by Regina Pally
W. W. Norton, 2017
Review by Hennie Weiss on Nov 7th 2017
The Reflective Parent: How to Do Less and Relate More with Your Kids, by Regina Pally, takes the perspective of how to parent using reflective parenting, which as Pally describes it , is relationship based, and focuses on the mental skill of understanding what is going on inside the mind of a child, by listening, being open, and by also looking inside oneself, taking a step back from jumping to conclusions while attempting to be non-judgmental. Pally starts out with describing reflective parenting, and the 10 principles of the system. At the same time, Pally assures her readers that parenting is difficult, there is no right or wrong way to be a parent, and that parents should not feel ashamed or less than simply for not always maintaining their composure, being patient or reflective.
The overall theme of reflective parenting, as mentioned, focuses on the relationship between the parent and the child, in the context that each child is unique and there is not one way to parent all children. Pally integrates brain development and genetic factors with culture and child development to guide parents through reflective parenting. Pally starts out by discussing how the ability to learn social skills will promote achievement in children and how very young children use the mirror system (mirroring parents through the act of imitation). Then Pally turns her attention to what is described as the mentalization system, which is more engaging between parents and child, while at the same time describing the three main regions of the mentalization system.
In the following chapters, Pally turns to the role of the brain in maternal care, describing various parenting styles, and the role of attachment styles in infant children. Pally describes how securely attached children respond to their parents and the world around them and how parents are the main stress regulators in a child's life based on how they react to stressors and the stress of their child. According to Pally, incorporating the reflective parenting style is never too late in a child's life, and most likely parents are already being reflective in much of what they do in regards to relating to and raising their child/children. Pally then describes how reflective parenting can be used through the various life stages of childhood, starting with 2 to 4 month old infants and moving up to the teenage and adolescent years. Pally describes how much of the research today focuses on children and their mothers, and that research on fathers and children is sparse, yet the role of fatherhood is very important, and Pally discusses how fathers influence their children.
The Reflective Parent is an easy to read, non-judgmental and assuring book that helps guide parents of children without asserting blame. The underlying message to parents throughout the book is to take a moment and reflect on their child's feelings and words, and to parent from a point of being understanding and reflective, while trying to make sense of and relate to their child's own perspective. The book is a valuable tool to parents of infants, young children and older children and Pally notes that it is never too late to become a little more reflective.
© 2017 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's Degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.