Review by Jacqui O'Brien
In 1974 Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlisch wrote one of parenting’s seminal texts - Liberated Parents, Liberated Children.
For five years they had attended parent workshops with Dr. Haim Ginott, author of ‘Between Parent and Child’. His early death had left his students Faber and Mazlisch to spread the word of his techniques for dealing with their children, which they had found so useful. But how would they write such a book without invading the privacy of their families and those of their friends? The solution was to write a fictionalised account of the parenting classes, using their own experiences and those of their classmates.
In the introduction they admit that the scenario of the book is a little dated now – all the mothers stayed at home to bring up their families, and there is only one single parent family in the book – a widow, because the authors knew only one single parent family.
Yet the problems which parents face with their children have changed little in 30 years. How do you stop siblings from arguing? How do you teach them to get along with other people? Most importantly how to you make them grow up into decent human beings?
Ginott’s theory is that a child’s feelings should be respected. If a child hurts themselves, acknowledge that they hurt, rather than belittle their pain, whether physical or mental. Behave as you would wish your child to behave, as they will grow up modelling your behaviour. When a child makes a mistake, simply describe the mistake and help solve the problem, rather than shouting and insulting the child. This is more than just the difference between saying ‘that was a bad thing to do’ and ‘bad boy’. It is teaching your children not to blame, and to take responsibility for their own actions and needs.
As you follow the main protagonists through Ginott’s course, you learn with them, sharing in their successes and failures. The fellow course member’s stories add different experiences to the story.
Liberated Parents, Liberated Children reads like a novel – you keep on reading because you want to know how the story ends. It is nothing like reading a text book about Ginott’s philosophy; you absorb it unconsciously and find yourself using the techniques almost without realising.
There is even a happy ending – a collection of letters received by the authors by readers of the book with their experiences of using the techniques.
This is not about letting your children get away with anything. It is using the power of words make both you and your children grow up in harmony.
About the Author: Jacqui O'Brien is the Editor of eParenting.