My amygdala is calmer than your amygdala

Book Review: Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control by Heather Forbes and Bryan Post

Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control is a manifesto against attachment parenting.  I’ve never done any of my own research on attachment parenting, but I do know that it is used by many adoptive parents to create attachment with their children – especially those that have been diagnosed with an attachment disorder.

The authors of Beyond Consequences explain that their theory, called the Stress Model, is preferable to attachment parenting. According to the authors, the Stress Model contains four key principles:

1. Negative behavior results from a state of unconscious, fear-based stress.

2. Love and fear the only two primary emotions.

3. People are conditioned to behave in negative and positive ways.

4. People influence each other through negative and positive feedback loops.

Basically, the authors suggest that all of a child’s negative behavior is the result of fear, and that parents can influence the atmosphere in their home through their attitudes. This is where the title of this post comes from. The authors explain that the amygdala is the part of the brain that senses threat and releases stress hormones. They write that “the calmer amygdala has the ability to soothe the more dysregulated one.” By this, they mean that by simply projecting a calm state, parents can help their children regulate their negative emotions.

The authors go on to name seven behaviors based in fear: hostility and anger on behalf of the parents, lying, stealing, hoarding and gorging, aggression, defiance, and lack of eye contact. They explain how each of these behaviors can be addressed using the Stress Model and compare these techniques with those of attachment parenting.

The authors include many specific examples of the Stress Model in action. They even include some parent testimonials. This was perhaps my favorite part of the book because it helped me to understand how I might use the model myself.

The book encourages parents to address their own fears and approach their children from a place of love and understanding. When their children are exhibiting negative behaviors, it asks parents to be compassionate, remembering that their children are simply expressing fear. In place of logic, control, and consequences, it asks parents to focus on eliminating their children’s fear.

In the book’s foreword, Heather Forbes writes, “Parenting a child with a traumatic history is about learning to interpret the child’s reactions to past experiences from a place of compassion, understanding, and love. Love really is enough when it is given in the absence of fear. It takes seeing your child for who he is and meeting your child in his pain. It is not just meeting your child in his behavior or even at the surface of his feelings, but truly meeting your child in the depths of his fear – in the depths of his soul. It is about meeting your child in a place of complete and utter darkness where pain beyond human tolerance resides.”

I don’t know if I buy into everything the book suggests. For example it’s hard for me to imagine completely eliminating consequences. We do have house rules, and the consequence for breaking them is time out. But there are some principles I plan to try out. First, I know I need a much “calmer amygdala.” When I hear whining, which is quite often at our house, I immediately get irritable. I really need to work on remaining calm, no matter how BE and BC are acting.

Do you have experience with attachment parenting or the Stress Model? If so, please let me know how they have worked for you.

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7 thoughts on “My amygdala is calmer than your amygdala

  1. I have no experience in either although I think all parenting to some degree is what I would consider attachment parenting.

    Do you know of Jean Mercer? She writes quite a bit on attachment and therapies. She very open to answering questions and discussing approaches and theories.

    This is the link to her blog http://childmyths.blogspot.com/

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