My daughter turns four next week, and during these gorgeous late Summer days at the beach or swimming pool or on the sidewalks of Santa Barbara, I’m nostalgic for the last trimester of my pregnancy – the clothes, the attention, the glow, the baby kicking. It was not an easy time for me, but it was a sweet and poignant time. After wanting to be a mother for so many years, I was finally getting my chance.

One of the things I remember is getting loads of advice and a slew of parenting books – gifts from friends and colleagues. I was a tad overwhelmed and more than a little intimidated as all these books poured into my house. So many parenting approaches! Though I tried to be gracious and appreciative when I received a parenting book, the truth is, I never read a single page. Call me crazy, call me lazy, call me stubborn, but years before those Summer days of 2005, I had chosen the parenting philosophy that made the most sense to me –

– Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.

I met Aletha during my Santa Barbara Summer training with Violet in 2000. Aletha stopped by the training site one afternoon to drop off a box of her books. At that time, she had written three books – The Aware Baby, Helping Young Children Flourish, and Tears and Tantrums. Her fourth book, Raising Drug-Free Kids, came out in 2006. All four are fantastic!! These books are available from all of the major online booksellers. See Aletha’s website for more

Aletha is a Swiss-American developmental psychologist, international speaker, and the mother of two grown children. She studied with Dr. Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, where she earned a master’s degree in human biology. She earned her Ph. D. in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The three primary aspects of her Aware Parenting philosophy are:

  • Attachment-style parenting
  • Non-punitive discipline
  • Helping children heal from stress and trauma

Aletha writes “Aware Parenting is a philosophy of child rearing based on current research in child development. It questions traditional assumptions about children, and proposes a new approach that can significantly improve relationships within a family. Parents who follow this approach raise children who are cooperative, competent, nonviolent, and drug free.”

As a Gestalt therapist and a teacher of the Oaklander Model, for me the most important and distinctive feature of Aware Parenting is its full acceptance of children’s emotions. Aware Parenting is an excellent complement to Violet’s work. I joke that Aletha is trying to put child therapists out of business. If all parents had the support of Aware Parenting tools, most children would have the support they need to experience and express their emotions in ways that are safe and satisfying.

If parents support emotional expression from infancy, it’s less likely that children will feel a need to inhibit their natural emotional process as they grow and develop. When children are not able or accustomed to feeling and expressing emotion, therapists using the Oaklander Model can help children unlock buried emotions by using a variety of creative, expressive, projective techniques.

Aletha’s first and most popular book, The Aware Baby, has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide. It focuses on how to parent children from birth to 2 ½ years old. This book has been translated into several languages, and has influenced parenting around the world. This is the basic Aware Parenting book, and covers essential topics: love, attachment and bonding; how to respond to crying; and issues with food, sleep, play, and conflict.

Helping Young Children Flourish is for ages 2 to 8 years, and includes chapters on crying, play, learning, fears, challenging behaviors, and non-punitive discipline.

Tears and Tantrums explains the function of crying from birth to eight years, and describes ways to respond that will enhance children’s emotional health.

Raising Drug-Free Kids is a very helpful guidebook of 100 tips for keeping children of all ages away from drugs and alcohol. Here Aletha discusses how children and teens can feel good about themselves, cope with stress, respect their bodies, have close family connections, and take healthy risks rather than dangerous ones.

In addition to writing the abovementioned books and several workbooks, Aletha has led workshops for parents and professionals in 13 countries, and is recognized internationally as an expert on attachment, trauma, and non-punitive discipline. She also has a consulting practice where she offers individual sessions for parents, as well as coaching for parental/child play therapy.

Aletha has also done a great job of creating an international Aware Parenting community through a network of certified instructors in 12 countries. The Aware Parenting instructors include psychologists, therapists, doctors, nurses, midwives, teachers, social workers, and dedicated parents.

As usual, when I write or talk about Aletha’s contributions, I feel excited and a bit evangelical. Violet’s work is my compass for my work as a child therapist. Aletha’s books are the compass for parents to extend the emotional healing done through therapy into their homes.

For details about Aware Parenting, books, workshops and certification please go to the Aware Parenting Institute website

Please send me your comments and questions about Aware Parenting so we can stay in dialogue! I welcome your 21st Century Perspectives

Lynn Stadler is a Marriage Family Therapist in private practice. She is a Founding Member of VSOF, and offers trainings on Gestalt Therapy with Children, Adolescents & Adults.

Lynn Stadler headshot
Lynn Stadler, MFT

Lynn Stadler, MA, MFT is a Gestalt psychotherapist and licensed Marriage Family Therapist working in private practice in Santa Barbara, California with children, adolescents, adults, and families. She received her Master of Arts (MA) in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, where she is now adjunct faculty, teaching Psychotherapy with Children & Adolescents. She is a graduate of the Santa Barbara Gestalt Training Center, and she completed intensive training with the Violet Oaklander Institute. Lynn provides workshops, seminars, and Gestalt training for social service agencies, universities and other teaching organizations worldwide — most recently online and in-person for students in Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Italy, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Russia/Tomsk, Peru, and Mexico. Lynn is also a member of the International Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy (IAAGT). For training and related questions, please contact