In this warm, wise and often witty book, debut author Hulton offers clearheaded insights and methods she’s learned while counseling exhausted, perplexed parents as a mental health counselor and psychoanalyst. This six-part handbook’s most valuable attributes are its lack of condescension and its nonauthoritarian mission “to teach all parents to trust empathy and in so doing to break out of Parent Fatigue Syndrome.” That syndrome, she writes, is caused by relying on “conventional wisdom”—the “spare the rod, spoil the child” tradition and trendy contemporary advice that stresses achievements and can make parents feel like failures. Concise, explicit information will enable readers to develop individualized practices. The author discusses children’s essential needs, developmental milestones (such as attachment and breaking away) and ideal school experiences (such as the individualistic Reggio Emilia approach). She also includes practical, fun therapy methods (such as sock puppets and sand trays), plus an index. “There really is no one way to parent,” claims Hulton, and she sprinkles generous references throughout to works by child development experts such as Haim Ginott, Robert Karen, T. Berry Brazelton, Penelope Leach and Maggie Scarf. Mindful of recent school shootings, she stresses the importance of raising compassionate global citizens and recognizing the societal danger of “empathy erosion.” Empathy, she says, doesn’t mean excusing or accepting bad behavior: “It is the reflection of another’s emotional experience so that they feel understood—understood well enough to feel that they are part of the world in which they live so that alienation does not become a slowly spreading cancer in their soul.”
A highly recommended work that shows that parenting can be a rewarding lifetime investment that pays great dividends not only to caregivers, but also to society.