Parenting from the Inside Out by Siegel and Hartzell

This book is on the reading list for the parent coaching certificate program I started a couple of months ago. This reading list included many books I had been eyeing or had heard great things about.

Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive by Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell is a book I would definitely classify as a handbook for parents, a must read for those who overreact to their children’s “misdeeds.” I wish I had read this while I was pregnant or on maternity leave. But I remind myself what they said in the book: We have to be gentle with ourselves because we can only do our best under the circumstances of our lives. (Note: not including abuse, physical or emotional, of course.)

The book mostly explains why we behave the way we behave when our children behave the way they behave. Chapter titles are: 1) How We Remember: Experience Shapes Who We Are 2) How We Perceive Reality: Constructing the Stories of Our Lives 3) How We Feel: Emotion in Our Internal and Interpersonal Worlds 4) How We Communicate: Making Connections 5) How We Attach: Relationships Between Children and Parents 6) How We Make Sense of Our Lives: Adult Attachment 7) How We Keep It Together and How We Fall Apart: The High Road and the Low Road 8) How We Disconnect and Reconnect: Rupture and Repair and 9) How We Develop Mindsight: Compassion and Reflective Dialogues.

Each chapter includes some reflective questions called “Inside-Out Exercises” to spend time with concepts like “Think of an issue in your life that is impairing your ability to connect flexibly with your child. Focus on the past, present, and future aspects of this issue. Do any themes or general patterns come to mind from past interactions? What implicit emotions and bodily sensations emerge when this issue comes to your mind in the present?”

Each chapter also has an extensive section called “Spotlight on Science,” sharing research and studies as well as biological explanations on why we ‘lose it’ with our kids. These sections are particularly helpful for those of us who really, really want to understand our reactions.

I highly recommend the book because I personally had a lot of ‘ah-ha’ moments that normalized my experience as an Untigering parent. But if you are a super busy parent and just want the “Coles Notes” version: We have unresolved issues from our childhood. That can cause us to react with strong emotions when dealing with our children. We need to be aware of what we are doing, understand why, and do the work to build connecting relationships with our children. That takes mindfulness and reflection. And work, but it is well worth it, not just because it improves our relationships with our children, but it helps them become more resilient in facing their own challenges.

You’d think a parenting book that is telling you to change or else you will mess up your children would bring you a lot of shame and guilt. But surprisingly, it just helps you understand where it comes from so that you DON’T feel shame and guilt, which will leave you in a much better place to actually make the changes you need to make to be the kind of parent you want to be!

Published by Sherry Yuan Hunter

Sherry Yuan Hunter is a certified trauma recovery coach and certified parenting coach. Taiwan-born American-Canadian Chinese, married, working mother of two, Sherry identifies as a Sandwich Parent, Third Culture Kid, an untigering Mom, and Recovering Shouldaholic. Based in Toronto, Canada, Sherry has been working in student success programs at University of Toronto for 20 years, supporting students, young professionals, new managers, working moms, and new immigrants to success.

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