Having a soon to be three year old, I read this book with the hopes of learning how to navigate disagreements with my son without acting like a toddler myself. Right off the bat, Stiffelman suggests that threats and bribery, two methods I routinely use at dinner, are ineffective. She advises that to be an effective “Captain of the Ship,” a parent needs to come along side a child rather than right at them. Threats and bribery, she argues, turn child and parent into ‘two attorneys’ locked in battle with no one in charge. This rang true to me especially since I am an attorney.
Stiffleman’s focus is often on the behavior of the parents rather than the child. If parents are frustrated by a child’s behavior, they should ask themselves some questions about their OWN behavior, the most important of which is “is it true”? In other words, if I believe the only reason my son is refusing to eat is to annoy me, I should step back and determine if that is true. The answer? Probably not. Once working that out in my head, I can come at my son’s refusal to eat with less agitation and anger.
Stiffleman provides numerous legitimate ideas for how to effectively parent. Her use of role-play, however, is less convincing. Whether providing a hypothetical parent/child exchange or actually role-playing with a client, she has the child responding like we would all LIKE for the child to respond, not how the child actually would.
Negatives aside, Stiffleman celebrates the child and urges parents to focus on each child’s unique gifts and to nurture them. She also encourages parents to be present in their own lives as well as their child’s. “Having a child is like getting a gift that continues to unwrap itself,” she says, so pay attention!
While I did not find it compelling from cover to cover, Parenting Without Power Struggles is a good reference book. Grab it, read the table of contents, pick and choose topics that are meaningful to you and leave the rest.
Publisher: Atria Books
Elizabeth's Rating: 3 Stars