The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel is a fantastic parenting read that is not adoption-specific. It’s an important read for all parents. Siegel breaks down the science behind how the brain works in an easy-to-understand way. It’s a truly fascinating read, explaining how to foster healthy brain development with 12 key strategies. From the Table of Contents, the strategies he teaches are:
- Connect and Redirect: Surfing Emotional Waves
- Name It to Tame It: Telling Stories to Calm Big Emotions
- Engage, Don’t Enrage: Appealing to the Upstairs Brain
- Use It or Lose It: Exercising the Upstairs Brain
- Move It or Lose It: Loving the Body to Avoid Losing the Mind
- Use the Remote of the Mind: Replaying Memories
- Remember to Remember: Making Recollection a Part of Your Family’s Daily Life
- Let the Clouds of Emotion Roll By: Teaching That Feelings Come and Go
- SIFT: Paying Attention to What’s Going on Inside
- Exercise Mindsight: Getting Back to the Hub
- Increase the Family Fun Factor: Making a Point to Enjoy Each Other
- Connect Through Conflict: Teach Kids to Argue with a “We” in Mind
Using these strategies, Siegel really helps parents understand how their child’s brain functions and how to boost their emotional intelligence. He explains the jobs of different parts of the brain, as well as how the parts are supposed to work together. The logical and literal left brain, emotional right brain, instinctual downstairs brain (think basic functions, as well as flight, fright, freeze), and relational and sophisticated upstairs brain (responsible for decision making, self control, morality, empathy) all need to be attuned for proper mental health. He writes about how parents can help children integrate all the parts of the brain, which ultimately results in the whole brain performing at its best potential. He also offers the best explanation of the effects of neglect and trauma on the brain, which I found fascinating. He then shares in depth information about brain plasticity and writes about how experiences can re-shape and re-wire the brain. This is great news for those of us who are parenting children from traumatic pasts. Creating new, positive memories can literally rewire the brain for healthier responses.
Siegel’s recently-published follow up book, No Drama Discipline, is a wonderful follow up to this book. In it, he describes concrete parenting techniques that are effective and easy to understand. After reading The Whole-Brain Child, I would definitely move onto No Drama Discipline. The books are incredible individually, but are even stronger together.
From the Amazon description of The Whole-Brain Child: “The authors explain—and make accessible—the new science of how a child’s brain is wired and how it matures. The ‘upstairs brain,’ which makes decisions and balances emotions, is under construction until the mid-twenties. And especially in young children, the right brain and its emotions tend to rule over the logic of the left brain. No wonder kids throw tantrums, fight, or sulk in silence. By applying these discoveries to everyday parenting, you can turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your child’s brain and foster vital growth.”