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Book Club Kits: The Whole-Brain Child

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Book Summary

In this pioneering, practical book, Daniel J. Siegel, neuropsychiatrist and author of the bestselling Mindsight, and parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson offer a revolutionary approach to child rearing with twelve key strategies that foster healthy brain development, leading to calmer, happier children. The authors explain-and make accessible-the new science of how a childs brain is wired and how it matures. The "upstairs brain," which makes decisions and balances emotions, is under construction until the mid-twenties. And especially in young children, the right brain and its emotions tend to rule over the logic of the left brain. No wonder kids throw tantrums, fight, or sulk in silence. By applying these discoveries to everyday parenting, you can turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your childs brain and foster vital growth. Complete with age-appropriate strategies for dealing with day-to- day struggles and illustrations that will help you explain these concepts to your child, The Whole-Brain Child shows you how to cultivate healthy emotional and intellectual development so that your children can lead balanced, meaningful, and connected lives.

Group Discussion Outline

Introduction & Chapter 1:

Parenting With the Brain in Mind

I. What’s your goal à merely surviving…or thriving?

a. Thriving comes through relationships, so you must acquire and develop the skills

to help your child thrive (i.e., similar to the idea of “connecting while correcting”)

b. The good news is that the “moments you are just trying to survive are actually

opportunities to help your child thrive”

· With the right perspective, insight, and skills, you can transform “survive”

moments into experiences that develop your child’s brain as well as his

relationship skills and character

· Rather than trying to shelter your child from the difficulties of life, you can

help him integrate his experiences into an understanding of the world and


II. Getting inside your child’s head

a. Understanding your child’s brain allows you to better connect with your child and

respond more effectively to challenging behaviors and difficult situations

b. Promoting integration in your child’s brain is about helping and empowering your

child (and you) to understand the distinct parts of her brain and how they can

better work together in a balanced and well-coordinated way

c. How you relate to your child matters à Right now your child’s brain is constantly

being wired and re-wired, and the experiences you provide her will go a long way

toward determining the structure of her brain

d. Get in the flow à Helping your child navigate between rigidity and chaos

· When a child is integrated she is able to navigate between rigidity and


· She demonstrates the qualities associated with someone who is mentally

and emotionally healthy: adaptable, flexible, stable, and able to understand herself and the world around her

Chapter 2 – Two Brains Are Better Than One:

Integrating the Left and the Right

I. The brain has two hemispheres: left & right

a. Left hemisphere specializes in the 4 L’s: logical, literal, linear, and linguistic

· The left hemisphere is the “letter:” of the law or the “text”

b. Right hemisphere is holistic and nonverbal, and specializes in emotions, images,

and autobiographical (i.e., personal) memories

· The right hemisphere is the “spirit” of the law or the “context”

II. Both hemispheres need to be integrated so that your child values and utilizes both

his/her logic and emotions

a. Engaging only the left brain results in an emotional desert, which can push your

child toward rigidity

b. Engaging only the right brain results in an emotional flood, which can push your

child toward chaos

III. Young children are right-hemisphere dominant, especially in the first three years of life

a. There is much to suggest that children from hard places are more prone to get

“stuck” in the right hemisphere and to stay “stuck” longer than the typical child

b. The right hemisphere is the “side of the brain…more directly influenced by the

body and the lower brain areas” – pg. 16.

IV. Key to Remember à We want our children to “feel felt” which means that we as

parents must learn to “feel with” our children (i.e., be empathic)

V. Strategies

a. Connect and Redirect: Surfing Emotional Waves

· Connect first, then re-direct; start right brain-to-right brain, then move left

· Parents will often need to connect before they correct; both are needed, but

the order is important

· If a child is upset logic often will not be effective until a parent responds to

the child’s emotional needs; parents should help their kids “feel felt” before

addressing the problem/issue logically

b. Name It to Tame It: Telling Stories to Calm Big Emotions

· Children often need someone (i.e., the parent) to help them use their “left

brain” to make sense of (i.e., come to terms with) their big emotions feeling

· Encourage your child use his words (i.e., “give voice”) to calm his emotions

by allowing him to re-tell the frightening or painful experience

· This may require you as parent to prompt the telling of the story (i.e., to

literally give your child the words)

Chapter 3 - Building the Staircase of the Mind:

Integrating the Upstairs and Downstairs Brain

I. The brain is comprised of an “upstairs” and “downstairs” part

a. Downstairs brain

· Well developed at birth

· Responsible for basic functions, reactions and impulses (i.e., fight, flight

and freeze) and strong emotions (i.e., fear and anger)

b. Upstairs brain

· Not fully mature until a person reaches mid-20's

· Responsible for sound decision making, control over body and emotions,

self-understanding, empathy and morality

II. Children from hard places are more prone to get "trapped" in the downstairs brain.

As a result, these children have a greater tendency to:

a. Flip their lid

b. Act before they think

III. Strategies

a. Engage, Don't Enrage: Appeal to the Upstairs Brain

· Give your child voice

· Use compromises and shared power

b. Use It or Lose It: Exercising the Upstairs Brain

· Give your child practice at making choices; but be sure not to resort to

threats disguised as choices (e.g., either do your homework or you will

lose TV for a week)

· Use consequences appropriately and sparingly à go heavy on the natural

consequences and light on the logical/parent-imposed consequences

c. Move It or Lose It: Moving the Body to Avoid Losing the Mind

· Remember to pay attention to your child’s holistic needs (i.e., the

empowering principles)

· Often you can help to change your child’s emotional state by changing his

physical state (i.e., getting him moving/exercising)

Chapter 4 -- Kill the Butterflies!

Integrating Memory for Growth and Healing

I. Memory is the way an event from the past influences in the present

a. Memory is not a mental file cabinet; instead, memory is about associations

· What fires together wires together

b. Memory is not like a photocopy machine; instead, your state of mind at the time

of recall actually alters your memory

II. Two types of memory

a. Implicit memory

· Subconscious and automatic recall

· Causes us to form expectations about the way the world works, based on

previous experiences à leads to priming and mental models

· Is encoded throughout lifespan (including prenatally) and during the first

18 months of life, only implicit memory is encoded

b. Explicit memory -- Conscious recollection of the past

III. Awareness and giving voice are the keys for integrating memory à you can help

your child bring his implicit memory into awareness and integrate his memory by

empowering and encouraging him to use his voice

IV. Strategies

a. Use the Remote of the Mind: Replaying Memories

· Instead of “fast forward and forget” try “rewind and remember”

· By giving your child voice for her memories and encouraging her to

“rewind and remember,” you are empowering and teaching her that she

can gain control over the memories of negative/painful experiences

· Be attuned à use C.O.A.L. when engaging your child’s memories and

emotional life (Curiosity, Openness, Acceptance and Love)

b. Remember to Remember: Making Recollection a Part of Your Family's Daily


· Integrating memory takes Practice, Practice, Practice!

· Practical ideas

1. Ask questions; if you can’t think of one then use “tell me about


2. Play the guessing game

3. Create a special memory book

Chapter 5 -- The United States of Me:

Integrating the Many Parts of the Self

I. Your child (and you) needs to understand that by directing his attention he

can take control of and (to a great extent) choose how he feels and responds

II. Your child can easily become confused about the difference between "feel"

and "am"

III. The physical architecture of the brain changes according to how a person

directs his attention and what he practices doing (i.e., "what fires together,

wires together")

IV. Strategies

a. Let the Clouds of Emotions Roll By: Teaching That Feelings Come

and Go

i. Help your child recognize that feelings are temporary, changing


1. Feeling are states, not traits (e.g., I'm not ______, I feel


2. On average, an emotion comes and goes in 90 seconds

b. SIFT: Paying Attention to What's Going On Inside

i. Help your child recognize and understand what she is experiencing


ii. Use SIFT to help your child understand what she is paying attention


1. Sensations

2. Images

3. Feelings

4. Thoughts

iii. Use questions to help your child practice the SIFTing process

c. Exercise Mindsight: Getting Back to the Hub

i. Help your child get un-stuck and decide how they think and feel

1. Helping your child get un-stuck takes practice...for you and


2. By helping your child learn to get un-stuck you can actually

help change your child's brain

Chapter 6 – The Me-We Connection:

Integrating Self and Others

I. Empathy is something that must be taught and modeled for your child, but it will

require practice for your child to learn

II. Your child’s brain is wired for connection (i.e., relationships) with others

a. “Mirror neurons” (focused on behaviors) and “sponge neurons” (focused on

internal states)

b. Emotional contagion and setting the right emotional temperature for your child

III. Parents need to create an open, receptive (i.e., “yes”) state of mind in their child, as

opposed to a closed, reactive (i.e., “no”) state of mind

IV. Strategies

a. Increasing the Family Fun Factor: Making a Point to Enjoy Each Other

· “Playful parenting” is one of the best ways prepare children for

relationships and encourage them to connect with others

· Having fun/positive experiences are good for your child’s brain, releasing

the neurotransmitter dopamine (i.e., the chemical of “reward”)

· Parents need to be intentional about playing games and having fun

between parents and children, as well as among siblings

· Think of long-term connection in terms of this equation:

Connection = Amount of fun/enjoyment together > Amount of Conflict

b. Connection Through Conflict: Teach Kids to Argue with a “We” in Mind

· Viewing conflict as an opportunity to learn how to connect

1. Help your child recognize the other’s point of view

2. Help your child learn how to “read” nonverbal communication

3. Help your child learn how to repair and make things right