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69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
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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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
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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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
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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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
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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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
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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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
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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43 of 56 people found the following review helpful
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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33 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2011
I stumbled across this book and discovered the author draws heavily from aspects of the groundbreaking paradigm developed by Dr.Gordon Neufeld. Unfortunately, this book's re-working of his ideas lacks the depth embodied in his approach to children.

I would recommend his book, Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, for those who want a deeper understanding of his brilliant developmental/attachment paradigm so that they can respond to their children from a place of deep understanding that goes beyond parenting scripts and how-tos.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2010
This is the best parenting book I have ever read. I have read many many parenting books over the past 15 years and this is by a long shot the BEST book I have read on this subject. Susan Stiffelman writes a book that is easy to read and follow. Her suggestions on how to raise your children makes so much sense and her advice is so logical. Her advice on how to connect with your children has helped me look at how to relate to my teenagers in a way I never thought would be so invaluable. It's so simple at the same time too. Her advice is so logical because she is offering a way to connect and relate to your children in a way that you do with your friends and significant others. You don't just demand that your friend or significant other do something, you have a certain connection with them and a way to ask them to do something that doesn't put him/her on the defensive. Her advice just turned on the light for me and has helped me more than any other book or child specialist I have sought out advice from. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at a school one evening and she is impressed me with how down to earth, personable and approachable she is. She is a pure delight and her advice is invaluable. Thank you Susan!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2011
In Parenting Without Power Struggles Susan lays out practical techniques and shows a variety of layers of consciousness that allow a parent to be in charge. By being along

side the child the parent is seeing from the child's viewpoint , but remaining the one in charge. The book is full of anecdotal stories from therapy clients and her personal

parenting experiences. She manages to teach, do therapy, parent and inspire. She uses information from Byron Katie and others help unlock the congealed thoughts that insist

someone is to blame or made a mistake. Besides being informative the book is inspiring and entertaining. Susan is able to weave together a hopeful , loving, unique and

conscious celebration of family that is based in sound teaching, psychology and conscious transformation. The lessons from this book can serve anyone at any age whether

thay are a parent or just want to know more about life. Gratefully, Mike Godby
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