By: Daniel J. Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson
This is the book I began reading this year, and got side-tracked with The Big Disconnect. The goal is to finish both of these books on my vacation to my grandmothers this week. The thing is, no matter how much I intend to read, by the end of the day I read for 5 minutes and find myself fast asleep. Note: this is not a reflection of the reading material!
Disclaimer: I am not yet a parent, but I happen to really like parenting books. I have a niece who challenges me almost daily, and I think it is important that I understand where her mind is, so I can better understand her. In addition, although I love the advice in this book and think everyone should read it, I also know that all parents and children are different. What works for you may not work for me. All I ask, after reading most of this book, is that you read it and be open to the ideas presented. You don’t even need to be a parent to get something out of it.
The Whole Brain Child scientifically addresses how toddlers’ brains actually function and explains it in a way that can be understood by the toddlers themselves, so you should have no trouble J
Something I have been trying to educate myself more about, before we have kids, is how to handle their upsets, frustrations, etc. We’ve all heard and quite possible said something like, “Stop crying. Big kids don’t cry.” or, “Come talk to me when you are finished being mad”, to a toddler or an elementary-aged child.
What I have learned so far from this book is the opposite of what I have been taught and what I have seen in society. I have learned that as adults, we expect far too much emotional maturity and processing from young children. At their ages, they are still developing these skills.
Take a “temper-tantrum” for example. To the child, all he or she wants is a piece of candy. You say no. They get upset. You get frustrated that he or she keeps asking why and shouting, “I just want the candy!” By the time the child gets here, it doesn’t really seem to matter what you do or say. He or she is just flat out mad.
As adults, we expect that a child understands why candy isn’t a good dinner option. We have learned and felt what sugar does to our bodies. Children, especially toddlers, don’t. Even if you explain it a hundred times, their ability to comprehend this processing hasn’t developed yet. All they know is that you said “no”.
Think about what happens when you find yourself anxious, frustrated, upset or hurt. We have all been there. We have probably all become irrational and later thought, “who was that person who got so upset about something so small?” Well, according to this book, the emotional part of your brain took over and you stopped processing reality. It happens. It happens to us, as adults, with years and years of life experience under our belts.
So how do you think those feelings feel to a child? They are just starting to understand emotions and how to work through them. We have a lifetime of experience. It seems like we are asking a whole lot of such a small, developing human.
The Whole Brain Child discusses all kinds of scenarios like this one and what is neurologically happening in the child’s brain. It then discusses ways to better handle them to promote emotional wellness and understanding. It discusses how to be present for your children and help them develop these coping skills. It also reminds us that being the one in control all the time isn’t always the best thing for our children.
As always, it is definitely worth the read.