Book Review: The Irreducible Needs of Children

Two Experts in Dialogue on the Fundamentals of Raising Children

The Irreducible Needs of Children

By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. and Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D.; 228 pages

If you lived in a perfect world, what would it look like? What kind of time would your family spend together, and what would you do with it? What would your children’s schools look like, their daycare—would there even be daycare? Would your world be a safe and strengthening place for all children?

It can be hard to think about things like that because the world we live in is so resolutely not perfect.

Earnings must be made, schools must be tolerated, time must be rationed in ways that have less to do with perfection than expediency. Though we may know what our children really need, it’s sometimes impossible to give it to them or to make sure they get it from their teachers and childcare providers and communities.

Still, if you’re going to dream, it’s good to do so with the input of experts like Dr. Brazelton, a pediatrician and the author of 28 books including Touchpoints, and Dr. Greenspan, a pediatric neurologist and the author of 30 books including The Child with Special Needs and The Challenging ChildThe Irreducible Needs of Children lets readers listen in on a dialogue between the two, in which they discuss the way things are and the way things ought to be. You may cheer at some of their insights, and some may make you want to bonk one of them on the head or invite them to visit the planet on which the rest of us have to live.

But they’ll make you think, and maybe take some small steps to make your own world a little more perfect.

The Book's Pros 

  • Interesting structure gives overview, dialogue, and recommendations on each need
  • Includes thoughts on children with special needs and special education
  • Offers some concrete suggestions that parents can implement
  • Provokes thought on important topics
  • Both authors have engaging, well-thought-out points of view

The Book's Cons

  • Some suggestions involving societal change are probably wishful thinking
  • You may disagree—strongly—with some of the authors' opinions
  • Hard not to feel judged if you're not raising your child in the ways they propose
  • Thinking about what ought to be can make it harder to live with what is

The Bottom Line

This book by two child development gurus offers plenty of food for thought—on families, childcare, schools, priorities, and respecting differences. They're doing some dreaming here, but it's nice to imagine along.

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