Book review: Parenting with Presence

Parenting with presenceParenting with Presence by Susan Stiffelman
(An Eckhart Tolle Edition, New World Library, 2015)

In 3 words: evolving as humans

In 300 words: Susan Stiffelman’s hands-on guide is for parents who are willing to accept their children as their most valuable teachers; who have felt the pain of not always being quite as calm, patient, relaxed, respectful, present as they would like to be. Stiffelman’s vision for parents makes them “Captain of a ship”, calmly and confidently in charge. The topics of the book range from setting limits, dealing with whining, tantrums, lying, and anger, strengthening connection and improving communication, fostering empathy and compassion, to starting mindfulness practices with children. Authentic life stories involve children from toddlers to teenagers and keep the advice Stiffelman gives real. Concrete suggestions make it (seem) doable. At the end of each chapter she provides some exercises for the parent and a “Making it Practical” section. I wonder whether anyone actually really does these exercises, though. I didn’t but still found some of the questions raised in them intriguing. The final chapter “Tools, Tips, and Strategies” gets even more practical than the advice given throughout the book. It includes practices for the grown-up alone as well as practices for both adult and child and ideas for the whole family. At points throughout the book the advice and amount of ideas can become a little overwhelming. But Stiffelman explicitly cautions you to only pick one or two ideas that speak to you most and start implementing those first. Certainly a piece of advice that you should keep in mind throughout. I found reading the book in one go interesting, but it is the kind of book that you can flip through, turn back to for specific questions (it also includes a useful index at the end), or just open on a random page and start reading. In short, it is quite useful as a parenting companion.

Favourite quote:  “As much as we aspire to move consciously through our parenting days, being responsible for the care and feeding of a child doesn’t erase our personhood or do away with our needs, moods, or desires. […] Naturally, we feel resentful at times. There are going to be moments when we lose our cool. Some days we say things we wish we hadn’t. […] The trick isn’t making the unpleasant experiences go away, it is making peace with them.” [p. 54]

Who will like it? You enjoy yoga, mindfulness is more than a word for you, and you are no stranger to meditation. You would like to integrate this mindset into your life as a parent but find it quite challenging at times. And being a parent makes you want to become a better version of yourself.

Who will hate it? Just thinking of meditating makes you yawn, you once went to a yoga class and kept rolling your eyes, and therapy is for other people but certainly not for you.


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