An Interview with Dr. Dan Siegel on Developing a “Yes” Brain
I’m thrilled to share an interview with Dr. Dan Siegel, an internationally recognized educator, practicing child psychiatrist, and author. Dr. Siegel is the author or co-author of a number of groundbreaking brain science and parenting books, including Mindsight, The Whole-Brain Child, Brainstorm, No-Drama Discipline, and Parenting from the Inside Out, many of which sit well-worn on my bookshelf. He’s also the founder of The Mindsight Institute, an educational organization offering online learning and in-person workshops that focus on how the development of mindsight in individuals, families, and communities can be enhanced by examining the interface of human relationships and basic biological processes.
Dr. Siegel’s newest book is The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child, co-written by Tina Payne Bryson. The Yes Brain gives parents skills, scripts, ideas, and activities to bring kids of all ages into a “yes” state of mind, which helps them approach life with curiosity and become more open, creative, and resilient, even during difficult times. Dr. Dan Siegel has such an extensive and important body of work that it was hard to narrow down where to take this interview, but we focused on exploring the important concept of brain integration, mindset, and the YES brain as they relate to differently wired kids. I hope you enjoy our conversation!
>>Click here to watch my After the Show video about this episode!<<
About Dr. Dan Seigel
Dr. Dan Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. An award-winning educator, he is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and recipient of several honorary fellowships and the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute.
He is the author of numerous articles, chapters, and the internationally acclaimed text, The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are (Guilford, 2012). He has also written five parenting books, including the three New York Times bestsellers: Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain;The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind and No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, both with Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.; and Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive with Mary Hartzell, M.Ed. His newest book, co-written with Tina Payne Bryson, is The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child.
Things you’ll learn from this episode
- What brain integration is and how challenges can result when integration isn’t developing as well as it could be
- What brain growth and integration looks like for typical versus atypical kids
- What the three primary integration challenges are: sensory integration, emotional regulation, self/other integration
- How we can help our child rewire their brain
- Why early intervention with differently wired kids is so critical
- What neuroplasticity is
- What parents can expert in their journey of supporting their kids
Resources mentioned in interview with Dr. Dan Siegel
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
- The Wheel of Awareness (downloadable PDF) from Dr. Siegel’s website
- The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child by Dr. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson PhD
- Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Dr. Dan Siegel
- The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Dr. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson PhD
- No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Dr. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson PhD
- Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive by Dr. Dan Siegel with Mary Hartzell, M.Ed
- Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Dr. Dan Siegel
Just because you have sensory integration difficulties and emotion regulation, difficulties and even difficulties understanding the mind of yourself or others, that doesn’t mean you don’t have need for close, affectionate connections that feel supportive, that’s called attachment. So while you might have these other issues that make behavior a typical, your needs for attachment are in fact typical. That is, they are the need for closeness.
Welcome to the Tilt Parenting Podcast, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host Debbie Reber and today I am thrilled to share with you a conversation that I recently had with Dr. Dan Siegel. Dr. Siegel is an internationally recognized educator, practicing child psychiatrist and the author of several books including mind sight, the Whole Brain Child, Brainstorm, No Drama Discipline, and Parenting from the Inside Out, many of which sit well worn on my bookshelf. He’s also the founder of the Mindsight Institute, an educational organization offering online learning and in person workshops that focus on how the development of mind sight in individuals, families and communities can be enhanced by examining the interface of human relationships and basic biological processes. Dr. Siegel’s newest book, which actually comes out today is The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity and Resilience in Your Child. It’s co written by Tina Payne Bryson. The Yes Brain gives parents skills, scripts, ideas and activities to bring kids of all ages into a yes state of mind, which helps them approach life with curiosity and become more open, creative and resilient. Even during difficult times. Dr. Siegel has such an extensive and important body of work, it was hard to narrow down where to take this conversation. But we focused on exploring the important concept of brain integration mindset and the yes brain as they relate to differently wired kids. I hope you enjoy the episode. And if you get value from it, I would love it if you would consider helping me amplify this conversation by sharing it on social media with friends and other parents and communities that might get value from it. And if you aren’t already signed up for my tilt parenting newsletter, I would love for you to join me every Thursday I send out a short email including a quick note for me a link to that week’s podcast and bonus after the show video. And links to five must read articles from the news that week that are relevant to parents of differently wired kids. Just visit till parenting calm and sign up where it says join the tilled revolution. Lastly, I wanted to give you a heads up that I have another very special episode of the podcast coming out next week. My guest is Steve Silverman, author of The New York Times bestselling book Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. This interview was months in the making, and it’s a conversation you won’t want to miss. And now here’s my conversation with Dr. Siegel. Hello, Dr. Siegel, welcome to the podcast.
Thanks for having me, Debbie.
I’m really excited to have you on the show. And there’s so many directions this conversation could go in because your body of work is so impressive. So I’m going to try to focus on the things that I think are most relevant to my audience, which is you know, is made up of parents raising differently wired kids. But before we get into that, I always like to ask guests just quickly what their personal Why is I’m so curious to know, what drives you to do the work that you do?
Well, that’s a very interesting question with a complex answer. But the short version of it is both personally tried to understand what it means to be human, and then professionally as a physician and therapist. And also as a scientist, I wanted to understand what our mental lives are really all about beyond just the physicality of our bodies. And that led to kind of a deep dive into a whole range of Sciences from, you know, anthropology, studying culture, all the way to physics, studying energy patterns. And I tried to put it all together in a field called interpersonal neurobiology, which has implications for how we parent our kids, and how we understand education and things like therapy or organizational functioning, even how governments work or don’t work and how we can understand climate change issues. So it’s, it’s been a field that’s had useful applications and for our discussion, you know, understanding kids and how kids have a diversity of ways that they grow and the connection of their brain to their relationships and their minds is kind of what we focus on.
Fantastic. Yeah, I mean, it’s one of those ever evolving fields. So I I imagine it’s a very exciting space to be in.
It is, there’s always new stuff, as you’re suggesting that comes up. And we just tried to be open here at the Mindsight Institute to kind of brick and mortar home for interpersonal neurobiology to just be ready for whatever you know, is gonna try to help people have happier and healthier lives.
That’s fantastic. Well, I wanted to talk a little bit about your book, the whole brainchild that for me was my introduction to your work, I think I read it when my son who’s now 13 when he was in first grade, and it’s one of those books that I think I was highlighting things on just about every other page, you know, it all seemed so important and relevant to what I was experiencing. So I would love if you could talk a little bit about, you know, one of the key issues of that book is integration of the child’s brain. And you talk about doing that in a number of different ways. So could you tell us what integration of the brain is? What do you mean when you say that?
Absolutely. So the word integration means how something like here we’re talking about a brain, but you could talk about other things, too, has different parts to it. And let’s just talk about your body, you know, you have a left leg and a right leg, for example. So to integrate your experience of walking, you would want to differentiate your left leg from your right leg, but then let them become linked, as they simultaneously you know, lean forward and you step on your left and step on your right and step on your left. So if you weren’t integrated, you wouldn’t be able to have the smooth and efficient way that we walk, you’d be you know, hopping around or falling down and stumbling. So integration for walking involves the differentiation and linkage of left and right leg, in the brain, you have different parts of the brain. And they grow and become what’s called differentiated, which means a bunch of the cells in the brain called neurons become differentiated in their connections with each other. So they’re specialized or unique, or are growing in a very individualized way as a little cluster. And then you take those clusters of neurons that are now having connections with each other. So they’re specialized or different differentiate just means to make different region. But then for the whole brain to work together, that cluster has got to connect and communicate with other clusters, that themselves have become differentiated. So you get very sophisticated and really smooth walking essentially, for a brain, you know, smooth functioning, when these differentiated areas are allowed to be different. So that’s important. But then you take the different clusters, and you link them. So those connections can be grown to. And you know, when there’s challenges and how our minds function in all sorts of ways that are part of the wide range of neuro diversity we have, we can avoid using the word disorder, but you certainly have challenges that are presented when integration is not developing as well as it could be. And so whether it’s sensory integration problems, or kids on the spectrum of issues related to social and emotional and sensory processing, or, you know, looking at mood challenges, like what are called mood dysfunctions, like depression, or thought challenges, all of those challenges have various degrees of difficulty with integration. And so interventions that try to cultivate integration would be ones that would help that individual and the family and friends that they have, you know, function in a more coordinated and balanced way in their relationships, when you can get integration to be happening more effectively inside the brain itself.
So for kids who are neurologically typical, are they also, you know, not having as much integration when they’re younger, and it’s something that they naturally develop as they get older? I guess what I’m asking is, is this part of every child’s journey that they need to learn how to link these different sections of the brain, and for kids who are atypical, it’s just a more complicated journey.
I think that’s a really great way of describing it Debbie and just to give you an example of the support for that, the brain grows based on genetics, the genes pushing for the growth of neurons and their connections with each other and the differentiation of areas. And the brain also grows, in addition to genetic information, based on experiences. And those two really broad influences on brain development, genetics and experience interact with each other as the brain becomes more and more differentiated. And more and more linked. So the first dozen years of life, the child is kind of absorbing the world around them and becoming more rich in their intricate interconnections in the brain. And then during this second dozen years, your life where your son is now, the brain begins a pruning process to get rid of some of those linkages, and even some of the differentiate areas. And the areas that are not used are pruned away. And the brain actually is going to then establish more linkages in the later part of adolescence with a substance called myelin. And so the brain becomes more integrated. That’s basically the role of adolescent brain remodeling. Write about this in a book called brainstorm. And so you could say that those first two dozen years of life, so till you’re around 24,25, 26 the overarching growth pattern of the brain is to become differentiated and linked in different ways. And in people who are on the spectrum, what research has suggested is for reasons we don’t understand the differentiation in the brain, around 18 to 24 months of age begins to slow down for reasons, we just don’t understand why we don’t think it’s related to parenting at all influence how you experience being a parent, but parenting doesn’t cause it. And with this decreased differentiation, we’re seeing that you need differentiation to get a more integrated brain, which would explain the sensory integration challenges that kids have. And also you would see difficulties with emotion regulation, and difficulties with social cognition, your understanding other’s minds and one’s own mind. And those three things are the main areas that, you know, we talked about neurodiversity and differences along the spectrum. Those areas are all dependent on integration. And if you don’t have differentiation, which appears to be the main thing that happens, then it’s gonna be hard to develop a more integrated brain because the first step differentiation has been hampered for reasons we don’t know why.
Wow. Okay. So that makes sense. When you hear that, yeah, it absolutely makes sense. I mean, I think the question that I imagine most of our listeners want to know, is, okay, so what do we do about it? You know, when I read your books, I learned so much, and I tried to apply all these approaches, and I want to get into them more in depth from you. But you know, and helping our kids develop these things that they may not naturally have, or where they have deficits. And how much of an uphill battle. Are we in, you know, kids who with ADHD, or sensory processing issues, or anxiety, or, you know, kids who are wired differently?
Well, you know, the thing that is, I think, so important to remember is that the brain is open to growth and change throughout childhood, adolescence and even adulthood. So we need to take a deep breath and say, Okay, how can I approach the growth of my child in a way that’s going to support their particular needs. So if you go to our website, drdansiegel.com, you’ll find out podcasts, where I was actually on the stage with someone with Asperger syndrome, high functioning person on the autistic spectrum is what he would describe it as. And it was all about neurodiversity and he big discussion, we had never seen parents in the room, and it as right before, we were all going to the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime about an adolescent on the spectrum. And, you know, t was such a beautiful podcast, because on the one hand, you know, people were saying, we have to really talk about neurodiversity and how there’s just range of different ways that people are. And I completely agree with that. And then the parents in the room were basically feeling and saying but, you know, if we don’t say what this is, how can we help our child with the challenge they face and also in the Unite States Anyway, you know, the funding is only given if you put a name to what you’re dealing with, and not just say, Oh, you know, they’re left handed people, right handed people, don’t need treatment for being left handed person. So the weren’t, they were actually being deprived of funding an services for their kids, if the refuse to say this is an issue that needs some work. So it was a very understandable moment that you’ll hear in the podcast, and you’ll hear what said to everyone in the room including the people with autism, that if you really see it as these three things challenges to integration, that lead to sensory integration challenges, emotion regulation challenges and self and other understanding challenges. And the person on stage with me was saying, Yeah, that’s my life you’ve just described my whole life. I said, Well, then let’s give you some support. We don’ have to call it a name o disorder unless you just nee funding for that, that’s fine do whatever you need to do. Bu in terms of our understanding there’s some difficulties wit integration. And let’s give yo the kinds of integrative neuroplasticity. neuroplasticity just means a plasticity mean you can change with experience neuro is the brain. Th integrative means let’s grow intentionally more integration in your brain. So the people work with, that’s what we do And the different books that right mind side are the book you’re talking about Whole Brain Child, No Drama Discipline or our new book The Yes Brain It’s all about what can you do as a parent to identify chaos or rigidity in a child or adolescence life? That i revealing challenges to integration. And then in a very specific way, you were prepare as a parent to say, Okay, this chaos or rigidity is a sign or impaired integration. I don’ have to call this a disorder But I can certainly call this challenge to integration. An what my job as a parent is to do whatever the neurodiverse situation, I’m working with i with myself, or my kids, or my friends, or anyone, you know how do I best support people becoming as integrated as the can be. And then we give you the steps to doing that of how yo use your relationship to help differentiate aspects of the brain, if they’re no differentiated, and then using your relationship with you basically means what you’re focusing attention on, because we have a saying, where attention goes, neural firing flows, and neural connection grows. So ideally, what we’re going to do is use our relationship to inspire people to rewire their brains toward more integrative functioning which is true of any human being, as you’re suggesting Debbie, that’s not just something with a neurodivers situation is everyone everyone needs to move toward integration. So that way, we’re all in this boat together, yo know, it’s always a life journey. And what Tina Bryson and I tried to do is lay out the steps that are accessible an practical, and that are really something any parent can grasp So they’re really the understand, I’m doing integrative parenting, whatever your child has, or whatever age your child is, or your spouse by the way, you know, so it’s it’s just, it’s just a way of living, you know, it’s a way of living from the inside out where you realize, within you and between you the inside the outside, is an opportunity to say where there’s chaos or rigidity, there’s blocked integration, where there’s blocked integration, I need to focus attention to make thing more differentiated and linked And it’s, it’s quite wonderful and rewarding to see how it actually works.
Yeah, it’s fascinating. And I appreciate you talking about just the larger conversation around labels. And that’s something we talk a lot about on the podcast and in our community. And, you know, I use the language of difference neuro difference, much more than I would use the word disorder. But I agree, you know, it is really about these real challenges and or symptoms, I had Dr. Gail salts on the podcast recently, and she was talking about, we really need to address the symptoms here. It’s so people can thrive so they can work on those areas where they’re challenged. So let’s talk about integrative parenting. So when you say that what I’m hearing is, you know, with my son, for example, if he’s having a challenging situation, my you know, I’ve trained myself to have this go to action. When I’m having a good day, it doesn’t happen all the time. But, you know, to think about, okay, this is obviously happening, because he doesn’t have the skills available to him right now to deal with this in a different way. So what can he learned through this? And I think of my job is trying to facilitate or even coach him through that, is that what you’re talking about when you’re talking about us being doing that integrative parenting?
Yeah, I mean, that’s a beautiful way of setting the frame. And then I think every parent listening to will probably be nodding their heads, but then saying, well, that what do I do? So the way to think about the dupe part about it is, if you begin with the idea that your relationship is a connection you have with your child, that’s this gonna sound a little abstract, but it’s actually quite useful and practical. every relationship is based on a pattern of sharing energy and information flow. And if you just remember the acronym part, you’ll get a feeling for the due part of this, which is, I have to be present as a parent, I have to show up and be there. So whatever the challenge is, my child’s having a tantrum or, you know, she’s getting really angry at me or whatever, whatever you’re faced with. It doesn’t feel like it’s in harmony. It’s either can be rigidity. Generally, it’s what we all see in our lives, then you say, okay, so I have to be present. And the first step is then to be there. The second is to a tune, which means I focus my attention on the inner experience of my child, not just their outward behavior that any parent can do. But integrative parenting means you’re attuning to the inner experience of your child, not just what they’re doing with their body and flailing around, but the experience that say, being frustrated or sad or feeling embarrassed. So at that moment, when you’re attuning to the internal world, you’re giving a child, any kind of child who’s male, female, old or younger, neurodiverse, neurotypical, whatever, any child, any person, really, when you attune, you allow them to have the experience that their mind beneath their behavior is important to you, their parent, and that’s an important relational moment. Then this third thing in part is our PA, our presence attunement, R is resonance, you resonate w th them. So you may feel a lit le bit of your son’s frustration, but doesn’t mean you fall down the floor kicking butt out resonate with your child. And when another person can get a sense that were present a tuning and resonating, they have t is experience that a patient of mine described a long time go called feeling felt. And w en they feel felt by you, that’ a profound moment of joining. And it’s what every human being needs. And in that joining, there’s a feeling like I’ve ow become a part of something larger than just my private self, it’s where I become a p rt of a week. Right now, at t at moment, the brain of he individual who has been i a tantrum or is, you know, st ck in a rigid this or that is expanded in the way that he mind is now experiencing ts relational possibilities, not just its embodied reality. So the mind is not the same as j st the brain. The mind, of course, includes the brain, but includes the whole body and ur relationships. And so when you realize this presence, two minute resonance, you re offering to your child, t at moment, you’re not fixing anything, you’re not trying to change anything, you’re j st present, a tuner resonate. At that moment, even if your child’s behavior st ll continues, they’re going to h ve a mental experience of expanding their connection to you. And what develops in your child’s brain is the fourth element of part, which is T for trust. So in this trusting state a a whole biology, this, you kn w, I’ve edited over 60 textbooks in our series for Norton, and on of them is all about this, bu I’ll just give you a on sentence, that’s a whole textbook, you know, when the brain enters the state of trust through these kind of present attune Resonating Relationships So now you’ve completed the part, the trust that’s create turns on what’s called the social engagement system. And a that moment, you see, someone who has, let’s say, in terms of neuro diversity, sensor integration problems, where connecting with another, flood them, since orally, you know what they see what they hear what they feel on their skin what they smell, all that sensation is overwhelming t them, likely because of this integration challenge. So the can’t regulate all regulation depends on integration, that turns out to be the secret o the sauce in the brain. If yo don’t have integration, the regulation is challenging. Yo go to chaos or rigidity gets i a shutdown nutshell. And then s now what you’ve done with the trust, is you’ve allowed the brain to become more integrate in that trusting relational state, it becomes more regulated, you see, because no you’re creating more integration that moment. And now what yo can do after the white teen an ice age, after you connect, yo can redirect you can use you relationship now of presence attune resonating trust, to the say to your child, you know your friend didn’t want to com over because he thought, yo know, you guys were going to g to the water park, but instead you’re going to stay in an watch cartoons, you didn’t wan to study and come over. understand. You’re s frustrated. And you’ve bee throwing the pillows all around the house. I really see you frustration. So you connect that way rather than don’t throw pillows around the house, Billy that’s just not right. You go to grow up, you know, you friend doesn’t have to com over. He doesn’t want to go w want to go the water partner like that. So this other approach creates the trusting state where the social engagement system is turned on Everybody becomes more receptive. And that’s when learning can happen. And you ca teach about the nature o emotions that of course yo wanted your friend to come over Billy and you were looking forward watching cartoons wit him. He always thought you’re going to the water park, but it’ raining today, so we weren’t gonna go to the water park an you thought cartoons would be great thing to do on a rain day. And he was so frustrate that he wasn’t going to the water park. He just couldn’t get over his frustration and yo feel sad. So your you frustration sadness, understand you’re throwing pillows around. So there are different things you can do. Why don’t we, you know, get out some paper and you can draw what sadness feels like and draw what you know, your frustration feel like. And then we have this thing called the wheel o awareness where kids can draw big wheel where the outer rim is, all the different feelings you have mad at your friend sa about your friend frustrate with your friend. But then yo realize you also love you friend, and he’s your best friend, and you like to play with him. And he’s looking forward to next time you guys g to the water park or watch cartoons or whatever. So you ca then with the wheel o awareness, literally integrate your child’s experience. An this is ideal, of course, it’ hard to do this because you kids flailing around throwing pillows, you get frustrated. Bu this is this is the idea. An every human being has a need t be seen and understood and t feel felt, every human being an what my research mentor, Maria Sigmund was able to show research wise was that, yo know, we knew for sure, kids o the spectrum have that condition, not because of what parents do, but it affects you experience of being a parent for sure. But what she was able t prove Marian segment was that the different attachment categories that neurotypical kids have neurodiverse kid have to and and people were like, amazed at that. But for u in our research lab with Marin it was such an important research proposal to show because just because you have sensory integration difficulties and emotion regulation, difficulties an even difficulties understanding the mind of yourself or others that doesn’t mean you don’t have need for close, affectionate connections that fee supportive, that’s called attachment. So while you might have these other issues that make behavior, a typical, you needs for attachment are i fact, typical. That is, they are the need for closeness.
Wow. First of all, thank you for explaining that acronym present attune resonance and trust, I think it’s going to be so helpful for people. And I’m wondering, Is this the kind of thing that our kids over time there’s a cumulative effect? You know, so do they start to understand that this is how we’re going to resolve challenging situations, and I imagine you get some momentum going, and then it just becomes easier? Is that the way it works?
Yeah, that’s a beautiful way of describing it, Debbie, you know, I’ll just paraphrase the conversation I have with this fellow who was neuro diverse on the panel that you can listen to him, say it himself. But this is what I said to him. I said, I said, picture this, you know, for whatever reason, your brain has some difficulties with sensory integration, that is maybe areas aren’t differentiated, so well. So your visual channel and your auditory channel just to stick with those for now, just flood you, and it’s just too much. So what you need to do, if you’re like, you know, six months old, is you need to figure out how to avoid how you’re focusing your attention. And what you hear that’s harder, because your ears don’t direct attention, but with your eyes, so you, you divert your eye gaze, so you’re not looking at people’s eyes, you’re not even looking at people’s faces, you’re looking at, let’s say their fingers, or you’re looking at, you know, light that’s coming through the window, because that you, you don’t get flooded with as much as a face. I mean, our our nervous systems are designed to connect with other people’s faces and their signals that reveal what’s going on in their minds. But it’s really intense if you have sensory integration problems. So that challenge for sensor integration can then make it so the emotions you feel, which are the processes in your body and lower parts of your brain that rise up and affect how you think even, you know, they’re really intense. So you have super big emotions, because of the sensory integration issues. But now you’re nine months of age, 12 months of age, you’re getting onto, let’s say, 18 months of age. And you’ve now because you’ve been trying to just stay in a kind of equilibrium know, to stay in balance, and avoiding the input from other people’s faces and, you know, engaging with them in a way that neurotypical kids would have been having those learning experience of joining, you’ve been just trying to maintain some kind of survival. Because of your the sensory integration challenges gives you emotion regulation, challenges, and now you’re a year and a half. And you don’t have the experience because you’ve been avoiding them to try to survive. You haven’t accumulated the kind of learning that other neurotypical kids would have had. And now you’re two years of age and three years of age, you keep on avoiding this stuff, because no one knows that’s what the issue is. And so now your four and your five, and another kid has had five years of focusing attention on the face of other people looking at their eye gaze, trying to figure out what their lips mean when they are up or down or whatever, trying to understand tone of voice gestures, all the nonverbal signals that let us know really the bulk of how we know what’s going on in Mind of another person is through these signals. And if you look at all sorts of research I’ve ever written a book called Aware, which is kind of talking about this. But we start out really knowing the mind of another. Before we know our own mind in our evolution is a long thing we could say about that. But the bottom line is we’re very social creatures, before we become self aware creatures. So if you’ve been avoiding the social side of connection, you haven’t given your brain the opportunity to develop those relational communications into neural structures of understanding the mind of another. Those are the exact structures you use to understand your own mind. And so now you’re five, or six, or seven, or eight or nine, and you’re confused and lost in the very fast paced nonverbal communication sharing world of kids on the playground. And now you’re 11, 12 and 13. And my God, adolescence is hard enough for anybody, but you, you have no idea what’s going on in the mind of other people, let alone your own mind. So now you’re 15, 16, you could see why it’s so disparaging because you haven’t had those years. Now, I think it’s possible if we slow things down and look at what the fundamental challenges, which is sensory integration, and that avoidance of social contact, and then emotion dysregulation to really work with people to a low them to have the relational experiences where another significant person like our parent or therapist, or somebody can play this part with you So within a setting where you’re not avoiding that kind of connection, you can slowly build up the circuitry of her understanding, self understanding, emo ion regulation, and then eve if sensory integration rem ins challenging, although that can change a bit too. But that might be the most difficult thing, and maybe even the first thing, when you just learned, this is who I am, I need to avoid, you know, loud parties, or I don’t like to go to loud movies, or when I watch a movie, I’m at home, and I can turn the DVD off. And it’s not a dark room. I there’s all sorts of things that, you know, because everyone is neurodiverse to some extent or another. So the issue is, what is your particular growth edge? And I love that term from David Daniels, what’s your growth edge for your neurodiversity? And how do you work with that, to optimize how you’re going to keep on integrating as you grow forward? Because what I described was a way yo where you shut down growth and learning because you’re just trying to survive. That makes sense.
Yes, and I never heard it explained that way, you know, the way that you describe these kids really falling further and further behind, it makes so much sense. I just had a lot of aha moments listening to you describe that. And so it does sound, you know, also, like early intervention is really important. I mean, that just shuts a whole new light on why we want to get kids support and practice in these areas. As soon as we know that something different is going on.
Exactly. And I totally respect and understand that feeling of I don’t want to label my child or say this difference is a disorder, I get that totally. And then we can take a deep breath and say, and there is a difference, that is actually creating a lot of difficulty for your child. So it’s like I haven’t I have an eye problem, you know, and for whatever reason, my parents didn’t pick it up, and they sent me to eye doctors, and the doctors didn’t pick it up. And it wasn’t till I was 30 years old. That finally I just said, something’s really wrong here. And I just push through, everyone telling me I was fine. And and finally found somebody who could say this something really wrong with you. And I was 30, you know, and my God, if only someone would have just been willing to say, yeah, you know, we think there’s something wrong with you, Dan, and let’s try to identify it, name it and do something about it. I mean, God, that would have saved me a lot of a lot, a lot, a lot of anguish. Yeah. But, you know, no one did. And that’s so here we are. But the point is, so I understand the desire, and let’s just call it, you’re not supposed to use the word normal, but it’s like this desire to normalize, and say, everything’s fine, everything’s fine. But I have some very close family friends, for example, they were trying to ignore a difference in their kid. And it wasn’t until there was kind of a family intervention where we said, you know, we’re just gonna say, we love you like madly, but this is an issue. And so they went get evaluated. There’s a big huge issue got wonderful intensive therapy, and the issue was taken care of. And I understand the parents want to just say, Stop, stop saying there’s something wrong. Of course, you want to say that. Every parent is very protective of their child. And last thing you want to say is there’s something different that could be called wrong or needing intervention. But the sad thing with that, while it’s understandable love stance of every parent totally get that is that there are certain impediments to integration that can be helped to become more integrative. So forget the word disorder or a naming it, unless you need that for insurance or to go get help. But everyone should find out when there’s chaos or rigidity in their lives. And then say, okay, integration is being blocked there. I’m not going to call it a disorder, but it’s a growth edge. And everyone’s got a growth edge. And here’s mine, or this is mine for my kid. And let’s do the work.
That’s fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. So I want to be cognizant of time here. And I really want to hear about your new book, The Yes Brain, which the day this episode, it comes out is the day that your book is released to the world. So can you tell us a little bit about it?
Yeah, I am so excited to be to share this with you. Because I just read part of you know, Tina Bryson and I wrote the book, and I just did half of the audio book, she’s doing the other half. And we were so excited when we wrote it. And then of course, take some time, because the printer and all this. So then I did the audio book. And I was like, Whoa, this is a fun book. So the idea of the book is very, very direct. The brain has two states, and this is going to be so relevant for all your listeners, especially if the conversation we had the two states are one is a reactive state that you can induce by just saying the word No, really harshly. I could do it now if you want. But anyway, you could say no, no, no, really harshly. And then your brain gets reactive, which means it’s feeling threatened. And it creates for apps either fighting back, fleeing, freezing, meaning tightening up your muscles and not moving temporarily. Or fainting, even collapsing and feigning death is fourth f painting. So that’s the no brain state. In contrast to that the brain has a second major overall state, if you call that one a reactive no brain state. There’s the receptive Yes brain state. And this Yes brain state is something that parents can learn how to create their child, even when they’re creating structure, or maybe especially when the grading structure, and they are offering teaching that we call discipline. And so the Yes, brain state of receptivity is literally when you turn on this social engagement system establish a feeling of trust. A child is open to learning anyone’s open to learning in a receptive state. And so what Tina and I do in the book, is we offer four fundamental steps that are essentially coming from a review that I write up in an undergraduate graduate school textbook called the developing mind that I wrote. And in that book, it kind of summarizes what are the essential functions that come from an integrated brain. And so when you look at that science review, there are many functions, but some of them can be called executive functions. And it’s what kids on the spectrum have challenges with, for sure. It’s what kids with ADHD have challenges with, for sure, anxiety, actually, many, many people have regulatory challenges. And so if you look at the way you can integrate the brain through the yes brain approach, it comes down to four things that spell those of you who know my work, you know, I’m an acronym at it. So this acronym was the cheese, Brie, b, r, e, and its balance, how do you allow emotions and thoughts and sensory stuff to be balanced, so enriches your life but doesn’t flood your life or shut your life down. And we talk about flowing in this integrative state of harmony, which can call the green zone versus being in a reactive state of fight flight or freeze, which is the red zone or diving down into this faint collapse rigidity, which is the Blue Zone. So we talked about how to feel that in your child and yourself and, and try to help the child stay in the green zone, this integrated flow of harmony. So that’s balanced resilience. The next letter is where we teach about how when you’re in the red or blue zone, when you’re when you’re in this reactive state of either activation and hyper arousal or deactivation hypo arousal, either of those are reactive actually, then you learn how to bring yourself back to this green state of the integrated flow and we teach, you know, these fundamentals steps like we do in all of our books, you know, okay, now here’s the idea now what how do you actually apply it? So that’s where resilience comes from is the ability to bounce back after the becoming out of whack and out of balance, including flipping your lid and having a tantrum. Then the the others our insight and empathy insight is basically and this would be really great for kids with various neuro diverse differences, you know, where you want to teach inside, you know, kids who are self aware, and adolescents and adults to have a lot more capacity to regulate their emotions, to connect with other people to deal with, you know, disappointments, and with that self awareness comes self regulation. And so we teach the steps of what you can do as a parent to create this Yes, brain state. It’s kind of like Carol Dweck work. And Carol Dweck is a professor at Stanford, she was really kind to write a really supportive blurb for our endorsement for our book. And this is a book that guides you to how to develop a growth mindset, through the self awareness that says, my abilities, and my achievements are based on my effort, not on some innate fixed quality that I have or don’t have, it comes from my effort. So if I feel frustrated that something didn’t go my way, a playdate with a friend test at school, you know, some thing on an athletic team or whatever, instead of shutting down and becoming an underachiever, which happens with what’s called a fixed mindset, I can have a growth mindset where I say, you know, something, that was hard, I wanted to do better on the field, I wanted to better on the test, I want to get better at the play. And I’m going to try to learn from this and really grow from this. And you can actually teach kids with a yes brain approach like that, to actually take what before felt like overwhelming burden, some challenges, you know, that you just shut down with, but instead say, Okay, that was that. And now I’m going to move and learn from it. So that’s insight. And then empathy is, you know, realizing that all the research on our lives suggests that the mind is not just inside of us, it’s also between us. And if you want to help the mind, sure, you want to have insight for sure. But you need to have empathy, which includes understanding the mind of another taking their perspective, but also feeling happy for their happiness and really concern when they’re not well, what’s called compassionate empathy or compassionate concern. And in this way, you know, what we’re trying to teach in a yes brain book is, for a parent to have the tools no matter what challenges their child presents in life, this book will be useful to say, How do I have a strategy to parent as a yes, brain parent? So I’m going to create discipline, I’m gonna have opportunities for learning. So it’s not like passive parenting, like I just say yes to everything that’s not at all what it is. It’s really about understanding that deep and good and long lasting learning happen from a receptive Yes, brain state. And we want every parent to be prepared for how to live life with their kids to the fullest, and let them grow to be the best people that they can be.
What’s very exciting, yeah, I had a chance to look at your book, actually read it before our conversation. And as you said, it is so relevant to our community, I mean, every aspect of it, the balance, the resilience, the insight, the empathy, those are all things that especially kids who are differently, wired kids tend to be hyper reactive, they tend to be chronically inflexible, and having more rigid thinkers, concrete thinkers, black and white thinker. So so much of what you presented just felt so tangible for the tools that we can really use. So I I’m really excited about your new book, and congratulations on it, I really think it’s important work putting out and to the world.
Well, thank you, you know, Tina, and I really feel so grateful that as we try to synthesize the science, and then weave it with our clinical practices and experience, and then with our experiences as educators, as well as our experiences as parents ourselves, it’s so rewarding to say, okay, you have this huge amount of science, how do you actually translate it in a way that is absolutely accurate, but not overwhelming, and all the scientific jargon and everything like that? And then say, look, here’s what’s practical about and here’s what you can do for a busy, tired parent, here are some easy to remember things. And you know, we put it in cartoons. And there’s a section as usual, you know, on how do you actually not just know how to approach this as a parent, but how would you sit down with your child, and maybe read these cartoons to them? And so it teaches them the principles of every chapter, and then even we have a section for yourself because we as parents, you have to take care of ourselves and develop this Yes, brain state for us, too. So I’m very excited about how this book can be a companion for parents on the journey of really helping our children thrive. And thank you for supporting it’s being out in the world.
Yeah, well, it’s exciting. And you know, as you said, I love that you included information for parents on how we can be more balanced ourselves. For me, that was something that I I read it and I was like, Oh, yes. Thank you. Because so many parenting books, especially the books that we’re reading, right there are all about addressing our child’s issues. And so many of us aren’t taking care of ourselves. And we really do need to be in that mindset to best be present and show up for our kids. So yeah, I appreciated that a lot. So I am going to let you go, this has gone longer than than I intended. I know you have a lot on your plate. And I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time. This is just been fantastic. My audience has been very excited about hearing from you on all of this. So I just appreciate everything you’ve shared and listeners, I will share all the resources, definitely check out Dr. Siegel’s books, they are all worth a read and very practical, really usable and accessible for parents like us to know how to apply the concept. So I’ll leave links to all of that information, Dr. Siegel’s website, all of it in the show notes pages. So Dr. Siegel, thank you so much. And yeah, this has just been wonderful. I really appreciate it.
Well, thank you, Debbie. It’s been a pleasure and I look forward to talking more in the future.
You’ve been listening to the tiller parenting podcast for the show notes for this episode, including links to Dr. seagulls website, his new book The yes brain and all of the other resources we discussed visit tiltparenting.com/session 0. And don’t forget to check out my after the show short video where I share my top takeaway from my conversation with Dr. Siegel. You’ll find a link on he show notes page or you can go straight to tiltparenting.com/aftertheshow. If you enjoy this podcast and would like to help me cover the costs of producing it, please consider signing up for my Patreon campaign. Patreon is a simple membership platform that allows people to make a small monthly contribution as little as $2 a month to find the show. If you want o help visit patreon.com/tiltparenting. And if you like what you heard on today’s episode, I would be grateful if you could take a minute and head over to iTunes leaving a rating a review there really helps us spread the word in a pretty crowded p renting podcast bass. Thank you so much. And thanks again for listening. For more information on Tilt Parenting visit www.tiltparenting.com.
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