The Irreducible Needs of Children–T Berry Brazelton


This is a great book, and I think the world would be a better place if all their recommendations were implemented, but let’s be real: this book made me feel super inadequate and like the worst mom of all time.

Also I think there’s a possibility that my middle child is doomed forever, because one of their suggestions is that children under the age of 3 never be separated from their primary caregiver overnight because it impairs the bonding experience and ideally also not be in a baby farm style daycare and I got divorced when she was less than a year old. Despite my protestations, the court did indeed order split custody so she spent alternate weekends with her dad. And I had to go back to work, obviously, so she was in a baby farm for a while until we could find a nice in-home daycare for her.

Basically, this book goes through the needs of children in different areas and discusses what is ideal and how we could adjust the current system to reach those recommendations. The recommendations are excellent and I have no doubt children would be better off, but it’s a bit daunting, the list.

For example, for the baby I currently have, the suggestion is no more than 10 or 15 minutes of independent play at a time. But he LOVES his jumper, so what does that mean? Do I pull him out of it while he’s playing because it’s been 15 minutes, even if he’s still playing happily? Doesn’t this directly contradict the Montessori concept of letting children do serious work to the limit of their interest, however long that is? Is Montessori wrong?

The recommendations for school aged children are less daunting and more common sense, although some of their recommendations are vast deviations from the standard. For example, they recommend tracking by subject, or even more ideally, by skill. This is mostly true in my children’s school–I get reports on their grade levels in reading and in math–but I do think it would be better if it was applied more widely than math and reading. And I would also like a skill breakdown. If she’s on grade level for math but she struggled in the multiplication unit, that should be something we should all be aware of, and that is not the case in my child’s school. Perhaps it’s a terrible school.

The daunting recommendation for the school aged kids is to give them an hour at the end of the school day where they can just hang out with their parents and talk and decompress, before any one is doing any chores, but there’s no way to do that feasibly in my life many days. Do we eliminate her gymnastics class or pull the older one out of band so we have that time? How important is that? It’s all tricky.

Regardless, I think this is a great book for all parents to read, and probably teachers too. There’s not enough emphasis on what is best for children and on the kind of care young children especially need to have the best chance at a successful future, and this book is one way to approach giving more focus to the needs of children.



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