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Susan Stiffelman
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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 Or find her on Facebook.

Entries by Susan Stiffelman

Stacking the Odds for a Good New School Year

(0) Comments | Posted August 20, 2015 | 4:43 PM

"My son is a bit of a handful, and I'm afraid he might have a repeat of the ongoing struggle we had with his teachers last year...""My eleven-year old is dreading the move to middle school, insisting she wants to stay in grade school forever...," "How can we make sure...

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Help! Our Toddler Has Terrible Tantrums!

(16) Comments | Posted August 11, 2015 | 7:03 PM

Help! My toddler's tantrums are wearing down the whole family. Why does she have them? How can we get them to stop?

"An explosive outburst... occurs when the cognitive demands being placed upon a person outstrip that person's capacity to respond adaptively." (Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child.) In...

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When Your Husband Disagrees on Screen Time Limits

(0) Comments | Posted August 5, 2015 | 5:23 PM

My husband and I do not share the same view on how much technology our kids (nine and thirteen) should have access to. It creates a lot of tension in our house, not to mention confusion with our kids, who of course ask him if they can have time online...

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Helping a Friend Cope With Miscarriage

(1) Comments | Posted August 4, 2015 | 11:22 AM

I heard about Mark Zuckerberg and his wife having a baby. Although I am happy for them, it was hard because one of my best friends just miscarried her first baby last week. She was so excited to finally be pregnant after trying for over two years. She only shared...

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Husband and I Disagree About Making Son Try Soccer

(0) Comments | Posted July 27, 2015 | 1:00 PM

My husband and I don't agree on choosing activities for our child. For instance, he would like our 5 year old son to go to a soccer class. I want my son to choose his activities by himself but hubby asks, "How is he going to find things out without...

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An Unplugged Sigh of Relief

(1) Comments | Posted July 21, 2015 | 11:48 AM

My husband and I are sitting in Adirondack chairs in the middle of a shallow, slow moving river. The water is refreshingly chilly, and the trees are filtering the midday sun.

The book I'm reading is wonderful, but the scenes unfolding around me keep taking me from the page and...

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My Daughter Acts Out When Step-Sister Visits

(7) Comments | Posted July 16, 2015 | 11:53 AM

I have an amazing stepdaughter (8) who lives in another state so we don't see her as often as we would like. When we do, they are the best weeks of the year. However, our oldest daughter (5 1/2) instantly becomes a "middle child." She is normally a very outgoing,...

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My 6-Year-Old Blames Others When Things Go Wrong

(1) Comments | Posted June 29, 2015 | 9:30 PM

Whenever I have to punish or even reprimand my 6-year-old son, he gets upset and says 'Everyone hates me,' or 'Everyone thinks I'm stupid.' He also blames bad situations and his unhappy feelings on everyone else, like 'Everyone is making me cry,' 'Everyone is making me be mean.' How do...
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Should We Worry? Found Pot in Daughter's Room

(17) Comments | Posted June 23, 2015 | 6:53 PM

Our barely 15-year-old daughter has always assured us that she has no interest in smoking pot or drinking. She is a star soccer player and a very good student. We believed she was smarter than her friends, who she told us a few months ago are regularly using pot and...

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Am I Shortchanging My Kids By Not Enrolling Them in Summer Activities?

(0) Comments | Posted June 16, 2015 | 1:56 PM

My sister and closest friends all have their kids enrolled in all kinds of summer camps and classes. I am loving the fact that I don't have to get my kids out the door every morning. But I feel like maybe they're missing out on opportunities for enrichment. Am I...

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Kids Sharing a Room: Blessing or Curse?

(1) Comments | Posted June 10, 2015 | 5:29 PM

My husband and I have had to downscale and will be moving to a two-bedroom apartment. Our 6- and 8-year-old girls always had their own rooms, but now they will have to share. They are very unhappy about it and I feel terrible. Do you have any tips for making...

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Negative 9-Year-Old Won't 'Go With the Flow!'

(0) Comments | Posted June 2, 2015 | 5:39 PM

I am the mother of an amazing 9-year old daughter, but she is very negative. She does not take responsibility for her actions, putting the blame on everyone else. She has a strong personality and needs to follow the rules, and she makes sure everyone else does as well. This...

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The Work of Byron Katie, Parenting and Chores

(0) Comments | Posted May 25, 2015 | 1:14 PM

I have tried everything to get my kids to do their chores, but it is a constant battle. Why can't they just do what I ask? Are all kids as lazy as mine?

Most parents know that it's important that their children develop a sense of responsibility, not to mention...

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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...

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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.


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."


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.


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 and you could be featured in an upcoming blog...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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