Bruno Bettelheim has been concerned with child-rearing for more than seventy years. Anecdotes about growing up in turn-of-the-century Germany and experiences during his distinguished career as a professor of education, psychology, and psychiatry at the University of Chicago are used to illustrate his basic contentions throughout the book. They could well overshadow his theme, but he guards against this by frequently stating that while he believes that there are no “rules” to be followed in child-rearing, there are lessons to be drawn from one’s own experience as a child. In other words, if one is empathic in his or her approach to children, the children can develop into what they want to be. Too many parents, with the best of intentions, expend too much of their and their children’s energy in attempting to mold the children into what the parents think they should become.
The three sections of the book are titled “Parent and Child,” “Developing Selfhood,” and “Family, Child, Community.” Twenty-nine chapters cover topics ranging from “Why Punishment Doesn’t Work” to “The ’Real’ Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Devil.”
Unfortunately, this book is neither fish nor fowl. It is too scholarly, perhaps, for the parent attracted to the title and its implied reassuring stance. The professional may find it too speculative and personal. It also lacks footnotes, a bibliography, and an index. Psychologists might disagree with the Freudian elements and other biases that the layman might not recognize or know how to interpret. Still, A GOOD ENOUGH PARENT is challenging and could be stimulating to the thoughtful person who has read widely in the area of parenting and is not looking for solutions to problems as much as for a different perspective on issues and situations.