Counselor Madelyn shares a review of The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. A transcript of this video is available below.
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Good morning everybody. My name is Madelyn. I am a counselor with Garrett Counseling. Today, I want to go over some concepts from a book called The Whole-Brain Child. This is a very good book. I highly recommend it for therapists and parents, both alike. This book features 12 revolutionary ways to nurture your child and child’s developing mind. All of the concepts from this book are really good. They’re good to practice in therapy, and they’re also good to practice at home if you are a caregiver and if you have a child.
There are 12 concepts. I’m just going to kind of briefly cover each one. As I said, this is just ways to nurture your child’s mind. This is ways to promote bonding, promote safety, promote emotional regulation, ways to just further help your child develop the tools they need to have a happy, healthy brain.
The first concept is called Connecting and Redirecting. This is a way to surf those emotional waves. This concept is very simple. It’s just keeping in mind that the right brain… You have your right brain, which is technically over on this side. You have your right brain and your left brain. This is a very simple concept that most people know, but your right brain is your feelings and your left brain is logic. Using this rhetoric can help acknowledge both sides of the brain in order to resolve conflict.
A lot of times what we see in children when they are very upset, when they are overwhelmed with emotions, is that they are all right brain. A lot of times, just as humans and as adults in general, we want to fix things with logic. A child can say that they’re feeling angry, and your first instinct as a caregiver is to be like, “Well, you shouldn’t feel angry. Don’t feel angry. Feel happy instead.” But when a child is very overwhelmed and doesn’t really know how to process that, then that’s not going to go through. In this case, the best thing to do is just to be like, “Yeah, you’re angry. I understand. I hear you and I hear that you’re angry.”
It’s just to acknowledge that they are only in their right brain at that time, and logic can come in later when they are a little more calm. So it’s being able to think on your feet, are they in left brain right now, or are they in right brain? Most of the time, as children get older, they’re going to be in the right brain.
The second concept is called Name it to Tame it. This is a concept of telling stories as a way to help process feelings through bringing the left brain and right brain back together. Retelling stories can help trigger happy memories. Recalling important events can help children make sense of their feelings, especially when they’re overwhelmed or don’t understand why they’re feeling a certain way. It can also help them regain a sense of control over their state of mind.
The next concept is called Building a Staircase of the Mind. This is teaching your children how to make good decisions through pausing and thinking. A lot of common things that we see with kids is that they don’t really stop to think. They want to just go. There’s a lot of impulsivity. There’s not really ever a time where they’re like, “Hmm, should I do this?” They’re just like, “Nah, I want to do this.” So teaching children to pause before acting, teaching children how to problem solve and maybe consider consequences, can in turn help them have a little less impulsivity. It can help them learn to process. It’s helping bring that kind of logic brain together with the emotional part of the brain.
The fourth concept is called Engage, Don’t Enrage. As caregivers and even as therapists, sometimes it can be easy to get frustrated. If your child is feeling overwhelmed and you’re already stressed, then it’s completely valid to feel overwhelmed yourself, and it can be easy to get really impatient or feel angry.
The whole concept of engaging and not enraging is engaging with your child instead. So this would be connecting with your child to find out where they are coming from. And even if they don’t really know where they’re coming from, it’s just the engagement in itself. Like, “I understand you’re feeling this way. I can see that you’re feeling this way. What’s going on? Let’s figure out why you’re feeling this way.” And sometimes they’ll know, and sometimes they don’t, but it’s the fact that you’re engaging them and that you’re hearing them and that they’re seeing that you’re hearing them and that you’re getting on that same level with them, that’s going to make the most impact.
The fifth concept is called Using the Upstairs Brain. The upstairs brain is responsible for logical thoughts and thinking patterns. And I know this is confusing. We have the right brain, the left brain, and now we have an upstairs brain, but just stay with me here. Like I said, it’s responsible for logical thoughts and thinking patterns. Engaging this part of the brain can help children better understand their own empathetic patterns and emotions. A lot of this can be connected to cognitive therapy, which examines thoughts and thought processes and where they come from and thinking patterns. So engaging with this part of the brain can help children make more sense of their emotions and why they’re feeling this way, and their thoughts associated with these emotions.
The sixth concept is called Moving the Body. Physical movement has a very large impact on mental health. You would be surprised at how much just moving can really kind of restart your brain. We have something here that we call a regulating and down-regulating. Sometimes if I’m feeling super tired, even just rubbing your legs, rubbing your arms, just that stimulating motion can just help wake you up a little bit. And then there’s also the opposite of down-regulating. This is where we incorporate calming techniques, such as deep breathing, coping strategies to bring that energy back down.
So through physical movement, the brain can be activated, and this in turn can help your child control his or her emotions when they’re unbalanced. So teaching them breathing skills, when they’re really, really angry and teaching them the concept of deep breathing, teaching them grounding techniques, such as the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method where you get in touch with all of your physical senses, can help them gain control of their emotions when they’re out of control.
The seventh concept is called Replaying Memories. As mentioned earlier, with storytelling, engaging the child in remembering important events in their lives, processing memories out loud, can give the child a sense of security and control. So this is something else that gets your child’s brain working. It can be just asking them like, “What’s a happy memory. What’s a time that you remember that you were really happy? What’s a good memory. Why don’t you tell me about it?” can just give them a sense of security and control because their brain is working to collect that memory and pull that memory up. It’s kind of like exercising your brain a little bit.
Number eight is Building Memory Recollection Skills. So this kind of ties back to pulling memories. Continuing to practice memory recollection with your child can help them develop a stronger memory. This can be done through storytelling like, “Tell me about the vacation you went on two years ago. Where did you go? What fun things did you do?” This in turn is not only just helping them feel in control insecure; this is in turn helping build those memory skills so they can recall fun times and they can lean on these memory recollections to feel better when they’re not feeling too great.
Number nine concept is an important one. They’re all important, but this is one that particularly stands out to me. This is Understanding and Teaching That feelings Aren’t Permanent. This is kind of a hard concept for children to grasp sometimes because when they’re feeling really out of control and overwhelmed, it feels like those feelings aren’t going to go away, and that’s when they become really unregulated and upset. Teaching your children that feelings come and go, and that feelings are temporary and not permanent, is important for helping your child feel more in control and less stuck in their own feelings.
Number 10 is back to the body and the importance of physical sensations. There is a really good book that I use sometimes that has exercises, and it talks about your feelings and how they relate to your body. It’s important to know that emotions are not just mental, but they are physical as well. So paying attention to the physical sensations that your child is feeling can help them understand their feelings and why they’re feeling this way, like when your face gets really hot when you’re embarrassed, or when your face gets really hot when you’re angry, or when you feel really sad and you feel like you’re about to cry and you have this big lump in your throat. So being able to help your children identify their physical sensations can help them better know what they’re feeling and thus, in turn, feel in control.
Number 11 is Refocus and recenter. Through refocusing and reentering, your child can return to balance through understanding how their thinking is being affected. This is just a basic concept of a lot of it is grounding. A lot of it is just helping your child better identify what they’re being upset about in the first place. It’s helping them refocus on the problem and helping them refocus on what is going on and reentering them and just being there with them.
Lastly is number 12. This is Connecting Through Conflict. As caregivers, as therapists, as teachers, just as adults, we can work together with children to help them identify their emotions, help them identify goals and solutions. Whenever you are faced with any kind of conflict, just remember the we mindset in order to come together and restore balance in your child. This is just remembering that when your child is in conflict, when you are met with conflict, you don’t want to work against them, you want to work with them. You want to come together to help them find a solution and help restore balance.
As I said, this is just a very quick summary of everything. This book goes into much more detail. It’s a very quick read. I would definitely, definitely recommend this book, along with like The Yes Brain book as well.