Siegel, Dan J. and Tina Payne Bryson. The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind. New York: Bantam Books, 2011.
In a nutshell:
The Whole Brain Child offers parenting advice based on neuroscience and a developmental approach to parenting. Instead of expecting children to behave like miniature adults, Siegel and Tina point to the ways in which children's brains are still under construction. Instead of feeling frustrated when our attempts to communicate and handle tricky situations with our children go sideways, the book encourages us to see these moments as opportunities to parent in a manner that ultimately promotes the growth and emotional resiliency we hope our children will one day possess.
I love how practically the authors approach each of their tips. For each situation, they offer case study examples and a cartoon briefly summarizing the strategy they suggest. Additionally, they provide a kid-friendly cartoon breakdown of each idea such that you can work with your child to develop his or her own understanding of how the mind works. And, each chapter ends with a section for parents, which draws attention to the fact that we, as parents, have so much growing to do in how we handle our own emotions and frustrations.
Some quotations of note:
"It's also crucial to keep in mind that no matter how nonsensical and frustrating our child's feelings may seem to us, they are real and important to our child. It's vital that we treat them as such in our response" (24).
"Even though we will want to help build this metaphorical staircase in our child's brain, there are two important reasons to maintain realistic expectations when it comes to integration. The first is developmental: while the downstairs brain is well developed even at birth, the upstairs brain isn't fully mature until a person reaches his mid-twenties" (41).
"Your state of mind can influence your child's state of mind, letting you transform fussiness and irritability into fun, laughter, and connection" (133).
The Whole Brain Child is a parenting text with longevity - helping you understand your toddler to your teenager and even some of your adult relationships, too. If you are looking for a straightforward parenting text grounded in neuroscience that will challenge you to grow alongside your child, The Whole Brain Child is that book.
Johanna received a Ph.D. in English in 2014. Now a postpartum doula and educator of childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant sleep, she blogs about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting.