In a nutshell, ‘The Whole Brain Child’ explains cutting edge brain research and presents it in practical, easy to understand bites.
The book offers 12 practical strategies to help your child through challenging times.
The concept at the heart of the book however, is integration. Integration of all parts of the brain to create calm and coordinated responses to life, and integration of your own past experiences as a parent so that you can better understand yourself and your child.
“Parents are often experts about their children’s bodies… They know how to clean a cut so it doesn’t get infected. They know which foods are most likely to leave their child wired by bedtime… But even the most caring, best-educated parents often lack basic information about their child’s brain… surprising… when you consider the central role the brain plays in virtually every aspect of a child’s life that parents care about: discipline, decision making, self awareness, school, relationships and so on.”
THE BIG IDEAS
1. The brain is made up of left and right hemispheres. The right-brain is emotional and tends to rule over the logical left-brain.
2. The brain is made up of a primitive reptilian ‘downstairs’ area, which fights or takes flight instinctually and a more developed mammalian ‘upstairs brain’ which makes decisions and balances emotion.
The ‘upstairs brain’ is under construction until a person’s mid 20s!
Therefore, when your child ‘flips their lid’, they are actually incapable of making calm decisions or explaining their distress to a concerned parent. The best reaction from us, is embodied awareness. Being present and not trying to ‘teach’ lessons.
3. Parents can directly influence the unfolding growth of their child’s brain according to what experiences they offer.
4. Integration of our own childhood experiences is also really important. If we have made sense of our own experiences with our own parents/caregivers, we can be more present with our own children, which leads to secure attachment, and healthy connection. This in turn leads to thriving kids!
Some Take Aways for your Parenting Toolkit
Connect and Redirect
This means setting a boundary while staying as calm as possible. Basically, it encourages connecting with your child’s emotional right brain using mirrored facial expressions and non-verbals like hugs. Then, when the child is more in control and more receptive, you can appeal to the left-brain by setting a boundary (redirecting) such as “Biting hurts me, we don’t bite in our family. Please be gentle.” After that, it helps to focus on something else like “Hey let’s go and see if we can find that blue car you were using earlier.”
Name It To Tame It.
(Or as Ruby Wax once wrote, Name it - Don’t blame it! )
In essence, it’s practicing labelling emotions in order to understand them better. It’s the foundation of Emotional Intelligence.
Instead of throwing a bigger tantrum than your child, can you take a breath and say “Oh I see you are feeling really sad because we needed to leave the party… I feel sad too, but we need to go home to get ready for bed now.”
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview all-round nice guy, Dr. Dan Siegel about this very topic! See the short video here.
Plus- a short one about ‘Top Tips For A Happy Family Life’, here.
Source: -“The Whole Brain Child- 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture your Child’s Developing Mind” By Dr Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson PHD.