Dr. Laurie Hollman is a clinician and author who writes frequently on her concept of “parental intelligence.” Her new book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior,” is a fantastic resource for parents of infants, children and teenagers who are struggling to understand how their children think.

Part One of the book discusses the five steps parents need to take to approach their children’s actions with intelligence. You can learn a lot from these deceptively simple tips.

1. Stepping Back. “Stepping back helps a parent to review what has happened.” Dr. Hollman ably describes a process familiar to all parents. Your child acts out and you react immediately and emotionally to whatever happened. In Dr. Hollman’s view, parents need to step back and disengage in order to understand what happened, why your child acted like she did, and what personal baggage you are bringing to your parent-child interactions.

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2. Self-Reflecting. “Self-reflecting encourages parents to revisit the ghosts from the past that influence their own reactions.” This is where Dr. Hollman’s advice stands out from the pack. How can we ever parent our children without understanding how we were raised, and how our experiences shape what we perceive and how we react? This requires some work on our part, to think about how our own parents. The purpose is not to look back on our childhoods with judgment. Instead it is to focus on what actions our parents took to parent us, and how they continue to shape our feelings and attitudes today.

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3. Understanding Your Child’s Mind. “Understanding your child’s mind opens windows onto the child’s world with its own particular point of view.” In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s hard to focus on what your child may be thinking and feeling because you are so busy thinking about how his actions affect you. Although it’s true you need to get through the day by going to work, school and taking care of the home, it helps to pull back and think about things from your child’s perspective. This will enable you to meet him on his own level.

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4. Understanding Your Child’s Development. “Understanding your child’s development clarifies what to expect cognitively and socially from your individual child.” Dr. Holloman’s advice and counsel about the stages of child development will put your mind at ease. Rather than focusing on percentiles and benchmarks, Dr. Holloman discusses what to expect, within the context of your child’s specific physical and psychological characteristics.

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5. Problem Solving. “Problem solving will lead to long-lasting solutions to the pressing problems that seem, at first, to have no possible resolution.” This includes discussion of fatherhood and the ways fathers and mothers process the five steps differently.

Part Two discusses examples of the five steps above, especially when it comes to problem-solving. You will read about the experiences of other parents and how they navigate the relationships with their kids. Part Two goes through eight case studies from Dr. Holloman’s practice. The case studies include an adopted child’s first two years with her new family, a six-year old identical twin, an eight year old with ADHD, a depressed fifteen year old, and more. You can learn more about applying the five tools by purchasing Dr. Holloman’s book, which is available on Amazon.com.

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