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“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 Whole Brain Child- 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture your Child’s Developing Mind” By Dr Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson PHD.
Dan Siegel MD and Tina Payne Bryson PHD have written a couple of gems related to parenting. They are featured on my suggested book list for interested parents that you can download for free on the home page. Their parenting books take complicated but important knowledge about the brain and present it in an interesting and practical way for parents to access and practice.
In a nutshell, the book explains cutting edge brain research and presents it in practical, easy to understand bites. It is for parents/caregivers who are interested in understanding how their child’s brain is functioning and how to ‘thrive’ rather than merely ‘survive’. It 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.
Phew! Big Stuff! All in one book!
It is definitely worth a read if you have found yourself up in arms about your toddler’s recent tantrums or overall behaviours.
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!
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!
An excellent take away for me is strategy one for instance: “Connect and Redirect”. This really helped us to move through our little M’s biting phase. Yikes! One day, he just started biting us when he became frustrated or things didn’t go his way.
Instead of biting your child back, connect and redirect can be a great strategy to set 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 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.” It didn’t work overnight but it did help.
These days we are a bite free home! Now we are working on the eye gouging… Yes it’s a process!
I love the work of Dr Dan Siegel. He has written many books about the brain and mindfulness. His work also focuses on raising children with mindful awareness and integration of the brain in mind. This is a topic that is close to our family’s heart (and brain)! You can find all information about his work and publications here.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview all round nice guy, Dr. Dan Siegel about this very topic! I have uploaded the short video here.