(This is a reprint from my Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com).
Last Thursday, Dr. Alok Banga, Medical Director of Sierra Vista Hospital, delivered a presentation about Mentalization Based Thereapy (MBT) to therapists and counselors, at Sierra Vista Hospital in Sacramento. His explanation of mentalization as “a form of imaginative mental activity about others or oneself,” is instructive for the modern parent challenged with engaging hearts and minds of youth in a world where we are all continually distracted with devices and apps. In short, it is cultivating the capacity to share naked thoughts with another person. It is an intimacy enabled by trust.
One of the most powerful expressions of mentalization is that it is a care giving state of mind: “contingently responsive mentalizing on the part of the caregiver promotes the development of mentalizing in the child.” In short, it is the inherent capacity to clear your own heart and mind so as to be receptive to the other person’s perspective, reaction or point of view. It is an essential skill to be a trustworthy parent, friend or therapist, and it is learned behavior.
The premise of engaging in in a secure mental state with another person is that you are in a relationship characterized by security (Attachment Theory). Accordingly, parents who seek to really connect with their tech-savvy child might want to consider the following characteristics of being in a stance that facilitates “mentalization” presented by Banga (in bold) along with my interpretation of how this translates for parenting.
- Inquisitiveness, curiosity, and open mindedness. Get genuinely interested in who your child is, their experiences, interests, concerns, opinions, and feelings without prejudice and condemnation.
- Uncertainty, not knowing, and interest in understanding better. Do not presume that you know what your child is experiencing or going through in their childhood or teenagehood. Treat your child as the expert in their own life experience. Be open to learning from them, and then they will want to know what you know.
- Consistent focus on the mind of the child. Attention is the scarcity of our time. In a world where devices and apps inspire divided attention, children are seeking undivided attention. Giving your child undivided, unconditional attention is how they feel loved.
- Orientation toward generating alternative perspectives. When you are open to receiving your child’s perspective, without judging or condemning, it is then possible to impart your wisdom. Not your opinion (which is limited understanding); your wisdom, the eternal truths that come from your chosen faith.
- Authenticity. Being authentic requires setting aside fear-based thoughts to control and manipulate the thinking and behavior of another, and focus on the thoughts that bring about peace and empower others. A fundamental example is the mustard seed of faith that makes a free society possible: that every child has the God-given capacity and responsibility to choose their own thoughts and actions. That is power that can never be taken but is easily surrendered. When we respect this truth for our children, it is possible to set aside desires to be in control of the child. Controlling and manipulative desires and actions are hostile, and inauthentic.
(Note: The parenting perspective expressed in this article belongs to this examiner.)
ABOUT: Banana Moments Foundation is a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. The BMF mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all BMF proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your Donations are greatly appreciated.
As the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner, my personal mission is to educate and inspire parents from all walks of life and social settings to realize their inherent authority to govern the home and educate the child about their own power; the personal power that comes from the spiritual resilience of your chosen faith. And so I write for Examiner.com to express the passion of my mother heart to a diverse audience.
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.