By Sara Lapp, Counsellor, Counselling Services, Catholic Family Service

thewholebrainchild_cover_largeA Review of The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and Tara Payne Bryson, Ph.D. (2012)

Read Part 1 of this review here.

Since writing the first part of my review of The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD, my own daughter has ventured into a new developmental stage. This has meant extra tears, extra cuddles and little time for anything else!

I have noticed that both she and I have collided with the banks of the river and I’ve really had to stay focused on guiding her back with empathy and predictability. I’ve had to be mindful of the times that I have been drawn into the bank’s chaos and rigidity. Dysregulation sneaks up on us when we’re depleted from lack of sleep, a needy child, stress at work and laundry list of other demands on our energy and time.

So where does The Whole-Brain Child fit in? This book not only has well-written, approachable strategies, it also has pictures! If you are short on time or focus, you can catch up on a strategy in a fun and simple comic strip. If comics aren’t your thing, The Whole-Brain Child also presents strategies in a concise Coles Notes version at the end of the book.

One strategy that really resonates for me is the idea of “Engage, Don’t Enrage: Appealing to the Upstairs Brain.” This strategy guides us in taking a moment to draw out what a child may be feeling behind their less-than-positive behavior. The purpose of this strategy is to engage the child’s “upstairs” brain (the mighty problem-solving, abstract thinking part) rather than the “downstairs” brain (the reactive part).

I very much appreciate the authors’ personal stories in describing the strategies in The Whole-Brain Child. I think there’s nothing more powerful than feeling like someone has struggled as you have, doubted their abilities and humbly sought out ways to make changes. We are all in this together!


At CFS, we don’t manage people or prescribe solutions. We listen – with compassion. When people feel accepted, safe and understood, that’s when things start to change – for the better. We believe that everyone, regardless of financial capacity, should have access to professional, effective and efficient clinical treatment. Read about our Affordable Counselling Program.