Tuesday 1 November 2016

Book Review: The Whole Brain Child

​Last spring I read the book, The Whole-Braine Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina P. Bryson, and recently I gave a talk, based on the book, on how to deal with young children (ages 2-6) when they are exhibiting challenging behaviours.   I flew through the 149 pages of text within three days and was able to connect to the content as a teacher and as a parent.   Frequently, I found myself nodding my head, agreeing with the author, and experiencing waves  of relief and understanding. 


The authors connect their work to  research on brain development from birth to mid-twenties, while maintaining the reader's interest by providing real-life examples, funny analogies, cartoon like diagrams and charts.  I appreciated that the authors acknowledged that there are various ways to deal with any one situation and that sometimes parents/teachers don't have to, and shouldn't, negotiate with their child. 

A  new piece of learning for me was observing, understanding and identifying the types of tantrum a child is having.  The author explains two different types of tantrums,  downstairs and upstairs tantrums (Siegel & Bryson, 2012, p. 44-46).  In a nutshell the downstairs tantrum, which we often witness from young children, is a tantrum that is consumed by emotion.  During this type of tantrum a child needs an adult to sooth them, calm them with gentleness, and generally let it run its course.  An upstairs tantrum is calculated and used specifically to gain something.  The person throwing the tantrum is in control of this type of tantrum.  The quote below is one of my favorites from the book:

An upstairs tantrum occurs when a child essentially decides to throw a fit….She is able to control her emotions and body, to be logical and make good decisions.  A parent who recognizes an upstairs tantrum is left with one clear response:  never negotiate with a terrorist.  (Siegel & Bryson, 2012, p.45)


The authors provide twelve different strategies for helping children develop their brains to their full potential, especially when dealing with strong emotions.  The strategies vary from connecting the left-right brain, upstairs-downstairs brain, memory recollection to gain understanding, and building positive relationships.   The book provides  ideas that parents/teachers can use to discuss brain development  with the children at various levels and stages of life.  They also have a quick guide at the back of the book on how to incorporate each strategy at various ages, 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12.   I created the Printable Infographic below that compiles  six strategies that may help specifically really young children, which I presented to our early learning educators, but I have used the some of the other strategies with my 9 year old. 



This  book is an excellent resource and a quick read - a resource worth having!!!



A follow-up to this book that I am currently diving into, and loving for my preteen daughter, is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk.  Lots of good ideas in the first three chapters. 

What's on your book shelf?


  1. A so helpful book for my kids and me :)


    1. Elena, it really is. I catch myself often and really think about whether what I am about to say will "engage or enrage" my child further. LOL.

  2. I think this is one for me. Our kids often have downstairs tantrums. In fact, I think that's all they have. I need to learn more about this!

    1. Jordan, it's such a good book. I highly recommend it, obviously. I find that I am much more forgiving of my children's behaviours, not in a bad way, having the background knowledge of how their brains develop and work. Plus I have a few more tools in my toolbox for each of the girls, because they require different strategies. If you want I would be happy to pass on my copy to you.