The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read—Quotes to Ponder

What’s the core of parenting? What do your parents have to do with the way you parent your kids? What’s “fact tennis”?

Philippa Perry is a British psychotherapist, writer, and TV and radio presenter. She worked in the mental health field for 20 years before being published. And, she raised a daughter. In The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read, she shares her wisdom with other parents.

Keep reading for The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read quotes that provide insights into the book.

The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read Quotes

In The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read, Philippa Perry offers guidance for strengthening your bonds with your child and raising an emotionally secure individual. She argues that you can improve your parent-child relationship no matter your child’s age by examining how your parents’ style of parenting impacts your own, listening to your child, and meeting them with respect and understanding.

We’ve collected five The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read quotes and provided them along with some context and explanation to help you understand and apply Perry’s ideas.

“The core of parenting is the relationship you have with your child. If people were plants, the relationship would be the soil. The relationship supports, nurtures, allows growth—or inhibits it. Without a relationship they can lean on, a child’s sense of their security is compromised. You want the relationship to be a source of strength for your child—and, one day, for their children too.”

According to Perry, you shouldn’t view a child as someone to manage but rather as an individual with whom you plan to maintain a close bond for the rest of your life. Maintaining this bond full of love and connection requires you to regularly confront your emotions, understand how your past affects your present, and recognize how your actions affect your child.

According to attachment theory, babies are born with the ability to bond with other humans, and they take their cues for how to do this from their parents. The way their parents interact with them in this early stage of life—when they’re learning how bonds are formed—determines how they’ll relate to others throughout their lives.

When you’re consistently offered affection, fed, comforted, and attended to as a baby, you tend to form a secure attachment style. You grow up able to trust and connect with others, and you believe in people’s goodness. This generally makes relationships and other aspects of life much easier.

“Whatever age your child is, they are liable to remind you, on a bodily level, of the emotions you went through when you were at a similar stage.”

Perry argues that your upbringing affects how you relate to your child. Emotions related to any harm your parents caused you will probably return in your experiences raising your child. This happens when your child’s actions remind you of something you did or experienced around the same age. You’ll likely relive the emotions you felt when your parents didn’t give you the attention, love, or support you needed when you exhibited the same behavior.

Often, instead of processing these emotions from past experiences—such as sadness that your parents didn’t give you what you needed—you’ll experience another strong, negative feeling toward your child. This might be anger, disgust, frustration, envy, resentment, or fear. You might not know why you’re reacting that way, but you can’t help it.

These negative emotions are defense mechanisms you’ve developed to avoid reliving what you went through at the same age. Your need to avoid the emotions you experienced in the past leaves you unable to empathize with your child, instead driving you to focus on an emotion that’s easier to feel (like anger).

“Being kind does not mean you don’t share your feelings when you are angry. What it does mean is explaining how you feel and why but without blaming or insulting the other person.”

Perry states that, typically, parents who have trouble handling difficult emotions fall into two categories: They suppress their feelings, or they react disproportionately. If you tend to suppress your feelings, you’ll be more likely to do the same to your child, either by dismissing their feelings or telling them they should feel something different. Because this makes the child feel like their emotions are insignificant or undesirable, they’ll likely avoid expressing feelings to you in the future.

Ideally, you recognize and respect your child’s feelings by naming and affirming them (which we’ll further discuss below), instead of denying them or making the emotions your own. When you’re able to do this, your child will feel understood and comforted instead of criticized. Over time, as you continuously show respect for their feelings and offer them love and understanding, they’ll learn to work through their emotions and comfort themselves. 

“If feelings are left out of it, both sides can get more and more heated as they play what I call ‘fact tennis,’ lobbing reasons over the net to each other, finding more and more to hit the other person with. In this style of arguing, the aim of the conflict becomes to win points rather than find a workable solution. Finding out about differences and working through them is about understanding and compromise, not about winning.”

Conflict resolution has a large effect on your child’s feelings of security and safety. To model healthy conflict resolution for your child—whether you’re in a disagreement with them or with someone else—Perry suggests paying attention to your language.

According to Perry, when bringing up an issue, it’s best to avoid accusatory statements about what the other person did wrong. Using accusatory language can make them feel as if you’re creating a narrative and you’re unwilling to hear their point of view. 

Instead, use first-person pronouns and focus on how the situation makes you feel. For example, instead of saying, “You never help with the laundry, and that’s why the house is a mess,” say, “I’d appreciate it if you helped more with the laundry because it’s hard for me to keep everything tidy myself.”

“Ruptures—those times when we misunderstand each other, when we make wrong assumptions, when we hurt someone—are inevitable in every important intimate and familial relationship. It is not the rupture that is so important; it is the repair that matters.”

Some people think that, to feel safe, a child needs to believe their parents don’t make mistakes. However, this belief is faulty—children need you to model honesty and humility for them, not perfection. If you act as if you’re always right and never acknowledge your mistakes, you risk making your child feel like you don’t care about their feelings or that they’re responsible for your moods. 

Your child’s intuition will likely tell them when you’re wrong, but your refusal to acknowledge it will make them question the validity of their feelings, increasing the likelihood that they’ll suppress them later. This may negatively affect the way they relate to other people, leading them to accommodate other people’s needs over their own.

To make amends for mistakes, Perry says to start by apologizing to your child and explaining what you did wrong, why you did what you did, and what you’d do differently. Then, change your behavior—figure out what prompted your unfair reaction or the misunderstanding, and act differently the next time a similar situation arises.

The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read—Quotes to Ponder

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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