Book Review by Sara McGrath of the Examiner.com
I’ve been taking my time with Teresa Graham Brett’s new book Parenting for Social Change, which challenges not just mainstream but also alternative parenting cultural double-standards. Perhaps especially in alternative circles, for example, we find covert manipulation of children’s choices to maintain the parents’ control over of every aspect of the child’s life.
In Parenting for Social Change, Brett urges parents to look carefully at the ways we may be usurping our children’s learning and maturation experiences. We may defend our perceived need to control our children based on a misperception of their motives or on the cultural belief that our needs are more important than theirs.
Perhaps children manipulate because we do. Perhaps they feel so powerless that they see no other way to express their needs, just as we might do in a situation in which we ourselves felt powerless. How do you feel when your “No!” is ignored? Violated? Victimized? Yet, our culture routinely ignores children’s “No!” even going so far as to overpower their bodies “for their own good” or simply to get our way.
Brett writes from her experience as a professional social justice consultant to higher education institutions, as a member of a bicultural family, and as a mother.
The first half of the book addresses parenting, family relationships, a adult-child power dynamics in general. That’s the part I’ve read so far. I’m just getting to the subject of teaching, learning, and what it means to be educated.
As I read thru Teresa Graham Brett’s Parenting for Social Change, I kept highlighting “the most important point,” but then I would encounter another thought-provoking idea that felt deeply right despite going against common belief or practice.
In part 1 of this review, I pointed out that Brett challenges not just mainstream but also alternative parenting cultural double-standards wherein covert manipulation of children’s choices to maintain parental control is accepted.
The book is not just about children. It’s about profound social change. “Imagine a world,” writes Brett, “where children never have the experience of being controlled by those who are more powerful. Imagine a world where children believe that each person has the right to be trusted and respected. Imagine a world where mistrust, power-over dynamics, domination, and oppression no longer exist because children have never experienced them. Because they don’t have these harmful experiences, they no longer have the ability or the desire to create—or rather perpetuate—these experiences on those who are less powerful.”
Fear-Based Control Parenting Fear, Brett writes, “is often the core of mainstream cultural beliefs about childhood and children’s behaviors.” “…[fear] of what will happen if we don’t socialize our children to fit into the collective norms of society.” Do you share social norms and expectations with your children via shame, coercion, conditional love?
“At its core,” Brett writes, “parenting is about love. It can be about love that is based in fear and control or love that is based in trust and respect.”
What do you want from your parent-child relationship? Is it acceptable to treat a child with less respect than an adult? Are your thoughts and actions in line with your values and ideals? Parenting for Social Change challenges us to parent based on love, trust, and respect, to look our children in the eyes, and treat them with the care and dignity everyone deserves.