If you only ever read one parenting book, this is it!
The Power of Showing Up by Daniel J. Siegal and Tina Pryce Bryon is a very fast read. The straight-forward almost conversational tone, simple charts, relevant cartoons, and highlighted quotes make the book hard to put down. Each concept is clearly explained, and more importantly, it starts and ends with hope. The whole premise of the book, as reflected in the title, is that showing up is what our children need and it’s never too late to start. Oh, and they don’t need us to be perfect, they just need us to be with them in PEACE with (Presence, Engagement, Affection, Calm, and Empathy). Even while they show us WHY it is so important to think about our parenting differently, they do so with gentle kindness and understanding.
Why Attachment Science
Chapter 2: Why Do Some Parents Show Up, While Others Don’t? An Introduction to Attachment Science is all about the different types of attachment a child can have with their caregiver: Secure, Avoidant, Ambivalent and Disorganized.
“When children are offered a secure attachment with their primary caregiver, these predictable and therefore reliable experiences reduce their levels of stress and allow them to develop confidence and ultimately self-reliance. They learn how to manage their own feelings and behaviours, enabling them to flourish and thrive.”
Attachment science explains why children are securely attached to their caregivers, evidenced by the way they comfortably use their primary caregiver as their home base to find comfort as they go out and explore the world. It is all related to how the parent reacts to their child’s needs and discomfort. The child learns how safe it is to trust this parent and that then becomes the basis for how they develop relationships in the future with others.
This concept explains why we need secure attachments with our children. This attachment helps them feel safe when they take risks in order to grow and learn. It is what prepares them for the scary and unpredictable world outside the home. By providing a secure attachment, we are helping our children become more resilient.
Narrating Our Own Past
Like so many of the parenting books and courses are teaching now, a lot of what we need to do as parents is to make sense of our own childhood experiences. “Without a coherent narrative, we’re likely to repeat the mistakes our parents made, passing down the painful legacy they learned from their own caregivers. But when we make sense of our experiences and work to comprehend our parents’ own woundedness, we can break the cycle and avoid passing down the inheritance of insecure attachment.”
Siegal and Bryon sprinkle so much hope throughout the book, reminding us that it is always worth it to do the work. If we did not develop a secure attachment with our primary caregivers for whatever reason, we can earn it as adults by doing our own work.
“Regardless of your upbringing, and whatever happened to you in your past, you can be the loving, sensitive parent you want to be, the one who shows up and raises kids who are happy, successful, and fully themselves.” What a relief to read this, as, more often than not, I’m lamenting or scolding myself about how I have “destroyed” the lives of my children because I was such a Tiger Mom when they were little.
How: The Four S’s
The rest of the book is about the HOW of showing up:
- Helping Your Child Feel SAFE
- Helping Your Child Feel SEEN
- Helping Your Child Feel SOOTHED
- Helping Your Child Feel SECURE
“Research shows that when a child feels safe enough, she will venture to independence as she is developmentally ready, and that pushing her to that stage when she’s not ready–where she experiences the opposite of safety–can backfire, actually causing greater dependence.” In other words, our expectations of our children need to be developmentally appropriate for their age, their strengths and their personalities. The contemporary world often urges us to worry about how far behind our kids are compared to their peers. Our fear of scarcity and urgency to prepare them to compete often result in us making fear-based decisions that may result in the opposite results we actually want: anxiety instead of resilience, fear instead of bravery, self-doubt instead of confidence, and indifference instead of perseverance.
At the end of the day, no matter the age of your child, your own upbringing or your past parenting mistakes, there is hope as long as we make an effort to show up. “Parents who focus their attention on the inner experience of their children, and perceive, make sense of, and respond respectfully to that mental life, offer their kids the immeasurable gift of secure attachment. When we make an effort to be attuned to their needs, i.e. when we pay close attention to them and their internal landscape, they feel seen and soothed, and in turn, they feel emotionally safe, developing both a sense of trust and a mental model of security.”
If you are a parent realizing that you want to change your approach, read this book; you’ll be glad you did. Daniel J. Siegal and Tina Pryce Bryon have also co-written popular parenting books The Whole-Brain Child, No-Drama Discipline, and The Yes Brain.