Parenting from the Inside Out, How a deeper self-understanding can help you raise children who thrive
by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed.
Book Review by Marta Hatter
This book is a great resource for those planning to have children, and for parents. The authors contend that how you make sense of your childhood experiences has a profound effect on how you parent your own children. The top priority is nurturing healthy attachment between parents and children. This book blends the clinical experience of a child psychiatrist with the rich wisdom of a nursery school teacher. Daniel Siegel has also written The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. Mary Hartzell has also written Communicating with Your Child: Building self-esteem and Avoiding Power Struggles. The authors base their concepts upon new findings in neurobiology and attachment research. They explain how interpersonal relationships directly affect the development of the brain. On page 32, Dr. Siegel states “….the immaturity of the infant’s brain means that experiences will play a significant role in determining the unique features of emerging brain connections. Experience shapes even the very brain structures that will allow the perception of those experiences to be sensed and remembered.”
As a result of reading this book, parents who had difficult childhoods will understand and connect with themselves in a way which will significantly improve their connection with their children.
Included throughout the book are exercises to increase both insight and skills, such as Questions for Parental Self-Reflection. There are also various tables providing helpful information of both scientific and relational nature. The authors identify attunement, balance and coherence as the relational skills parents need to nurture the development of healthy attachment. Attunement is described as aligning your own internal state with those of your children. This is often accomplished by the contingent sharing of nonverbal signals. The authors state that children attain balance of their body, emotions, and states of mind through attunement with parents. Coherence is the sense of integration that is acquired by children through relationship with parents in which the kids are able to come to feel both internally integrated and interpersonally connected to others.
Reading this book will open parent’s minds to new possibilities that will strengthen their relationships with their children as they continue growing individually and as families.