Book Review: 'Being the Grownup' is enlightening

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"Being the Grownup: Love, Limits, and the Natural Authority of Parenthood," by Adelia Moore, is a groundbreaking and enlightening resource in the challenging, and often bewildering, practice of raising kids to be happy, successful participants in community and family. The wisdom generated in her thoughtful discussions on the subject of child development comes from a wide range of research in developmental psychology, relational psychology, neuroscience and includes historical, sociological, anthropological and even literary viewpoints. But the book reads in practical terms, personal terms, that perhaps more effectively, stem from her own experience as a clinical psychologist, a parent and a grandparent. The book is clear and compassionate in recognizing the problems involved and in outlining healing practices. The premise is couched in what "parental authority" is and its importance in reducing confusion in children to help them learn and trust the wisdom and guidance of loving parents.

Moore's graceful narratives outline in-depth every aspect of "natural authority." In her "Before We Begin" section at the start of the book, Moore discusses it as "akin to what public speakers sometimes call `command presence,' or for actors, `stage presence.'" She also references athletes and coaches "described as moving with authority or demonstrating calmness and common sense." The book provides practical and knowledgeable discussions to support confidence in effective parenting through natural authority. It can be achieved through sometimes ordinary interactions at first, but may evolve into more successful relationships. But Moore is realistic and acknowledges that exercising natural parental authority (which cannot be taken for granted) requires trial and error, and the main thing is to stay consistent, "not only in instances of discipline, but in every interaction." It's never too late to regain parental authority.

Moore points out that this is not a "how-to" book for parents, but a resource to "find the confidence and clarity they need to use the parenting style or approach that feels right to them." Parental authority can be recognized in "body language, tone of voice, facial expression," and in "moments of attention and responsiveness" throughout the day, not only in "moments of direction, reprimand, or prohibition." Very importantly, every parental child relationship is different. The book guides the reader in-depth to find natural parental authority for themselves and their child. Research shows that cooperation is built into human relationships. Many times it is a matter of establishing an interactional rhythm with a child or another parent.

The book addresses almost every conceivable issue and problem facing parents and children today with timely references to up-to-date theoretical thought and effective systemic approaches to solving what seem at first to be impossible dilemmas. The way the author approaches issues of modern families is a joy to read if even for the simplicity and graceful resolutions she highlights in well-balanced narrations, stories, references and scenarios we have all confronted. Her references to literary sources, such as Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," where "Huck" is often seeking reassurance and balance in his relationship with parental figure Jim, and her reference to Robert McCloskey's "Make Way for Ducklings," where the issue of environment and adaptation are illustrated, make the book eminently understandable on so many levels. Moore's extensive discussions on the realities of digital technology in family life brings this volume right up-to-date.

Colin Harrington is the events manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes reader comments at charrington686@gmail.com.

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