As parents we’re invested in the development of our children. We agonize over every milestone. We cheer like maniacs at our kids’ first steps and first words. We obsess about math skills and reading ability. Unfortunately, too often our investment stops there. We may work hard on our kids’ physical and cognitive abilities. But we leave their emotional development to nature, or osmosis, or whatever. That needs to stop.
The Whole-Brain Child gives us the knowledge and tools we need to give emotional intelligence its rightful place. Co-authors Daniel Siegel, a neuropsychologist, and Tina Payne Bryson, a paediatric psychotherapist, lend us their expertise and research in the form of 12 techniques. As I read through the book, I found myself nodding along at how much sense it made as it tackled each principle and technique.
I’ll give you a few examples of the ideas The Whole-Brain Child illustrates:
- Left brain & right brain. This one is an old stand-by. We’ve all heard about it. One side of the brain is more emotional, and the other more rational. Siegel and Bryson tell us how we can help our kids use both sides together to process events that might be traumatic.
- Upstairs brain & downstairs brain. You’ve heard of your “lizard brain”, that ancient part of your brain that controls your basest reflexes. It’s our saviour in life-threatening situations, but it betrays us when we get angry and lose control. The Whole-Brain Child teaches how to recognize kids who are stuck in their lizard brains and how to handle those situations.
- Move it or lose it. Sometimes all your kids need to work out difficult emotions is a change of pace. Literally. Kids (and adults) sometimes struggle with anger that’s bubbling near the surface. Next time that happens to your kid, take her out for a quick jog around the block or do some jumping jacks together. Physical activity helps shift the mental and emotional gears into more manageable positions.
The Whole-Brain Child teaches how to help children visualize their own minds. How to picture the various thoughts, feelings and experiences they’re having at any given moment. Visualization lets us put things in perspective. With mindsight, the fact that Gary knocked over your kid’s block tower seems like less of a federal offence. Especially when your kid can visualize his other feelings for Gary, and what Gary might be feeling too.
Those are just 4 of 12 insightful and useful ways to help develop your child’s emotional intelligence. The book also comes with a handy chart that tracks your kids’ age and stage and which techniques are helpful at what stages.
You can find The Whole-Brain Child wherever your favourite books are sold. Who knows, you might (probably will) be able to apply what you learn to yourself and other adults too. I know I did!