iOS app Android app

Susan Stiffelman
GET UPDATES FROM Susan Stiffelman
 
Susan Stiffelman embodies a unique blend of licensed psychotherapist, credentialed teacher, beloved auntie and down to earth mom. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles is based on her work with thousands of parents and children, from celebrities to everyday moms and pops.

Susan offers solid, rubber meets the road advice that has been thoroughly tested on kids of all ages and demographics. At the same time that she draws on her solid training and experience, her approach to raising kids falls into step with the spiritually-based understanding of people like Eckhart Tolle and Marianne Williamson.

She’s an innovative teacher: She was employed as a private teacher for a family whose international travels allowed her to teach -- and learn -- what it means to be a global citizen from day to day experiences. The experiences she had also shaped her understanding of what a child can learn when given unbridled freedom and inspiration.

She’s a passionate educator, homeschooling her own son until the age of eleven, taking him around the world -- including India when he was two years old -- and educating him in such a way that he received a scholarship at American University where he studies Peace and Conflict Resolution in their International Studies program.

Susan’s an outside-the-box thinker: She taught herself Hindi as a teenager and when she ran out of people to practice her conversational skills, she began calling people named "Singh" out of the phone book.

She’s a dynamo: Diagnosed with the ADHD label, she manages to accomplish more in a week than many do in months, juggling writing her book with maintaining a private therapy practice, conducting parenting workshops, writing an online advice column, conducting telephone parent coaching sessions, all the while raising her teenage son.

And finally, Susan is deeply committed to enjoying her life, living with appreciation and having fun. She has had a regular meditation practice since she was seventeen years old, and has always made the nourishment of her heart and soul a number one priority.

Susan lives in Malibu, California with her son (when he's not off at college), her dog Rosie, and a full and grateful heart.

For more information, please visit www.parentingwithoutpowerstruggles.com. Or find her on Facebook.

Entries by Susan Stiffelman

5 Tips to Curb Kids' Cursing

(0) Comments | Posted May 19, 2015 | 11:29 AM

My 4-year old has recently discovered bad words, and he has been swearing up a storm! His two older brothers laugh hysterically, even though I beg them not to encourage him. I'm afraid he's going to say bad words around my parents or our neighbors. What can we do to...

Read Post

Byron Katie and Susan Stiffelman: The Work on Parenting

(0) Comments | Posted May 11, 2015 | 10:37 AM

"A frightened Captain makes a frightened crew." - Lister Sinclair

Most of us love our children dearly, but they can trigger our upset like no one else can! Feeling disrespected or unappreciated, we may shout, scold or threaten our kids, despite desperately wishing we could keep our cool.

In my work, I talk about three ways that we can relate to our children. Using my right hand to represent the parent and my left hand to represent the child, the right hand is above the left when we are what I call the Captain of the ship, staying loving, calm and confident -- even when our children's behavior isn't what we would like it to be.

2015-05-08-1431100141-4335695-Parenthandabovechilds.png

When we are interacting in this way, our kids see us as steady and reliable, and they relax in the knowledge that we are able to navigate their stormy seas without leaping over the side of the ship when the going gets rough.

When our children do or say something that annoys us, we often move into what I call Lawyer mode. No one is in charge and we're caught in an argument or power struggle with each side trying to "win."

2015-05-08-1431100166-9078511-Handssidebyside.png

And when our child does something that really upsets us, we move into Dictator mode, resorting to bribes, threats or punishments to try to control our children's behavior. Our connection feels stressful and strained. Oftentimes, we are plagued with guilt in the aftermath of these explosive encounters.

2015-05-08-1431100191-645192-Childshandaboveparent.png

Let's say your son asks if you'll make him pasta with butter after you've served him the healthy dinner you've worked hard to make. As the Captain of the ship, you might say, "I know you like pasta and butter, and this stew doesn't look as yummy. Unfortunately, this is the only dinner I'm making tonight, sweetheart. You're welcome to put together a sandwich if you'd like." You don't feel outraged because you haven't taken your child's behavior personally.

He may say, "It's not fair! You never make what I like!" If you tell yourself that he doesn't appreciate all you do for him, or that he should be more flexible with his eating, you may angrily defend or explain yourself. "That's ridiculous! Just the other night I made your favorite casserole..." You're now in Lawyer mode.

And if things deteriorate still further, he might announce in fury, "I'm not eating this stupid stew! I hate your cooking!" Feeling desperate and out of control, you angrily react by saying, "Don't eat, then! You don't know how lucky you are!" You're now in Dictator mode, feeling hurt and disrespected because you've built a case in your mind about why he "should" treat you better.

We all have our trigger points and sensitivities, and our kids seem to have laser accuracy in hitting our buttons. But the solution to parenting without power struggles isn't about changing our children. It begins by addressing the stressful stories and beliefs that cause us to push against them in ways that make things worse.

One of the key elements I use to help parents avoid moving into Lawyer or Dictator mode is The Work by Byron Katie. This powerful approach is based on the understanding that it's not the events around us that cause us to become hurt, worried or angry, but our thoughts about those events.

In the context of parenting, it's our beliefs and stories about how our kids should behave that cause us to lose our cool. We know we're believing a stressful story if our blood pressure rises or we start shouting and threatening. Or we may withdraw from our child, punishing him by ignoring or distancing ourselves.

The Work is about examining our stressful beliefs and reactions so that we can be free of their negative influence, becoming that Captain of the ship our children instinctively want to cooperate with. It is a very simple but powerful method for neutralizing the harmful, upsetting beliefs that derail our efforts to respond sanely instead of reacting out of anger.

This approach starts by looking for the thought or belief that gets your blood boiling--one that that gets you to go from zero to sixty in a few seconds. It might be something like:

"My daughter shouldn't sneak candy."

"My son should turn off his video games when I ask."

"My kids shouldn't tease each other."

These upsetting beliefs throw us off our game and cause us to lose our ability to be the calm Captain of the ship. They also cause us to come at our kids, provoking defiance or resistance, rather than alongside them in ways that activate a natural desire to please us.

Instead of building a lawyerly case for why our son shouldn't want us to make a separate meal of pasta and butter, we might soften -- and be better able to approach the situation without escalating it -- if we consider the reasons it makes sense that he would want a different dinner. Pasta and butter is pretty darn good... he has a very simple palate... he's never really liked meat stew.

Taking it further, we could even look at the ways we sometimes want something other than what we've been given. And then those difficult moments of parenting become opportunities for looking at and healing some of our own challenging issues. In fact, as I talk about in my newest book, our children can actually become our very best teachers, if we use the difficult parenting moments as opportunities for our own growth and transformation.

I hope you'll join me for a very special three-part webinar series with Byron Katie on The Work and Parenting. The Huffington Post will be hosting the simulcast and you can view it right here, at the top of this post. You may also find replays by registering here.

When we clean up the thoughts and stories that precipitate our anger, fear or disappointment, our children become receptive to our guidance. We don't have to live in Lawyer or Dictator mode. We can be that calm and loving Captain. What a relief! Our parenting days really can be easier and more enjoyable. I hope you'll join us to learn more.

Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and the brand new Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (An Eckhart Tolle Edition). She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.

To learn more about her online parenting courses and support, visit her Facebook page or sign up for her free newsletter.

Do you have a question for the Parent Coach? Send it to askparentcoach@gmail.com and you could be featured in an upcoming blog...

Read Post

My Sister's Son Bullies My Little Boy

(2) Comments | Posted May 5, 2015 | 12:11 PM

One of my sisters has a little boy my son's age (both 4.) We were so happy to find out we were pregnant at the same time, but ever since they were toddlers, her son has bullied mine. I have an older child and also a baby, but my nephew...

Read Post

My 4-Year-Old Can't Calm Down!

(0) Comments | Posted April 28, 2015 | 6:16 PM

My 4 1/2-year-old son is a sweet boy, but he seems to lose his ability to listen or calm down whenever he is deep in play with his friends. He also uses words like "stupid" for fun, despite my telling him that these are hurtful words. I was an only...

Read Post

My 5-Year-Old Won't Wash His Hands!

(0) Comments | Posted April 22, 2015 | 4:10 PM

My 5-year-old son is as sweet as pie. But he lies about washing his hands. When I tell him I know he's fibbing, he denies it or starts crying. What should I do?

When you come AT children with logic to expose them in a lie, you generate feelings of...

Read Post

Not Taking Our Children's Behavior Personally

(0) Comments | Posted April 15, 2015 | 11:47 AM

My 11-year-old daughter -- who lives with my former wife -- is becoming very self-conscious around me. I walk with a limp and have a speech impediment (from a stroke some years ago) and she is now angry about my disability. I want to have a good relationship with my...

Read Post

13-Year-Old Becoming a Mean Big Sister

(18) Comments | Posted April 8, 2015 | 11:14 AM

Our daughter is 13, and although her teachers and friend's parents tell us she is delightful, she is horrible to her younger brother, and to me. It is especially hard on her 10-year-old brother to hear people praising her for being so sweet when she teases and ignores him. How...

Read Post

Parenting With Presence: An Eckhart Tolle Edition

(1) Comments | Posted April 7, 2015 | 10:40 AM

A note from Susan Stiffelman:

The following excerpt is from my new book, Parenting With Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident Caring Kids (An Eckhart Tolle Edition.)

Writing this book was a labor of love, in large part because of Eckhart Tolle's loving support and encouragement. He went through every...

Read Post

My Stepdaughter Claims She's an Outsider

(64) Comments | Posted April 1, 2015 | 5:26 PM

My 12-year-old stepdaughter is making life miserable for us all. I have been in her life since she was 5, but lately, she is very resentful of me and my son, who is 8. She ignores my requests, sasses back and complains to her aunt that she feels like an...

Read Post

I Feel Rage When My Daughter Gets Angry

(0) Comments | Posted March 25, 2015 | 1:11 PM

When my daughter gets angry, I find myself becoming enraged. I don't want to have that reaction. In fact, I want her to be able to express frustration and anger in ways that I was not allowed as a child. But in the moment, I become furious when she stands...

Read Post

How Can I Help My Fidgety Son Succeed in School?

(1) Comments | Posted March 18, 2015 | 12:00 PM

I have an exuberant 7-year old who is in perpetual motion. Last year he was constantly in trouble for getting out of his seat. How can I help him do better?

As a parenting coach and family therapist, I see a steady stream of "fidgety" kids in my...

Read Post

Little Boy Plagued by Irrational Fears

(0) Comments | Posted March 10, 2015 | 8:00 PM

My fifth grade son is anxious about all kinds of things. He worries that I might forget him at school (I never have), that a bee will sting him and he'll die (he is not allergic), or that our house will be swept away in a flood (we live where...

Read Post

Getting Kids to Dinner is a Nightly Battle!

(0) Comments | Posted March 9, 2015 | 5:00 PM

Even though I work full-time and am a parenting on my own, when I come home at the end of the day, I try to make something tasty and healthy for my kids' dinner. The problem is, they really don't appreciate it. What's more, I practically have to drag them...

Read Post

'Dad, Stop Posting Pictures of Me on Facebook!'

(0) Comments | Posted February 23, 2015 | 1:58 PM

My 16-year-old daughter is mortified when her dad posts pictures of her on Facebook, which is often. I sympathize with her, but my husband, who has always teased the kids as a way of showing affection, thinks his posts are a sign of love and doesn't want to stop. How...

Read Post

Tired of Chasing My Son at Homework Time!

(0) Comments | Posted February 17, 2015 | 5:24 PM

Bribes and threats are no longer working when it comes to getting my twelve-year old son to sit down and do his homework. I get furious, but no matter how hard I try to get him to make it important, he resists as long as possible. Help!

Anytime you need...

Read Post

My Kids Used to Think I Hung the Moon...

(0) Comments | Posted February 10, 2015 | 8:34 PM

Sometimes when I pick my kids up from school they act like I've ruined their day just by showing up. Gone is the toddler phase when they came running to greet me. Now they would rather be with their friends than me. I am hurt because they don't want to...

Read Post

How Can I Help My Daughter Stand Up for Herself?

(0) Comments | Posted February 4, 2015 | 10:44 AM

My 6-year-old daughter won't stand up for herself, even when a "friend" is teasing her and making her cry. She breaks down at the mere thought of asserting herself. I worry about future victimization. Help!

In a recent New York Times article, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant described...

Read Post

Is My Isolating Teen Destined for Addiction?

(0) Comments | Posted January 27, 2015 | 12:03 PM

My 15-year-old son is very quiet and does not feel at ease with kids his own age. He struggles at school and when he comes home, he plays on his Xbox all evening. I sometimes find empty bottles of vodka in his room. How can we help him avoid relying...

Read Post

My Childrens' Mother Lies About Their Problems

(4) Comments | Posted January 19, 2015 | 11:09 PM

My 14-year-old son only turned in half his assignments in Science and Math this semester, and because his mother has custody, I wasn't informed. When I contacted their kids' teachers to see how they were doing, I found out about the missing homework. My son said the teachers were making...

Read Post

My Anger Is Hurting My Children

(3) Comments | Posted January 13, 2015 | 10:44 AM

My twins are only two and a half but I get extremely angry when they don't listen. I can go from zero to sixty in a way that is scary. I try to meet their requests/demands but they complain non-stop while I'm doing the best I can. (I work full-time...

Read Post