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Parenting From the Inside Out
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150 of 153 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
While other authors have focused their attention on the brain of the developing child (What's Going on in There by Lise Eliot, Ph.D. and The Scientist in the Crib by Alison Gopnik, PhD, Andrew N. Meltzoff, Ph.D., and Patricia K. Kuhl, Ph.D.), in their book Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help you Raise Children Who Thrive, Siegel and Hartzell zero in on what's going on inside the parent's brain -- specifically how new research in the areas of neurobiology and attachment theory can help parents to understand why they parent the way they do and what they can do to use that knowledge to become better parents.

The authors stress the importance of making peace with your past so that you can avoid repeating any negative patterns of family interaction with your own kids: "In the absence of reflection, history often repeats itself and parents are vulnerable to passing on to their children unhealthy patterns from the past. Understanding our lives can free us from the otherwise predictable situation in which we recreate the damage to our children that was done to us in our own childhoods....By making sense of our lives we can deepen a capacity for self-understanding and bring coherence to our emotional experience, our views of the world, and our interactions with our children."

The book's content is excellent, but it's pretty heavy-going at times. The authors offer the reader a mix of straight narrative, introspective journaling exercises, and lessons in neurobiology. It's all fascinating stuff, but it requires a lot of focus and attention. Definitely not to be attempted with a child in the room!
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111 of 115 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
Being an avid reader, I'm appreciative of good writing for writing itself, which I appreciated reading this book, but for practical purposes, being a new parent, this book was very vague. The basic message during the first 3/4 of the book was, "Treat your own depression and get therapy so you can be a better parent." OK, nothing new there. It was not until the last 1/4 of the book that the author gave a few concrete examples of how to "parent from the inside out." Therefore, this book may be more appropriate for a college psychology course than a practical parenting book.

I made a few notes of key paragraphs for me to review as my daughter grows up:

"Every day we miss opportunities for making true connections because instead of listening and responding appropriately to our children we respond only from our own point of view and fail to make a connection to their experience. When our children tell us what they think or how they feel, it is important to respect their experience, whether or not it's the same as our own. Parents can listen to and understand their children's experience rather than tell them that what they think and feel isn't valid.

The following examples may help to illustrate these ideas. Imagine that your child is riding his tricycle and falls off. It looks to you more like a a surprise than an injury, but he starts crying, to which you respond, `You're not hurt. You shouldn't cry. You're a big boy.' Your child feels hurt, whether it is his body or his pride, and yet you tell him that his experience isn't a valid one. Now consider how the child might feel if you gave a contingent response: 'It surprised you when you went over that bump and you fell off onto the grass. Are you hurt?'
Or let's imagine that your child enthusiastically expresses a desire for a particular toy that she has seen advertised and you respond with, 'Oh, no, you don't really want that--it's just a piece of junk.' Your child just told you that she does want it, which doesn't mean that you have to get it for her, but you can acknowledge her desires. 'That toy really looks like it would be fun to play with. Tell me what you like about it.' If she continues to insist on getting the toy right away, you can say, 'I see that is is hard to wait when you like it so much. Maybe you want me to write it down so when it is time to get a present, I'll know what you might like to have.' When parents understand that they can let their children have and express their desires without having to fulfill them, it frees the parent to make a connection to the children's experience without having to deny their feelings.
If verbal and nonverbal signals communicate different messages--are not congruent--the overall message will be unclear and confusing. We are getting two different and conflicting messages at once. Suppose a mother is sad and her daughter, picking up the nonverbal signals, asks, 'Mommy, what's wrong? Did I do something to make you sad?' and with a forced smile, her mother replies, 'Oh no, honey, I'm not sad, everything is just fine.' The child will feel confused because of the double message. Her experience is informing her of one thing while the words of her mother are giving a contradictory message. If there is a mismatch between the verbal and the nonverbal, it can be quite disorienting for a child trying to sort out the confusion and the inconherence of the communication.
Our children benefit when we express our feelings directly, simply, and in nonthreatening ways. A child wants to know not only what his parents think but also how they feel.

It may be useful to recall that the belief that the self is defective is a child's conclusion, arising from noncontingent connections with parents. Realizing that 'I am lovable' is important."

I would also recommend going over pages 88, 186-192, 205.

For a more practical parenting book, I would recommend, "Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline." The title of the book is actually not reflective of the fact that the book's purpose is really to encourage parents to understand themselves better in order to "discipline" children lovingly, respectfully, with appropriate boundaries. The book gives concrete examples that parents can use every day.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2004
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This parenting book is far more than a "how-to". It examines the importance of the parent child relationship from the perspective of the child's neurological and social development. It challenges parents to examine their own upbringing and to evaluate how their experiences as a child now influence their functioning as a parent. The premises exlpained in the book are supported by recent breakthroughs in brain research. As a psychotherapist who works with children and famlies, this is the book I recommend the most to my clients. At times the writing in the book is somewhat techinical in nature, but there are many stories and exercies for parents that are beneficial even if the reader doesn't understand all of the language.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is informative, insightful, and a must read for everyone not just parents. It will help you understand what is going on in all your relationships (especially your relationships with your children). Participate with the book: do the exercises at the end of each chapter, and you will grow and mature. I am a Marriage Family Therapist and I have all my clients read the book to enhance their therapy and enable them to progress at a faster pace.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Some readers may find this book "too scientific for a parenting book" but I found it utterly facinating and ate up every word.

The age old "nature vs. nurture" debate is examined and the newer concept of nurture effecting nature emerges with either positive or negative outcomes depending on the experiences of the child and the effects of their developing brain.

At times I had to take breaks from reading it to allow for integration of all the information, but the effect was that this book changed my parenting philosophy and approach, because instead of asking "what is going on in those little heads??" Now I know.
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96 of 117 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It's impossible to say something can change your life without slipping into cliche-land, but this book is all about the possibility of change and the crux of life: brain, to mind, to heart, and though the book is too grounded in science to say it, to soul; it's the neurology behind the fact that mind is love; but more than anything the ideas in this book are simply fascinating and useful! I have read other work by Dan Siegel and each time I revisit his sythesis of brain science, attachment theory and a warm-hearted psychiatrist's view of Buber's I-Thou, I am filled with new thoughts and emotions.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book provides a basis for overcoming your childhood issues and creating a better future for your child and future generations. What could be better than that? I found this book to be one of the best books I've ever read and wish they made everyone read it before having children.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
I found this book very interesting and supportive of a sensitive style of parenting. The central idea of looking back to your own childhood, thinking about how you feel about it and understanding how it can shape your behaviour, is both interesting and illuminating. The assertion that a negative experience need not create a pattern that is repeated in the next generation is very positive and encouraging. I found the explanations of how brain development is linked to emotional well-being fascinating and also very encouraging of investing in building and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. I have a couple of minor reservations about the book: that is is probably most useful for people who have experienced trauma as a child and have issues to work through and that that the scientific sections are a little dry and repetitive. I thought the case stories were interesting but that more in the way of tips - perhaps in a table or summary at the end of each chapter, would have been useful. Still, overall a thoughtful and thought-provoking book which could just reassure you that all your parenting efforts are worthwhile and may even provoke deep personal healing (although I'm not sure this book could replace professional help).
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
Siegel and Hartzell provide valuable information for parents regarding the emotional development of children. Perhaps more valuable, though, is how parents can use the information to understand their own patterns of emotion. Information is accessible to a lay audience and includes learning exercises. Bibliographies provide connection to professional literature.

I recommend this book to all parents of young children, to those who work with children, and to those seeking understanding of their own emotional behaviors.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
Parenting from the Inside Out is an easy-to-read book on the neurobiology of parenting. It builds upon the attachment theory of child development and contains useful exercises that are aimed at helping readers identify and work with psychological issues related to parenting.

The core theme of this book is that when parents cultivate a strong, healthy relationship with their children, it promotes development in areas of the brain enabling emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal skills. Experiences and memory shape emerging neural connections; essentially parents sculpt the minds of their children.

Unresolved issues from childhood may reduce the quality of the parent child relationship. Through deepening self-awareness and processing past issues in order to give meaning to them, parents can change ingrained patterns and help their children thrive. Parents can grow together with their children, enjoying them for who they are. Children in turn can become grounded in reality and more self-assured. Specific psychological concepts are introduced and clearly explained.

Siegel's openness in regard to his experience as a parent is courageous and serves to normalize the inevitable fact that parents are imperfect. Parental ambivalence is approached with sensitivity and guidance is provided regarding how to identify and heal negative patterns.

I highly recommend this book for parents who wish to deepen their relationships with their children and enhance the quality of their lives together. This book is also very useful for anyone working with children.
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