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NONFICTION : A GOOD ENOUGH PARENT: A BOOK ON CHILD-REARING by Bruno Bettelheim (Knopf: $18.95; 377 pp.).

May 24, 1987|Thomas Davey

Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim persuasively argues that "raising children is a creative endeavor, an art rather than a science." For this reason, he cautions parents against becoming overly dependent on child-rearing books full of various formulas for "successful parenting." The parent-child relationship is not something to be 'fixed' in accordance with a manual of instructions. Bettelheim suggest that such heavy reliance on so-called experts often denies parents and their children opportunities for authentic interactions, wherein they might find their own solutions to their dilemmas, and in the process become more fully revealed to one another. It may seem ironic, then, that Bettelheim offers his own guide to child-rearing. Yet he eschews technique in favor of love and empathy. With the aid of telling anecdotes culled from his clinical practice, he offers a detailed and often eloquent discussion of parental anxieties, the parent-child bond, child development and social pressures on the family. Throughout, Bettelheim constantly reminds us that the primary goal of parenting ought not to produce a replica of oneself, or a certain "type" of child, but rather, "to enable (the child), first, to discover who he wants to be, and then to become a person who can be satisfied with himself and his way of life."

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