Dr. Dan Siegel-Brain Anatomy to What We call the ‘Mind’-9 Different Practical Appliations from Brain Research to Parenting-Secure Attachment-

The Four S’s of Parenting: Dan Siegel’s Whole-Brain Child

BY FRED INGHAM

 | https://www.parentmap.com/article/the-four-ss-of-parenting-dan-siegels-whole-brain-child

Dr. Siegel covered a wide range of topics, from brain anatomy to the nature of what we call “mind,” from the definition of mental health to nine different practical applications of the latest brain research to parenting. PUBLISHED ON: DECEMBER 30, 2013

Recently, renowned neuropsychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel gave the inaugural public lecture for the new “Mindful Living and Practice” initiative at the University of Washington’s Center for Child and Family Well-Being.  The topic was his recent book, The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind.

Dr. Siegel covered a wide range of topics, from brain anatomy to the nature of what we call “mind,” from the definition of mental health to nine different practical applications of the latest brain research to parenting.

It was a wonderful and inspiring presentation, and a bit overwhelming. It felt like a semester long course packed into an hour and a half, so, rather than try to repeat that pace here, I will just pass on a few points that stood out for me. I highly recommend the book for a more in-depth treatment of these topics.

Brain anatomy and the role of the pre-frontal cortex

Dr. Siegel began with a discussion of brain anatomy. The pre-frontal cortex (PFC) is the part of our brain that is responsible for integrating all the others. It gives us the ability to be emotionally balanced and self-aware, responsive instead of reactive, intentional with our bodies, empathic and intuitive. What research demonstrates is that the PFC is strengthened in children who have patterns of secure attachment.

This was interesting to me because it linked how children relate to their caregivers to the actual structure of their brains, not just learned habits of behavior. 

How we treat our kids socially and emotionally impacts them physically.

Fostering secure attachment with the four “S’s”

As parents, Dr. Siegel said that we can foster secure attachment if we remember the following 4 “S”s.  

Our children need to be:

  • Seen — this is not just seeing with the eyes.  It means perceiving them deeply and empathically — sensing the mind behind their behavior, with what Dr. Siegal calls “mindsight”
  • Safe — we avoid actions and responses that frighten or hurt them
  • Soothed — we help them deal with difficult emotions and situations
  • Secure — we help them develop an internalized sense of well-being

I like this summary because it provides tools and ideas that stretch beyond the core “attachment parenting” ideas that are common for infants (“baby-wearing,” co-sleeping, breast-feeding, responsiveness to crying, etc.). The 4 “S”s are tools that can work with our kids up through adolescence.

The role of a ‘coherent narrative’

Dr. Siegel emphasized that all parents can have a secure attachment with their children, regardless of what their own childhood experiences were like.

The key for us as parents is to have developed a coherent narrative of our own upbringing.

If our kids are showing signs of insecure attachment, doing our own work on our own past may actually be the best place to start to address the issue. Dr. Siegel covers this idea in depth in his book Parenting from the Inside Out.

This is a powerful idea because it means that we’re not doomed to replay past patterns,

and that even if we ourselves suffered from insecure attachment as children – We can provide secure attachment to our own kids.

The ‘river’ of well-being

Dr. Siegal offered an image of mental health as a flowing river, bounded on one side by rigidity and on the other by chaos. The healthy, flowing state in the middle is flexible, coherent and integrated. The banks represent extremes that our minds fall into when we’re not doing well.

Dr. Siegel believes that all difficulties of the mind, whether severe disturbances such as schizophrenia or something as common as an episode of road rage, can be understood as a failure of integration that leads us to become chaotic, rigid or to oscillate between these extremes. He described what it’s like when we’re in a state of mental integration using the acronym FACES: Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energized, Stable.

I like this image of well-being, and think it will be useful for helping me work through my own low points, as well as my son’s.

Healthy mind parenting tip: connect and redirect

Of the many practical tips that Dr. Siegel gave for helping out kids with mental integration, I particularly liked the idea of “Connect and Redirect.” 

This recognizes that when our kids are in a “right brain” state, dominated by emotion and physicality, trying to address them in a “left brain” mode with words and reason won’t work.

We need to first connect emotionally, using touch, tone, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and appropriate intensity to show them that they are “seen.” When their right brain state feels “met,” we can then redirect our children with our left brain tools — such as planning what to do next, or clarifying boundaries.

My wife and I have been trying this model as my son has struggled to get used to a new school situation, and I think it’s been helpful. It can take a little more time, but it seems to work well to first connect and reflect emotionally before moving on to problem solving or boundary-setting.

Using our minds to change our brains-

Dr. Siegel said that one of the most important things we can do to improve our own mental integration is to strengthen our PFC through a regular practice of mindful awareness. 

He likened a daily meditation practice to brushing our teeth — it’s a bit of regular hygiene that, over time, can dramatically improve our health.

On his website, there is a free 10-minute guided meditation podcast which can serve as a guide to getting started. I tried it, and it is very straightforward.  There’s no need for special cushions or poses or incense. All one needs is any old chair and the willingness to focus one’s attention for 10 minutes.

Since the lecture, I’ve added meditation time to my daily routine and I’ve enjoyed the experience so far.

Integration made visible

Dr. Siegel closed with the following question: 

“What is integration made visible?”

His answer was: “Kindness and compassion.”

By increasing integration in our brains, we improve the likelihood that we’ll engage the world from a balanced, healthy place. We’ll act better, which will help us feel better. Our kids will experience that, and we’ll feel positively bonded with them, which will make it easier to relate to each other with kindness and compassion, creating a wonderful virtuous cycle. It seems well worth 10 minutes a day (and practicing some of his other tips)!

Our children’s minds are everything — their personality, their character, their intellect, their talents, their actions, their resilience and their judgment.

As parents, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to support their mental health, and the way we relate to our kids day-to-day plays a critical role. Dr. Siegel has provided a valuable resource for us to help us make the most of these everyday situations, and I expect that I will continue to refer to his book for many years.

pastedGraphic.png

The Four S’s of Parenting: Dan Siegel’s Whole-Brain Child 

The Four S’s of Parenting: Dan Siegel’s Whole-Brain Child 

Dr. Dan Siegel on Keeping a Healthy Mind During … – YouTube

https://www.youtube.com › watch

pastedGraphic.png

In this Experts at Home conversation, Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Lisa Firestone talk about ways to keep your mind healthy during these …

YouTube · PsychAlive · Feb 24, 2021

How our Relationships Shape Us by Dr. Dan Siegel – YouTube

https://www.youtube.com › watch

pastedGraphic_1.png

St. John’s Medical Center Words on Wellness Speaker Series bought acclaimed author and interpersonal neurobiology pioneer Dan Siegel, MD, …YouTube · St. John’s Health · Nov 8, 2017

From 18:20

The Entire Nervous System Including the Brain Which We’Re Going To Get into in a Moment Is All about the Connection of the Inner and the Outer this Is Extremely Important Okay so the Egg and Sperm Get Together the Conceptus Divides Okay Now It’s Imaginary so the Neural Tube Is Being Made the Brain Is Being Made and Now Here’s the Amazing Thing You’Re in the Womb and these Experiences We Have in the Womb Do You Have To Eat in the Womb No Do You Have To Breathe in the Womb No Do You Have To Pay Taxes in the Womb

From 24:55

But What Research Suggests this Is a Really Incredible View Is that the First Time I Figured Out Things like What Am I Aware of Where’s My Attention Where’s My Intention Is by Looking at My Village Mate and Figuring It Out in Her So in My Brain What that Means Is as a Human Being My Mammalian Brain and that My Primate Brain Now It’s a Human Brain It Develops All this Machinery To Look at the Face of another Person To Listen to the Sounds the Other Person’s Making To Look at the Nonverbal Signals of that Person and To Make a Map in this Brain in My Head of the Mind of My Village Partner Is She Trustworthy or Not Where’s Her Awareness Where’s Her Attention Where’s Her Intention

From 29:30

And Then You Allowed Your Body To Feel the Ache but Not Become the Other Person That’s Called Resonance so Presence Attunement Resonance Just like Guitar String You Know the Low Notes Don’t Become the High Notes They Just Resonate with Them so It’s Not Mirroring You Have To Become the Suicidal Person Says I’M GonNa Kill Myself Well I’M GonNa Kill Myself-Isn’t that a Tuning Do You Know It’s You Maintained a Differentiated Nature but You Linked There’s that Concept Again and Then the T of Part Is You Develop Trust

From 45:18

That’s all It Is the Whole Purpose of this Brain in Your Head Is Actually To Take Care of both the Inner Experience of the Body and the Relational Experience of the Body That’s It What Is It about if You Had To Summarize this Brain In like a One-Sentence Elevator Speech Believe It or Not It’s the Embodied Mechanism of Energy and Information Flow That’s It Bless You in Fact Let’s Have a Bless You for Everyone’s GonNa Sneeze so We Don’t Think about You Ready Do You Feel Blessed

From 57:35

Brain Anatomy

Dr. Dan Siegel’s Hand Model of the Brain – YouTube

https://www.youtube.com › watch

pastedGraphic_2.png

Dr. Dan Siegel’s Hand Model of the Brain. 335,360 views335K views. Aug 9, 2017. 3.2K. Dislike. Share. Save. Dr. Dan Siegel. Dr. Dan Siegel.

YouTube · Dr. Dan Siegel · Aug 9, 2017

10 key moments in this video

From 00:55Using the hand model of the brain

From 01:58The cortex is the top of the brain

From 02:47What is the brainstem?

From 03:49The thumb region (limbic area)

From 04:23How memory is divided up in the brain

From 04:54The cortex, making maps

From 05:34What is the prefrontal cortex?

From 05:59When the system is not integrated

From 06:45The human connectome project

From 07:25Creativity, collaboration, well – being

How to comfort an upset child – Dr. Dan Siegel – YouTube

https://www.youtube.com › watch

pastedGraphic_3.png

As I sat down to write to you, I got a text message from a mom. “I am struggling with my daughter’s temper and even more, my own temper.

YouTube · Happily Family · Jul 27, 2021

Siegel emphasized that all parents can have a secure attachment with their children, regardless of what their own childhood experiences were like. The key for us as parents is to have developed a coherent narrative of our own upbringing.Dec 30, 2013

The Four S’s of Parenting: Dan Siegel’s Whole-Brain Child

Siegel’s Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human is a thought-provoking book that offers a comprehensive, powerful definition of the “mind,” as an “emergent, self-organizing, embodied, and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information.” Notably, a comprehensive, complex, and dynamic …Sep 14, 2017

Being Human: An Interview With Daniel J. Siegel, MD

Siegel’s Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human is a thought-provoking book that offers a comprehensive, powerful definition of the “mind,” as an “emergent, self-organizing, embodied, and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information.” Notably, a comprehensive, complex, and dynamic …Sep 14, 2017

Being Human: An Interview With Daniel J. Siegel, MD

“Specifically, relationships are the sharing between people of energy and information flow. The brain and its whole body are the embodied mechanism of that flow, and the mind is the self-organizing process that regulates that flow.” What you do with your mind, he adds, “can even change the structure of your brain.”

What’s the Difference Between Brain and Mind? Dan Siegel .

Mindsight is the way we can focus attention on the nature of the internal world. It’s how we focus our awareness on ourselves, so our own thoughts and feelings, and it’s how we’re able to actually focus on the internal world of someone else.

What is Mindsight? An Interview with Dr. Dan Siegel – Psychalive

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s