The Inner Parent: Raising Ourselves, Raising Our Children - Personal Growth & Family Patterns
a book by Susan Isaacs and Marti Keller
(our site's book review)
As Charles Reich’s The Greening of America is to corporate America, Isaac’s and Keller’s book The Inner Parent is to American parenthood. It’s a turning away from the superficial and the material and the expert. It’s the invalidation of the establishment experts. It’s the shifting of the balance from reason to intuition, material to spiritual, outer to inner, and heroic individualism to community and intimate connectivity. All the books that turned away from the establishment’s superficialities and experts and engaged in what the authors call “the deep revolution” were signs of the time, when establishment types were they and the rest of us baby boomers—trying to use Herman Hesse books or other books to get out from “Beneath the Wheel”—were the we.
Unfortunately for those times (the late 60s and the 70s) in general and this book in particular, the rebellious spirit and high octane idealism were not then nor are they now sufficient to guide anyone with very much clarity or precision. Reading this book in 1979 when it came out, one would see that it had trend-appropriate New-Age sentiments and spouted all the right anti-materialistic cliches to qualify it as a liberal we book rather than an establishment they book. But one would get a strange mixture of good and bad advice—the type that was so omnipresent in books of the genre. The books were fairly good at indicating what we were to run from, but were lacking when it came to proclaiming what we were to run to. And this book in particular fell on its face several times in both the run-to and run-from areas.
By overgeneralizing that the experts had “all” let us down, the authors put the advice of Benjamin Spock (some was right, some was wrong) and Thomas Gordon (none was wrong, all was right) in the same basket. It’s obvious that had these authors actually tried using each of these books as parenting guides for a year of their lives, they’d have found that Spock was pushing some obsolete, nonworkable ideas, whereas they’d have found that Gordon’s guidance was invaluable in helping them not only parent but in helping all the relationships in their lives work much better.
Worse yet, advocating reliance on parenting “instincts” as preferable to the known scientific facts of how to parent with excellence would have had some validity in the 60s before Gordon’s P.E.T. books came out, but once they did in fact come out, they represented parenting methodology that was far superior to anything instincts and intuitions could provide. In truth, one of the main things that was going wrong with parenting then and now is that people were assuming that they were born with parenting knowledge and that there was nothing to learn. The incredible amounts of bad parenting, abuse, neglect, and misparenting symptoms that have emerged in our culture since this parenting instinct advice was given give clear testimony to the fact that parenting is indeed a learned skill, and that most of those who learn it by hook or by crook, without any decent guidance to help them, find out the hard way that:
- Without clear parenting information to go on, people inevitably regress to one of two methods: doing what their parents did—including all the errors, or rebelling against what their parents did—which invariably means going authoritarian if their parents were permissive or going permissive if their parents were authoritarian.
- Without clear parenting information to go on, people do not engage in active listening, “I statements,” good conflict resolution, proper praise expressions, or any of the other proven parenting methods that get great results; instead, they end up vacillating between win-lose and lose-win strategies in which “kids win and parents lose,” and when they can’t bear it anymore, they indulge in “kids lose and parents win.”
- Without clear parenting information to go on, people end up confused, frustrated, angry, disappointed and unhappy in their parenting roles.
- Without clear parenting information to go on, people parent in ways that almost never create self-actualized, autonomous, thriving, and well-matured beings; instead, they get irresponsible, confused, alienated, angry, fearful, dependent, insecure beings. It is a scientific fact, and has been since the 1972-1980 period in which it was learned and confirmed, that the authoritative style works well and the authoritarian and permissive styles do not, and parents operating on “intuition” rarely evolve authoritative styles if left to their own devices. They end up pushing emotion-laden agendas, consciously or unconsciously, left over from their childhoods. They end up with neurotic struggles, pushing their needs onto their kids, living through kids, and overwhelming them rather than giving them space to grow. This is what normally happens rather than the enlightened engendering of free spirits which they had in mind when they had kids in the first place.
This woman is waiting for her 'instincts' to kick in and save the day, but they haven't, and only anger and frustration are surfacing