Book Review: The Whole Brain Child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your Child’s developing Mind (2011)
Authors: Daniel Siegel, MD and Tina Bryson, PhD
By Mia Bertram, LPC
The Whole Brain Child, is a must read for every parent and caregiver. This valuable resource offers easy ways to help nurture the parent child relationship while understanding ways to foster a child’s emotional development. Neuropsychiatrist, Doctor Bruce Perry and parent expert Doctor Tina Payne Bryson offer effective parenting strategies that are backed by cutting edge research on brain development and speak directly to the child’s brain. The author’s use of cartoons, personal stories, hands on techniques and strategies to help implement and understand what may feel like otherwise overwhelming material about the brain and neuroscience. They even offer quick reference sheets to put on the fridge for easy review as well as ways of helping teach children about their own brain that are fun and easily doable. By paying attention to the everyday moments with your children and practicing and integrating these strategies both within the good and tough times will help foster happy, successful children who feel good about themselves and enjoy their relationships.
Not only is having an understanding of the brain essential in your relationship with your child, but also the authors convey the importance of integrating the different parts of the brain and its impact on creating more balanced, meaningful and creative lives. Understanding the different parts of the brain- left, right, up and down creates a way for us to conceptualize where a child is coming from, what their perspective is, and how to work with these parts so integration, awareness and connection can take place. Such conceptualization allows us to have appropriate expectations, language and understanding during the challenging moments we have with our children. It helps, according to the authors, to move from surviving to thriving in our relationships and day-to-day functioning.
In times of challenge and struggle, Bryson and Siegel teach us to connect and redirect with our children. Appealing to both sides of the brain is important and there is a formula to follow so that integration and connection take place. In times of big upsets and emotional charge, initially responding to the emotional right side with empathy and understanding creates emotional connection. Once the big emotions have settled and the child is calm, the logical and linear left-brain can come on line. This is where redirection, and discipline can take place, helping the child form an understanding of their experience. Such connection and integration strengthens relationship, emotional development and the developing mind.
The authors provide 12 strategies to help nurture the child’s mind, create connection and promote healthy growth. Using the body and movement to help shift your child’s emotional stare is great in the “Move It to Lose It Strategy”, along with the “SIFT” game that helps bring awareness to sensations, images, feelings and thoughts within. Teaching children how to shift feeling stuck in emotional states in the “Let the Clouds of Emotions Roll by” helps children understand that feelings are simply states and not traits. The “Name it Tame it”, helps children work through taming intense feelings through storytelling. Additional strategies include helping to work through memories while exercising control, engaging in focused attention and “Engage Don’t Engage” which appeals to the logic and planning of the left-brain rather than the emotions.
I think every parent, caregiver, teacher, counselor, or anyone involved in the life of a child could benefit from reading and learning this valuable information. The whole brain approach to parenting creates deeper connections and greater understanding of our children. It is a resource that I offer and sometimes require in my practice. It normalizes our experiences and offers strategies on how to work with our children, creating moments of challenge into triumphs and mistakes into opportunities. The information presented within is user friendly, accessible and valuable. More importantly, if utilized and implemented can help create children who are more self aware, emotionally attuned, congruent, resilient, and evolved.