The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did) by Philippa Perry
This wise and comforting book by Phillippa Perry really lays down the big picture of parenting. It draws away from the endless loop of everyday struggles and brings our attention to what really defines parenting - the fibre of the relationship we have with our children. She draws a lovely image comparing children to young saplings with their roots going deep into rich, nurturing soil. The soil is our relationship with them. We want it to be wholesome and nourishing enabling the saplings to grow healthy and strong.
Phillippa Perry is a psychotherapist and brings an objective and practical approach to parenting that feels achievable. It gives us a large margin of error and emphasises the importance of repairing the ruptures we inevitably have with our children rather than striving for that impossible goal - perfection.
The overarching theme in the book is that we have a “parenting legacy”. Whether consciously or unconsciously we tend to follow the paths our parents went down while they were raising us. If they were aware and attentive parents this is a boon, but if they weren’t, it can be a burden we need to try to shed. The top tip she offers is to analyse our response to a child’s behaviour by thinking of how we were when we were that age - did we feel ridiculed, were we embarrassed or did we feel scared. With that insight it is easier to see how our child feels.
I found this to be true when it came to teaching my 8 year old Maths - I wasn’t very great at the subject and always felt “stupid” while learning Maths. My son also has his struggles with the subject and when he struggles I feel very anxious and that makes me get upset with him for not learning fast enough or forgetting concepts we just learnt. I realised after reading the book that it is my feelings of inadequacy as a child that is causing my frustration and anxiety with my son.
As wonderful as the book is, there are some bits that didn't sit well with me. There are some rather sweeping generalisations that did make me raise my eyebrows - for example, she attributes early drug abuse in teens to distracted parents playing with their phones all the time - a huge oversimplification in my view.
Putting those generalisations aside there are some true gems of wisdom in the book :
My favourites were :
Speak truthfully - don’t tell them they have to leave the park because they have played enough, instead try the truth, “Hey! Let’s leave in 5 mins. I’m cold and bored and really want a cup of tea!”
Don’t listen just to reply, listen to understand - Don’t say there is no need to be afraid of the climbing frame, instead try to understand the fear. “Does it feel like you’ll be too high? I’m standing right here I’ll catch you in case you slip.”
Engaged observation - Try to live in the moment, don’t worry that your baby isn’t turning at 3 months, just marvel at their contented observation of their cute little fists. We are so busy chasing milestones we forget to just stop and enjoy where our children happen to be in the moment.
Amy Hill, mum of 2 bouncing boys says, “This book gave me many fantastic tips I keep returning to as a mother. I wish I had read it when I was pregnant. It gives you a real perspective on how a parent’s flippant actions and comments can stay with a child and affect their future emotional well being. Although there were many good points and it has allowed me to be calmer in a lot of situations I could tell the author has one child. As a mother of two small boys, stopping to look at ladybirds for unlimited time is quite tricky when you are rushing to get to the nursery on time. I would absolutely recommend the book and feel there is a large variety of information you can take away from it. I suggest you pick and choose the bits that work for you . And as a plus, my sister with older children said it’s a good one to return to before the teenage years!
Here is your chance to win a copy of the book, in this Month's More than Mums Giveaway. If you have read and enjoyed the book you can gift a copy to your friend. If you haven't read it, it's a great one to add to your bookshelf!
Do you have a favourite parenting book you refer to when you feel you are out of your depth or need to re-centre?
Please share, we would love to hear from you.