“Whole Brain” Parenting

Posted by on Jan 27, 2018 in Ask The Therapist | 0 comments

Parents today are juggling demanding jobs and household responsibilities while trying to work on challenging child behaviors in the bargain. A few simple parenting techniques are suggested by Daniel J. Siegel, M. D., in his book “The Whole Brain Child.” These simple techniques are discovered after weeding through some very complicated neurobiology, which you can also read if you like that kind of thing.

In the book, Dr. Siegel introduces the concept of “brain integration” and its positive effects on child development. He provides suggestions to assist your child in becoming horizontally integrated so that the logical left brain and the emotional right brain will work together. He also suggests to train your children to be vertically integrated, so that their higher brain (in charge of thoughtful consideration and empathy), can communicate with lower parts of the brain (concerned with instinct and survival, involving strong emotional responses).


According to Dr. Siegel, one simple technique for a child who is having a melt-down would entail the “connect and redirect” strategy, which involves understanding and validating the child’s emotion first (through the right brain), and then engaging their logical left brain in problem-solving and planning for future changes. A vertical integration technique is suggested called “engage, don’t enrage” for tantrum behavior, which involves encouraging an angry child to engage in a logical problem-solving activity in order to make choices and solve a problem, thus distracting them from the lower brain emotions.

If you skim through the complicated “brain talk” in the book, the focus is essentially on validating your child’s emotions (not to be confused with allowing or encouraging bad behavior), and redirecting and engaging their logical and higher-order thought process to encourage good coping and reasoning skills. It’s s simple concept if you think about it, and not only will using this framework result in better behavior from your children, but it will also serve to encourage more satisfying relationships with them as well.



Written by Elizabeth Holmes, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

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