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Have you ever wondered what makes you, or your child, tick? Why does one child take their time to change, while another is constantly changing and yet another is trying to convince others to change? Are these unique tendencies nature or nurture? According to neuroscientists Dr. Keith Wallace and Dr. Fred Travis at Maharishi University of Management, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. 

Their new book, Dharma Parenting: Understand Your Child’s Brilliant Brain for Greater Happiness, Health, Success, and Fulfillment, offers a unique perspective on raising children through the lens of modern behavioral science as well as the ancient, natural approach of Ayurveda. The Sanskrit word dharma refers to living in a way that upholds the path of evolution, maintains balance, and supports prosperity and spiritual freedom. Wallace and Travis hope that, by looking at your family through both systems of thinking, you’ll recognize them for their unique strengths and help them to grow according to their own dharma.

Dharma Parenting breaks down children into three basic “brain/body” types: the Vata type, who is always changing and inquisitive; the Pitta type, who tends to be dynamic and strong-willed; and the Kapha type, who is typically calm, steady, and kind. With such different brain/body types popping up under one roof, how could a family hope to manage? Wallace and Travis have shared some practical tips ahead of the release. The six basic tools of Dharma Parenting have been broken down into a useful acronym by the authors: DHARMA.

  • D: Discover your child’s, and your own, brain/body type
    “The different brain/body types give a way of understanding natural tendencies each child has,” Wallace explains. An understanding of the brain/body types present in your family is key to understanding how family members interact, and a big step towards creating harmony in the home.
  • H: Heal yourself
    “Know who you are, too,” says Wallace. We have to take care of ourselves before taking care of others. By understanding your own brain/body type, you can balance your physiology and focus on helping your children. Honoring your own brain/body type helps you to avoid imposing your own unique traits on your child, who may likely have different tendencies.
  • A: Attention and appreciation
    Understanding the brain/body type of each child allows you to appreciate their differences. With this method of parenting, you are “focused on the strengths, not the weaknesses,” according to Dr. Wallace. A Pitta child, for example, is usually focused and energetic. Such a child may become a star athlete at their school. Their Kapha brother or sister, however, may not share this passion, but be more patient and kind with their friends than the Pitta child. Each type has its own unique strengths.
  • R: Routines to improve family dynamics
    What you eat and when you sleep are fundamental to behavioral health. In our culture, we tend to treat each individual as if they should all follow the same patterns. The brain/body types put forth by Ayurveda suggest a more individualized approach to daily routine based on the tendencies of each brain/body type.
  • M: Manage meltdowns and cultivate better behavior
    Knowing your own brain/body type and those of your children and spouse will allow you to work towards harmony in your home. Understanding creates empathy. By knowing why your child is doing what they are doing from a holistic standpoint, you will be better equipped to respond effectively and compassionately.
  • A: Anticipate and adapt
    If you know how your child is likely to react to a situation, then you can prepare for disaster before it strikes, or even avert disaster altogether. Wallace relates this to his most important piece of advice, “Know who your kid is and know their tendencies.”

Sound interesting? The Dharma Parenting website offers a free quiz to help you identify your own brain/body type, as well as a quiz to determine the brain/body type of your child. In addition to discussion of Ayurveda and brain/body types, Dharma Parenting introduces Transcendental Meditation (TM), a useful technique for decreasing stress in the physiology and soothing your family dynamic.

The holistic, “dharmic” approach to parenting presented by Dharma Parenting is truly the first of its kind. The book is now available for pre-order through Amazon and will be released on August 2, 2016.

Those who want know more about TM may want to also purchase a copy of Dr. Wallace’s An Introduction to Transcendental Meditation, which explores research on the technique’s effectiveness.

Tamlin Day is a writer and a contributor to the MUM Blogs.