What is reflective thinking?

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What is reflective thinking?

Reflective thinking is a crucial parenting capacity which has to do with being able to pay attention to what's going on internally; both inside of our children, and inside of ourselves. Be able to make the link between the internal experience, or the inside story, and what we observe behaviorally. It's been found in developmental research to be a critical parenting variable linked to secure, parent child attachment. I'll give you an example. Let's say you have a young child at the breakfast table, and they start throwing cereal off the table. This could be something that was done as a way of testing limits with you as a parent, or it might be something that was more of an exploratory behavior. Depending on what was going on while your child did that, it will influence how you can most effectively respond to the behavior. Another aspect of reflective capacity is knowing what's going on for us. For example, you might come home from a very difficult day at the office, just knowing that as you enter the evening with your family will be helpful to know that you will be less available in certain ways or easily triggered. If you can pay attention to that stress, you will more likely get into a coercive or conflictual interactions with your children because you are paying attention to what you bring to the table, before you begin interacting with your child.

View John Grienenberger, PhD's video on What is reflective thinking?...


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John Grienenberger, PhD

Family Psychologist

John Grienenberger, PhD, is a psychologist, attachment researcher, and Co-Executive Director of the non-profit Center for Reflective Communities in Los Angeles. He is also a Founder, Executive Director and Clinical Director of Community West, a psychological treatment center for adolescents and young adults in Los Angeles. He has extensive experience in family work, and has trained hundreds of therapists in his mentalization-based approach to working with families. He has authored numerous papers, presentations, and training programs in the areas of psychotherapy, attachment, mentalization, and parenting, and has conducted trainings and presentations both nationally and internationally. He has a part-time private practice in West Los Angeles conducting psychological and psychoeducational testing as well as providing psychotherapy to children, adults, families, and couples. Along with spending time with his children, John also enjoys backpacking, snowboarding, hiking, and mountain biking.


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