Book Review: Stop Reacting and Start Responding by Sharon Silver

I promised the review of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be right after Christmas, but what I discovered is that I can't read ebooks on my computer. As soon as I got a paper copy I started whipping through this book, and here's my main takeaway:

Buy it.

As those of you who have been reading here for awhile know, I love Sharon Silver not only because she's been such a friend to us here, but because she's the only one I've read who seems to really get, deeply, the toddler/preschooler age. Even my very favorite parenting books* are great for the theory and mindset switch that puts you and your kids on the same team, but they don't help you with the "what do I do in this exact moment?" for kids under 5. Sharon does. She knows what words are going to inflame the situation and what words will ease it. So I've been waiting for her to write it all down for us.

Sharon's book is absolutely in the same parenting philosophy that I think most of us are trying to work toward: Setting boundaries in a firm and loving way gives your child the tools to be successful and frees you up to just love them unconditionally.

Just writing that made me feel good, and I hope it made you feel good to read it. Thinking about having such a large part in creating an adult human being who is such an asset to the world is kind of thrilling. But then the problem is that all those pre-adults are 16 months and 27 months and 3.5 years and 4.5 years, and it's not so easy and inspiring. Sometimes it felt like a war zone, like a constant battle, to me, and I can feel the weariness in your voices at the struggles of those ages.

In reading Sharon's book, what hits you is that that feeling of being in a constant battle with your toddler or preschooler comes from the fact that you're reacting to each new situation as it hits. Sharon's goal with the book is to give you the tools and specific words to use so that you can respond, not react, to a situation. When you respond calmly once, it gives you a little emotional space, and then you can get your feet under you a little bit and respond, not react, to the next one. Every scenario she lays out is individual, so you can go into just that 2-page chapter and get the words you need for the situation in front of you. But if you read all the chapters, and start using the words whenever you can remember to, all those sets of words are going to work together and pretty soon your whole perspective on the interactions will change.

This is NOT a quick-fix book. Notice that the words "magic," "instant," "miracle," etc. do not appear in the title. This is about showing up and being right in the middle of it with your kid. As I said earlier, I've been waiting for Sharon to write this book, and I felt a little sad that I missed the preschooler years to use the techniques with my own kids, who are now almost-9 and 5.5. But as I started reading it, even the very first page (page 17) hit me like a ton of bricks. That one page alone is worth the cost of the book in explaining what's going on when we discipline our kids and why we think it's not working exactly when it is. Then I started reading the other chapters and understanding what had been happening, what mistakes I'd made (but not blaming myself, because Sharon writes it somehow so you feel like you can learn from your mistakes), and what I could say to my own much-older kids to turn around some current situations that were bothering me.


1. Buy the book. It's absolutely worth the $12.95, no matter what age your kids are.

2. If you buy the book and are somehow worried about reading it (I've been there--sometimes you just don't think you can hear what you "should be" doing), read page 17. Just page 17.

3. Sharon gives you the exact words to say in any given situation, but somehow they're structured so you can still be yourself within those words. You're still the parent, and Sharon's just giving you the tools.

4. There is no free lunch. Parenting is hard, y'all. But you're doing a good job and you can catch a breath and do an even better one.

Has anyone else read the book yet?


* My favorite parenting books, besides Sharon's, are Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott and the two best spin-offs from Ginott--Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen and How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish. You'll want to read all three at some point, for sure.