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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Preventive Measures for Creating a Good Family Home Environment

Jun 01, 2021 01:18PM ● By Linda Sechrist

As an “octo-dad” with six girls and two boys, ages 18, 17, 15, 14, 11 (twins), 10 and 8, Dr. Brian Thornburg, a holistic and board-certified pediatric physician in Naples, is highly qualified to offer parenting advice to his patients’ parents. From discussing the role and responsibility of children in the household, to parents acting as capable role models, Thornburg draws from his own experience at home to counsel parents on best practices.

The owner of Thornburg Pediatrics considers his practice to be as much about taking care of children as it is about educating the family on how to model examples for their children. “Raising children is not just about epigenetics and good nutrition, it’s also about the behavior of parents and that of other family members. Each of these is a key preventive measure in creating an environment for the good health and wellness of mind and body,” he says.

Thornburg has conversations with parents regarding the vocabulary of children’s needs, which are all expressed differently. For example, a 3- or 4-year-old child that is trying to master their environment and develop a sense of autonomy doesn’t yet have a vocabulary to express their feelings. If the child is generally amicable but begins to act out, perhaps hitting other children, Thornburg suggests that they are likely frustrated, especially if they have older siblings and parents that are doing things for them rather than letting the child do these things for themselves. 

“Hitting is often the means of control for a child because he or she is not allowed self-expression. In such a case, I might recommend an introduction to Marshall Rosenberg’s non-violent communications, which generally works,” he says. Nine years into his pediatric practice, Thornburg took the non-violent communications course and learned the difference between Rosenberg’s “Jackal” and “Giraffe” languages. 

With Jackal language, which is moralistic and judgmental, where the speaker is making a call as to who’s right, good and normal versus who’s wrong, bad, and abnormal, they are not connected to anyone’s needs and cut off from life. Jackal is expressed as complaints, criticisms and attacks, to which others respond defensively, feeling miserable and misunderstood. 

In contrast, “when we hear Giraffe, we don’t take criticisms, blaming and attacks personally but rather translate them into someone’s feelings and unmet wants and needs. We have empathy and feel connected,” says Thornburg.  “Speaking Giraffe is about how I say what my needs are, which ones are getting fulfilled and which are not. Learning this improved my parenting skills and ability to communicate better with my children as well as the parents of my patients. Using Giraffe language keeps me connected to my emotional center and what is alive in me right now—how I truly am.” 

In the Thornburg household, the children sometimes use Rosenberg’s training on their dad. “My weakness shows up when I’m tired. When I get tired, I yell. If I begin to yell, my kids say in unison, ‘Dad’s tired’. Yelling shifts my mood and their pointing this out helps to break it,” he says. “Some of my children have become adept at Giraffe and use it with their friends. It doesn’t always work for various reasons. One is that we live in a Jackal culture where feelings are used to manipulate, to convince you that you are responsible for how someone feels. Such guilt-inducing maneuvers are meant to get you to change. When you learn to speak Giraffe or listen from this perspective, you’ll recognize it. I believe Marshall’s non-violent communication should be taught in schools.”

Thornburg, who has had a concierge practice in Naples since 2006, has been interacting with his patients and their parents through the stages of infancy and adolescence since 2003.

Thornburg Pediatrics is located at 5500 Bryson Dr., Ste. 301, in Naples. For more information call 239-348-7337 or visit