The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

by Gary Gilles

Book review

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

By Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne-Bryson, Ph.D.

If you’ve been reading my newsletter for awhile you may already know that I’m a big fan of Daniel Siegel’s books. I’ve The Whole-Brain Childspoken before of his excellent book, Parenting from the Inside Out. The Whole-Brain Child, co-authored with pediatric and adolescent psychotherapist Tina Payne Bryson, is just as good but has a different focus.

The Whole-Brain Child helps parents to understand how to work with their child’s behavior by being attentive to how the child’s brain works. Let me explain. The authors’ first explain that the brain is divided into the left and right hemispheres. The right hemisphere (or right brain), is where we feel emotion. The left hemisphere (left brain) is where we deal with facts. Young children work mostly from the right hemisphere. Think of being in the grocery store and your child has a meltdown because she can’t have something she sees.  This is the right brain at work.

As parents, we often use our left brain to try and reason out behavior problems with our kids. For example, at the grocery store you try to logically explain that having a treat now is too close to dinner time and that whining and crying is not going to get her any closer to getting the treat. So, why can’t your daughter understand this? According to Siegel and Payne-Bryson, it is because you are using your left brain to connect with child’s right left brain. It would be like trying to make a call on your cell phone when the battery is dead: you can’t make a connection. At that moment in the grocery store, your child is working from their right brain. The solution: you connect with your right brain (your emotional center) to her right brain. Doing this greatly increases the possibility of finding a point of connection with your child and also provides a way to effectively manage the behavior. The authors walk you through exactly how this can be done.

If you’re thinking: this sounds like neuroscience, your right. But, don’t let that steer your away from this valuable resource. The authors explain everything in easy-to-understand terms and their suggestions are very concrete and practical.

The goal is to meet your child at the right brain, gradually redirect it to the left (where you can appeal to reason and logic) and then integrate both the right and left parts for a lesson that can be carried over into other situations. These lessons tend to be learned because they are integrated.

The 12 concepts discussed in this book will be most applicable to parents with children that range from 2 years to 12 years of age. Though you could adapt the concepts for older children, the authors squarely focus more on the younger child. During these years of rapid growth and development, this is a gem of a resource to help you build healthy parenting skills and find new ways to grow a strong, secure relationship with your child.

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