What Is Oxytocin Parenting?

4 Elements of Oxytocin Parenting

What's in your parenting behavior plan? I know we all have goals for our children's behaviors — what we'd like to see from them — but how about YOUR behaviors? Do you have a plan, with specifics that are motivating and fulfilling to you? Think about these things as you read and make some notes. What changes do you want to make in YOUR behavior?
— David Durovy


Oxytocin Parenting is an approach that focuses on helping your child's brain to develop a strong oxytocin response, that is, the ability to love and trust appropriately. There are four elements of Oxytocin Parenting:

1)    Relationship:
Parent from a place of calm and connection. We're social mammals who need skin-to-skin contact and emotional connection at every age. Through a process called co-regulation, you teach your child learn to cope with stress and to connect with love through your own behavior. This approach may require you to do some work building up your own coping and connection skills. When you're angry, stressed out or depressed, for example, it's really hard to be open to your child's needs.

   2)    Influence: Show, don't tell. Instead of trying to change your child's behavior by telling him what you want him to do, guide him through your own actions. This guidance includes modeling behavior such as getting up on time or saying thank you, as well as letting him watch you respond to stress calmly.Oxytocin Parenting

   3)    Understanding: Parent the stage, not the age. When we're stressed, we regress to an earlier stage of emotional or cognitive development. This is especially true for children. When you understand your child's developmental path, you can learn to give your child what he needs right now, not what you think he needs based on his physical age.

   4)    Flexibility: Give what's needed in the way it can be received. Your child's unique communication style may make it easier for her to take in information or emotional meaning in some ways more than others. Moreover, what works with your child on Tuesday may get the opposite response on Wednesday. Yes, this is frustrating. But the ability to alter your communication and action until you connect is essential.

Put these in your parenting behavior plan and let me know how it goes.
Choose Love,
B


Want to Learn More? Get Bryan Post and Susan Kutchinskas e-book for only $1.99 Kindle format on Amazon

Oxytocin and Emotion: Overcoming Fear

What Is Oxytocin?

To understand love is to understand the oxytocin response. Oxytocin is truly a miracle molecule. As the body’s chemical of rest, Oxy Parenting srelaxation and balance, it does all sorts of wonderful and important things. We’ll talk more about those later in this book. But the key thing you need to understand for healthy, happy parenting is that oxytocin is responsible for love.

That’s right. Oxytocin acting in your brain and your body creates the experience we know as love. That’s love in all its dimensions: friendship, the love between parent and child, and the love between you and your mate. It’s also responsible for most of the other positive feelings we have for other people, from the quick exchange of smiles with a stranger you pass, to admiration for a co-worker, to the way you trust your car mechanic not to rip you off.

Oxytocin does all this — and more — in two ways. First, it calms the brain’s fear center. Then, it activates the brain’s social center, making you feel good about interacting with someone.

Calming the fear center is crucial. Fear is one of our strongest survival mechanisms, helping us survive physical danger. But it’s usually not the best reaction to social situations. When you’re anxious or afraid, you can’t see things clearly. You may see someone as threatening when he has no intention of harming you. You’re on guard and shut down, as fear chemicals race through your bloodstream.

Oxytocin counteracts the fear chemicals, relaxing you and making you able to see other people as potentially friendly and trustworthy. At the same time, when it activates the brain’s social center, it actually makes you desire social contact.Bryan-Susan_v2

A healthy brain releases oxytocin in response to positive social cues. For example, when a mother cuddles her child, both of their brains should release oxytocin. The oxytocin travels into their bloodstreams, where it relaxes them and encourages cellular repair. It also enters the parts of their brain that process social information, making them feel secure and loving.

Want to read more about this powerful hormone and how it affects the love you experience, or would like to experience? Oxytocin Parenting: Womb Through Terrible Twos by Bryan Post and Susan Kutchinskas

Become a Master Parent: Your Training Begins Now by Bryan Post (Pt.1)

Yoda bwKevin motioned for me to come into his room and he spoke in a hushed tone, “Did you get my text?”“Huh,” I replied, “Probably not, my phone is charging”.He said, “Can you check and see I just sent it?”“Just tell me what it is Kevin, we don’t need to go through all of that,” I stated while standing a few feet away looking at him.“Well I didn’t like what Kristi said about me taking a shower. I don’t like that. If you guys think I’m not clean you can just tell me to leave,” he stated with quiet seriousness.A few minutes earlier after Kevin had exclaimed that he was going to go take a shower, Kristi exclaimed, “Great! Kevin’s gonna take a shower!” She did it in a playful way not uncommon to how any of us might respond to one another, but for Kevin it was embarrassing. Truth be told, we care very little about if and when he takes a shower. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had to tell him that he needed to. Now some of the other adolescent boys we’ve raised… absolutely! I would exclaim, “You stink, go get your butt in the shower, now!” But with Kevin, I’ve never had to do that.Mindfully placing my hand on the side of his arm, I gently stated, “I’m sorry that hurt your feelings and I’m sure Kristi did not mean for it to be hurtful, but thank you for telling me and I’ll be sure to let her know that you don’t like it.”He responded, “Okay, yeah I don’t.”“Okay brother,” I said “No worries”.

Six months ago to a year that little experience would have led to days, weeks, maybe even months of silent treatment, agitation, and veiled threats to leave by packing bags and stomping around the house in frustration.

Later that evening Kristi apologized and all was well. She even remarked, “Wow, Kevin took that so well, and it was only minutes. What attributed to the change?

Of course constant consistency, reflection, awareness, mindfulness, and flexibility make a difference, but what is the real reason? What’s changing in his brain? How does a child Brain Illustrationwho has grown up on the streets learn to trust? He rarely does unless he has an opportunity to develop one very important response and that response is what we will discuss today.

For the past many years I have been going on and on about oxytocin being the next revolution in parenting, education, and mental health. It is in fact, a revolution in life. It is the primary ingredient in the relationship factor. In this discussion I will present to you oxytocin from the Post perspective and explore many of its implications for parents, professionals, and all members of our society.

Understanding Oxytocin

In her groundbreaking book The Chemistry of Connection, author Susan Kuchinskas writes, “Love not only makes us happy; it makes us healthy too. By means of oxytocin, love heals”. For centuries recognized as the hormone responsible for helping women to contract during labor, and subsequently to foster bonding between mother and child, oxytocin is quickly becoming acknowledged for its role in numerous aspects of human behavior.

When I first learned about oxytocin ten years ago it only struck me as a very important hormone for infant/mother bonding. It was not until being interviewed for The Chemistry of Connection and later reading the book that the full implications of this powerful hormone began to dawn on me. In fact, it wasn’t until I was interviewing Susan Kuchinskas for the Inner Circle that I began to put the possibilities in place.

Oxy quote 1I am going to take the liberty of sharing with you how I see this hormone applicable to parenting and relationships. Oxytocin is considered the “anti‐stress” hormone. Every child with a background of trauma, especially pervasive emotional and environmental neglect suffers from a lack of oxytocin response. In a post‐shell (my version of a nutshell!) when the amygdala (the brain’s fear receptor) is triggered and releases stress hormones, these hormones pass through the hypothalamus. Let’s think James Bond for a moment. Theoretically, the stress hormones are supposed to be messengers delivering an important briefcase of secret documents that need to be responded to. So as the amygdala sends the stress hormones through the door with the secret documents the hypothalamus is supposed to send its messengers, molecules of oxytocin, through at the same time in the opposite direction. The oxytocin messengers, discreetly take the reaction and respond, thereby delivering the documents calmly and safely to their destination and communicating what important things are needed to save the world (your bodymind).

In the brain of a child with early optimal care, the parent substitutes as the secret agent of the hypothalamus, while teaching the child the lessons of responding to the call of the amygdala. This training occurs from infancy and perhaps even in utero. When the baby is hungry the amygdala sends a signal and because the baby has not yet been taught, the teacher (parent) intervenes responding with their own soothing, thus teaching the child a vital lesson. Such lessons occur thousands of times during optimal parent/child interactions from the earliest stages of development. From this perspective the child learns fairly quickly and is able to begin handling the assignments passed off from their own amygdala. This leads to a child capable of self‐regulation in the face of mild and moderate amounts of stress. For example, when the child comes of school age he is capable of going to school, interacting with strangers, learning, and coping with an overwhelming environment for an entire day because he has learned how to respond to stress rather than react to it. In this manner, the early teaching has helped the child establish a useful and efficient coping system for tolerating mild to moderate levels of stress. It’ll be many years before the child is able to handle severe experiences of stress and even then will require the support and cooperation of other loved ones and support figures.

On the other hand, our eighteen year old grew up for the most part alone on the streets. Prior to the streets he endured years of abuse and deprivation. He never had an effective teacher for his hypothalamus. He was left alone trying to figure out how to be a secret agent. Rather than having a teacher to support his hypothalamus thus teach his oxytocin response when he would cry or was hungry, it was ignored. Rather than having a teacher to provide love, safety, and security at night when he was alone and scared and his amygdala was sending out stress messengers, he could only cope the best he could. When he was abused and more messengers were sent out with top secret documents attempting to alert the rest of the world to the dangers occurring, he had no one to intervene on his behalf. As you can imagine if you or I had to learn the ways of being a secret agent on our own, we would be in trouble!

You see the reaction and the response are not in conflict. The stress reaction and the oxytocin response are not out to harm one another. They are both good guys. They want the best for their world (the bodymind system), however if the reaction is too strong, it’s prolonged, overwhelming or unpredictable, it doesn’t partner very well. If the teacher/parent has not been effective or present to train the child appropriately, it does not recognize the signals given by the amygdala. It just continues to wander around the train station waiting for some great signal to call it into action. And when it finally does get called into action it’s out of shape and tires quickly, again leaving its partner to do all of the work. Eventually with no one to accept the delivery the partner learns to work harder and gets stronger trying to save the day. As it so happens this is not in the best interest of the world (bodymind) because the amygdala, hence stress reaction, becomes too strong and begins to be detrimental to the other individuals it is supposed to be in partnership with; like the hippocampus (responsible for short‐term memory), the orbitofrontal cortex (responsible for social and emotional functioning), and the pre‐ frontal cortex (responsible for rational thinking and processing). When this happens the fear/stress reaction becomes overwhelming and then the entire world is in jeopardy.

The outcome to circumstances such as the above, are children that have an almost imperceptible ability to trust others. Trust includes the ability or willingness to be led, taught, held, comforted, kissed, hugged, or more. Additionally, it leads to an inability to feel safety and predictability in relationship with others, thereby causing heightened sensitivity, paranoia, aggression, or emotionally shutting down. Once the system has learned to react to stress with minimal barriers to soothing it, it is not uncommon that survival, thus havoc, become the sole drive of the child. (To be continued…)

Become a Master Parent: Your Training Begins Now by Bryan Post (Pt.2)

Why Oxytocin Matters to You

Black-Man-Pointing-at-YouOxytocin is a naturally occurring hormone in the brain. It is a learned response from birth and most likely beginning in utero. When the infant is upset the parent soothes the infant thereby teaching the oxytocin response. In time we learn to have the response during simple interactions like making eye contact, simple touching, sharing a hug or a laugh. Though it is natural, it must be taught. Children and adults who've experienced a lot of early stress and trauma typically have not learned to release it effectively or sufficiently, thereby finding themselves not as easily calmed or excited about sustained relationship as they might otherwise be. In the media and in the press it is referred to as the "love hormone." Though this is true, it really doesn't speak to why it's important. As both a hormone and a neurotransmitter, Family-Happy-4-peopleoxytocin has an even more impressive moniker, it is "the anti-stress" hormone. It is the essential hormone that permits us to enjoy life, be healthy, thrive, connect, feel calm, be in relationship, smile in response to a smile, or not frown in response to a frown.

Honestly, I've become obsessed with it. I think about it every day. I've created awebsite dedicated to it entirely (www.oxytocincentral.com). You could even say that I am in love with it. When I talk about it I get butterflies in my tummy. I go to sleep thinking about it and wake up seeking it. Let me put it simply and succinctly - Oxytocin makes love and relationship possible. Oxytocin makes love and relationship possible. Oxytocin makes love and relationship possible. If you want to improve your relationship with your child you must...Click to read more

Oxytocin | Love, Anti-Stress & Relationships

Oxytocin has been called the Love Hormone, the Anti-Stress Hormone & the Relationship Hormone. So which is it?

In her groundbreaking book The Chemistry of Connection, author Susan Kuchinskas writes, “Love not only makes us happy; it makes us healthy too. By means of oxytocin, love heals”. For centuries recognized as the hormone responsible for helping women to contract during labor, and subsequently to foster bonding between mother and child, oxytocin is quickly becoming acknowledged for its role in numerous aspects of human behavior.

When I first learned about oxytocin ten years ago it only struck me as a very important hormone for infant/mother bonding. It was not until being interviewed for The Chemistry of Connection and later reading the book that the full implications of this powerful hormone began to dawn on me. In fact, it wasn’t until I was interviewing Susan Kuchinskas for the Inner Circle that I began to put the possibilities in place.

I am going to take the liberty of sharing with you how I see this hormone applicable to parenting and relationships. Oxytocin is considered the “anti-stress” hormone. Every child with a background of trauma, especially pervasive emotional and environmental neglect suffers from a lack of oxytocin response. In a post-shell (my version of a nutshell!) when the amygdala (the brain’s fear receptor) is triggered and releases stress hormones, these hormones pass through the hypothalamus. Let’s think James Bond for a moment. Theoretically, the stress hormones are supposed to be messengers delivering an important briefcase of secret documents that need to be responded to. So as the amygdala sends the stress hormones through the door with the secret documents the hypothalamus is supposed to send its messengers, molecules of oxytocin, through at the same time in the opposite direction. The oxytocin messengers discreetly take the reaction and respond, thereby delivering the documents calmly and safely to their destination and communicating what important things are needed to save the world (your body mind). (To be continued...)

eCenter bannerMy original interview with Susan Kutchinskas in 2009 which sparked a collaborative effort in co-authoring the book Oxytocin Parenting, is now available free on our e-Learning Center. I hope you enjoy it as much as I havePower of Oxytocin over the years. It added a whole new dimension to my understanding of behaviors and how to heal our children as well as ourselves. Visit us at www.postinstitute.com/elearn/ and go the the Audios | Free and look for The Power of Oxytocin interview.

Tired of ‘Walking on Eggshells’ in Your Own Home? | Try Curiosity Instead

'Walking on eggshells' is a common feeling for many of our parents. A more effective reaction/response, when mindfully approached, can be one of curiosity, inquisitiveness and wonder on the part of the parent. (Pt. 1)

Kevin motioned for me to come into his room and he spoke in a hushed tone, “Did you get my text?”
“Huh,” I replied, “Probably not, my phone is charging”.
He said, “Can you check and see I just sent it?”“Just tell me what it is Kevin, we don’t need to go through all of that,” I question mark 2stated while standing a few feet away looking at him.

“Well I didn’t like what Kristi said about me taking a shower. I don’t like that. If you guys think I’m not clean you can just tell me to leave,” he stated with quiet seriousness.

A few minutes earlier after Kevin had exclaimed that he was going to go take a shower, Kristi exclaimed, “Great! Kevin’s gonna take a shower!” She did it in a playful way not uncommon to how any of us might respond to one another, but for Kevin it was embarrassing. Truth be told, we care very little about if and when he takes a shower. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had to tell him that he needed to. Now some of the other adolescent boys we’ve raised…absolutely! I would exclaim, “You stink, go get your butt in the shower, now!” But with Kevin, I’ve never had to do that.

Mindfully placing my hand on the side of his arm, I gently stated, “I’m sorry that hurt your feelings and I’m sure Kristi did not mean for it to be hurtful, but thank you for telling me and I’ll be sure to let her know that you don’t like it.”

He responded, “Okay, yeah I don’t.”

“Okay Kevin,” I said “No worries”.

Six months ago to a year that little experience would have led to days, weeks, maybe even months of silent treatment, agitation, and veiled threats to leave by packing bags and stomping around the house in frustration, and wondering when the next bomb would go off in Kevin. Walking on eggshells around him would be a common experience for all of us in the house.

Later that evening Kristi apologized and all was well. She even remarked, “Wow, Kevin took that so well, and it was only minutes.

What attributed to the change?

Of course constant consistency, reflection, awareness, mindfulness, and flexibility make a difference, but what is the real reason? What’s changing in his brain?

How does a child who has grown up on the streets learn to trust? He rarely does unless he has an opportunity to develop one very important response and that response is called the oxytocin response. It comes as a result of trust being built through the expression of love and acceptance and an approach of curiosity about just what is going on in our children's body-mind systems. We as parents have to admit that we just don't know, most of the time. We may think we know, but for our special children who bring a file cabinet filled with variables we may never come to know, our job is more of an investigator rather than a 'know it all' parent.

For the past two years I have been going on and on about oxytocin being the next revolution in parenting, education, and mental health. It is in fact, a revolution in life. It is the primary ingredient in the relationship factor. I will present to you in the next series of posts, an explanation of oxytocin from the Post perspective and explore many of its implications for parents, professionals, and all members of our society. (To be continued...)

Oxytocin and Emotion—What Is Oxytocin? Part 2

by Bryan Post

A healthy brain releases oxytocin in response to positive social cues. For example, when a mother cuddles her child, both of their brains should release oxytocin. The oxytocin travels into their bloodstreams, where it relaxes them and encourages cellular repair. It also enters the parts of their brain that process social information, making them feel secure and loving.

Humans are hard-wired to not only enjoy but to need to be close to other humans. Scientists think this is because, in the brains of highly social mammals – including monkeys, wolves, many birds and humans -- the social centers are highly sensitive to both oxytocin and dopamine, the chemical of reward-seeking and pleasure. This combination makes socializing very pleasurable and calming. When we're close to people we trust, the interaction of oxytocin and dopamine leads to us feeling happy and secure. But  there is one very big IF in all this. When we say that humans are hard-wired to connect, we mean that our brains have this potential. But the desire for social interaction and the brain's ability to release oxytocin are not automatic. This is a learned response, and it can fail to develop or its development can be thwarted.

For an excellent parenting resource for learning how Oxytocin works in the family, read about Oxytocin Parenting by Bryan Post and Susan Kutchinskas.

Oxytocin and Emotion— Pt 1: What Is Oxytocin?

by Bryan Post

To understand love is to understand the oxytocin response. Oxytocin is truly a miracle molecule. As the body's chemical of rest, relaxation and balance, it does all sorts of wonderful and important things. We'll talk more about those later' but the key thing you need to understand for healthy, happy parenting is that oxytocin is responsible for love.

That's right. Oxytocin acting in your brain and your body creates the experience we know as love. That's love in all its dimensions: friendship, the love between parent and child, and the love between you and your mate. It's also responsible for most of the other positive feelings we have for other people, from the quick exchange of smiles with a stranger you pass, to admiration for a co-worker, to the way you trust your car mechanic not to rip you off.

Oxytocin does all this -- and more -- in two ways. First, it calms the brain's fear center. Then, it activates the brain's social center, making you feel good about interacting with someone. Calming the fear center is crucial. Fear is one of our strongest survival mechanisms, helping us survive physical danger. But it's usually not the best reaction to social situations. When you're anxious or afraid, you can't see things clearly. You may see someone as threatening when he has no intention of harming you. You're on guard and shut down, as fear chemicals race through your bloodstream.

Oxytocin counteracts the fear chemicals, relaxing you and making you able to see other people as potentially friendly and trustworthy. At the same time, when it activates the brain's social center, it actually makes you desire social contact.

For an excellent parenting resource for learning how Oxytocin works in the family, read about Oxytocin Parenting by Bryan Post and Susan Kutchinskas.

How to Chill Out Guide for Parents and Caregivers by Bryan Post & Susan Kutchinskas

In the event of an  emergency, put the oxygen -- or oxytocin -- mask on yourself first, and then help the person beside you. Here are three simple ways to trigger your oxytocin response when you need a quick dose of calm:

1. Ten deep breaths: People always tell you to take a deep breath because it really works.
It's difficult to breathe slowly and deeply when you're stressed and, conversely, breathing as though you feel calm tells the body/mind to relax. Inhale slowly through your nose, counting to 10. Then, exhale for another count of 10, trying to empty your lungs completely. Don't gasp or force in more air than your lungs can hold; just find a comfortable, consistent pace for drawing air in and out. Repeat 10 times.

2. Make eye contact: Gazing into the eyes of someone you're close to helps trigger the oxytocin response. Our brains naturally switch into the mode of connection when we look into each others eyes. It's not necessary to stare or get into a contest to see who blinks first. Instead, feel free to look away for a moment and then return your gaze to the other person's.

3. Hug: A hug is a safe, socially acceptable way to get a little hit of connection when we need it. (Although it seems like an obvious oxytocin producer, scientists haven't studied the effects of hugging on oxytocin levels.) Hugging brings us back to our baseline of calm and connection.

Source: Oxytocin Parenting by Bryan Post and Susan Kutchinskas
(Available here for Kindle - Limited time only .99 cents!)

You and Your Mate – How to Work Together

It takes two to tangle, but the emotional tangle can be even harder to unravel when you and your mate each bring your own struggle with fear to your relationship. Sex should deepen and reaffirm a couple's bond. But it may not work that way.

If you've suffered sexual abuse, physical intimacy may trigger unconscious fear -- fear that you try to work out by avoiding deep emotional intimacy. If you grew up in a home with a depressed or angry parent, or parents who were emotionally absent, you probably didn't get enough opportunities to develop a strong oxytocin response. Your emotional thermostat may be turned up too high -- your fear response is too strong. Your love response may not be strong enough to overcome your fear of others.

As an adult, you may be able to fall in love and get into a relationship, because nature gave us lots of dopamine, the chemical of reward-seeking and pleasure, to get us over our fear of strangers so that we could find a mate. But once the excitement of dopamine wears off, we need the oxytocin response to keep us together.

If we're not pumping out lots of oxytocin -- sex, cuddling, sleeping side by side, eating together -- it may be a struggle to keep our fear in check. When you first get into relationship, you're experiencing all this oxytocin and dopamine, and it feels great. But what used to feel good doesn't feel so good anymore. Now, intimacy feels uncomfortable or threatening, while conflict escalates. If this is a pattern you fall into with your mate, you can see how it would complicate your parenting. When both regress emotionally, how can you act as a stable parent to your child?

I’m not saying that you won't be able to employ the oxytocin parenting strategies successfully until and unless you have no fear. I am  saying is that you may need to use the same strategies to help each other move out of the place of fear and into a place where you can calmly connect with each other again and help your child regulate.