Thursday, 31 January 2013

Help Your Family Thrive by Using Your Whole Brain

Reviewer Katja, 39, from N Yorks

Book reviewed The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Proven Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind  by Dr Daniel J Siegel and Dr Tina Payne Bryson (£12.99, Robinson)

Parenting style: I am strict, but fun and approachable. 

What does "whole brain" mean to you? Using all aspects of the brain – integrating the left side and the right side. To explain the difference simply: the left brain cares about the letter of the law, and the right brain cares about the spirit of the law. The goal is to avoid living in an emotional desert (left brain) or an emotional flood (right brain).

Would you say you are more of a left or right brain person? I think I have left brain tendencies as I am more logic-based than creativity-based.

How did you feel about using the ideas in book? Very positive. The chapter called "Mindsight" particularly resonated with me. There’s a Wheel of Awareness concept where the authors discuss that the difficult thoughts and feelings which give us trouble (as children and adults) are “simply different aspects of our selves” and we don’t have to focus all our attention on them. “The fears and worries are part of us but they don’t represent the totality of our being.”

Nevertheless, as Siegel and Payne Bryson explain, many children confuse the difference between “I feel…” and “I am…”, which means that when they are, for example, frustrated or lonely, they “may be tempted to define themselves based on that temporary experience, as opposed to understanding that that is simply how they feel at the moment.” The risk is that children (and adults) perceive the temporary state of mind as “a permanent part of their self”. “The state comes to be seen as a trait that defines who they are.”

That’s just one example of Siegel and Payne Bryson’s enlightening ideas. The book contains twelve strategies to nurture your child's developing mind ; I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone!

Did Whole Brain Child make you change anything about your parenting style? The most important thing I learned was that brains are "plastic". They are not "set in stone" and can change over time. 

The main change I made was this: I began trying to connect to the child's emotional need first, and then discuss what happened afterwards. So instead of dismissing and denying my child’s feelings I took a different approach. For example, if the kitten had got hold of one of my daughter’s collages and spoiled it, I might have said, “I’m sorry that Mixie tore your picture. Don’t worry though, you can always do another collage.”

But now I would try to teach my daughter that feelings come and go:
Me: “I’m sorry that Mixie ripped your collage. And right now you feel like you don’t want her any more.”
Daughter: “Yeah, I don’t.”
Me: “I know that’s how you feel at the moment. But how did you feel when she came and sat on your lap when you were watching TV?”
Daughter: “I liked it.”
Me: “See how sometimes you feel love and other times you feel anger? Your feelings change all the time, don’t they? They come and go.”
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