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Book Review of “The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind” by Daniel J Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson

In this popular and often cited book “The Whole-Brain Child”, Dr Siegel and Dr Bryson outline how exactly a child’s brain functions and matures. They focus on trying to understand why children behave contrary to how an adult is expected to behave and highlight strategies to cope with this seemingly “difficult” behaviour.

Children’s brains are constantly evolving as they grow and parents play an important role in nurturing their emotional intelligence. Basically, children’s reactions are governed by their Left Brain (logical part), Right Brain (emotional part), Upstairs Brain (sophisticated analytical thinking) and Downstairs Brain (reactive thinking). You can hear Dr Siegel himself explain this model of the brain in this brief video.

The book is a great resource for parents to understand how and why one part of their child’s brain is taking control and how to effectively change some elements of their behaviour by activating the other brain. Broadly, the 12 strategies that the book delves into are

1. Connect and Redirect: When your child is upset, connect to their right brain (i.e. emotionally connect by empathizing with their feelings) before redirecting with their logical Left brain.
2. Name It to Tame It: To help a child understand their emotions and give them more control, use Left-Brain story-telling to calm their emotions.
3. Engage, Don’t Enrage: A child in throes of stress will resort to using their Downstairs brain, so parents need to encourage them to keep thinking and listening, which will activate their Upstairs thinking.
4. Use It or Lose It: Making choices, solving problems and practicing control over emotions helps your child to exercise the “Upstairs Brain”.
5. Move It or Lose It: Physical activity helps to shift your child’s focus from the Downstairs reactive brain, and reconnect with analytical thinking.
6. Use the Remote of the Mind: After any difficult situation, replay, rewind, fast-forward and pause to bring awareness to your child and help them process.
7. Remember to Remember: Teach your child to practice creating memories of important moments of their lives on a daily basis.
8. Let the Clouds of Emotion Roll By: Help your child understand that feelings come and go and the negativity they are experiencing is temporary.
9. SIFT: Kids need to be aware of Sensations, Images, Feelings and Thoughts within them.
10. Exercise Mindsight: Giving your child insight into their own mind (and that of others) and equipping them with tools like calm breaths, thinking of a happy place.
11. Enjoy Family Fun: create positive memories by increasing the fun that family has with each other
12. Connect through Conflict: Encourage empathy and use conflicts as a chance to teach kids others’ points of view.

These strategies are undoubtedly useful for all families. The summary above gives you a flavour, but it is highly recommended to read the book especially because the authors outline practical strategies, based on proven scientific fact, which can really help you to nurture happier and healthier kids.

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