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Reviewed Publisher: 
Lowell House/Contemporary Books, Chicago, 1992, 146 pages, $18.95 (hardcover).
Reviewed Title: 
"I'll Never Do to My Kids What My Parents Did to Me": A Guide to Conscious Parenting
Reviewed Author: 
Publication Date: 
October, 1994
Starting Page: 
Page Count: 

"I'll Never Do to My Kids What My Parents Did to Me": A Guide to Conscious Parenting is partly the story of Thomas Paris and Eileen Paris as divorced co-parents of their mutual son, Seth, and of Thomas' relationship with Adam, his older son by a previous marriage. The book is partly a testimonial to the workability of a nontraditional parenting style being used to raise two decent, competent sons.

Besides being a record of personal journeys, the book is a useful primer in parenting issues for parents who are genuinely committed to their children's happiness, but who lack viable models for communicating with their children. The book is also a compendium of pop-psych concepts of the last 25 years. "I'll Never Do To My Children What My Parents Did To Me" . . . is not likely to improve a clinician's knowledge base or skills, but it is a book practitioners could recommend to parents who have little knowledge of bonding, mirroring, and active listening skills for use with already-verbal children.

Unfortunately, the book is overly facile in several basic assumptions: The most serious over-generalization is the idea that "It is important to bear in mind that all parents want to make their children happy." Possibly, among those parents who go voluntarily for parent counselling and/or attend parenting workshops, there is a shared assumption that all parents want to make their children happy.

The assumption that all parents want their children to be happy defines the limitations of the book. Most of us believe Sigmund Freud was probably correct hi ascribing much human behavior to subconscious motives. We generally believe we want ourselves, our spouses, and our children to be happy, yet both statistics and personal observation indicate that there may be deeper-than-conscious forces at work.

The book, however, does not consider the dynamics of a dysfunctional relationship or a dysfunctional family. Yet the whole concept of not doing to our children as our parents did to us depends on understanding the dynamics of our own families of origin and making a reasoned decision to break the chain of conditioning.

One will not learn from this book that unborn children are sentient beings who are learning relationship patterns with their mothers and, hopefully, with their fathers, from conception onward. No menton is made of gentle birthing, or of affection or esteem for prenates, neonates, and infants as the basis of healthy, life-affirming bonding and communication.

However, the book does present communication patterns designed to help us listen to our children. For those of us whose relationships are injurious to ourselves and others, listening is definitely a necessary first step in changing the way we treat our children. Yet, children and teens who have been long-term victims of abusive relationships are very unlikely to say what they really think and feel for fear of subtle or overt retaliation.

For those parents who really want happiness for their children, for those who have no deeply ingrained patterns of destructive and/or alienating attitudes and behaviors, for those who need only techniques to enrich their communication with their children, this book will be useful.