One thing I love about learning the brain science behind relationships is that it brings parenting advice out of the “tips and tricks” realm. Really understanding the processes behind your relationship with your child helps you make good decisions on your own, while you’re in the thick of daily life.
I personally love to geek out on neurobiology stuff. Still, I think everyone should be able to read and benefit from a brain science based approach to parenting, without needing a psychology degree to understand what you’re reading.
Parenting The Whole Brain Child
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind is written by Interpersonal Neurobiology experts Dr. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. The Whole Brain Child sets out to be the book that will teach brain-friendly parenting strategies to everyone, no matter whether you have any experience reading about brain science or not.
Siegel and Bryson cover a lot of ground in a short, easy to read book, and they present the material in a way that makes it easy to understand and relate to for most parents. Each chapter focuses on strategies that work with a specific element of the mind/brain/body connection, such as integrating the left and right hemispheres, integrating the prefrontal cortex with the emotional centers of the brain, or using body sensations to inform us of our thoughts and feelings. Each strategy is cleverly named so it will be easily remembered, like Connect and Redirect or Engage, Don’t Enrage. Each chapter also includes illustrated comic-book style panels for parents and kids, with examples of the strategies in action for the parents, and a kid-level summary of the brain information for kids around 8-12 years old.
Learning to be a Whole Brain Parent in the Real World
My favourite part of the book is the example dialogues – there are lots of them and they use real-world parenting examples that everyone will be familiar with to show what the strategies sound like in action. I know for me, the hardest part of changing my parenting strategies is not knowing how to translate my new found understanding into words in the moment. Reading the example dialogues gives me a few phrases or strategies to have in my pocket for when I need them.
Still, learning people skills from a book is a little like learning to swim from a book. It’s enough to get you interested and introduce you to the specific language and concepts, but the real learning comes from actually getting in the water and splashing around. When you start getting water up your nose, it is so much more wonderful and reassuring to have a more experienced swimmer there to help you.
I recently started practising empathy and NVC skills with other experienced adults instead of only practicing by myself with my kids, and I noticed a huge change in the quality of my understanding and learning. So while I would recommend this book as a introduction to whole-brain parenting, I would also hugely recommend attending a workshop or other face-to-face learning environment where you can practice with other people. Feeleez is currently touring around doing workshops, and both Dan and Tina are also doing speaking tours where you can hear them in person. And I am sure there are more local resources for you, depending on where you live!