This book has a lot of great stuff in it and equally, some stuff that left me scratching my head....Let me explain.
We'll start with the great stuff first. They talk about connecting with your child a lot. The idea of getting off parenting "auto-pilot" so you are not reacting anymore, but rather, intentionally engaging in the situation in order to use these moments to teach our children what they need to learn to promote better behavior next time. All of these are great assertions and really, for me, the point was simply, don't react, or punish in anger, rather, assess the situation and figure out what lesson my child should learn from our post-tantrum encounter and do what I can to teach that lesson, instead of just teaching them tantrums=time out. I should be teaching them HOW to communicate with me BEFORE the tantrum. Now, that being said, none of this will happen over night, but if you allow your emotions to be removed from the anger/drama cycle and react as a teacher, rather than a victim of their poor behavior, over time the drama (especially on the parents' end will be gone).
Now for the stuff I wasn't so comfortable with....There is a graphic in the book that supports their main point of
"The No Drama Cycle"
"Communicate Comfort">"Validate">"Listen">"Reflect">"Communicate Comfort">>>continues in a circle
I had a hard time with this because I felt like this was all about stopping and gauging your child's emotional reaction to why they are making that poor choice or melting down. On the surface, that doesn't always sound like a bad idea, however, my 5 year old figured out that if she starts to melt down, she gets undivided attention. That obviously leads to people saying, well if she's acting out she must need more attention....But, as many other parents will attest, she can't have undivided attention all the time. We spend much time one-on-one with her, but when I am giving her sister the same one-on-one time, is when the 5 year old would meltdown in hopes that I would abandon her sister's one-on-one time to go through the steps of the cycle with her. Now, most people would just say, ok, so ignore the 5 year old's melt down and discuss it later.
BUT it specifically says in this book that if you ignore your child while they're melting down like that you're sending the message, "You're on your own if you get angry and upset. I love you, and I'll be here for you once you're done throwing your fit; but as long as you keep acting this way, I'm going to ignore you. So hurry up and finish being upset."
They say that if you stop and essentially coddle your child, you're not giving in, you're actually communicating, "I'm here for you even when you're falling apart and at your absolute worst. I can take it. I've got your back no matter what."
I don't see it, but maybe it will work for someone else's family.
I do appreciate how they kept re-iterating that no child is the same, so no method is fail-proof and you have to figure out what works with your kid. Overall, I felt like this was nothing really new and not really for my family.
With the advent of advanced neuro-imaging techniques, the field of brain science has made rapid gains. We now know so much about how the brain functions - which brain regions control which processes and functions, how sensory inputs are processed, how memories are created, stored and accessed, the roles of different neurotransmitters and hormones in creating thoughts and emotions, and much more. Perhaps this information can be used to understand how different parenting styles affect brain development and, hence, the intellectual, social, emotional and moral development of children. Perhaps this brain-based information can even help develop a set of general guidelines or principles for best practices for child-rearing. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson have spent much of their careers doing just that.
They have developed a simplified framework for understanding how experiences shape brain development and, hence, child development. In short, the brain is made up of two dual, opposing systems. First there is the "left brain" and the "right brain". This book does not talk much about this duality (which I believe is more developed in their book THE WHOLE BRAIN CHILD). Very simplistically, the left brain is the logical, linguistic side, while the right brain is the holistic, emotional side (it's actually a lot more complicated than that and both sides are integrated through a massive cord of fibers called the corpus callosum).
More germane to this book is the "upstairs brain" and the "downstairs brain". The upstairs brain consists of the cerebral cortex, especially the pre-frontal cortex, which handles executive functions like judgment and impulse control. The downstairs brain consists of the brain stem - our "mammalian" brain which handles emotions and our "reptilian" brain which handles immediate, flight, flight or freeze survival reactions. The key to optimal functioning is the integrate the functioning of these two dual systems and not allow one region to "hijack" another.
But science is beginning to show that many traditional, typical parenting strategies - including many recommended for generations in parenting books - activate the brain's stress/threat response system, which engages the downstairs brain in a way that essentially takes the upstairs brain "offline". The brain perceives things like yelling, spanking, punishments and even the isolation of a time-out to be threatening to the organism, which triggers the part of the brain meant to react to such threats. This reaction is great if you are a zebra who's just spotted a lion. Not so great, however, if you are a parent who is trying to discipline a child. Often when children misbehave, it is because they are already dealing with overwhelming feelings and reactions, so their downstairs brain is already hyper-engaged. When we "discipline" in an angry, controlling or punitive way, we only further overwhelm the downstairs brain, which produces the exact opposite reaction we want. Furthermore, the authors argue that the way we discipline shapes the child's developing brain over time - harsh discipline over time wires the brain in an unhealthy way that leads kids to be more reactive and impulsive.
The authors ask us to take a step back and look at what we are trying to accomplish through - and what do we mean by - "discipline"? Is it about punishment and retribution for wrong-doing? Or is it, rather, about teaching and helping our children grow up to be the responsible, empathic, moral people we want them to be? If (as the authors assume), our goal is the latter, many of the parenting methods we should use are antithetical to the ideas of punishment and retribution.
The authors contend that much of children's "misbehavior" is really their coping response to "big feelings" and other sensory overload that they simply can't handle. Furthermore, their ability to handle such feelings and sensory experiences vary wildly depending on a number of factors, such as hunger, fatigue and other issues going on in their lives. So a child who is normally fairly calm and collected but who has a meltdown at the checkout lane may not be simply being manipulative to get a candy bar (as parents often assume), but may very likely simply be overwhelmed from a long day of shopping and simply cannot keep herself together.
If we want to make disciplinary situations into potentially teachable moments rather than pitched battles to be won, we must engage the child's upstairs brain. To do that, we must soothe his downstairs brain so his upstairs brain can come back online. And to do that we must soothe our own downstairs brain so our own upstairs brain can come back online. Then we are ready to "connect and redirect" - emotionally engage with our child by showing that we understand his big feelings and then redirect the behavior in positive ways. This process cannot be forced - trying to make a child calm down is instead likely to get her more upset. Parents often argue that they don't have time to go through this process, but the authors respond that over time, as the child's brain becomes less in thrall to the downstairs brain and more able to engage the executive functions of the upstairs brain, this method tends to be much more effective.
The book is very well organized, following a coherent outline which includes both the simplified theory and practice of each step in this process. The book is written in laymen's terms, which might be a bit too simplified if you have much prior knowledge of psychology or neuroanatomy/physiology. A fair amount of nuance is lost in this simplification, but it is adequate for the points of parenting that the authors are trying to convey.
This book combines a lot of ideas you may have encountered from other theorists and authors (although the authors of this book may have come to their ideas independently). If you are familiar with Robert Sapolsky's WHY ZEBRAS DON'T GET ULCERS, you will recognize a lot of the brain research he reported regarding how the body's stress response system becomes activated by threats. If you are familiar with Peter Levine's work, you will recognize some of his ideas about how our experiences and emotions are felt in the body and how that can be used (by both kids and adults) to gain a sort of meta-understanding of the physical and mental processes of stress and relaxation (what the authors of this book call "mindsight" - understanding the mind behind the behavior), which can be used to help take control of the process and release physical energy associated with stress. And if you are familiar with Alfie Kohn's work, you will recognize his "working with" rather than "doing to" ideas of child-rearing - in fact, this book is almost a "how-to" guide for implementing some of Kohn's more theoretical ideas.
In simplifying their work and offering a framework for parenting, the authors run the risk at times of turning parenting into a corporate motivational seminar. Some of their specific techniques come across a bit too cheery and manipulative. As one example, rather than telling your children no, they suggest saying "yes with a condition". Your daughter asks, "Mom, can Sally come over?" Rather than saying "Not today, sweetheart", you say, "Sure, how about next weekend?" I dunno, but that sounds rather disingenuous to me. You know perfectly well - and your daughter knows you know - that she meant "now" or at least "today". Saying yes to a question she didn't ask is a rather dishonest way of saying no to the question she did ask. In my opinion, an honest no is better - you can always follow it up with the alternative option ("Not today, sweetheart. How about next weekend?") The authors do, however, repeatedly stress that their advice needs to be filtered through the lens of your individual parenting style.
The authors further stress that their discipline system is not meant to be an indulgent, permissive free-for-all. Children still need consistent rules, boundaries and structure (as long as they are flexible enough to "meet the needs of this particular child at this particular time"). Parents should still hold high expectations and not do things for their children so that children learn to handle disappointment and failure as well as develop self-discipline and perseverance. Coincidentally, just before this book I read Alfie Kohn's THE MYTH OF THE SPOILED CHILD, which argues that things like self-discipline and perseverance may be overrated, and maybe it's not such a bad thing for parents to do things for their children in order to support them. Overall, Kohn's work is very simpatico with Siegel and Bryson's work. I would love to see a dialogue among the three on some of these finer points.
I recommend this book for any parent of any theoretical perspective and political stripe. This book offers valuable insight and specific guidance for parents who are already trying to raise their kids in a more respectful and progressive, less controlling and punitive way. But even for parents of a more traditional, authoritarian mindset, this book offers a thought-provoking, yet common sense, challenge, based on extensive empirical research, to some of the assumptions and beliefs behind behavioral parenting.
on March 26, 2015
I ordered this book out of desperation. My grandchildren were acting out in ways that were unsafe (ages 3 and 5 at the time) running near traffic, throwing tantrums. Without reading the entire book, I learned enough to completely turn the situation around. Recent example: I pick up my granddaughter from school and she is in her weird mood again, runs down the street and crosses it without me! Once we are in the car, I say, OK, what happened at school today? Nothing, she says. No, you don't usually act like this. What happened? See this scratch, she asks. I tripped over some blocks and three of my friends laughed at me. Behavior changes to normal. The next day I pick up my grandson. I don't rush him out to the car anymore. Instead we have a check in period sitting in the back of the car before we go anywhere. In other words we process their emotional well being before pressing on into this busy world. Huge change!
on June 23, 2014
This is the second book I have read by these authors. The first was The Whole Brain Child. This is a continuation of the research and information found in the first book. This one is directed even more towards discipline with lots of examples. There are also frequent reassurances that we are human and will not do this perfectly every time. They even used my favorite Maya Anjelou quote, “When you know better, you do better.” Part of the book is even dedicated to the mistakes these experts have made!
The No-drama method of discipline is not instinctive. It probably isn't even the way most of us were disciplined when we were children. An awareness of how this approach is much more loving and instructional makes it one most should want to adopt. Yes, it will require effort and yes, we will throw it out the window and resort to a more reactive approach at times, but when we know a better way of doing it, we will use it more often. As a result, we will have raised children who are more aware of others as well as why they are doing what they are doing. We will also develop a much more loving and connected relationship with our children. The long term result of this should be that they will be able to more naturally raise their children this way.
This is an easy book to read and follow. They do report scientific findings, but it is done in a way, and with examples, that make it easy to follow. There are resources at the back, including a refrigerator sheet to remind you of the important points. There is even information to pass on to care givers who might not have read the book. They seem to have thought of everything!
Six stars. Wonderful book. As a new parent to a two-year-old I'm the perfect test market. I LOVED IT. It's already dog-eared and highlighted and re-read and underlined paragraphs read aloud to my spouse. I'm not going to discuss the techniques here, but they are calming, respectful and (with thought) sensible. And most importantly they have worked with my high-energy bundle of boundary pushing toddler. We were using a calm 'naughty corner' time-out, but it was starting to not work. The book showed us that he wasn't thinking about how to not paint the chair while in time-out, but was probably thinking his parents suck. The book got me to using a time-in, and while it required a couple of weeks to fully work, the change has been remarkable.
Smooth easy read. Based on wide review of current science. Authors are respected in the field, parents, practitioners, and good communicators. Includes the why and the how, plus useful summaries and reviews. Did I mention, I LOVED IT. Hope this review is helpful.
on September 22, 2014
With a just-turned-two-year-old who was just starting into furious tantrums about pretty much every tiny disappointment (coming inside, getting into her car seat, leaving a room, dropping a toy, being asked not to throw things at the dog, etc., etc.), I was very eager to get some new ideas beyond the standard "just ignore it" advice. In addition to the frustration tantrums, she was also going through a spell of pinching, hitting and biting, and nothing (ignoring, separating, time-outs, scolding, yelling, earnest explanations, dirty looks, attempts at redirection) was really helping with that. In fact, most attempts just seemed to escalate the bad behavior.
In just a couple of weeks, the advice in this book has really turned around my interactions with my daughter and has enabled me to almost universally nip her tantrums in the bud. As a work-at-home parent, this translates to more happiness, greater productivity, and much, much less stress.
I can't speak to how well this will work with older children with better verbal skills (but since the crux of it is paying attention and connecting, it seems like good advice even for dealing with adults), but with a toddler with a pretty good ability to understand but quite a limited vocabulary and ability to express herself verbally, this method has worked wonders.
Most of the trick is in the nanosecond before you react--simply asking yourself why. Why is my kid being a jerk? Usually the answer is obvious (in our case, she wants either attention or some object/situation she can't have), but being mindful of the cause shades your response just enough to connect. In the past, if I just tried to put her off for a few minutes to finish my task, her distress would quickly escalate and she would become whiny, clingy and a little insufferable.
While it does take more effort to actually engage instead of acting on autopilot, I'm learning that a little upfront investment (like, seriously, a minute or two) of genuine connection at attention when my toddler just starts to go sideways can put out the fire and quickly yield plenty of extended, quiet play. Magic.
The practical tips of just taking a second to physically connect, make eye contact, offer a moment of comfort, etc., before explaining and redirecting make the process easier. And the authors' trick of pointing out how much if it would annoy you if someone was treating you in the same way really helps internalize the flaws in the conventional parenting advice. I also like they detailed distinctions between giving love/attention/setting boundaries and spoiling (e.g., shielding child from negative feelings/situations, never requiring accountability, making excuses, or giving the kid too much *stuff*).
While, like all self-help books, the same basic ideas are repeated many different ways, and you can start to feel like "okay, okay, I *get* it," I do feel like the repetition and examples did help me internalize the methods, and--just as importantly--helped give me a good enough sense of it to explain the concepts well to my partner (I'm the reader/filterer of the parenting books in our family). The other upshot is that hammering the ideas into your brain really does help stop you when you start to react in your default, autopilot way, so you as a parent can stop your own bad behavior and model how a smart, thoughtful person should act, even if wise choices don't always come naturally ;).
Good stuff, and effective.
The best part of this book is the cartoon illustrations and to be quite serious, I wish they had just made it a graphic novel! It would have been a much more approachable and efficient read that way. A lot of the dead weight in the book is neurobabble that is dumbed down to the point of being almost misleading. The brain is so complex, we barely understand it, and it's important for pop science writers not to overstate what we think we know, as it can lead people into thinking more rigidly about complex human behavior problems than they ought.
Two major points of frustration for me regarding their method of discipline: one, it seems impractical in how to apply it to many real life situations. When approaching a major issue, you have time to think through all the problem-solving steps they want you to do. But in the chaos of daily life with multiple children, there are many moments with no such luxury. There has to be a "shorthand" for those moments, without rolling through a mental file of neuropsychiatric factoids and trying to see inside your child's skull.
The second was that some of the "Goofus vs Gallant" examples they give are non-parallel. The "bad guy" parent is shown responding to a more difficult or unpleasant situation than the "good guy" which leaves you wondering "how would I handle this in the 'good' way if my child was not responsive to it?"
"No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way To Calm The Chaos
And Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind"
Written by Daniel J. Seigal MD & Tina Payne Bryson PhD
(Bantam Books, 2014)
. . . .
Oh, you know who these people are... They're that amazing child-whisperer preschool teacher who magically redirects your kid from a go-nuclear tantrum to fingerpainting with Sally within two seconds, or those maddeningly calm parents in the playground who sit down and "process" everything with their maddeningly calm children, validating their feelings, drawing life lessons, ending up with a hug and healthy self-reflection.
How the heck do they do it? Well, this book lays out the principles of positive reinforcement -- respecting the child as a person, reflecting their feelings, seeing things from their point of view, helping them to walk through the mechanics of self-reflection and empathy. The book is as much about changing behavior in parents and breaking *our* bad habits as it is about training our kids. The text is plainly written and very accessible, also written in a non-judgmental tone (which helps, even though if you're really struggling with not yelling at your kid, you're going to feel guilty anyway, while comparing yourself to all these saintly ideals...)
The text is boosted by a lot of cartoons illustrating examples of positive communication, making the book easy to scan or refer back to (if you've lost your zen mojo and want a refresher) A lot of their advice will be familiar to parents who have looked into specialized courses such as Communication Works, etc., but laid out in a simple, easily understood format, and it won't cost you hundreds of dollars in therapy time. One criticism is that this narrative doesn't encompass or address really, really difficult kids - children with neurological conditions such as ODD, etc. The assumption is that these techniques will work on all children, and while I think calm parenting is always helpful, it's not always a silver bullet. Still, this is all good advice, and the presentation is very good... Definitely worth checking out! (DJ Joe Sixpack, ReadThatAgain children's book reviews)
on September 23, 2014
“Steve Jobs gave a small private presentation about the iTunes Music Store to some independent record label people. My favorite line of the day was when people kept raising their hand saying, "Does it do [x]?", "Do you plan to add [y]?". Finally Jobs said, "Wait wait — put your hands down. Listen: I know you have a thousand ideas for all the cool features iTunes could have. So do we. But we don't want a thousand features. That would be ugly. Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It's about saying NO to all but the most crucial features.” (quote from Derek Sivers)
Daniel Seigel and Tina Payne Bryson are innovators in the world of self-help books for parents and have intelligently, and elegantly, expanded on their parenting philosophy introduced in their prior collaboration, The Whole Brain Child. The authors demonstrated respect for simplicity in the presentation of their book. They kept what could be a runaway discourse on brain structures and neuroscience research to a wonderfully engaging argument for closely examining your own parenting philosophy.
I was eager to read this book since Siegel and Bryson made such an incredible team in The Whole Child Brain. In No-Drama Discipline, the authors expand on their philosophy that discipline is teaching, not punishment. I've read most of Siegel's clinical books for therapists, which are brilliant and pioneering in themselves; But it's his work with Bryson that I've found to be especially engaging, down-to-earth, and readable for the average person.
No Drama Discipline invites you to treat your child as the amazing, complex, developing person he/she is. This is a huge leap for many parents to learn and put these techniques into practice. It was for me. But what I appreciate about Siegel and Bryson's leadership in this book is what seems to be their implicit faith in the plasticity of their own methods; Even though they give very helpful examples (I loved the illustrations and "Connect and Redirect Refrigerator Sheet"), it's impossible to explain every possible situation in which their methods can be tested. I'm glad they didn't try.
My first response to their table of contents was to jump to the last section of the book which contained the author's stories of either "flipping their own lid" (Dan) or dealing with a kid that responds to absolutely none of the methods that the book teaches (Tina). None of the No Drama Discipline techniques fits perfectly into all real-world situations. The authors acknowledged these limitations and exceptions had the courage to say basically, "it's not all-or-nothing."
There will be some readers that will have wanted to see the authors write an encyclopedia for every possible situation a parent encounters related to disciplining a child. In fact, I appreciated the Siegel and Bryson's use of repetition of their concepts through the book and considered this far better than many other self-help books that overload the reader with complexity. What you get instead from No Drama Discipline is a curated selection of some of the best "pillar concepts" on which some of the most successful professional family and child therapies are based.
I will highly recommend this book to the couples in my own private practice.
I have three kids, the youngest being a fairly willful toddler. I was hoping this would offer some more direct techniques on how to help him learn, become disciplined, and follow instructions. Unfortunately this, while some points were interesting and worth re-noting, were all fairly intuitive to me already. I have always tried avoiding the situation, defusing the situation. But, I think what I was looking for was more how to correct the problem after, this book didn't offer any consequences to actions, except to rely on a child's inborn sense of right and wrong. Which is great when they know what they've done is wrong, such as hurting a friend. But, on things such as climbing out of bed at bed time, he doesn't think it's wrong. It's just that he's learned a new trick, and this book isn't offering a solution to getting him to not do that, because let's face it talking and talking to a toddler is counter productive.
All in all, it's interesting, but blandly written, but it's not groundbreaking and it's not going to offer a simple solution. It's basic message was 'think of how they feel, so you can understand where they are coming from" and my favorite line, used pretty much every other paragraph, "don't worry about that now, we'll get to that in the next chapter."