Sharanya Misra

Book Review

The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read Book Review

may 18’202, By Sharanya Misra

I am not sure what pushed me to pick ‘the book with the orange cover’ that had been sitting on my shelf for 3 years. I hadn’t given it much thought until a year ago when finally, thanks to its bright exterior, I read its title for the first time – The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did). “Interesting”, I had thought, before putting it back in its place and continuing with the fictional novel I was reading at the time. It wasn’t until after my daughter turned 3 that I really went back to it. With this new milestone came new challenges that had begun to test me as a parent, and somehow my parental instincts nudged me to give this book a chance. Oh, sweet serendipity! One chapter into the book, I paused and went back to read more on the author. Philippa Perry, I learnt, has been a psychotherapist in the UK for 20 years now. Ahh. Made sense. To put it in the simplest terms, the first three chapters blew my mind!

For a book on parenting, one doesn’t find the word ‘parenting’ much in it at all. Philippa Perry instead talks of parenting simply as a relationship, a bond that needs to be worked on and nurtured. I couldn’t have picked the book at a better time. While it does dedicate one chapter to pregnancy and even touches upon teenagers in the last few pages, I feel the general content of the book is most helpful for parents with toddlers. This is the time when most kids begin to assert their independence and this book is a great guide on how parents can best deal with the challenges of that phase. Not to mention, as the author repeatedly points out, things that children absorb consciously and sub-consciously in their childhood play an enormous role not only in their own future selves, but also in their future relationships.

The book won me over because instead of giving us ‘tips’ on how to ‘deal’ with ‘difficult’ kids (the author clearly dislikes this term, making me admire her even more), it turns the lens around and asks the parents to learn to deal with their emotions instead. Throughout the book, the author talks of how important it is for parents to analyse our own emotions from our childhood, and be aware that much of our relationship with our children will be affected by our own childhood experiences. Hence, the need for us to consciously filter out the emotions that we do not want to pass on to the next generation. It is astonishing (and worrying!), as she presents one case study after another, how much we bring our own childhood to the table even as we become parents. As she says, “Becoming comfortable with your own emotions, however strong, is key to being able to contain and soothe your child’s”. Perry also urges parents to connect with our children, to have a dialogue instead of just expecting them to listen, and to keep the lines of communication open. She stresses, often and again, on the need for empathy while dealing with kids. ‘Rupture’ and ‘Repair’ is key she says.

“Remember : when there is a problem, do not just concentrate on the child, and do not think the problem just lies with them. Look at your relationship and what’s happening between you. That’s where you’ll find your answer”. I love how she constantly tries to motivate you to form those bonds of love with your child and really be emotionally present for them. My favourite bits in the book are where she talks of creating the right ‘environment’ for kids. She turns couples’ counsellor here and gives superb insights into what are the usual modes of ‘conflict’ that couples enter into and how changing that can make a big difference for the children. Her notes on ‘bids for connection’, ‘fact tennis’ and using ‘I statements’ during conflicts were eye openers for me!

The book is strewn with case studies of real-life parents & children that beautifully exemplify the points she tries to make. I loved that the book constantly made me feel motivated, and powerful at the same time, enabling me to be a better, more empathetic, and gentler parent, making me feel capable of giving my child the childhood she deserves. There is an entire chapter on ‘Feelings’ where Perry urges us parents to let our kids influence our lives and feel heard and seen. “Where we feel most frustrated and find relationships to be the most unsatisfactory is when we do not have an impact”. At some points in the book where she encourages us to place the kids first and focus on their emotions rather than worrying whether we are spoiling them for the future or where she encourages sleeping with the kids instead of keeping them in the nursery at night, I found my parenting techniques validated and patted myself on the back for going down the right route. At others, like managing a child through tantrums, I realised I had more to learn and found her suggestions actually working when I used them on my child.

Through her I understood how the time I invest soothing my child when in distress, validating her emotions and responding sensitively to her cues, can be game changers for her future mental health. “The more fully you accept and love your child no matter what their experience is and how they feel about it, the more capacity for happiness they will have”. All the techniques she suggests – be it Engaged Observation, Co-Sleeping/Sleep Nudging, Montessori based Play – encourage parents to give a child the space to develop at their pace, always keeping the child’s sensitivities as the foremost priority. “If you rescue them when they could do something for themselves, you are disempowering them and robbing them of agency, but If you don’t help them when they are helpless, you are not being sensitive towards them”. Indeed, the book gave me much to introspect upon, revisit and learn anew!

What started off as a blind leap, eventually led me to a parenting textbook that I will now revisit time and again for guidance. Not only are Perry’s insights on parenting wonderful, and always in keeping with gentle, conscious, empathetic parenting, the beauty of the book also lies in the fact that her techniques can actually be applied to all relationships and even for own selves, mentoring us to be better parents, better partners and better humans too.

A MUST READ for every expecting/toddler parent. And don’t forget the priceless list of resources and reading material she shares at the end!

To read more of my articles on parenting, click Here.

To read more of my book reviews, click Here.

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