5 Ways The Whole Brain Child made me a better parent

Dear parents, on the days where everything seems like it’s going wrong and your patience has been worn so thin you might lose your mind, know that you’re not alone. May you be comforted by the fact that there are brilliant people out there working to make our lives much much easier!

One of the things I’ve been struggling with lately has been the epic return of the meltdowns. My hyper-vocal, hyper-emotional 4 year old is the king of power struggles. It seems Everything, even things he enjoys doing, deliberately gets refused aggressively just because my husband and I asked him to.

I don’t think he’s a bad kid.

I think becoming a big brother is a confusing time and the way people freak out about how cute babies are was starting to make him fee like “the other child”.

But how do we possibly keep track of all of these moving pieces? How do we reassure a 4 year old while keeping a toddler safe while maintaining jobs, household chores and our sanity. . . I have no idea either. But I do know that when I read books, I feel reinvigorated you try new things because it became clear to me that some of my current methods stopped being effective.

Here are 5 lessons that helped me reconnect with my 4 year old

When your child is upset, connect first emotionally, right brain to right brain. Then, once she is more in control and receptive, bring. Hi the left-brain lessons and discipline

The whole Brain child – Siegel, M.D. & Bryson, Ph.D.

1 – But first, reconnect

When a child is in the middle of a meltdown and screaming (NOooo! I DON’T want to!) instead of doing what you’ve asked them to do… it feel counter-intuitive NOT to react. But reacting only worsens the behavior. It aggravates a part of their mind that will guarantee a repeat offense!

During the meltdown is NOT the time to react. It’s not the time to reprimand, or even to teach a lesson. The Whole Brain Child has taught me to see meltdowns from my 4 year old as an expression of a need to reconnect and to be reassured that he is safe and loved and that his emotions are valid. Emotions can be scary for kids, their inability to comprehend what they’re experience can get scary for them. Reconnecting is consoling them in a way they need it. Reconnecting is the best diffuser of the meltdown bomb! Try it!

A powerful way to help a child regain upstairs-downstairs balance is to have him move his body.

The whole Brain child – Siegel, M.D. & Bryson, Ph.D.

2 – Built-in Jumping Beans

In my house we call it killing beans, it looks like the inability to sit still. It’s squirmy, it’s jittery, it looks like he’s kind of doing a pee dance, but he doesn’t have to go to the bathroom at all… he needs to go outside and run! The Whole Brain Child really doves deep into the scientific evidence of kids innate obligation to MOVE! When it rains we dance, when it’s available to us we go for walks, runs, hikes or go work in the garden.

Build fun into the family, so that your kids enjoy positive and satisfying experiences with the people they’re with the most.

The whole Brain child – Siegel, M.D. & Bryson, Ph.D.

3 – The other F Word

FUN! The endless household tasks will fool you into believing that parenting is all about keeping the kids changed, dressed, fed and bathed. But it’s SO MUCH more than that.

I’ve also started being more playful in every area that I could. Somethings NEED to get done, but there’s no reason for that thing to be done in a playful manner.

I’ve also tried being more open minded and receptive to his ideas of fun. What’s fun to me (crafts, activity books and board games) aren’t always as fun to my son. He does enjoy those things from time-to-time but right now, he loves loves to wrestle, but had it in his head that he could only do so with his dad. I was too… whiny. His words not mine. So I started making more room for playfulness, I hate violence but a touch of wrestling that ends in a tickle fight is something I can definitely get behind if it means it’s an opportunity to reconnect with my boy.

Help your kids exercise their memory by giving them lots of practice at remembering.

The whole Brain child – Siegel, M.D. & Bryson, Ph.D.

4 – Remember to remember.

Another playful way ive learned to engage with my son has been memory games. I don’t mean card matching games (Though I’m not opposed) I mean, when going to a grocery store we make a plan, we make a list and I ask him to remember up to 5 items we need. When we cook I read the entire ingredient list then he reiterates from memory what we need for our recipe while I gather all of the items. The Whole Brain child encourages parents to quiz their kids often because developing brains love a good puzzle to solve. If you keep their minds busy and engaged they will be less likely to be “up to no good” or use defiance as a form of entertainment like my son does.

Remind kids that feelings come and go. Fear, frustration, and loneliness are temporary states, not enduring traits.

The whole Brain child – Siegel, M.D. & Bryson, Ph.D.

5 – Clouds of emotions

The Whole Brain Child uses an analogy that my son actually understood at 4 years old. They explain emotions like the clouds, while your child is the blue sky. Clouds roll by sometimes. Some days it’s cloudier than others. But every single day, despite what the clouds are doing the sky stays constant.

The book describes the big unpleasant feelings that ignite the meltdowns as extremely unpleasant for kids. They’re not trying to annoy us with their meltdowns, they’re struggling to process their own emotions, and it’s our job to give them the tools, the reassurance and the explanations of what is happening, because they don’t know. So while comforting my child through his big loud and seemingly dramatic meltdowns, I work to teach him about how temporary emotions can be. When I make him laugh again I say “see? You found your happiness again because it was always there, just a bit cloudy with other stuff but it’s always there inside you”.

My favorite part of this book are the practical examples. It marries science with a parenting philosophy with endless specific examples of the suggestions in context.

You don’t have to read this book cover to cover, however after doing so, even if it wasn’t something I was going through at the time I read it, a situation came up months later with my son and I felt empowered with the tools and lessons learned from having read The Whole Brain Child.

I rate this book a sold 4/5 rating

I’d give it a perfect score if it was newer and more updated than it is. I wish there were more examples about technology and kids!

Still looking for a good book about that. When I find it, you’ll be one of the first to know.

Thanks so much for reading.

Don’t take my word for it though, but this bestselling book.


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