Becoming a Self-Aware Parent

Eliza Clark
January 17, 2011

Savvy Review:

The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with your Child

By Dr. Fran Walfish

Why do we read parenting web sites and books?  Why do we strike up conversations with other moms and dads in playgrounds just to trade parenting stories?  The answer is very simple:

Because we don't know what we're doing.

We're competent and well-meaning, adoring, even, and willing to expend every effort. And yet, we often react to our children in ways that we do not understand. Ways that heighten conflict, cause everyone stress, and simply do not work.

The problem is, we've been pre-programmed without our consent, or even our full knowledge. That is to say, almost everything we know about parenting we learned as children from our own parents. And without making a conscious effort to understand ourselves and become educated about parenting, we are bound to repeat both good and bad aspects of the parenting we received.

So that is why we keep reading.  A shelf of good parenting books can offer much needed perspective and strategies when our kids challenge us, as they invariably do.  Today, we want to suggest an addition to your shelf, Dr. Fran Walfish's new book, The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with your Child.

Dr. Walfish is a practicing child and family psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, so everything she writes is distilled from years of direct experience with families and backed up with research.  Her book helps parents identify their own, specific parenting strengths and weaknesses, and offers smart and compassionate ideas for making adjustments. 

Typical parenting problems come in a variety of forms, and Dr. Walfish breaks them down in a way that's easy to understand and fascinating to read.

She asks her readers to consider: what kind of parent are you?

  • An enmeshed parent (who has trouble separating)
  • A worried parent
  • A hovering parent (otherwise known as the "helicopter parent")
  • A self-doubting parent
  • A spaghetti parent (unable to set limits and say no to your child)
  • A negative and critical parent
  • An explosive parent (with a bad temper)
  • A self-involved parent
  • A detached parent
  • A parent who travels a lot (or the partner of a traveling parent)
  • A parent in special circumstances (i.e. a child with a disability)
  • A parent whose personality clashes with your child's
  • Or... a win-win parent (we all can hope!)

Each chapter covers one of these scenarios, illustrated by compelling case studies of families with children of various ages.  To encourage honest reflection, Dr. Walfish includes a detailed self-assessment quiz that helps readers become aware of their own tendencies.

We all have rough spots in the ways we relate to our children.  And almost all of us manifest some aspect of one or more of these common problems.  What matters is to become self-aware enough to recognize these patterns in ourselves, understand where they come from, and make changes.  The book gives effective suggestions for slowing down our own automatic reactions, and offering our kids more thoughtful and deliberate responses.  What we like about Dr. Walfish's approach is that she helps us understand ourselves as parents so that we can better create healthy relationships with our children that will last through the teenage years and beyond.

Reading this book requires effort, and significant introspection. But as Dr. Walfish writes, "The result is the precious gift of a better parent to your child."  We think that effort is one worth making.

From the Parents

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