The Whole-Brain Child

I just finished reading The Whole-Brain Child, a book that offers 12 strategies for new (and old) parents. The motto of the book is to help parents not just survive but also thrive. It is obviously important to enjoy being a parent; our kids after all will move out some day, which means that we will not be able to be around them as much.

The main idea of the book is integration. As it turns our different parts of our brain are responsible for different things. The left side is logical, rational, and takes longer to develop. The right side is emotional and tends to dominate the logical brain, especially early on. Also interesting is the fact that our brain is not fully developed until our mid-20s, and even more surprisingly our brains are plastic. That is, they continue to be modeled throughout our life by experience. That is why meeting smart and interesting people will enrich us, while having underachieving friends will likely diminish our performance.

The idea of integration also applies to the lower and upper levels of our brains. The lower brain is wired by centuries of experiences that our ancestors accumulated over time. That is why we can recognize danger without really knowing why. This is sometimes referred to as intuition. The upper brain is responsible for higher-level emotions, such as compassion and forgiveness. Here too the lower side of the brain tends to dominate early on, and it takes considerable effort to develop high-order feelings and thoughts. The 12 strategies mentioned by the authors are meant to connect both the left-right, and lower-upper parts of our kids’ brain, so that they are better equipped to have a rich and meaningful relationships with others.

The book offers many important insights about how to better raise our children. However, this book is not about letting kids do what they want, instead it offers a new and scientific way at understanding how the development (or the lack of) of children’s’ brain affects their behavior, and what can we do to better connect with them.

As the book progresses, it is interesting to note that we learn much more about ourselves, our experiences, and our parenting problems. Interestingly enough, this books forces parents to first deal with their own limitations, so they can later become better parents. Thus, the aim of the book is very impressive, and in my view achievable–it is possible to break a cycle of vice that might be running in your family for a very long time. The real question is whether we are willing to put in the work that will show its fruits two generations from now?

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