If you are a parent, you’re most likely no stranger to those moments (or sometimes days?) when you are counting the minutes to get to bedtime. The whole-brain child approach is all about turning those survival moments into opportunities to teach your child how to thrive. The authors, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD., provide a simple, understandable explanation for what is happening in your child’s developing brain and 12 easy strategies to best help them through those difficult times. They will admit that this won’t prevent every tantrum or outburst, but they offer simple, doable approaches to navigate these situations. 

This is also one of the reasons I truly appreciated this book and their approaches. The authors are modest and real. They admit that parenting isn’t a flawless endeavor, nor should it be. Kids make mistakes, throw tantrums, ask for attention in ways we don’t always appreciate or understand but how we react in those moments and guide them through is paramount to how they handle situations later on in life when we aren’t there to guide them. In the authors’ own words: “This approach involves being intentional about what we’re doing and where we’re going, while accepting that we are all human. Intention and attention are our goals, not some rigid, harsh expectation of perfection.”

If our goal as parents is to set our children up for success as adults, isn’t it a gift to them to meet them with the most empathy we can and give them the tools to do so? The authors offer straight forward strategies that focus on empathy and a better understanding of why our children are reacting the way they are. Using these strategies, we can meet them where they’re at and help them use their whole brain to better integrate the intellectual and emotional parts to better adapt and react to difficult situations that arise in their lives. They won’t be flawless at this, none of us are, but they will have better tools at their disposal and will hopefully learn to utilize those on their own. For each of the 12 strategies, they also provide skills and strategies for parents to try and to understand what is also going on in your own brain and body. 

I have small children of my own and have been implementing these strategies. I have noticed a huge difference in behavior and reactions, not just for my preschooler but also for myself. This has been especially helpful right now during the shutdown. I have better tools for explaining what is going on and how to help my kids make sense of it as best we can. Mine, like so many others, are “acting out” a lot more. Working from home, I am spending a lot more time with my kids and I want to make the best of it. I have a better understanding of my children’s outbursts and need for empathy and compassion. It has been really helpful to understand how to best provide my children with what they need while also getting them reintegrated so we can move through our day successfully, together. As the authors’ state as one of the main goals for these strategies: “You can use all of the interactions you share-the stressful, angry ones as well as the miraculous, adorable ones-as opportunities to help them become the responsible, caring, capable people you want them to be. That’s what this book is about: using those everyday moments with your kids to help them reach their true potential.”

I highly recommend this book for anyone with kids or who spends time around children. The 12 strategies provided are appropriate for all ages and stages. They provide a guide with age ranges and how to adapt each strategy appropriately. There are companion books as well if you are interested in reading further: No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind and The Whole-Brain Child Workbook: Practical Exercises, Worksheets, and Activities to Nurture Developing Minds.