The Whole Brain Child – Book Review

  • The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

    Book Review By Elizabeth Sautter, M.A. CCC-SLP

    An organized book club is one of the ways we share and discuss information at Communication Works (CW). The information that was provided in the book, The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, falls directly in line with the work that we do at CW and what is needed to keep kids calm and regulated.

    This book discusses 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. This includes how a child’s brain is wired, how it matures and how to keep the parts of the brain integrated for improved self-regulation. By using their strategies, you can turn outbursts and arguments into an opportunity to support social and emotional growth.

    I will outline the first five strategies here and then continue to share the rest of them (on our Facebook page) over the next few weeks.

    Strategy #1 – Connect and Redirect: The authors suggest that when your child is having an outburst, connect with your child’s feelings by naming and validating their emotions (e.g. “you look sad”) before trying to reason with them. When children feel heard and validated they are quicker to recover and re-direct their behavior.

    Strategy #2 – Name It To Tame It: When the emotions that come with the right side of the brain (fear, frustration, etc.) are raging out of control, help your child manage what’s upsetting them by telling a story about it. Your child’s left brain connects emotions to language and words which allows them to make sense of their experience.

    Strategy #3 – Engage, Don’t Enrage; Appealing to the Upstairs Brain: The frontal cortex (“upstairs brain”) is responsible for self-monitoring and decision-making skills. The subcortex (“downstairs brain”) manages the fight or flight response and expresses emotions. Parents can help engage the upstairs brain by asking questions, validating feelings and suggesting alternatives (e.g. “you look mad, what happened?”) rather than triggering the downstairs brain by making demands or threats. Enraging responses such as “because I told you so” or “you will listen to me” often triggers the downstairs brain and makes the child more upset.

    Strategy #4 - Use It Or Lose It: Provide your child with opportunities to build the “upstairs brain.”  This includes role-playing, problem solving and games such as “What would you do?” These strategies help develop higher-level critical thinking skills such as negotiating and compromising with peers.

    Strategy #5 - Move It Or Lose It: Having your child move, shake or reposition his/her body can be a good way to get him/her to reconnect with their upstairs brain when they get stuck in the downstairs brain. Brain breaks, such as shaking out the wiggles, are a good example of move it or lose it.

    Visit our Facebook page for more Whole Brain Child strategies:


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