Book Review by Wendy Preisnitz, Editor Life Learning Magazine

Teresa Graham Brett is a parent, writer, former university administrator, law school trained consultant, and social justice educator. In her recent book Parenting for Social Change she addresses the issue of adult control over children, and explains a different way of parenting.

I have long stated that respecting children is one aspect of working for social change that many progressives ignore. But this book makes an eloquent and convincing case for the long-term benefits of creating respectful and supportive relationships with children.

Respecting and trusting children – and ensuring their dignity – is not easy for most people because that is contrary to the ways we learned about being a child when we ourselves were children.

Graham Brett helps her readers dig deep into how we may have been controlled as children – largely due to the social and cultural environments of the time – and to consider how they shape our views as parents. And then she provides suggestions and strategies for letting go of control of our children.

Even if you think you’re parenting in a non-coercive or control-free manner, there is bound to be something for you in Parenting for Social Change. For instance, Graham Brett goes beyond learning, diet, bedtimes, etc., and also addresses emotional control issues – something of which even the most enlightened parent can be guilty.

She also provides helpful insight into language, pointing out the difference between power and control: “The reality that adults have more power than children…does not mean that it is appropriate or necessary for us to exercise control over them. Rather, it means that we have an obligation to consciously choose how to use our power. We can choose to use our greater power to control children and coerce them to do what we want.We can choose to do nothing with our power. But we can also choose to use our power to support, assist, and facilitate the growth and learning of children in ways that affirm their personal power, dignity, and humanity.”

I appreciate the approach in this book because it’s not just about creating a new parenting method or behavior, or replacing old rules with new ones (Graham Brett describes how some aspects of the Attachment Parenting philosophy are controlling). She understands that the child must lead the way and describes how to do that. She writes, “In our desire to give children the same happy experiences we had or to avoid for them the painful experiences of our own childhood, we may miss the unique childhood that belongs to them.” This book will help you examine your best intentions.

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