We’ve all heard the cliché that kids don’t come with instructions, which, while true, is a phrase that I think is often misunderstood. Parents may not get handed a manual in the delivery room, but that doesn’t mean that you are on your own. There are so many resources that parents can and should take advantage of; I think of them as guidebooks—they won’t show you the one way to get anywhere, but instead, will equip you with as much information as possible so you can choose the journey that gives you the most joy.

The Whole-Brain Child, by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

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

One of the most helpful “guidebooks” that I’ve come across in my years as an early childhood educator is The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, by Dr. Dan Siegel, MD, and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, PhD. This well-written guide breaks down the neuroscience of children’s brain development in an understandable way and provides a new perspective on what parents often experience as defiant or difficult behaviors.

The 12 strategies that Dr. Siegal lays out not only demystify typical challenging childhood behaviors, they also provide practical ways of dealing with, and growing from, those difficult moments.

While I would encourage any parent to explore Dr. Siegel’s work, I think the most valuable takeaway in considering his “whole-brain child” approach is a recognition and an acceptance that, as a parent, you play a huge role in your child’s development. Yes, nature plays a part and yes, children are going to develop and grow and learn in spite of us. That being said, what we do as parents matters and we really can make a big difference for our children.

Parenting is such a hard job and parents are under so much pressure, but knowledge really is power. No one parent has all the answers, but as a parent, you know your child better than anybody. The more information, tools, and strategies that you have—and the more language you can acquire to describe what’s going on with your child—the better you’ll be able to support and advocate for them as they grow and develop. Because as hard as being a parent is, being a kid is hard too, and children benefit greatly when the adults in their lives understand what they are experiencing.

I share Dr. Siegel’s approach in my work for that reason—he is a valuable resource to help you understand what’s going on with your child’s brain, which can give you a different perspective on their behavior and help you find the joy in even the most challenging moments of your parenting journey.

Dr. Siegel will share more about his whole-brain child approach at an upcoming event for parents, hosted by CCY. Please join us on May 18 for The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. This event will take place on Zoom, and registration is free. Learn more and register today!

Sheila Norman, MA, is a CCY Parent Educator, adjunct faculty at City College of San Francisco, and a lecturer at San Francisco State University.