Marci Stiles

Written by Lora Kingsley, MS, LPC-Intern, NCC

Review of "The Whole Brain Child" by Daniel J. Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD

There are a lot of parenting books out there that will tell you how to get your child to go to bed, how to discipline your child and how to get them to eat their peas.  "The Whole Brain Child," by Daniel J. Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD, will teach you how to mold your child’s brain, like the Dr. Frankenstein you always dreamed of being.  Sort of.

Siegel, a neuropsychiatrist, and Bryson, a psychotherapist and parent educator, offer strategies to help parents go from “surviving to thriving.”  They explain how ordinary parenting challenges (like your child refusing to do their homework) can be turned into teaching opportunities that will help you not only connect with your child, but help your child’s brain to develop and mature.  Sounds ambitious, but many of the skills in this book are techniques that child therapists have been using and teaching parents to use for decades.  Siegel and Bryson explain, in surprisingly understandable detail, the neuroscience behind why these techniques work. 

The authors describe how the child’s brain develops.  The “downstairs brain,” which monitors autonomic functions and powerful fight-or-flight emotions, is present at birth.  That’s why a baby cries like it’s the end of the world when he’s hungry.  The “upstairs brain” or cerebral cortex, which processes information in a logical and rational way, doesn’t fully develop until we’re in our mid-20’s (which may explain why your college graduate just moved back home).  One of the twelve strategies described by the authors addresses how to connect these parts of the brain and teach self-control. 

Siegel and Bryson not only manage to make this material easy to comprehend, but they include cartoons to help both parents and children easily grasp these concepts.  In the back of the book, a handy chart helps to remind the reader which strategies to use depending on their child’s age.  There are lots of examples, some from the authors’ own parenting experiences. 

Despite being easy to understand, parents may become overwhelmed around halfway through the book, thinking they have to master all twelve strategies and the concepts behind them.  If parents have a good grasp of the first three strategies and use them with their children, they will see improved behavior and self-control.  Take time to practice the strategies and build on them. 

As a play therapist, I use these strategies and they work.  I recommend "The Whole Brain Child" to parents in my practice because it explains how to improve their connection to their children and to nurture their children’s emotional intelligence.  

To schedule an appointment with Lora Kingsley, click here.

Positive Outlook Counseling
Marci B. Stiles, MA, LPC-S, NBCC

16610 North Dallas Parkway, Ste 2100
Dallas TX, 75248


Positive Outlook Counseling services range from individual counseling to family therapy to marriage counseling services. Marci Stiles specializes in individual, family, marriage and troubled teen therapy.

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