Child-Parent Relationships – Reading the Essentials

8 books to help sort out your relationship with your parents

We’ve already written about what troubled parents can be like, the dangers of being too close to them and what to do if you think they have a mental disorder. It’s time to delve into the topic of parent-child relationships. Practicing psychologist and host of the Evil Therapist’s Notes channel, Elizabeth Musatova advises 8 books that will help heal the “inner child,” find the origins of inflated demands on yourself, deal with toxic and narcissistic parents, and see how state ideology affects the manner of parenting.

Stephanie Stahl

“The child in you has to find a home. Go back to childhood to correct adult mistakes.”

German psychologist Stephanie Stahl talks in simple terms about the dual structure of human personality. At her prompting, we have again begun to talk about the “inner child,” the unconscious part of the psyche that holds the imprint of life experiences and the feelings they evoke. And the “inner adult” is that part of a personality that reflects, analyzes, makes decisions and regulates the manifestations of the “child” part.

Illustrating her theories with comprehensible images, Stahl explains how and why the “child” part stays with us and how it influences adult life. The reader will learn how to trace the childlike attitudes in himself, find uncovered basic needs and change the perception of himself, other people and the world around him.

“Experienced users” may find the book too simple, but will suit those who are unfamiliar with psychological theories. Feel free to pick up The Child in You if you have no experience in long-term therapy, but would like to better understand the origins of your self-esteem and relationship problems. It can safely be given to an acquaintance or relative who is wary of psychology, but willing to give it a chance.

Lindsay Gibson

“Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. How to Learn to Value Yourself and Build Relationships with Parents.”

American psychologist Lindsay Gibson details how their children are destructively affected by parents who do not know how to manage their experiences and take full responsibility for their lives, including emotionally. This book is worth reading for anyone who has a background feeling of abandonment, who constantly strives to be comfortable with or take responsibility for other people. In general, if you constantly feel that life is hard, you’re sure to find something useful in Gibson.

The book “Growing Up Kids” will help you understand how your immaturity as a parent has affected your relationship behavior. It has diagnostic practices and exercises, so it can be used for self-study or for discussion in a session with a therapist.

Susan Forward, Craig Buck

“Abusive Parents.”

The conventional wisdom is that domestic violence is battering, humiliation, and sexual abuse. But sometimes abusive behaviors are manifold and less obvious. Forward explains the long-term harms of parental manipulation: ignoring, neglecting, or shifting adult responsibility to the child.

The book shatters the myth that you have to forgive your parents in order to live happily without the burden of the past. It is worth reading not only to recognize the damage already done by parents, but also to see where and how a person who grew up in an abusive family continues to harm themselves.

Read also:

Caryl McBride

“Good Enough. A Healing Path for Women Who Grew Up Around Narcissistic Mothers.”

Caryl McBride’s book is based on twenty years of psychotherapy experience. Her patients and female readers share common traits: they feel inferior, constantly criticize themselves, can’t feel good about themselves despite all their life accomplishments, or, conversely, constantly sabotage their actions and it prevents them from accomplishing anything. McBride shows how a daughter assimilates her mother’s demands and expectations–and in time no longer needs her mother’s presence in her life for their destructive effects to continue. The author helps her admit, “It wasn’t about me,” so that she can finally separate from her mother’s influence and regain control of her own life. The book is addressed to women, but can be useful to men as well – at least in that it has chapters on husbands and sons in families with narcissistic mothers.

Donald Winnicott

“Talking to Parents.”

This book is an example of “unafraid” psychoanalysis with a human face. The author, a famous British psychoanalyst, gave the world the term “good enough mother,” which helps women overcome the guilt and shame of their “bad parenting.

The book is addressed specifically to parents, but it should be read by everyone to learn about the underside of parenthood. It turns out that striving to be the perfect mother is detrimental, and imperfect adults, on the contrary, prove to be necessary for the child; feelings between parents and children can sometimes be far from rosy – and that’s okay.

Rather than dividing parenting into “black” and “white,” Winnicott writes about love and the ability to give and receive it. The book will be especially helpful if you have already gone down the road of acknowledging your painful childhood experiences and unresolved resentments and want to make changes in your relationship with your parents to stay in touch with them.

Dagmar Neubronner

“Understanding Children: A Guide to Gordon Newfeld’s Attachment Theory.”

Another book that is aimed at parents, but is useful for more than just them.

Dagmar Neubronner is a student of Gordon Newfeld, the author of attachment theory. It was he who called attachment a basic human need, delineated the six levels a child goes through as he grows up, and described why they are needed and what happens if attachment is broken at these stages.

Neubronner’s book is worth reading for those who are going through the difficult process of “growing the inner adult” instead of the usual inner critical parent. She tells how you can get in touch with your “child” part and stay on her side. Recommendations for parents can be applied to yourself to learn to give yourself the care and support you need.

Svetlana Adonieva

“The Cheburashka Complex, or Obedience Society.”

This book is not about child-parent relationships or family psychology. But it is worth reading to learn about the sociocultural environment in which our parents and grandparents grew up and how it affected them.

A person’s identity is formed under the influence not only of the family, but also of society – its demands, precepts, and scripts it approves. Folklorist and anthropologist Svetlana Adonyeva explores the symbolic practices of social control that were present in Soviet life from kindergarten and throughout life. Her book helps to better understand parental behavior that seems unnecessary and illogical in terms of culture and values. For example, why was it so important to Soviet and post-Soviet parents that their child be good, obedient, and socially approved? Perhaps “The Cheburashka Complex” can help us come to terms with the fact that our parents were largely shaped by the times in which they grew up.

Amy Chua

“The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”

This scandalous autobiographical story of a Chinese-American woman. Amy Chua candidly recounts her mothering experience: wanting the best for her children, she tried to prepare them for life in a tough world through a rigid traditional upbringing.

With a little imagination, you can imagine a similar story in a domestic setting. The details may be different, but the essence is the same: a parent makes decisions and raises his children according to his own ideas about the good, but this only alienates them from one another. Yet such a parent can get away with a lot precisely because the culture supports his or her methods.

The book has elicited contradictory responses from accusations of the author’s cruelty to children to support and attempts to replicate Chua’s experience. “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is worth reading at the very least to form your own opinion: is the desire of parents concerned about their child’s success to raise him or her “properly” a help and a gift or a harm? The truth is likely to be somewhere in the middle.

Relationships between parents and children in the family

Relationships between parents and children in the family / N. F. Abramenkova, V. A. Aslanidi, M. V. Lukina [et al]. – Text : direct // Aspects and trends of pedagogical science : materials of the III International scientific conference (St. Petersburg, December 2017). – St. Petersburg : Svoye izdatel’stvo, 2017. – С. 186-189. – URL: (date of accession: 21.09.2022).

From the moment the baby is born, the parent-child relationship begins to develop. Relationships with small children are usually easy. The child depends very much on his mother, she always takes care of him. There is a warm and strong bond between them. Parents and children are connected by daily and frequent contact with each other. Such contacts promote trust, mental unity, coordination of actions and aspirations in life. At the heart of the relationship are feelings of parental love and care, feelings of motherhood and fatherhood and children’s attachment to their parents. In order to never lose trust and warm feelings for each other, parents must support the child in all difficulties and hardships that arise. But often this does not happen. It is very difficult for adults at home to turn away from their problems and shift their attention to the child. Hence the misunderstanding, resentment of the child, dissatisfaction with their relationship with their parents. The delicate and fragile soul of the child requires special careful attitude, and most importantly, every minute he or she needs to see, realize and feel that he or she is loved as he or she is. According to Russian psychologist Y. B. Gippenreiter, the child needs to hear the words: “How good it is that you are in the world!”, “We are so happy to see you!

The baby should be sure that he is very much needed in this world. He needs to know that loving and understanding adults are always there for him.

The world of the adult and the world of the child are two universes, but in a family these two worlds must not just exist, but interact with each other. “Children are the world’s gentle riddles and in the riddles themselves lies the answer…” these lines by M. Tsvetaeva have deep meaning. People are always happy to see little children. Their appearance causes a lot of smiles and attention. Children are a powerful source of happiness. But the child is the greatest mystery, he is not like adults, because he thinks, feels, perceives the environment differently than they do. Adults need to know and understand this.

Unfortunately, in recent years true values have been replaced by false values, a distortion of morality has increasingly separated society from the high and eternal things on which life has always rested. According to the concept of humanistic psychology (A. Maslow, K. Rogers and others) a person’s desire for security is one of life’s important needs. The protection of the rights and interests of children in Russia is reflected in the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the federal laws “On Education of the Russian Federation” and “On the Basic Guarantees of the Rights of the Child in the Russian Federation”, and Decree 701 “On the National Strategy of Action for Children for 2012-2017”. The primary institution for the protection of children is the family. Only together with the family can we solve the great task of raising a dignified, successful, spiritually and physically healthy person.

The family is the basic environment for a child’s habitat, development and psychological formation. It is in the family, during early childhood, that the child learns to learn about the world, comprehends the basic mechanisms of cognition and the basics of interpersonal relationships. It is in childhood that the basic skills and abilities, the psychological qualities of a person’s character are laid down, which he or she only develops throughout subsequent life. The institution of the family is extremely important for the child, since the period of childhood is characterized by partial isolation from society. For the child, parents are the main source of comprehension of human relations (the relationship of parents and children, the relationship of parents and the older generation). The formation of the child’s personality is influenced not only by the parents’ relationship to the child, but also by the parents’ relationship with each other. Thus, if the child receives enough attention from the father and mother, both parents take an equally active part in his upbringing, the child is surrounded with care and love. But sometimes there is a strained relationship between the parents themselves, and this situation will be reflected in the future life of the child. The family atmosphere can affect personal formation (psychological problems, internal contradictions, complexes, fears), on the formation of his or her relations in society (gravitation to solitude to avoid problems of relations). It is possible to assert that an unhealthy family atmosphere, difficult relations between parents and children will be reflected in the future life of the child. It is erroneous to think that a child does not perceive adult relationships, that he or she is not given to understand most of the problems of adult life. As a rule, a child is more sensitive not to situations, conflicts, objects, circumstances, but to the emotional background that accompanies this or that situation in his life. It is necessary to understand that the child is a kind of imitator, the basics of his character, behavior, attitude towards people he adopts from his parents, starting to learn the basics of relationships from infancy (tone of voice in a conversation with those or other family members, clear patterns of behavior in certain situations). As a result, by adulthood, when the child exhibits his or her first personality traits, parents encounter nothing but the manifestation of their own personality traits, mannerisms and styles of behavior.

The relationship between parents and children is largely determined by external factors, which include the material well-being, living conditions, and social status of the family. Internal factors determining the relationship between parents and children include the culture and upbringing of parents, spirituality and morality, awareness of the spiritual value of family, marriage, and relationships between relatives. The relationship between parents and children is largely determined by the lifestyle of the family, well-being and prosperity, a sense of calm and confidence, the security of each family member, their desire to support and develop the family. Modern mothers and fathers try to give their children things that will make them well-to-do, secure, give them an advantage over others. And they care very little about the inner world of the child. Conversations with children about their time at home showed that children are left to themselves. Of course, parents watch them from the outside, but children are alone in their actions. Most often a child is given a tablet, coloring books, lots of toys. But it gets boring quickly, and children try every way to get attention, as they need to communicate with their parents. Parents do not always try to understand the motives of the child’s actions, support his or her interests and abilities. Having analyzed our observations of the relations between parents and children we came to the conclusion that parents do not possess knowledge of theoretical bases of education of independence in children, do not know effective methods of education of independence in the family, do not pay attention to the creation of the favorable environment for manifestations of independence of children, do not pay attention to the appearance of the emotional anticipation of the results of activity in children. Parents do not know how to build a relationship with the child, often assess the child’s activities inadequately, do not support his or her self-esteem, have difficulty determining the child’s emotional state, often choose inadequate ways to communicate with the child, do not know how to establish a partner relationship with the child. Having determined the degree of difficulty in the relationship between parents and children, we decided to assist parents in building the right relationship with their children. We conducted master classes for joint leisure time of parents and children. The parents really liked the handouts on conducting partner and movement games. With the help of a psychologist, we held a series of lectures and conversations about the need to change relationships with children.

Parents were made aware that children have their own views on life, that they say something, often incomprehensible. This all needs to be evaluated and taken seriously. If a child says something stupid, you should not laugh or swear. On the contrary, you need to make sense of it and, if necessary, try to steer it in the right direction. You must not laugh at the child or not listen to him or her. When the child sees that he or she is being listened to and tried to understand, he or she begins to open up, because he or she sees that he or she is accepted as he or she is. This parent-child relationship is the beginning of good parenting. If parents treat the child in this way, he begins to feel protected, and in a difficult moment he will turn to his parents. This parental behavior is the beginning of respect for children. When the child sees that his parents understand him completely, he will not be afraid to come up and ask a question. At such a moment, parents need to put aside all their business and answer the question posed. If parents listen to the child and answer questions, they have the opportunity to become an elder or a mentor for the child, to whom they can always turn and listen to wise advice. You need to share your life experience and accumulated knowledge so that it is easier for the child to cope with the problems. You should not tell your child exactly how to act in different situations, it is enough to take an interest and be involved in your child’s life so that he or she can learn to overcome difficulties on his or her own and gain experience of life. It is recommended to hug your beloved child more often. He feels love and protection in a hug. Children of this age need tactile contact.

Studies by child psychologists show that the demand for hugs from kids a day is at least eight. The child should be praised. The more often the better. Flattery and fanaticism in this case will be superfluous – the child will immediately feel the false notes. In the theory of education and training of children of this age category it is believed that praise increases self-esteem, and motivates children to good deeds and self-improvement. Preschoolers should grow up to be optimists. Children should be taught to perceive the world around them positively, because the world treats positive people favorably. Any, even an unpleasant situation, should become a lesson, to give life experience. Adults should always take an interest in the child’s life, ask him or her about life outside the home, about relationships with peers. The child must learn to trust his parents from an early age. A positive aspect of such communication is teaching your child to speak and to be able to carry on a dialogue. A lot of talking is needed with children. Every education begins with words. He should learn to hear an adult, to be able to express his problems. Children should be taught a sense of responsibility. Because of his age he does not always understand what it means to be responsible for his actions, for the task assigned. Teach him this in the family. How to teach? Only by your own example. Let the baby is responsible for cleaning his belongings, let him learn to take care of his pets. Growing up, he will know that in life, any person has to take responsibility for anything for other people, for their actions and deeds.

It is necessary to develop a child’s desire to learn new things, to satisfy and encourage his desire for knowledge. Let the child play various useful games of developing character, look up encyclopedias, read him interesting books, stimulate his desire to learn new things. “Real understanding of social experience is possible only if the child is included in problem situations where he himself acts as a subject, himself sees the questions and problems over which other people have worked and contemporaries are working, and he himself gets involved in the process of solving, in the general flow of creative search and effort. Without this independent involvement of the child in creativity there can be no true understanding or adequate assimilation of any fragments of human culture as continuously created and reproduced by the process of people’s subject activity” – this is the conclusion reached by N.P. Batischeva. (1905).

Most importantly, love your child, whatever he or she may be. Love him capricious and mopey. Do not provoke or blackmail your baby with love. This begins to develop complexes in children and a fear of losing their mother’s love. We are all responsible for the children we bring up by their own actions, their views on the world. And it is a great happiness for a child to walk through life with a kind and wise person, be it a mother, father or a good teacher, who will help the child to be what he/she was born to be. Every child has the right to be happy today, tomorrow, and not in the distant future. And the task of teachers in the social pedagogical department is to help parents create trusting relationships and mutual understanding in the family.


2. Minina A. V. Structure and content of pedagogical competence of parents in bringing up independence in children of preschool age / Education. Science. Innovations: Southern dimension. Rostov-on-Don: IPO SFU. 2013. № 2 (28). С. 93-98.

3. – blog about self-development, spiritual psychology and creativity.

Key terms (generated automatically) : child, parent, parental relationship, attitude, parental attitude, family, life experience, life of a child, children’s interest, family member.

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