"This book is for parents who not only love their children, but want to like them too." In her 20 years as a psychotherapist, Perry has learned about how strong, loving bonds can be forged with children. But it's in the voice of a fellow parent that this compelling book is chiefly written, as Perry—who has a daughter with husband Grayson Perry—explains how the way we were brought up impacts on our own parenting. Of maximum help if read while pregnant, but still an essential read if your children are grown-up.
Perry’s approach is demanding, and somewhat terrifying. She isn’t shy of using the term “mistake” to describe the wrong turns you may have taken in responding to your child’s emotions, or of suggesting that the stakes are high. For instance, if you deny or play down how children feel, you risk dulling their instincts, instincts that may help keep them safe in future, by allowing them to identify risk, for instance. (Still, she is quick to add, you shouldn’t feel guilty on discovering that you may have put your child at risk, because “parental guilt does not help us or our children”.)
It is hard to read fast, not just because Perry’s text is punctuated by exercises – unpack the last argument you had, for instance, or write down all your self-critical thoughts for a day – but because it prompts so many realisations, or insights, or clearly names things that have until now existed just beyond one’s awareness. And it provides tools, straightforward and manageable if not always easy, that can be implemented at once. I am grateful for it.
What Perry’s book does make clear, however, is the huge leaps we have made in our understanding of the psychological conditions necessary to raise reasonably contented human beings. Perry’s approach is rooted in the significant work of clinicians such as John Bowlby, the pioneering expert on attachment theory; Donald Winnicott, author of Babies and Their Mothers; and Joan Raphael-Leff. She emphasises the development of a reciprocal relationship with our children over the imposition of strict and inflexible rules... Perry’s wise and tender advice for the modern parent will surely enlarge and develop the possibilities of the already lucky. But I wonder if for many others it might just act as a wistful window on to a world, and a set of precepts for successful parenting that are forever out of reach. wise and tender advice for the modern parent