The Whole Brain Child
Read this over the best course of a year or so. Everytime I picked it up I walked away feeling energised as a parent and ready to try out the new ideas. And when out into action I noticed it made a significant difference to the behaviour and wellbeing of my children. My next objective is to print the summary notes at the end of the book (and maybe even turn them into some sort of resource sheet...). Genuinely very well written and oozing with fantastic ideas. Here are the notes. ntro: Survive-->Thrive. Every crisis is an opportunity (do I have the stamina and patience to always see them as such?) Chapter 1: The 'Let's go get ice cream approach' "it leaves the child confused about what happened and why. He is still full of big and scary emotions, but he isn't allowed (or helped) to deal with them in an effective way". The focus is on the 'integration' of the different parts of the brain. Children need to grow up 'horizontally integrated' - so the left and right parts of the brain (the logic and emotional sides, respectively) work well together. They also need to be 'vertically integrated' so the higher-level thinking works with their base 'animal' instinct. The mind is plastic and moldable and changes shape throughout our lives, not just in childhood. We have over one hundred billion neurons in our brain - and each one has an average of 10,000 connections to other neurons. A pretty fearsome computer. Left/Right brain 'integration' is like canoeing down a river. In the middle it is calm, you are in control but can adapt easily to any changes. If you stray too close to the right bank you are caught up in confusing rip tides (emotions) but if you stray too fat to the left you become a control freak (logic) and wish to impose your will on everything and everyone around you. Chapter 2: Right brain controls emotion and left controls logic. People can retreat to the left when confronted by emotional scenarios that hurt. We want children (and adults) that are horizontally integrated, meaning they can control both left and right brain reactions. A child's rain develops the right side first and then when they start asking "why?" This is their left side beginning to come online and want to find order in the world. So the strategies that come from this: Connect and redirect. Connect (empathise and listen) to the right brain response before shifting the response to the left side once they have calmed down. Name it and tame it: retelling the story of traumatic and stressful experiences activates the left side, to sequence events, while allowing the right side to still fill in with emotional details. This is often best done some time after the event and while the child is engaged in another activity. Naming the emotions and sequencing events gives the left side more control over the right. Not understanding something is often the biggest fear, so by using logic we can wrap it around a framework of explanation and it loses that fear and trauma. This process can be deepened by having the child draw or write the story. Chapter 3 Downstairs brain controls basic animal functions Upstairs brajn contains the analysis and rational decision making parts. Children are born with the bottom brains fully developed, we are building the top half until our mid 20s. The amygdala sits in the bottom of the brain and can override controls when faced with dangerous situations. This is where instinctive reactions come from. Upstairs tantrums: deliberate and manipulative, can stop as soon as they achieve their desired aim or you appeal to their sense of reason (or threaten a privilege they cherish etc). Ask them to come up with what would be a fair compromise and turn solving the problem into a game or a puzzle that you are both engaged in. Downstairs tantrums: When the amygdala takes over and there is no way to reason. They just need comforting and you can revisit their behaviour later. Upstairs training: * give choices and make them live with the consequences. Perfect choices are not the goal, but practicing decision making is. Poor decisions are just as useful for learning as good ones. * draw picture diaries to help them process the activities they did that day. * lots of why questions, why did you do this, why does Sam feel like they do? Etc etc. Hypothetical questions to build their morality can useful too. * move it or lose it: physical activity can reset the upstairs/downstairs balance. * Model good behaviour, remove yourself from situations if you feel the downstairs taking over and apologise immediately, showing you did wrong and are taking ownership. Chapter 4: integrating memory for growth. * memories are not memory files like a computer. Memories are connections between neurons in the brain that connect up. Hence music reminds you of a time and place etc. * memory recollection is altered everytime you recall it. Your brain summons up a cluster of neurons that are similar, but not identical to those that formed at the time of the moment you are trying trying recall. * There is two types of memory, implicit (not conscious, like muscle memory, a skill you have learned through practice- e.g. walking!) And explicit memory - thinking back to an event. * Fastfward and forget, Rewind and remember. • recall the narrative of painful experiences, but all the child to 'pause' and 'fast forward' painful bits. Once you've established there is a happy ending, then rewind to the bits you've missed and using the happy ending as incentive/reassurance go through the painful bits again with the child. • using a journal of scrap book can be a great way of making implicit memories, both good and bad, explicit so they can be learnt from. • Chapter 6 onwards... Key points included making sure that "deny and deflect" type responses are used less often and instead replaced with opportunities to explain their emotions and other people's. That is essentially the gist of it, crisises are opportunities for learning which can be done by naming the emotions, talking through what has just happened and trying to sympathise with how others must be feeling.