Helping Young Children Flourish by Aletha J. Solter, Ph.D., Shining Star Press, Goleta, California, 1989, $11.95, pp. 243

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

Psychologist Aletha Solter, Ph.D. has returned to Goleta, California after an eventful year in Europe in which she gave thirty-six talks and workshops in six countries. Speaking at the '95 APPPAH Congress, she spoke on a subject which has been a long time interest: why babies cry and how to help them when they cry. Her book, The Aware Baby in now in its third printing and has been translated into German, French, and Dutch, attesting to its usefulness to parents. At the core of her philosophy is the concept of emotional release, specifically the healing power of crying while being lovingly held and listened to. She studied with Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva. -- From The Association for Pre- & Perinatal Psychology& Health Newsletter, Winter, 1997

Are Children Inherently Bad?

"This belief has done more harm than any other belief invented by humanity. It is one of the main reasons the world is in such a mess. It has provided justification for violence, coercion, withdrawal of love, isolation, threats, and humiliation under the guise of "discipline." It has caused entire populations to be blindly obedient to authority figures and unable to think clearly about how to act. It has produced generations of adults who are burdened with feelings of guilt, fear, and shame. It has caused children's real needs to go unmet, producing adults who go through life trying desperately and unsuccessfully to fill their early needs, looking for someone who can love, accept, and understand them."
--Dr. Aletha J. Solter from Helping Young Children Flourish

It is often said that people read "how to" books on subjects for which they really should need no guidance. Many believe that knowing how to be a good spouse or a good parent should come naturally. But as Dr. Martha Welch (Holding Time) has written ". . . mothering does not come naturally. Mothering the way you were mothered comes naturally."

Since we bring into all relationships elements learned from that most early of all our relationships, the relationship with our parents, especially with our mothers, both parenting skills and blindspots vary more widely than many suspect.

Aletha J. Solter's Helping Young Children Flourish can help the "not too neurotic" of us recognize and hopefully break those early acquired second nature "common sense" habits of dealing with our children. In her warm personal book, Dr. Solter, takes us into her own home as she introduces many short case studies from her own interactions with her children to illustrate how she applies her principles of good parenting.

This is Dr. Solter's second book and continues the same approach to meeting babies' emotional needs begun in The Aware Baby, which dealth with babies from birth to age two and one-half. Translated into both French and German, Helping. . . follows the growing child from ages two to eight and deals with typical problems and their solutions.

The book has interesting sections on many concerns of parents including eating problems, childhood phobias, temper tantrums, sibling fighting, bedwetting, hyperactivity, sex education, encouragement of learning, how play is a learning experience, the emotional effects of punishment and spanking, bedtime problems, sexual abuse of children, children and stepmothers, dentist and physician visits, and hospital stays.

Helping . . . continues the theme of the helpfulness of crying which was an important part of The Aware Baby. The author feels that young children (and probably older children too!) can heal themselves from past traumas by the supportive encouragement of their parents to grieve about their hurts and disappointments. I was happy to read that Dr. Solter recommends the use of holding therapy (firmly holding one's child who is acting out; this tends to trigger feelings).

Inexplicably, Alice Miller is critical of holding therapy. She writes in two of her books that that forceful holding condones the use of force at the present time and thus suggests that force used in the past was also acceptable. Miller further states that such manipulation of a child can't be helpful in the long time. I question whether Alice Miller understands holding therapy.

If you enjoyed reading the revolutionary Aware Baby you will also enjoy reading Helping Young Children Flourish

Dr. Aletha J. Solter's internet website is located at: http://www/