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Education Reporter

Book Review
The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., Delacorte Press: $15.98

In The Whole Brain Child, psychiatrist Daniel Siegel and psychotherapist Tina Payne Bryson combine very basic information on brain development and psychology with practical parenting tips in an effort to help parents train and nurture their children in the most developmentally-appropriate (and effective!) ways.

There's some risk to this approach: psychiatry and psychology are not always the most philosophically neutral disciplines, and well-meaning scientists have produces volumes of disastrous parenting advice over the decades. Siegel and Bryson avoid this problem by sticking close to some of the most basic, well-established facts about child development and the ways in which the brain's physical growth changes a child's mental and emotional needs. The authors also rely heavily on their own parenting experiences, making this a book in which common sense, concrete knowledge, and practical suggestions trump the potential philosophical problems engendered by some scientific approaches to human development.

Those who work with children, write the authors, usually know what is needed for healthy physical development. Unfortunately, parents don't always know how to encourage a child's internal growth. You know what your child's body needs — what do you know about her brain? What about his shifting emotional needs? The Whole Brain Child gives parents and teachers a broad overview of the ways in which basic knowledge of the brain's physical growth can help answer these questions and more.

Chapter summaries in the book's introduction offer a helpful overview:

The first chapter . . . introduces the simple and powerful concept at the heart of the whole-brain approach, integration. Chapter 2 focuses on helping a child's left brain and right brain work together so the child can be connected to both his logical and emotional selves. Chapter 3 emphasizes the importance of connecting the instinctual "downstairs brain" with the more thoughtful "upstairs brain" . . .

Chapter 4 explains how you can help your child deal with painful moments from the past. Chapter 5 helps you teach your kids that they have the capacity to pause and reflect on their own state of mind. When they can do that, they can make choices that give them control over how they feel and how they respond . . . Chapter 6 highlights ways you can teach your children about the happiness and fulfillment that result from being connected to others, while still maintaining a unique identity.

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