Dharma Parenting
Podcast #107 — Aired October 24, 2016

Every parent wants to raise happy and successful children. This week on BetterWorldians Radio we’re speaking with Dr. Robert Keith Wallace, co-author of Dharma Parenting: Understand Your Child’s Brilliant Brain for Great Happiness, Health, Success, and Fulfillment. Dr. Wallace will tell listeners how having a better understanding of children’s brains can help maximize children’s learning, behavior, and happiness.

 

 

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Dr. Robert Keith Wallace
Co-author, Dharma Parenting

Dr. Robert Keith Wallace is a pioneering researcher on the physiology of consciousness. His research has inspired hundreds of studies on the benefits of meditation and other mind-body techniques. Dr. Wallace's findings have been published in Science, American Journal of Physiology, and Scientific American. He received his BS in physics and his PhD in physiology from UCLA and conducted postgraduate research at Harvard University. Dr. Wallace is the founding president of Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in Fairfield, Iowa.

Episode Transcript

Gregory Hansell
Hi and welcome to Better Worlds radio. Better World radio is a weekly broadcast whose mission is to uplift and inspire you to make the world a better place. Im Greg Hansel, joined today by my co-host Mary-Sue Hansel. Better Worldians Radio is brought to you by Better World's Foundation and is co-hosted by the family team that created the popular social game on Facebook called A Better World. It rewards players for doing good deeds while helping to raise money and awareness for charities. To date over 40 million good deeds have been done in A Better World by more than 4 million people in over 100 countries. This week on Better Worldians Radio we welcome Dr Robert Keith Wallace, co-author of Dharma Parenting: Understand Your Childs Brilliant Brain For Greater Happiness, Health, Success and Fulfillment. Dr Wallace is a pioneering researcher on the physiology of consciousness. His research has inspired hundreds of studies on the benefits of meditation and other mind-body techniques. Dr Wallaces findings have been published in Science, The American Journal of Physiology and Scientific American. He received his BS in physics and his PHD in physiology from UCLA and conducted post graduate research at Harvard University. Dr Wallace is the founding president of Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, IOWA. Dr Wallace co-wrote Dharma Parenting with Dr Frederick Travis.

MarySue Hansell
Hi Dr Wallace, thanks for joining us today on Better Worldians Radio.

Dr Wallace
Its my pleasure, thank you very much.

MarySue Hansell
Now Dr Wallace, to begin with, can you explain what Dharma Parenting is? And how it could nurture our children?

Dr Wallace
Sure, the word dharma is a curious word, its a word were not very familiar with, but like yoga and meditation those 2 words not so long ago were also unfamiliar and now they are very familiar to everyone. Dharma is a word that comes from India but its used throughout the east, its in China and Japan, Thailand, everywhere. And it really has multiple meanings, the meaning we use for it has to do with the journey of life that you take and we think of Dharma Parenting as the kind of parenting that helps your child begin their journey in the most successful, happy and fulfilled manner. We really see dharma as encompassing all the things you do, all the tools you use all the knowledge you have to really help your child on that journey to find out who they are and what they want to become in life.

MarySue Hansell
In your book Dharma Parenting, Dharma is also used as an acronym for 6 parenting tools, and I thought wed chat a little bit about those. The first one is to discover your childs own body type and your body type. Can you describe those 3 body types in the book; the vata, the pitta and the kapha?

Dr Wallace
Sure, Id be happy to. Yeah this is, you know, the acronym is sort of fun for us, we kind of enjoy making it as simple as possible and so the first one for D is to discover your, what we call it is your Brain Body Type, and its a composition of 2 areas of knowledge. First of all, you know, were scientists, weve you know, studied the brain, were very interested in the development of the brain in children and so we are interested in basically all the different stages that a child goes through. And then we combine that knowledge with the knowledge from a very old tradition, the oldest system of health in the world, the Ayurveda, which had this very profound understanding of body types, which recently theres been quite a lot of interesting research showing that theres a genetic basis to this. So they really understood many years ago that there were at least 3 basic types, and these types where we use the words from that tradition just to honor it, and they are: vata, pitta and kapha brain body types and vata is is just a word from that tradition which means really movement. It has to do with those children who are absolutely the most enthusiastic, the most creative, imaginative, theyre slightly thinner than other types; theyre almost always moving around and they change from one thing quickly to another but they just have an amazing learning capacity. Theyll be sitting at a table reading a book while eating a meal, even if you ask them not to because they just want to consume knowledge at an as fast a rate as possible. And from our perspective as scientists we see this as kind of a certain style of brain functioning, where the brain can process information very very quickly, and this particular style also makes them a little more sensitive. So these brain body types can, there can be either in balance or out of balance and its kind of an interesting perspective but when theyre in balance theyre amazingly creative, quick learners. When they are out of balance they can become anxious and nervous so the real key to understanding these brain body types is how to keep each one in balance, and for the vada probably the most important thing is routines; they need routines. They need to know everything thats happening, that provides, it kind of grounds them. And the next type is the pitta type. The pitta type you could think of fire as sort of the basis. Theyre the ones that, if theyre in balance enormous energy, focus, theyre very competitive in sports just moving right ahead in a straight line. They get out of balance though, thats the fire that can get out of control and suddenly they lose their temper, become irritable. So key to this type is having meals on time, especially lunch. If they miss their lunch its just so likely that they could get irritable and lose their temper. So just the most trivial and simple thing like that makes a hug difference to this type. And also making sure they dont get overheated, water sports are fantastic for them, but if theyre out in the sun too long again that kind of fire can turn into anger. This last type is the kappa type, and I should just mention that really most people are a mixture of 1 or more types. Im just giving this kind of easy outline so that you get an understanding but were all very complex, we all have different aspects to us. So everybody has a little vada, a little pitta, a little kapha and the kapha side is the kind of more steady easy going, a little slower - theyre slower learners but actually they never forget anything, they just have incredible memories. And theyre the children who are just the most loving, easy going, friends with everyone. They kind of have that inner stability as a natural part of their life and are very good natured. But when they get out of balance they can get withdrawn, they can put the brakes on you. You try to get up in the morning and they take longer than they should. Try to get them out the door and they take longer. And you try to make some new change in their life and theyre just like nope, wont do it. So this is the type that you have to really- theyre just so loving but, you just have to make sure that theyre in balance and take a little longer with them. You know, they might need a little extra time to get out the door so this kinda gives you a rough overview and as I said, everybody is a mixture, so you cant really ever type anybody- we dont actually like typing people that much, we believe that everybody has maximum potential, everybody can unfold their lives to be the greatest that they can possibly be. But these are really useful ways of understanding a persons nature and kind of getting a feeling for their tendencies, what are their strengths and weaknesses and how to boost up their strength and figure out a way so that you can avoid their weaknesses so the whole notion here is really one of nurture, not try to fit anybody into a particular category.

MarySue Hansell
Mm-hmm. Yeah Im glad you mentioned about the mixture of different types, I did take the test on your website, people might want to know how to access that, what was it, dharmaparenting.com?

Dr Wallace
Exactly, yeah so its dh-ar-ma-parenting.com and theres a free quiz and you get a 4 page PDF report and it really does give you an insight into all the knowledge in the book and its totally free and easy to do.

MarySue Hansell
Yes I took it and I was a big mixture and I noticed in different categories it changes. Uh-

Dr Wallace
Yeah.

MarySue Hansell
Like digestion was 1 and what were the other 2? The physical-

Dr Wallace
Oh well you're kind of physical characteristics and also your mind and emotions. So it actually is more subtle than a lot of the quizzes that are out there because it really does look at 3 areas of your life - and you can different in each as you saw.

MarySue Hansell
--Yes, yes, mm hmm.

Dr Wallace
--As you saw as they give percentages, and its important to know that, you know you could be a very pitta person, and love to be competitive and very goal oriented and yet in your sleep you can be a little kapha, you could maybe sleep a little longer than other people, and you can also be a little vada in terms of how you deal with information so that youre really a quick reader and very creative. But maybe the main characteristic is that you very goal oriented and you're relatively well organized. But it is fascinating to see the mixture of people and how it can be in different areas.

MarySue Hansell
You know now, do children change, do they start out one and could they change or what age do you start seeing these traits revealed?

Dr Wallace
Well its interesting, you can see them when theyre quite young, you know a child thats crying, has colic, is you know really having a hard time, a very over sensitive, often will be a vada child because their digestion is more sensitive. They can get over stimulated easy and if they start off in life a little out of balance for whatever reason then right away youre going to have, you know, quite a difficult child. Whereas as kapha child, they start off, you know fairly on a good track, boom, they go to sleep easy, theyre the ones that make you think Ah its easy to have another child and then you know, its one of those things that you can actually find out quite early and you know in 3 months or even before--

MarySue Hansell
Oh, ok.

Dr Wallace
You know, to really know precisely in every area its going to have to be 6 months to a year to get a more accurate sense, but these tendencies dont change, theyre kind of the way the brain has been wired genetically, and so you pretty much have them your whole life. You do go through different periods in your life, so if youre vada, the vedic period can change in different times and become more accentuated, but theyre like a you know kind of-- we think of it more like our genetics and we know that our environment influences our genetics: certain genes get expressed depending on the kind of environment we have, so obviously there is interaction between our inert tendencies and the environment around us and how it gets expressed, but you know you can take the quiz at any time and what you do is you find out ok Ive shifted a little bit, Im a little more this way or that way and the notion there is that even though you have some basic blueprint you are very much influenced by your environment so you do have to keep assessing your current state and youll see particularly youll see things are going out of balance. Thats the most obvious thing.

MarySue Hansell
You know what I wanted to know- are any of these things obvious on brain scans?

Dr Wallace
Well brain scans are wonderful, fantastic, and we just wrote a paper suggesting it. They are expensive and they involve you know, some serious research. We are dying to do it with brain scans so were trying to set up research right now. Weve done stuff with EEG which is a little less expensive--

MarySue Hansell
I see

Dr Wallace
--And there we do see differences, so we are expecting with brain scans we will also, but its an area, believe it or not, that has not been very well researched and some of the technology is just now becoming more accessible and easier to use.

MarySue Hansell
That would be interesting to see, wouldnt it?

Dr Wallace
Very, now were really anxious to do it.

MarySue Hansell
You know what Dr Wallace, what happens when the parent is 1 type and the child is another type? Doe is get difficult?

Dr Wallace
It can, it can. You know the classic case is you have a pitta mom and dad, and theyre very goal oriented, maybe they were athletes when they were kids and you know a star tennis player or a football player or whatever. And so you know they want to impose that on their child, but if they have like a very sensitive vada boy or girl whos really has more of a tendency to go towards music or art, and doesnt have that same physical competitiveness--

MarySue Hansell
Yes

Dr Wallace
--Maybe theyre interested in ballet or gymnastics, its not like they dont enjoy physical activities, they certainly do, but not quite the same team competitiveness so its really really important and we, we really emphasize this throughout the book that: the parent imposing their brain body type on the child just doesnt work. It never works and you have to allow your child to find their own path in life, their own journey and it really - of course a pitta mom and dad can be very good for a vada child because theyre organized, they have everything laid out carefully, and thats what avada child needs, they need that help and grounding from a parent. But its a kind of delicacy, you dont want to impose it - you want to use your own strengths to help your child but let them find their own way and bring out their own tendencies and strengths.

MarySue Hansell
Yeah I can see how that can be very helpful, I have 3 children and I have 5 grandchildren, and as were going through this Im picturing oh I think this one is this and this one is this, and their children are this so I can see how knowing your body type and your strengths and weaknesses and your children can really be helpful in-- child raising.

Dr Wallace
It is, Ive got 4 children; 2 boys and 2 girls and Ive also got 6 grandchildren--

MarySue Hansell
Ok

Dr Wallace
And I can tell you, you know if I just take the simplest example, my 2 boys, you watch, I mean at the earliest age, one would eat so fast that food would disappear before-- you know you got that plate on the table it was gone. The other hadnt even started until everybody was finished. They were just so different.

MarySue Hansell
Yes

Dr Wallace
And it was always curious, you always think you know why is that?. And then as I began to understand these different tendencies it became very clear and it was kind of fun and easier to understand the differences.

MarySue Hansell
I wanted to chat too about the second tool that Im very interested in, the Heal Yourself tool, and you listed 7 different things parents can do to heal themselves and so I thought if you can just chat (about) a couple, a couple of my favorites; meditation, exercise and not getting too tired - what can you say about those?

Dr Wallace
Well I think we all know, you know, that as a parent if youre tired theres no hope--

MarySue Hansell
[laughs]

Dr Wallace
I mean its kind of like [laughs] its just, you know kids have an amazing amount of energy and they can just run us around in circles and if we get tired we lose it, we kind of have melt downs and might get angry, irritable, start yelling, and none of that really does any good at all. And so, Id say that fatigue is the enemy, it just doesnt help any parent, and yet how can you avoid it? I mean my gosh, if youre a single mom taking care of kids, you got a job, you gotta take care of the kids. Its extraordinary what people do these days--

MarySue Hansell
Oh I know.

Dr Wallace
And I think we recognize that, but we still want to emphasize to everybody that rest is super important, and if you have to get some kind of help from your spouse or you have to get relatives coming in, its so so key. And as you mentioned, meditation is a fantastic tool to rejuvenate yourself. Dr Travis and I have been studying transcendental meditation, this is one particular technique, for many many years. And theres some terrific studies on it, I mean really good studies that in fact United States institutes of health, national institutes of health, have given 25 million dollars to our university to study its effect on cardiovascular disease. And quite amazing studies: I mean the last one that was done at the university of Wisconsin over 5 years found a 48 percent decrease in risk of heart attacks, strokes and death in the groups practicing transcendental meditation as compared to the control group. And these were people who already had serious heart disease. So thats pretty fantastic. And theres research in many different areas, the department of defense has just given several million dollars for a big grant looking at people with PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome) and finding out how TM can help veterans who come back and have suicidal tendencies and depression and so forth and the results so far have been very good so its a great tool, Im not saying that moms have PTSD but some days it might seem like it--

MarySue Hansell
[laughs]

Dr Wallace
--you know. And it is like a war-zone when youve got a bunch of kids running around doing stuff, but in any case I think just that 20 minutes twice a day is like a huge vacation and it just gives you a break, you can recharge your battery, get some perspective on whats going on, really kind of dive deep within and have a moment of real silence and rest, and we strongly encourage all parents to do that. As well as like you said--

MarySue Hansell
[clears throat]

Dr Wallace
-- exercise, good food all the other things that everybody needs to do, but the 2 highest on our list are rest and transcendental meditation.

MarySue Hansell
Sounds great.

Gregory Hansell
Well talk more with Dr Wallace about Dharma Parenting in a moment, but right now I would like to take a brief break and tell our listeners a little bit about our game on Facebook called A Better World. A Better World encourages habits of goodness, positive mindsets and giving to social causes to make a positive difference in the world. Players do things like express gratitude, share acts of kindness, send get well notes to real-world sick children and much more. You can find out more at abetterworld.com. So now lets get back to our conversation with Dr Robert Keith Wallace, co-author of Dharma Parenting. Hi Keith, this is Greg.

Dr Wallace
Hi Greg.

Gregory Hansell
So the third tool thats part of the part of the Dharma collection of tools is attention and appreciation. Ill tell you a short story, last night my wife and I were out running some chores, my kids were at my mother-in-laws and when we came to pick them up she had done a bunch of little task for my mother-in-law and she wanted to take me around the house showing me each little thing she did and every time I paid attention to it and congratulated her for it, she got happier and happier and became more and more alive, and when I put her in the car to come home she was glowing and she turned to me and she said I love you daddy, [laughs] and it was really powerful, and I thought about that a lot when I read again the chapter today on attention and appreciation. Now can you tell us why thats so important and what effect that has on children?

Dr Wallace
Well I think you know youre- all the work you do obviously as a parent and as a professional is oriented towards this and I congratulate you very much for the wonderful things you do.

Gregory Hansell
Thank you.

Dr Wallace
Attention is like, people dont realize this but literally everything changes our brain. Every experience we have changes our brain. And you know when a child is very young theres so much change going on in their brain. From the ages from 0 - 3 you look at your little baby sitting over there thinking there so quiet and nice 24 million connections are being made in their brain, every minute, 24 million, I mean this is like huge dynamic activity going on. Theyre just, you know, theyve got a brain thats not really been assembled, its got all the cells but all those connections have to be made. And those connections are made based on the kind of experiences they have. Some are made to set down the basic pathways but so many things are based on a notion of whatever we experience, that reinforces that pathway. So if somebodys yelling at us and screaming at us, its those pathways that get laid down in the brain and they get reinforced over and over again. And they change how we react to stress for the rest of our lives. People have done a lot of different studies now looking at what happens to children where they are brought up in harsh environments, or environments where they have no attention and its quite dramatic. I mean genes get changed, the different genes, some are expressed some arent, biochemicals are changed, neural pathways are changed, its very powerful what happens, I mean, one study in Romania did sort of the opposite of what you said: they didnt give any of these kids any attention they had somebody, some psychologist had some bright idea that if they were brought up in a clean quiet environment everything would be good but nobody paid any attention to these children in an orphanage and they just had enormous problems, and you know if they were-- a lot of American parents adopted them, but they if they were adopted early change could happen, but if they were adopted too late it was very difficult to change them, attention is vital for connections in the brain. And it is something that the quality of attention is so important, the kind of attention, because that will form a particular circuit or pathway in the brain, the levels of biochemicals and some of these pathways--

Gregory Hansell
[Clears Throat]

Dr Wallace
--will be with us forever and ever and as we go through life we may have been told by our mom you know, in a tough way, you gotta be on time, so you know, were always looking over our shoulder, stressed out that were not on time. It wasnt our moms fault, she was just trying to lay down good rules and behavior, but if its done in an easier and more loving, more appreciative way, then those pathways are, you know you can have the same good habits but you can have them in a way where we dont experience stress, every time we do them. And again, this is one of the things that has been seen over and over again in studies on parenting, if you take a parent who is very authoritative and sometimes uses physical punishment, that can backfire. Even though you can get the child to behave at a young age, when they become teenagers they very often have more drugs, more alcohol--

Gregory Hansell
Mmmm

Dr Wallace
--or more disciplinary problems. And likewise if youre too permissive, if you know kind of the old hippie way Oh let the children do everything, let them do whatever they want thats a disaster, I mean they need boundaries. They need to have very clear guidelines, they need your attention in a very positive way, and not having attention is not good. And so what everybody has found and what everybody agrees now, the best possible, you know, approach with parenting is one that has very clear, good, boundaries--

Gregory Hansell
Mmmm [Clears Throat]

Dr Wallace
Some of them are more important like dont drink and drive, thats an absolute. Other things like curfew can be negotiated, but ultimately the key concept here is that these pathways are given with love and always open communication, always in a manner thats positive, and that inevitably lays down the absolute best circuits in the brain. The kid becomes more empowered, he becomes more self sufficient, self regulation is a huge thing that people have studied and you know, what does it mean self regulation? It means how well a person can kind of handle themselves in different situations. They do this one test, I dont know if youve ever heard of it but its called the marshmallow test--

Gregory Hansell
[negation] Uh mm

Dr Wallace
--and its this funny thing where you know a bunch of psychologists cooked up this thing where they put a kid in a room and give him a marshmallow on a plate and say Now, if you can wait 3 minutes, well give you 2 marshmallows--

Gregory Hansell
[laughs]

Dr Wallace
And then they leave the room and the poor kid, you watch these kids on videos, they have them on videos on Youtube and stuff, and you see these kids theyre like Oh my god what am I supposed to do? you know and some kids its too much they have to eat the marshmallow and other kids you know they develop all kinds of strategies for how theyre gonna avoid eating that marshmallow. But the most interesting and bizarre thing is that that is one of the best predictors of how a kid will succeed in life they have to--

Gregory Hansell
Interesting.

Dr Wallace
--its better than SAT scores, its better than all kinds of other things. So helping a kid learn how to kind of have some ability to regulate their lives when youre not watching over them every second that they have to--

Gregory Hansell
[Clears throat]

Dr Wallace
-- figure out on their own, that kind of attention, that kind of coaching, that kind of attention is super, it really really you know, builds character, builds their ability to be more self sufficient. So this is a very very powerful tool and as you, you gave a perfect example, it can just brighten up a kids day everyday if you just give them more attention.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah its interesting, I think theres something in the Yoga Sutras, you know: experience turns into habit and habit hardens into character, and I hearing that in what youre saying.

Dr Wallace
Absolutely, I mean, you know habit is one of the most powerful things in the world and habit is a brain circuit, if you want to talk about habits, habits are just some pathway thats been laid down in the brain--

Gregory Hansell
Mm hmm

Dr Wallace
--and its reinforced over and over again by us doing that habit over and over again, thats why habits are so hard to break--

Gregory Hansell
Yeah sure.

Dr Wallace
-- because its physical, I mean its something physical there, and you have to create another pathway that can, you know if its a bad habit, youve literally got to create a whole other pathway and so that pathway will fall away because where you put your attention grows stronger, this is a very beautiful also yogic saying and it really has to do with the brain.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah

Dr Wallace
If you put your attention on something, that reinforces one pathway, if you take your attention away, that pathway will fall, fall away. So habits, yes, thats what happens you know, thats how we, we really influence our children for the rest of their lives by laying down these brain circuits that form into habits in their lives.

Gregory Hansell
Lets chat about routine actually, because obviously routine and habit are so closely related, thats the fourth tool you talk about in the book--

Dr Wallace
Yeah--

Gregory Hansell
--Ill tell you one other quick story about my daughter, this summer she was at lots of different summer camps, and shes very vata, and we had her in multiple camps ad even sometimes between camps, we had her a week or 2 home so we could spend more time with my wife and I, and it was a disaster. [laughs]

Dr Wallace
[laughs]

Gregory Hansell
She didnt have a routine that she fell into and so she was constantly very emotionally distraught--

Dr Wallace
Yeah--

Gregory Hansell
--because she just didnt know where she was headed. So tell us about routines and why theyre so important.

Dr Wallace
Well I think you could tell me at this point--

Gregory Hansell
[Laughs]

Dr Wallace
--you really got that answer, perfect experience. Yeah thats true you know vata children, if you give them too many choices its not good and they kind of go, its just too much for them and they really need to be grounded, they need everything to be settled and then they can just flourish. Routines are different for different types, and you know for vata, they really are essential, they are the grounding of everything and they really for a vata child should be your number 1 priority. For a pitta child its interesting; theyre quite good at routines, theyre just super goal oriented, you set out a list of goals for them and boom, they just do it. You hardly have to say a word. And the kapha children are kind of the opposite, they actually like routines too much. They get stuck in a routine so strongly that you have to kind of nudge them out of it occasionally--

Gregory Hansell
Interesting.

Dr Wallace
--and, you have to help them kind of do more new activities kind of you know, do along side them and get them to do different things. But I think routines are kind of a backbone of a family and you know, having all the meals together, of course you cant do that for lunch, but when you can thats wonderful, having, in one of the routines we talk about in the book, is sleep routines. So different for each one: kapha kids you literally turn out the light, boom theyre asleep, vata kid you gotta do what, you know, you can stop the stimulation half an hour, an hour early, read a story, you know maybe a warm bath, I mean its quite a challenge, its different, their minds are just going a mile a minute and they gotta settle down. And the pitta kids a lot will depend on upon how much exercise theyve had, if theyve had a lot of good exercise, no problem, they go to sleep. But they can wake up in the middle of the night, sleep is not something that they even, you know, care about most of the time. So each type has a different, you know, kind of understanding. But I think one of the best routines that I never knew about until I started reading you know a million different parenting books was family meetings. Family meetings are such an interesting thing, especially when they get older and the teenage-- that moment in life theyve been occupied by aliens, um--

Gregory Hansell
[Laughs]

Dr Wallace
--and that is the moment where you have to have great communication skills with them, every channel has to be open, and family meetings are a terrific way to do that because certain things like curfews or when you know when theyre doing all kinds of, whether theyre cleaning up the dishes, cleaning up the yard, chores you know, which we dont think about that much, but they can all be kinda worked out in family meetings. Everybody can have a say, they can voice their concerns, they can learn not to interrupt, they can learn that they have a say and everything everyone gets a chance to speak. And you can kind of talk about, ok well, lets say theyre a teenager, you want to have more trust, you want to stay out later, but what happens if you break this trust, what happens if instead of coming at this time you come in later? What will the consequences be? And then they get involved in making up the consequences. And then they are kind of, now theyre part of the whole process and so when they break that rule, its been discussed its been talked about in the family meetings, and theyre well aware of the consequences--

Gregory Hansell
Yeah

Dr Wallace
--because they helped make them up. And its such a kind of amazing tool to help create channels of communication that might not be there if you just have a kind of No you have to do this,--

Gregory Hansell
Sure

Dr Wallace
-- you have to do that, you have to do that. Kids, especially teenagers, their brains are going through a whole different process theyre actually going through whats called neural pruning--

Gregory Hansell
Mmmm

Dr Wallace
--and I know that this is a hard concept but you have-- a child when theyre you know, say 7 years old, 8 , 9 years old, they have a thicker cortex than adults, they have more connections than theyll ever have in their life, and so some of those connections have to be pruned, because you know we get into the brain is very efficient, and it kind of has a use it or lose it kind of approach so, if youre using only certain pathways, those will be maintained, the other ones will just kind of go away. So teenagers are actually going through a stage where they are pruning their brain when they go to sleep they are a different person when they wake up the next morning, and so they can get confused, they can forget things, and they dont have all the connections to the frontal part of the brain, that key area where we have reasoning an make good decisions, so even though they look like adults, theyre not, not everything is online--

Gregory Hansell
Right, right.

Dr Wallace
--and so you have to kind of be aware of that, and treat them that way--

Gregory Hansell
Interesting

Dr Wallace
--and again, these routines, these family meetings, all these things theyre terrific for building that kind of relationship that you need especially when they get into that confusing teenage time.

Gregory Hansell
Interesting, that is interesting. So let me move us on to the 5th tool, about managing meltdowns and cultivating better behavior. You know Im not gonna share any stories here [laughs]--

Dr Wallace
[laughs]

Gregory Hansell
Because were recording this--

Dr Wallace
Very wise of you, very wise--

Gregory Hansell
But you know, every parent has had that experience and I would love to know some tips and tricks and you know not just that but the ways in which they can, you know, respond and raise their children in a better way to reduce meltdowns. Can you tell us about those 6 Cs the check in the comfort, the change, choices, consequences and coaching?

Dr Wallace
Yeah, I think, you know, again theres all kinds of wonderful parenting books out there and they all have, you know, different ideas of what you do during a meltdown. Sometimes people have quiet time, sometimes people have-- you know just wide variety of strategies. We came up with these primarily based again on our knowledge of the brain, and on Ayurveda, this kind of time tested tradition. And the first C in this is check in with yourself and your child. If you know youre at a shopping mall and the kids crying you gotta be sure youre in the proper state to do this, because if youre upset, if youre tired, youre gonna start yelling and screaming an youre gonna be worse than the kid.

Gregory Hansell
Right

Dr Wallace
Youre not really gonna do much help at all. So you gotta check in with yourself, see where youre at and youve got to see the child, is the child really lost? And that first thing that you do is comfort the child, just boom, right away. Because ultimately most of these problems, the meltdowns are a kind of fear and anxiety, some kind of you know, something going on inside them. Sometimes its just missing a meal, like a kid, a pitta kid, you take them the you know, shopping and you lost track of time and suddenly they didnt have their lunch and youre just so busy doing stuff that you didnt notice, but you cant really blame them, theyre just having a physiological response when they dont eat on time, they get irritable and angry and its like a, its like hearing Jaws, the music from Jaws in the background you know its like, it just comes on to them and you know they dont even know whats happening. So you have to be aware of changing their brain state, you have to be aware that first of all, this is a brain state. This isnt personal, theyre not angry at you, their brain state is just gone into a meltdown for whatever reason and if comforting doesnt work, you know if you have a snack with you, if you can get them to eat right away. Maybe you have to just take them out and bring them home and quiet them down, one dad spoke about taking the kid outside and singing to it, maybe the vada kid has just got sensitive in a confusing environment and it just needed to be grounded, that child, that girl or boy, and so up til now theres no chance for reasoning.The idea that you tell them You should not do this you know Why are you you know. Any kind of reasoning at this point is ridiculous because theyre in a emotional meltdown, they don, theyre--the parts of their brain that reason arent online. The emotional centers have taken over totally and theyre just not capable of reasoning, if you can change their brain state, if you can take them outside, quiet time, get them something to eat, whatever you can do, then you can start the process of actually talking to them. And at that point you know then you can give them a choice. Theyre now suddenly calmed down a bit and you can decide, do you want to stay here or should we go home right now? And you know, if they can make that choice thats a better situation, then theyve actually decided to go on a more positive path, and thats wonderful for them. And you know if they still are angry and defiant there has to be consequences, particularly if they are teenagers, youve got to have some consequences. You hope that youve come to those consequences with them so all you have to do is remind them well you know Well at the family meeting we talked about what happens when you get into a temper tantrum and start screaming at your mom now we know that there has to be some consequence to that and you know thats important that you follow through if you did come to some agreement with them and you dont, if you let it pass, theyre not going to believe you anymore. So you gotta be consistent, you have to know that there are some things that should never be negotiated, like drinking and driving, and things like curfew, they can be negotiated but not necessarily at that time, at another point you can negotiate with them and talk about the pros and cons . And the final C is coaching, in the end you sort of start out as their teacher, then you become their coach and then you become really their counselor, and you know, coaching is one of those things thats so wonderful, you have a great coach, that coach brings you to new levels. Coach always creates wonderful challenges but not challenges that will defeat you, challenges that that will uplift you and make you feel stronger and better so that you can do everything in small steps, you know if thats the way you work or if you want you know if youre one that likes to go in bigger leaps then the coach has to figure that out. And thats really you know the role of the parent, to know their child know exactly what kind of coaching they can do to make a better person of their child.

Gregory Hansell
The final recommendation in the Dharma toolkit is anticipating and adapting, so how does Dharma Parenting enable a parent to be able to anticipate and adapt to their kids behavior?

Dr Wallace
Yeah I mean we talked a lot about know we talked a lot about knowing that for a pitta kid, not having a meal in time-- you gave a perfect example of your vata child I mean, if you had anticipated that all those camps, what they would have done, you never would have done it so. Its anticipating is really such a great and wonderful tool, youre going on a long trip, youre gonna go for you know many hours in the car, you can have things for them to do, you can create opportunities for them, you can turn a nightmare into fun, and so its anticipating is just good parenting, knowing who your kid is and how you can help them the best. The final tool, Adapt, we just kind of have that as -- there are going to be situations that you cant cover in a book, and theres just too many, you know, possibilities, kids can be great psychologists, they can figure out things that we didnt even imagine and they can you know Dad, you know I love you, will you do this for me and No I cant do that for you Dad youre the worst dad-- I mean they are masterminds at things so you have to really adapt always, you know you have to be creative, on your feet and thats why being rested Is so important. They are marvelously creative and inventive and so you do have to always be prepared that there will be some situations that wont be in any book and youre going to have to take all of these tools and put together the best approach you can.

Gregory Hansell
I think thats exactly right, every parent knows that you have to think on your feet and be creative because otherwise they will, theyll take you down. [laughs]

Dr Wallace
[laughs]

Gregory Hansell
Well uh, let me ask you on last question, its a question I ask of every guest almost every week, and in this case how do you hope Dharma Parenting can help families be happier and more fulfilled and therefore make the world a better place?

Dr Wallace
Well, I think you know that knowing who you are and knowing your child, and having some tools is an enormous help, I mean you think about it, people get married and they have kids and they become parents, they never took a course on parenting, you know all they learn is from their own parents who may or may not have been good. When they go to college, nobody tells them to take a course on parenting, even though thats going to be the biggest part of their life, thats going to be more important than their business, its going to be more important than everything, how their kids are. So this is like insanely important yet we dont really prepare young people for being parents so I think you know we absolutely have to give more help to young people, we have to provide them with more tools more training you know its always a big surprise when you have your first kid and you never put on a diaper and suddenly you gotta do I mean its like Oh my gosh you know, I gotta read this in a book and figure out how to do this. So I think that Dharma Parenting can be a great help, its not only for kids, thats the interesting thing. Ive had people come to me who dont have kids and theyve read the book and theyve said This was amazing because theyve learned about themselves, theyve learned about relationships, a lot of, you know, family life is relationships and the more you know about yourself and you tendencies. Your strengths and weaknesses and then the more you know about the others in the family the better you can be, the more positive you can be, the more you can focus on peoples strengths and not their weaknesses, the more fulfilled you can be. So its really I think family life is crucial to the world, I think thats what weve seen in the world more than anything is a loss of family life, people live in different areas, theyre not with their parents, theyre far away, theyve just kind of gotten crazy and we dont have that huge support of families that has been so powerful and so helpful for people throughout the ages. And certainly people have developed all sorts of weird parenting styles which are not good, and so we really really need to help parents everywhere and it needs to be something that is really, given freely and given in a really wise and positive way. And I think if we want to make the world better, we should help our kids because really so much of what happens to how a kid gets transformed, a charming little child turns into an adult, a teenager first and then an adult. You know sometimes people cant even recognize the difference between this little, cute little child and this very demanding adult. And so something happened in between and its parenting, and parenting formed those neural pathways so if we want to change the world we should help create more positive more wonderful children and help parents do that.

Gregory Hansell
You can learn more about Dharma Parenting by going to dharmaparenting.com. Dr Wallace, thank you so much for joining us today on Better Worldians Radio.

Dr Wallace
Thank you.

Gregory Hansell
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