About 15 years ago (judging by the ages of our sons) I picked up the book Dialogue with Mothers by Bruno Bettleheim from the “readers donate” corner at our library. He’s the author of the “Uses of Enchantment” which is a very interesting read, and the writing is lovely.
This one, from 1962, is very readable indeed. It is in written in a conversational style, letting the reader feel as if he/she had joined one of his parenting groups. The parents talk about difficulties in child rearing and he comments.
I read it back then, and never returned to reread it. Sometimes I felt I “should” but I didn’t want to. It outlived other books on my bookshelf simply because it never joined the category of books about which I say: “Really? You haven’t read this one? Here, take my copy!”
I am now listening to the audio version of the book “Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity” by Solomon (more on that in future posts). In the introduction to his book Solomon calls Bettleheim the most evil man in the world after Hitler. That is certainly taking it too far. But his claim that Bettleheim places the blame for the kind of person a child grows up to be completely on the parents’ shoulders, rings true.
I believe, without a doubt, that parents have a powerful influence on their children. But what makes them who they are and turn out to be is certainly not only due to that influence.
I re-donated the book back to the readers’ corner in the library.