the importance of connecting with one's children in a lecture given by Ed Hallowell in the spring, and I think this article provides a beautiful illustration of that concept!

Sunday, January 1, 2012 8:46:07 AM | posted by Tania summerfield
I am really inspired by the research and patience that has been put into neuro-attachment research and appreciate that the frontiers of psychotherapy have been furthered - and what a challenge that must have been!