“No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind” is the latest book written by Daniel J. Seigel and Tina Payne Bryson. The duo, both child psychiatrists, have previously co-authored the acclaimed book “The Whole-brain Child”, as they seldom fail to mention in this book too.

The title of this book strikes me as a marketing exercise to incorporate in one sentence all the keywords parents may be looking for when choosing a parenting book. Did it work on me? I don’t know, they are the brain-doctors, but I did buy the book…

I liked this book’s title even less because of the way the No-Drama or Whole-Brain names are scattered throughout the pages as a sort of brand, often as a term of comparison as in “the naughty step technique never really worked, but with the No-Drama Discipline approach…” I’ve used the same style in this review, I’ll let you decide whether it gets too much for you.

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The No-Drama Discipline is a book about parenting, and it focuses in particular on how parents, carers, and educators can discipline their children or the children they look after. It challenges most of the traditional techniques of parenting, but more importantly it reclaims the meaning of the word discipline itself as a way of teaching, rather than a way of punishing. This is a distinction the authors make very early in the book, and I found it so interesting that I forgot for a second how many times the No-Drama/Whole-Brain brand had appeared in the all pages before.

Given the scientific background of both authors I was expecting some kind of lecture about the research that lead to the No-Drama technique, and I must admit, I haven’t been disappointed. There is quite a bit of it, in fact. I’m sure the theory described in the book is an oversimplified model of the subject, but still, they’ve been thorough.

As I read more of this book, I also started to notice the amount of information in it. The theory sometimes does get in the way, but the truth is that even without it the book would still be quite dense in content, and without the theory it’d be much more difficult to understand it.

The No-Drama technique is made up of two “simple” steps: connection and redirection.

Connection is the phase of the No-Drama Whole-Brain technique in which the parent is meant to call upon the thinking, less reactive part of the child brain, so that any kind communication may occur. My son Ben is just over 2 years old now, and I experience first hand how a child at that age can switch from a Zen-like attitude to life to an all-out destructive rage in a matter of seconds. Reasoning in those moments is never going to work, while lecturing about good behaviour can make you the moving target of whatever object he’s holding in his hands. But that never stopped me from trying. Connection has the objective to make the child feel felt, listened to, and the No-Drama discipline book offers many suggestions on how that can be achieved.

Redirection is what you do once you have your child attention (assuming you get to that point). The first challenge for the parent is to work out why the child has behaved the way he did, then comes deciding what we want to teach, and last but not least, the all important how. While reading I thought it was too much to decide on the spot, but in practice you have plenty of time to make up your mind. That’s the time it takes for you to connect, calm down your child so that he can listen to you. For very serious infractions the redirect part can even happen the next day (most likely because it may take longer for the parents to rein in their anger and restore their cool). The book gives some good redirection strategies for you to try, and explain the principles to follow when coming up with your own creative redirection strategies.

For a while I thought that most of what I was learning couldn’t apply with a child as young as Ben. How do you reason with a person whose vocabulary is mostly made up of animal’s names? I promised myself I would read it again in a year’s time, when Ben is older and his language improves, but then I started noticing how often I was (and still am) getting it wrong, or how easy is to turn the same “Why are you angry?” in an scold, rather than an attempt to connect. This book teaches how parents — not children — can change their behaviour and get better at the whole parenting thing, and I think I’m old enough for that.

I learned a lot from the No-Drama Discipline/Whole-Brain book. We as parent can shelter our children, give them strict rules, and expect them to follow them, but it’s more important to give them the tools to take the right decisions on their own, because sooner than we expect, they will need to do just that.


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