I want to share the research and neuroscience of why Emotional Social Parenting™ is important and how we can use neuroscience to help our child’s brain develop and integrate.
What if I told you that scientists recently discovered the number one predictor of happiness, academic and career success, successful relationships, and good mental and physical health? I don’t know about you, but I know I would want to know what the number one predictor is so that I could teach it to my kids and grandkids.
The National Institute of Health supported a recent study called the Human Connectome Project. This study gathered scientists from physics, biology, medicine, and even computer science to participate in an enormous study of the human brain. These scientists examined well over 1200 healthy human brains to determine the importance of interconnections within the brain. They looked at how well the different areas within the brain communicate with each other.
The scientists discovered that the number one predictor of all of these characteristics we just talked about is that the better the different areas of your brain can talk to each other, the more integrated your brain is, and the more successful you will be in all areas of your life.
Emotional Social Parenting™ (ESP) is a way of parenting that lets us teach our children how to integrate their brains. ESP teaches the child how to build the pathways of emotional regulation, strong social skills, and successful relationships. In short, the pathways for success and happiness. When kids of ESP parents are grown and have kids of their own, they will then have the Brain integration and neuropathways for Emotional social Parenting™ (ESP).
What is Neuroplasticity and Why is it important to Emotional Social Parenting?
Neuroscience also tells us that the brain is plastic or changeable. This is called neuroplasticity. When we hear the term neuroplasticity, many people think it means that we can change our minds about an idea or a person. Neuroplasticity is about more than just being able to think about something differently or to change our minds. Neuroplasticity also means that we can change the actual physical architecture of the brain when we learn new information.
The brain’s physical structure changes by creating new connections and pathways. What our kids see, hear, touch, smell, think about, and practice makes new links or connections in the brain, thus changing the physical architecture of their brains. Let me pause here and emphasize the importance of practice.
A study was done in 2004 titled: From Mental Power to Muscle Power Gaining Strength by using the Mind.
Researchers took a group of young, healthy volunteers and split them into three groups. One-third of the volunteers trained to flex their elbow muscles using only their minds mentally. No actual physical activity occurred. The second group trained mentally to abduct their pinky finger. Again, no physical activity occurred. The final group received no thought training and did no exercise. They were the control group.
The study lasted for 12 weeks. During the 12 weeks, the first two groups did the mental exercises for 15 minutes a day, five times a week. The first group improved their elbow flexion muscle strength by 13.5%. The second group increased their pinky finger abduction strength by 53%! The control group didn’t change their muscle strength.
Even more intriguing: when the researchers looked at the brain area that controls these muscles, they saw a significant increase in the number of nerve cells and the size of the pathways responsible for driving those muscle groups.
In other words: The research subjects changed their physical bodies by thought alone!
Why is This Important For Emotional Social Parenting™ (ESP)?
When we give her attention to something new or different, we will create a new connection in the brain, thus altering the physical structure of our brains. It’s important to note that connections that aren’t strengthened with use are underdeveloped and may wither, come apart or even die. This is important because when we neglect an area of our child’s development, the crucial neural connections for that skill won’t develop.
Let me illustrate:
Let’s suppose a child grows up never learning about empathy. The area in their brain that makes the empathy chemicals will be underdeveloped. These children will have difficulty understanding and expressing empathy.
They may become adults with limited ability to feel and express empathy. Our children must experience all their big feelings and emotions.
How are our Emotions and Feelings Created?
Our thoughts are the electrical signal that activates neurotransmitters and hormones. These are the chemicals that travel throughout the body, creating our emotions. Our feelings are the conscious awareness of our emotions. Therefore, our emotions and feelings directly result from our thoughts. Consequently, we can’t unfeel a feeling. Once we have a feeling, it does not go away. The instant we feel a feeling, it is already chemically present and stored in our body.
We tend to accept our children’s positive big feelings and emotions. Parents, you rarely yell at your kids because they are happy, excited, or filled with joy. However, when our kids are experiencing big negative feelings of anger, jealousy, and sadness, we are uncomfortable. We try to get rid of the big negative emotions in our children.
The child learns and eventually believes that some part of them is unacceptable. They hide these unacceptable parts from others. They squash down and inhibit the big emotions and feelings that their parents found unacceptable.
Remember, emotions are how our body chemically stores our thoughts and feelings. When a child squashes an emotion, it doesn’t disappear. It stays chemically stored in their body. Instead of teaching our kids some feelings are not ok, ESP helps kids build pathways for modulating their big feelings.
We can we help our kids strengthen and build not just pathways but superhighways for emotional regulation? The way we parent determines the brain connections that our children create and how strong those connections are. These connections let our children notice their emotions and then modulate how they experience their big emotions and feelings.
Let me see if I can illustrate this: Have you ever been in a dimly lit room when suddenly someone walked into the room and turned on all the lights?
It was painful to your eyes, and you likey covered your eyes with one hand and held out your other hand to block the light from piercing into your eyes. Why is that light so uncomfortable? Aside from being bright, the light is so painful in part because it happened unexpectedly and so abruptly.
When a difficult or painful emotion gets turned on, it floods the body with stress chemicals. You feel like you are suddenly in that bright room, frantically searching for something that will turn off the pain of that challenging emotion.
Our emotional regulation dimmer switch skills help us slowly dim the challenging emotions to a more tolerable and comfortable level. Poor or limited emotional regulation is when our emotions only have an on-off switch instead of a dimmer switch.
What would happen if you shut it off every time the bright light came on? It would be more and more difficult to tolerate any amount of light. You would lose the ability to function in the presence of light! Over time even a dim light becomes unbearable. A similar thing happens when our kids learn to inhibit their big emotions. Their dimmer switch pathways for emotional regulation are underdeveloped and may eventually be pruned away. These critical pathways teach our children to regulate and tolerate their big uncomfortable emotions.
If our kids can’t experience their big emotions, their ability to develop their dimmer switch pathways disappears. This child may even believe that they cannot tolerate and regulate their big emotions. These big emotions will eventually become so intolerable that they learn to fear their big emotions.
Conversely, if a child is encouraged to experience all his emotions. Even the big negative ones. He builds and strengthens the dimmer switch pathways in his brain. These pathways eventually become the superhighways for brain integration, emotional regulation, and success.
Let’s suppose a child is raised in an environment that doesn’t teach him to build these pathways. Let alone the superhighways for emotional regulation. Is he doomed to a life of dysregulation and dysfunction?
Fortunately, no. Thankfully neuroplasticity saves the day. Neuroplasticity tells us: It is never too late to integrate! It is never too late to build the pathways that lead to the superhighways for success.
Even adults or seniors who didn’t get Emotional Social Parenting ™ can achieve brain integration. It just requires a lot more energy and effort.
I know you have big dreams for your kids; let’s use ESP to help them build the superhighway to success.