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By Carol Lloyd
A crash course in emotional intelligence
What's great about the book: the advice is based on solid evidence about how the mind works and the best practices that have emerged from positive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. In developing these ideas, Hawn partnered with an impressive army of experts including cognitive neuroscientist Adele Diamond, “Flow” author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and neurologist Helen Neville. It's stuff we parents need to know. We have the power to teach our kids to be grateful (and why that's important), or how to talk to a child who is completely stressed-out about the test the next day.
Every parent also needs skills to help themselves take a proverbial chill pill when family life spirals out of control. What I did try from the book actually worked: one activity has parents teach their child about the amygdala – the "guard dog" of the brain that always responds with a fight or flight response and sometimes gets us into trouble. After I had this talk with my younger daughter, she loved the metaphor of the guard dog and mentioned the ‘mygdala when telling a story about a classmate getting mad in her classroom.
Parents, the only people that can fix civilization
What's difficult about this book is that it presents what can feel like an overwhelming task: it's a lot to learn, as well as to teach. I'm already steeped in this stuff and I have a child with insomnia who desperately needs techniques for quieting her mind, but have I found the mindful minutes I need to help her create a new habit? I hang my head in shame.
That’s the thing about parenting. We are all victims of our urges, emotions, and impulses. Indeed, almost every societal problem is the result of people not behaving with enough self-awareness and self-control to act responsibly. But children are at a particular disadvantage. Unlike the rest of us, kids have had fewer years on the planet to observe how our minds sometimes make us do things our minds later regret – whether it's yelling at a friend or eating three pieces of cake.
The good news is that parents are children's best bets in learning these lifelong lessons. We can help our children find peace of mind through knowing their own minds: thanks to Hawn we’ve even got a step-by-step manual to do it. That it's up to us to make it happen is also the bad news. But like so many of the biggest educational challenges facing our children, it's really all up to us, the parents, to not just read (or write) the book, but be mindful enough to make it happen.
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