The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel Book Summary – Review

When we have the option to stand on both legs, few of us would choose to do so.

However, many of us, particularly youngsters, only employ a portion of our brain’s potential to deal with life’s obstacles. Of course, children do not choose to ignore crucial brain processes; the issue is that brain functions grow at different rates, so your child may not be completely conversant with each one.

As a parent, it’s your job to assist your kid to discover the newer functions of her brain, such as reasoning ability, and show her how to combine these talents with more familiar brain qualities.

These chapters are all about this procedure. Read about the many areas and functions of your child’s brain, as well as tips on how to encourage them to operate together.

You’ll also discover

  • When your youngster thinks there’s a beast in the closet, here’s how to calm her down;
  • Why a temper tantrum in a fine dining establishment might be beneficial, and;
  • When you try to name a sensation, this is what happens in your brain.

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Chapter 1 – Raising healthy children entails teaching them how to react constructively to their life situations.

From the greatest potty training suggestions to the safest cribs, every new parent is bombarded with counsel. And there’s one piece of information that’s crucial to having a happy child which no one discusses: how to nourish your child’s brain. To do just that, you must educate your children on how to interpret and respond to their experiences.

And besides, our brains shape who we are and what we do, and our experiences shape them. The brain changes as a result of experiences. For example, when an event happens in our brains, such as a temper tantrum, particular neurons activate; when the same neurons fire again, they link to one another.

Thus, while coping with events is an important part of parenting, that doesn’t imply you should shield your child from them. Instead, it is your responsibility to ensure that your child uses his full brain to deal with everything that occurs, whether pleasant or unpleasant.

Integration is the main concept here. The brain is made up of many distinct sections, which you’ll learn about later, and for a child to flourish, these parts must work together to deal with any challenges he faces. This idea underpins what’s known as whole-brain parenting.

So how can you encourage your youngster to use his entire brain? Begin by utilizing all of your resources.

Your youngster will imitate you if you use your entire intellect. Instead of losing your cool or becoming cold and aloof when your child throws a tantrum, use your empathy to connect with him and discover what’s upsetting him while utilizing other areas of your brain to keep your anger under control.

But before you can conduct that type of whole-brain parenting, you’ll need to understand how your brain works, which we’ll go over in the next chapters.

Chapter 2 – Our brains are made up of two hemispheres that must be balanced.

Have you ever attempted to reason with a two-year-old child? If you’ve done so, you’re well aware that it’s usually always a losing battle, and here’s why:

The human brain contains two hemispheres, often referred to as two brains. Each has completely different functions than the other. The left hemisphere takes longer to develop and is dedicated to the system, specializing in language and logic, while the right is oriented towards the big picture, not the details, with expertise in nonverbal signals, images, and feelings.

 Since the right brain develops faster, it dominates the logical left side until the child is about three years old. This is precisely why it is impossible to think with younger children – they are in fact not able to see the rational side of things.

 Young children dominate the brain properly, but once both hemispheres are well developed, too much dependence on one becomes a problem as well. For example, a person who is excessively dependent on his left and logical hemisphere will be blind to emotions, while a person who uses his or her right brain more may act like a young child, struggling to understand basic societal rules or logic.

Therefore, teaching your child to use the two hemispheres is crucial. When your child’s third birthday is approaching, there are two strategies that can help. The first is called connection and redirection, and it is designed to help your child when confused by illogical problems such as monsters in the closet.

Start by connecting with his feelings. Sooth him and show your empathy, calm his right brain. Then, by solving his reasoning ability, redirect your child to his logical left brain. In this case, you might open the closet and prove that there are no monsters there.

 The second strategy is called naming to tame it. Ask your child to retell his experience and express the feelings that followed. This will link left brain functions such as language with the emotional memory and thoughts of the right brain. Whenever we name an emotion, our brain reduces the activity in the area responsible for the emotion, thereby taming our feelings.

However, the brain is made up of more distinct elements than simply these two hemispheres. In the next chapters, you’ll learn more about these topics in depth.

Chapter 3 – Lower and higher functions exist in the human brain, and it is your responsibility to assist your child in strengthening the latter.

Is it you or your kid who is in charge when she throws a tantrum? The solution has to do with the human brain’s higher and lower, or primitive, components being balanced.

Basic activities that keep you alive, such as breathing, impulses, and powerful emotions like rage, are controlled by the primitive section of your brain. When this component of your personality is in charge of your actions, you’re more likely to throw a temper tantrum like a kid or do something naively impulsive like tell a buddy they’re unattractive.

This is where the higher part of your brain enters to maintain balance. This part of the brain is also called the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for controlling impulses, thinking, planning, and self-understanding. As you might have guessed, in children, the primitive parts dominate; the higher parts of the brain take longer to mature, which makes the lower parts easier to control, especially the amygdala.

 This almond-sized area processes emotions and can control the upper part of a person’s brain, especially a child’s brain, filling her with stress hormones and allowing her to take action before thinking. This obviously leads to some terrible situations, but there are three strategies to help your child balance different parts of the brain.

 First, you should ask what happened to your misbehaving child and whether there was a problem that caused her anger. Then challenge her to come up with a solution. Rather than enraging her lower brain with, for example, a punishment, you engage her higher brain in this way.

Second, whenever possible, encourage her to use her higher brain, then let her make decisions and ask her why she acted the way she did. This will enhance the upper brain while also linking it to the lower brain’s sensations and impulses.

Finally, exercise can help your child’s lower brain relax. If she’s feeling burdened by homework, for example, have her run around the block to relax her stressed-out lower brain and enhance her mood.

Now that you know how to balance the upper and lower brains, it’s time to understand how to assist your child deal with memories, particularly those that are challenging.

Chapter 4 – Children’s memories might plague them, but you can help them move through them.

Is it common for your youngster to become frozen in seemingly innocuous situations? If this is the case, a negative implicit memory might be at fault. After all, our memories – even those we aren’t conscious of – have an impact on our behavior.

When we talk about memories, for example, we normally refer to those that we can access consciously. These are our concrete recollections, such as the day your buddy discovered a dead mouse in her salad. Implicit memory, on the other hand, is a different form of memory. These are memories that we aren’t aware of but that influence our behavior.

So, let’s suppose your kid underwent a severe medical procedure as a youngster that he doesn’t remember, but he can’t get beyond the door to the restroom at his school. He associates the slight odor of disinfection and the checkerboard tiles of the lavatory with the hospital where he was treated like a newborn, and he expects agony.

This dread has the potential to paralyze you. However, there are two methods for assisting your youngster in altering and controlling his memories. Memories may be altered by focusing on a positive component, such as a happy conclusion. Perhaps your daughter got separated from you at the store, but a sweet old lady assisted her in finding you.

What if your child refuses to discuss a traumatic memory?

It could assist if she narrates it as if she were viewing a movie with remote control. She may pause or fast-forward if it becomes too frightening, or simply skip to the happy conclusion.

However, before your kid can change or influence memories, he or she must first become aware of them and make them apparent. To assist her in doing so, have your kid describe events in great detail; the hippocampus, or brain’s “search engine,” will fill in any gaps. 

Instead of asking, “How was your day?” say, “How was your day?” “What did you play today?” is a good example. Subtle modifications like these can help your child remember her activities and construct a vivid image of them.

Chapter 5 – Our minds aren’t whole until we comprehend the many parts of who we are.

Although you are only one person, your particular self is made up of many diverse aspects, including your dreams, thoughts, and experiences. These features are the result of your top brain and other cerebral areas that form a wheel of awareness around it.

Your child must establish his own mental awareness in order to remain flexible and develop all aspects of his personality. Many children are focused on particular notions or goals, like the ambition to be the fastest runner in their grade while forgetting about other aspects of their personal growth. 

When a person focuses on a distinct part of themselves, neurons fire in that direction, fostering new connections. If your child is focusing on one part of their personality too much, this will affect all other personality traits.  

The flexibility to shift his focus will only be available to your child if he develops mental awareness, an awareness of every aspect of himself, and learns that he can choose where to place his focus. To help him get to this point, three strategies can help:

First, teach your child that emotions come and go on their own and that the average emotion only lasts about 90 seconds. This will prevent your child from confusing temporary mental states such as loneliness with permanent traits such as feeling lonely. 

Second, teach your kid to recognize his SIFT or the physical sensations, pictures, feelings, and ideas that make up his experience. To do so, constantly ask your youngster about each one to demonstrate that they are all important. He’ll learn to focus on his inner landscape this way.

Finally, encourage your youngster to use his intellect by teaching him to relax and focus his attention on his own. Focusing solely on the noises around him or envisioning a safe area for him to do this is an excellent approach for him to do so.

He’ll be on his way to comprehending his own thinking in no time. But that’s only the beginning of mindsight.

Chapter 6 – Your child’s capacity to interact with others should be nurtured since the brain is a social organ.

As a result, mindsight is not only necessary for integrating one’s many characteristics, but it also serves as a tool for comprehending the minds of others. The brain is a social organ that is meant to be formed and altered by social contact. In reality, we can only survive if we learn to tune in to other people.

And besides, our brains include a specific sort of neuron that aids in the shaping of our personalities through social interactions. These are known as mirror neurons, and they are activated when we watch someone performing deliberately. Our mirror neurons rapidly drive us to do or desire the same things as the folks we’re seeing.

When you see someone else drink water, for example, you may become thirsty. You’re not just knowing what others desire, but you’re also feeling what they’re feeling.

It’s no surprise that such a socially orientated organ requires interaction to stay healthy, thus people don’t fare well in isolation. Children, on the other hand, may not yet have the abilities to handle social situations appropriately, and if they do not learn them at a young age, they may feel lonely or have few friends.

That’s why it’s critical to provide your kid with many opportunities to develop social skills, and a child’s connection with her caretakers is one of the most crucial indicators of her ability to empathize and communicate. Furthermore, such ties will determine whether she wants the communication and considers herself to be a member of a group.

Make family life enjoyable for your youngster to assist his or her social brain. Playful parenting is a terrific method to achieve this. Play games and act stupid! Prepare your children for relationships by showing them how enjoyable it is to interact with others.

When disputes develop, take advantage of the chance to teach empathy to your kid by encouraging her to consider the other person’s point of view. But first, accept your child’s sentiments so she doesn’t feel attacked, and then bring her attention to body language to teach her about nonverbal clues.

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive by Daniel Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson Book Review

The majority of parents never learn how to nourish their children’s brains, despite the fact that this is an important element of childrearing. You can only assist your child to combine the diverse areas of their mind into a self-aware and regulated individual if you comprehend the full brain.

To develop a higher brain, play “what would you do” games.

Imagine a challenging situation with your preschooler, such as “What would you do if your uncle gave you $10 and you really wanted to purchase a new toy but your uncle said you had to divide the money with your sister?” Posing such a conundrum to your child will help him foresee instances in which his lower brain pushes him to do something he knows he shouldn’t, and will encourage him to use his higher brain to suppress these inclinations.

Assist your youngster in forming happy memories.

Memories are correlations between our present and previous experiences. If you offer your child candy after piano lessons, she will associate sweets with the piano, creating a “memory.” As a result, do everything you can to make your child’s experiences good. After all, it will serve as both a nice present and a lovely memory in the future.

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