The Teacher is Talking: “The Whole Brain Child”

By Leslie Lindsay

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson (Sep 11, 2012)  Retrieved from 8.21.12


If you recall, about two weeks ago a new topic was introduced on “The Teacher is Talking.”  It had to do with a parenting book entitled THE WHOLE-BRAIN CHILD by Daniel Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD.  The concept behind the book is simple: your child responds best to discipline and learning strategies when both sides of the brain (left and right, logical versus emotional) are working together.  The process “connecting” those two sides (hemispheres) is a little more complex than we make it out to be.  The Whole-Brain Child shares “12 revolutionary styles to nurture your child’s developing mind.”  The first 6 of those will be presented today.  (The next 6, next week).

STRATEGY#1:  Connect & Redirect: Surfing Emotional Waves.  Let me give you a personal example.  This  occured just yesterday with my 5yo.  Three of us headed out for a morning bike ride: me, my 7yo daughter and my 5yo.  The 5yo was “in the lead,” she wanted to show her big sis the route she and daddy created the other day.  Everything was going fine until she was ready to bag the early and head home early.  We followed her until we got to a place where the sidewalk ends (hey–isn’t there a kids’ poetry book by the same title??!).  I merged over and called to the girls, “this way!”   Well, 5yo had a MAJOR meltdown.  You see, I had disturbed her idea of how the route was going to work.  I became the leader, even though I said she could be…she stomped her feet.  She refused to cross the street even though it was completely safe.  She refused to lead us home from the new place on the sidewalk.  She wailed, “You hate me!!”  She defiantly said, “Leave me here.  I will live outside!”  This went on for 5 minutes.  There was no getting through to her. 

What THE WHOLE-BRAIN CHILD recommends:  relate first to her emotional side.  It wasn’t doing any good to be logical (left-brained) by explaining that the sidewalk ends on that side of the street.  So, I tried, “Kelly, I know you are bummed that I changed the route without telling you first.  I don’t like when things like that happen, either.”  (in yesterday’s example, she softened, like the book said she would, but she was very tenacious).  I tried again, “Can I give you a hug?”  (NO!).  And again, “I’m really sorry.  Will you forgive me?”  (NO!). 

But the idea here is:  if you rub your kids back/give her a hug, and empathize first and then explain logic, life will be good. 

Image of Kids Helmet.





STRATEGY #2:  Name it to Tame it–Telling Stories to Calm Big Emotions.   You can pull from your past childhood experiences, or recall some stories that happened in your child’s past about overcoming obstacles, “Remember when you ____ and it wasn’t so bad?  How can we do that this time?” 


STRATEGY #3:  Engage, Don’t Enrage–Appealing to the “Upstairs Brain.”  (upstairs refers to the frontal cortex = thoughts and downstairs refers to the primitive/reptilian brain=reactions).  Start with an observation:  “You look like you feel angry.”  (YES!).  “Well, let’s see if we can work out a compromise/negotiation.  Think about it.”  (Ohh…do you see the engagement/thinking going on here?  The meltdown stops for a moment).  “We can go on your sidewalk if Ilead.” 

STRATEGY #4:  Use it or Lose it–Exercising the Upstairs Brain.  So, appeal to that upstairs brain, but exercise it too.  It’s like a muscle…gets stronger when you work it.  Work on problem-solving, decision-making, self-control, self-understanding, and the like when your child is not upset about something.

STRATEGY #5: Move it or lose it–moving the body to avoid losing the mind.  Research shows that bodily movement influences body chemistry.  So, if you notice that your child(ren) has lost control of that upstairs brain, it’s time to work that downstairs brain.  Get active!

STRATEGY #6:  Use the Remote of the Mind–Replaying Memories.  Again, this goes back to the strategy #2, telling stories.  Sometimes children will remember “bad” events/experiences and not want to have anything to do with a new experience that may have some implications of an old one.  (Today, my 5yo really didn’t want to try another bike ride based on yesterday’s experience).  We could have “fast-forwarded” to the end of the story (she got to be the leader on a new sidewalk), and gone anyway, instead we ended up snuggling at home with a movie, where she felt safe, but agreed to go later, with dad. 

Stay tuned for next week on “The Teacher is Talking” (Tuesday) for strategies 7-12. 

[No compensation for this post has been given.  It is not intended to be an advertisement for the book.  This is a book I own and have personal interest in.  Why not share that love with you?  If you are interested in purchasing this book for your own use, please look where books are sold].

The Teacher is Talking: The Whole Brain Child

By Leslie Lindsay

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson (image retrieved from on 8.7.12)

I don’t know about you but I have about had it with summer vacation.  It’s not the heat or the long days that is driving me wild, it’s the constant fussing and bickering that comes from the tiny redheaded girls who call me mom.  So when I learned about this new parenting book, THE WHOLE BRAIN CHILD by Daniel J. Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD I figured it couldn’t hurt. 

The book promises you will be able “survive everyday parenting struggles and help your family thrive.”  I nodded in appreciation and flipped open the binding, inhaling that new-book smell I adore.  The audience: parents of children birth to 12 years.  It covers 12 basic principles a parent or devoted caregiver can give a child to help them become better at managing their own emotions, thus beoming a more well-balanced child.  Again, I nod in appreciation. 

Left Brain Right Brain Illustration


(this s NOT the diagram from the book.  Rather I found this on my own at

The first section of the book is really focused on brain science.  Don’t get me wrong:  it’s not boring or hard to follow.  In fact, I really like the whimsical illustrations the artist uses to depict the brain:

The LEFT side (hemisphere) is loaded with graphics like crossword puzzles, math facts, and pondering children (“hummm…wonder if they can prove that?”).  More on the left side:  loves order and lists, it is logical, literal, linguistic, and linear (puts things in order or sequence). 

While the RIGHT side is a little more “floaty” with dancers, artists, and thinkers (holistic and nonverbal, facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, posture, and gestures, big picture specialists, emotions, memories, and the feeling of an experience) Sure, it’s a bit of a stereotype, but hey–that’s what it’s really all about. 

So, here’s the idea:  toddlers often use their right brain most (reacting to emotions–meltdown, anyone?) and later the left brain kicks in (no, I won’t share this with you.  It’s mine!  Or, the endless questioning of “Why?”).  By the time your kiddo is successfully doing both, you can be rest-assured that he does indeed have two hemispheres.  The problem is, they aren’t always working in tandem.  That’s where you, dependable caregiver comes in. 

Here’s what I am thinking:  I will highlight the 12 strategives in this book over the next two Tuesdays.  Next week, we’ll cover 1-6 and the following week, 6-12.  There will be a lot I won’t be able to share with you because this book is chock-full of great graphics, charts, etc.  So, if you think you’re going to like this book–and really, what’s not to like–I suggest you get your own copy at your local library or bookstore.  I got mine at Amazon. 

And in the meantime, I will see if it works at decreasing the summer bickerfest at my house…

For now, class dismissed! 

For more information on the Whole Brain Child, see their website at: