As parents and educators, we strive to give our children their best chance at lifelong happiness. We work tirelessly to equip them with the tools that will allow them to succeed and achieve their goals. In The Yes Brain, Dr. Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson draw on their many years of research and experience in the field to teach us what children really need to thrive. This enlightening book encourages responsive caregivers to foster curiosity and risk-taking within the framework of safe and secure relationships, to promote the development of insight, balance, resilience and empathy—also known as, The Yes Brain.

By advocating for this integrated Yes Brain thinking that is flexible, adaptable, coherent, energized and stable, Bryson and Seigel nudge us to jump off of the high-performance treadmill that pushes us and our children to over-function— conditions that favour a No Brain. The Yes Brain is a mindset that provides children with grit and a growth mindset, while the No Brain is anxious, rigid, and reactive. In order to cultivate a Yes Brain, Bryson and Siegel provide us with strategies, examples and exercises to practice these skills ourselves and with our children.

While the authors acknowledge that even they have fallen prey to busyness and hectic scheduling, the message throughout the book is consistently centered on trying to be mindful about how we prioritize our time and interactions. We are urged to make the most of opportunities for engagement, to ensure our children feel Seen, Soothed, Safe and Secure (The 4 S’s), particularly when facing challenges. One of the keys to developing resilience is tackling difficult situations with the knowledge that supports are available if needed. As responsive caregivers, knowing when it is best to offer our children “pushin’ or cushion” is one strategy (of several) that Bryson and Seigel refer to as a way to help us provide children with the confidence to take risks, develop grit and ultimately a growth mindset.

In our efforts to promote skills that will support our children in the long run, we are called to focus on the journey, and question the value of overscheduling and overwhelming children with pressures to succeed. The Yes Brain compels us to nurture qualities that fuel meaningful relationships, intrinsic motivation, and self-actualization.

“If you can support the development of these capacities in your kids, you’ll be guiding them as they journey toward authentic success. They’ll still face their share of struggles—we’re talking about life, after all—but when they do come up against hardships, both big and small, they’ll have the ability to meet them from a place of strength, with a clear sense of who they are and what they believe.”

Meghan Scott, BAH Psych
Behaviour Consultant