One of the biggest mistakes in parenting my four kids has been trying to engage them when their “lizard brain” or the fight or flight instinct has kicked in.
To give you an example, when my youngest son Easton did his first Spartan Race he climbed up a wall and when he got to the top he was paralyzed by fear and screaming for me to get him down. His “lizard brain” was fully engaged and instead of calming him down I proceeded to try and motivate him over the wall and it didn’t go well.
In past situations like this I often ended up making things worse, hurting our relationship and although I had good intentions I failed to help my kids overcome their fears by assisting with a shift from their lizard brain back to the prefrontal cortex.
Fast forward to this past weekend. I recently spoke with Fear Guru Patrick Sweeney and he gave me some priceless wisdom on the importance of being a surrogate prefrontal cortex for your kids until theirs is fully developed.
I took his sage advice and when Easton hit the wall and his lizard brain began to kick in I was ready. I calmly told him to take a few deep breaths, asked him to focus on me for a minute and took him through a series of micro wins to gradually overcome his fear and reengage his logic brain. He slowly swung his leg over and secured it on the other side. Little by little the brain shift happened and Easton’s gigantic smile on the other side was proof he had overcome his fear and our relationship had also grown as a result.
Next time you witness your child’s lizard brain engaged, think about helping them make the shift back to the logic brain and be the surrogate for their prefrontal cortex until it’s fully developed.
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There is an epidemic that is the root cause for America’s societal ills and it’s not what you may think. It’s not capitalism, socialism, consumerism, racism or environmentalism. According to the National Center on Fathering, those affected by this epidemic have a 4x greater risk of poverty, are 2x more likely to suffer from obesity, 2x more likely to drop out of high school, 7x more likely to become pregnant as a teen, are more likely to commit crime, abuse drugs, and go to prison. The epidemic I’m speaking about is fatherlessness and its impact is huge. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 24 million children in America, 1 in 3 live without their biological father in the home. Fatherlessness is an epidemic and the consequences of the breakdown of the family are having a monumental negative impact on our society.
We need to address fatherlessness if we want to change the trajectory of our society for future generations, however there’s something lurking below the surface that I believe has a far wider reach and greater depth of impact than the type of fatherlessness I just described. At the other end of the spectrum there are 49 million children in America who have a father in the home, yet how many of them are disengaged dads, vacant shells and zombie like figures that represent a different type of fatherlessness? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average man works over 8 hours per day, spends on average more than 4 hours on their mobile device, 2 hours watching tv, about 2 hours on household duties and less than 2 hours caring for and helping household children. The crazy thing is the time spent caring for and helping household children actually went down on the weekends, when you would expect fathers to spend more time with their children. This is the sour state of the union of fatherhood. Now add in the distraction and dopamine addition from technology, the impending AI takeover and the opportunity to outsource fatherhood to robots, and the current Millennial fathers and soon to be Generation Z fathers coming up the ranks we are at a tipping point for fatherhood and we must get our hands around the issue. This may seem like a bleak picture of fatherhood, but it’s the reality of the state we’re in. Fatherhood is no longer a playground, it’s a battleground. Changing the fatherlessness epidemic is the single largest impact we can have to change the trajectory of our society.
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