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No Drama Discipline

No Drama Discipline

July 1 2016

Sound like something you need in your house? Two wonderful clinicians and authors, Dan Siegel and Tina Bryson, have written a stand out book to follow their first collaboration, ‘Whole Brain Child’. This second book is called ‘No Drama Discipline’ and it’s jam packed with up-to-date, scientifically valid information about our children’s brains and how to manage the tricky times with empathy and connection.

Did you know that discipline, at its heart, means ‘to teach’? Just even remembering this snippet of information can turn those high emotion moments with your individuation-seeking toddler into something much less shouty and with far fewer tears. Pausing to think, ‘What do I want to teach this kid in this moment?’ makes it much more probable that you’ll handle the situation with a cool head – rather than get sucked into the tornado/earthquake/tsunami that is a toddler’s brain at times of upset.

This doesn’t mean you let your kids get away with whatever they want. Part of being the grown up means ‘taking charge whenever necessary’ (as the Circle of Security® guys so succinctly put it). But it also means that you take charge with kindness and connection - not like a drill sergeant barking orders at new recruits. Connection is the name of the game here; making sure that even when you need to sort out behaviour you’re not all that fond of, you don’t diminish your child’s need for love and relationship.

This could well mean that any need for ‘Time Out’ is for you (so you can ‘Get/Keep Calm and Carry On’) and not for your kids! It’s hard to feel connected with the person who cares for you when you’ve on a naughty step, in a corner or in a different room. These moments teach our kids one thing: we can’t handle them when they are upset but here’s the crunch, they often can’t handle themselves either and won’t learn much without our help and (calm) guidance.

Some of the other gems to love from this book are:

  • the explanations about what happens in your child’s brain at times of upset and overwhelm (think ‘brain-under-construction’ with the primitive downstairs part in almost complete control at these times)
  • thinking about how you say ‘no’, with the authors pointing out there’s a big difference between an outright no and a yes with conditions. Child: ‘Can I have that biscuit?’ You: ‘Yes, as soon as you’ve eaten your healthy kai/had your nap/helped me to tidy away the toys.’  
  • and a number of handy little cartoons and sayings, like Is it a Can’t or A Won’t? (referring to that ‘brain-under-construction’ and its limited capabilities) and Instead of Dismiss and Deny, Connect and Redirect.

With all of this intriguing information about how to caregive/parent in connection, the authors – and science – are clear. You don’t have to be a perfect parent/caregiver and get it right all the time. Part of growing healthy, adaptable, resilient kids is knowing that the wheels WILL fall off sometimes (like five times in one morning for some of us) and that it’s the process of repairing these relationship ruptures with an apology, a smile, a hug or a kiss that is the important piece of the puzzle.

After all we’re only human and we’re all learning as we go along.

If you’d like to know more, check out Tina Bryson’s blog: or the Whole Brain Child Facebook page: