No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, by Dr. Daniel Siegel, MD and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

Five stars (of five)

(Yet again the title should be a review in and of itself!)

Before tackling this book, the reader must understand a secret that is essential to good parenting; there is no ‘perfect parent’ or ‘ideal’ approach to tackling the issues of disciplining a child. Drs. Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson dispel this myth from the beginning and offer an insightful and highly educational approach to discipline and parenting that is simple, yet effective. With strong parallels from their previous joint publication (The Whole Brain Child), which I have previously reviewed, the authors tackle discipline from a non-punitive perspective seeking the “teachable moment” approach for both parent and child. With a better understanding of the child’s brain, the parent can fine-tune their end results to best align with what the child has going on and how the message reception plays an integral role in the final product, hopefully a cessation of the issue at hand. Siegel and Bryson make reference to their previous work and the different parts of the brain, as well as how disciplining from the lower, more reptilian, brain can lead to gross exaggeration and emotional messes that could take years to rectify. By talking and redirecting over punishing and lecturing, the authors propose that a child and their brain will become no only more receptive to addressing issues, but also more capable of digesting behaviours in need of change. While some sections may leave even the more tapped-in parent wondering where the parental power may have gone in this approach, Siegel and Bryson assure the reader that all is not lost, even if the magic wand is no longer in play. Well-written with honest examples and keys to success, Siegel and Bryson offer up a wonderful guide to address discipline issues from an emotionally calm and drama-free approach, leaving time for the parent and child to tune into an episode or two of DAYS OF OUR LIVES and see how well adjusted they are, compared to some families.

This is the second ‘parental discipline’ book that I have read in the past few months. With a child in his Torrential Threes, I sought out some helpful advice to tackle issues of defiance, acting out, and even outright ignoring. While the book has some sound approaches to it, it contradicts some of the previous literature that I have read by another well-known and respected parenting expert. Such is the peril that any parent (or reader) will encounter when reaching out for assistance. I was pleased to see Siegel and Bryson speak of not “running one’s life based on the manual of one expert or another while ignoring parental instinct”, for that is what I feared I would do. Children are as unique as ice cream flavours, and the parent knows their child better than any academic or psychologist. At times, it takes a nudge in the right direction to tune into those frequencies the child emits, but we cannot discount our own intuition in finding an effective way to parent and discipline the child. I especially enjoyed the ‘discipline is not all about punishment’ approach, for I never saw the difference. Boiling discipline down to being a set of teachable moments, the parent can reins in behaviours and teach from a ‘how well is this working?’ angle, rather than a ‘punish the behaviour out of you’ approach. If I took one thing away from this book, it is that. Our children are the future and if we can get in better touch with their feelings and development (mentally, physically, and emotionally), we are well on the way to raising happier, healthier, and more well-adjusted children. Then we can see those life lessons flourish when grandchildren come along. That said, don’t spill your secrets too readily; you had to learn them the hard way too!    

Kudos, Drs. Siegel and Bryson for this wonderfully organised book. I enjoyed its content as well as the strong ties to your previous work, which serves me well on a daily basis.