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Childhood Unbound: A Review

April 25, 2010
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I just finished reading Childhood Unbound: Saving Our Kids’ Best Selves – Confident Parenting in a World of Change* by Ron Taffel. While the book is purportedly for parents of children ages 3 years and up, I would not recommend this book for parents of preschool children. The book lacks a strong developmental perspective, and I think it would scare you too much about child behaviors that you’re not likely dealing with yet.

However, if you are the parent of a tween or teen, this book is a must-read. I have read no other book that so clearly discusses the sociological and psychological reasons why parenting this generation is a unique experience and why recommended parenting practices from previous generations do not work so well with this generation. I felt both affirmed and better prepared to parent my own tweens and teen after reading this book. Although Taffel’s descriptions of behaviors of some of his teen therapy clients are downright terrifying, I was left feeling hopeful about the future. The book is also filled with enough examples of everyday child behaviors and parent-child conflicts to be relevant for most parents and not solely those experiencing extreme problems or crises.

Taffel recommends authentic engagement with our children as an effective parenting strategy. He provides concrete examples from families he has worked with and spoken to about how to engage with children. He specifically discusses how to engage with children in a loving way while setting limits. He also provides some great advice about how to really listen to kids as well as how to create and take advantage of seemingly small opportunities for listening and conversation. One of the strengths of this book is the consideration of individual child temperaments as related to effective parenting and engagement strategies.

I would highly recommend this book if you are the parent of a middle school or high school student who is looking for guidance about how to connect with your child and how to support them in developing the best parts of themselves.

*Taffel, R. (2009). Childhood Unbound: Saving Our Kids’ Best Selves – Confident Parenting in a World of Change. New York: Free Press.

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