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on August 31, 2010
In the 6 years we have been parents, my husband has read 2 books, The Expectant Father and Parenting without Power Struggles. I have read more, which I'm sure is not uncommon. This book has made us better parents and has also made us better partners in parenting. Susan's methods are a mix of practical, developmentally appropriate approaches that are easy to implement in day to day situations. When one of us is struggling, we talk about the book to each other, and that helps us regain perspective. In some ways, Susan has become an absentee referee in our own parenting disagreements. He's more old-school, I'm more touchy-feely. This book met us in the middle. In some chapters she affirmed some things we were already doing and in others she gave us new perspective into what was really going on between us and the kids. I want to say that this book has some good old fashioned advice, but it's not old fashioned in it's presentation or reasoning. In our case, this book helped us as much with the power struggles between us as parents, as between us and the kids.
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on March 5, 2013
Susan Stiffelman seems to be a wonderful therapist with a talent for generating specific, feasible strategies for caregivers in need of guidance; her book, however, adds little to the parenting advice genre.

In order to create joyful, resilient kids, Stiffelman urges parents to take a "Captain of the Ship" role which derives unwavering authority from a foundation of empathy-based parenting. Her approach essentially combines "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" - the empathy bible - and "Parenting with Love & Logic" - the definitive source for "consultant parenting" whereby a parent distances herself emotionally from her kids' problems in order to remain a steady and firm source of support. Unfortunately for Stiffelman, the gorgeous melding of yin and yang accomplished by merging these two methods (i.e., feel with them enough to understand and respect their ups and downs but don't rise and fall with their emotions) is better achieved by reading those two books.

That said, Stiffelman has an interesting take on a few of Gottman's and Cline/Fay's best points - and a softer, more maternal tone - that might be a better fit for some readers:

- "Focus on loosening your need for your child to behave properly so that you can feel you're a good parent, [and e]xplore the meaning you're assigning to your child's problematic behavior." After all, "it's always our thoughts about the events of our lives - rather than the events themselves - that cause us to get upset." (In other words, try not to generalize from your kid dillydallying after you ask her to put on her shoes to the conclusion that she's a passive-resistant little s*** who has no respect for you and has begun a lifelong struggle with authority that will only end when you can force her to put on her f*&^ing sneakers.)

- "Give direction from connection." Begin an interaction with "Act I" which is essentially listening and prompting disclosure with nonjudgmental, noninvasive questions like ("`What is it like to be you?' and `Tell me more?'"), and then, only if your kid "invites you to the party" proceed to "Act II," offering assistance. Sometimes Act II must be delayed for quite some time. "[D]uring the storm of your child's misbehavior, avoid lecturing, explaining, or advising. This is not a teachable moment." (File this last bit in the easier-said-than-done folder.)

- When your child flips out, respond to the "neck down" feelings prompting the outburst, not the "neck up" words the child chooses to express those feelings.

She also offers a few pearls of parenting wisdom that I haven't encountered in written form:

- "I am not a big fan of forcing children to apologize . . . [because] children who chronically violate others and are coerced into offering up an apology simply become good at apologizing; they don't generally modify their behavior very much." (Hear, hear!)

- Create attachment by following the six stages of relationships: "proximity, sameness, belonging/loyalty, significance, love, and being known." (In other words, start - or begin to repair a relationship - by just being near the kid, then point out interests you share, etc.)

- "[I]nstead of [trying to figure] out how to fix a problematic situation, . . . think back to the point at which you could have prevented it from happening and resolve to take action at that juncture in future interactions with your child." (My husband and I figured out this little gem - that falls under the general rubric of "let go of the guilt when you go wrong and focus your energy prospectively" - for sidestepping the crushing feeling of powerlessness that accompanied our daughter's first year.)

- When attempting to convince an older child to do something like attend an unappealing family event, say something along the lines of "it's your choice, but going is just the right thing to do."

- View your kid's behavior surrounding minor disappointment (like getting to the end of a bag of chips) to the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) and enable her to experience each stage. (This downright mind-blowing trick has given me the ability to step outside the current emotional dynamic and watch my daughter's fit unfold with a sort of lovingly detached interest.)

- In order to help kids with indecision, anxiety, and depression introduce "ABC thinking" (where A is "the actual event, as it would be impartially reported," B is "the belief we construct about the event, or our interpretation of it," and C is "the consequence of our believing what we believed in `B,'" essentially urging them to consider alternate B's in order to mitigate yucky C's); tell them to "ask the future you" for advice (to help gain perspective); and remind them that "[t]he fact that a thought shows up doesn't mean you need to make it a sandwich!"

In sum, I would love to grab a cup of tea with Susan Stiffelman (despite balking at her description of timeouts as a "violation of connectedness [that] damages the parent-child relationship") and would recommend her as a therapist for a struggling parent or child in a heartbeat; her book just isn't one of my top picks for parenting advice.
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on October 8, 2009
I've just read Susan Stiffelman's book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, and the title alone is enough to make a weary parent sigh. Finally, a book that resonates with my parenting instincts and offers concrete, do-able suggestions for accomplishing what sometimes seems to be the impossible: maintaining authority or as the author so lovingly calls it, being the 'captain of the ship,' while encouraging and deepening a loving bond between parent and child. How often have you walked away after yelling at your child out of sheer frustration and felt crummy, thinking 'this isn't right.' She addresses so many of our common areas of power struggle, like HOMEWORK. She also encourages us to 'celebrate our children' but not in a false manner that leaves them dependent and ill-equipped for the world. For busy parents, aren't we all, the book is laid out in short, easily readable chapters. A great place to start that will surely pique your interest are the Check Lists in the very back of the book, Checklist #1 and Checklist #2. Check it out!!!
Anna Anawalt, Los Angeles, Caliornia
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on October 6, 2009
Susan Stiffelman's book and wisdom has changed my life and has helped me engender a relationship with my daughter that I had always dreamed of. My advice would be to sit down with this very user friendly book and see parenting from the eyes of someone that knows the very heart of this territory. When I follow Susan's advice and come along side my daughter first, just listening during what she calls ACT I, I always find the perfect opening to then take on my role of captain of the ship--as she calls it--during the the following ACT II, if even necessary.

Susan's stories and examples are compelling, heartwarming, and just downright friendly. One of my favorites and one that has actually helped me a lot is her discussion of "Little Fear Guy" in the chapter about depression and anxiety. I remember how I laughed when she described her Little Fear Guy to be Barney Fife from Andy Griffith, who always got the town folk stirred up about some imagined threat or danger. I realized from this example that by encouraging a child to objectify the source of their worry generator, and recognize it as well intentioned but not always accurate in it's depiction of what's going on, they can then feel empowered to update Little Fear Guy with new information that tells them that their survival is truly not at risk.

This is by far transcends all other parenting books that I have read, it truly is inspired and brilliant.
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on October 28, 2009
I have probably read 50 parenting books in my life and this is the best one ever. It is so well written, so right on topic. It is so easy to immediately transfer the info from this book into your day to day life with your kid. Loved it, loved it. Don't hesitate for a second to buy this one.
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on December 11, 2009
I'll be the voice of dissent and say I don't see what's so great. The book can be boiled down to use active listening, and look at things from your child's viewpoint. These are important things and the author does a nice job of presenting them. However, she gets to be redundant explaining the same two points repeatedly, and she doesn't break any new ground.
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on February 8, 2010
We have two kids - Ethan and Ella. I've read at least 20 parenting books for facts and suggestions to raise them to be happy, well-adjusted adults e.g. NurtureShock, Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child, Raising Children Who Think For Themselves. I selected each based on their ratings and comments made by readers here on Amazon. And I wasn't disappointed - I consider them from good to great parenting books. Susan Stiffelman's is definitely on the 'great' end of the scale. One of her reviewers said 'If you buy just one parenting book this year, make it this one!'.. hear, hear.

Cas, author of Cassius Cheong's Positively Quit Manual
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on December 14, 2012
There are some very good ideas in this book, but the author seems a little unrealistic in her expectations of parents (and the emotional lives of children). She seems to assume that a child will go into a deep emotional crisis everytime he or she is told no, and the parent is expected to "guide them through" this process. Every time. Obviously that's just not practical (and, in the real world, probably not necessary). My advice: buy the book and read it, but take it with a BIG grain of salt. You can glean some good ideas from this author, and chunk those portions that you know won't fit in with your lifestyle.
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on July 21, 2013
I could hardly put this book down. The words of advice and simple examples make reading this joyful. I still think I'll have to read it through again to help myself change my own train of thought when dealing with my child (or my spouse). Nothing crazy in it, everything makes perfect sense and just from the bit of it I've worked on with my husband, I can tell it is making me a better person and hopefully a better parent (we don't have children yet). If you are considering becoming a parent or just starting out, I would highly suggest the book to help build the right kind of foundation for a more peaceful child-rearing experience.
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on March 31, 2014
I bought this book after Glennon from Momastery.com recommended it as the ONLY parenting book she has read from cover to cover. :)
I loved this book! It was easy to read and understand. The concepts are simple and I felt they were all the things I already knew but need help and reminders as to how to implement these ideas into our daily, chaotic life.
As I read through the book I found myself feeling calmer and easily putting some of her tips into practice. I am about to read through it a second time. It will take more than once or twice before I am able to really remember and put into practice all her suggestions, but it's worth it. I can already see a change in our house!
Aside from basic, everyday parenting practices, the book also contains several good suggestions for dealing with larger problems such as anxiety, depression, anger, etc.
I found her writing style to be well organized, simple and clear to understand. This book is a must read!
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