The Natural Child: Parenting From the Heart
By Jan Hunt
New Society Publishers, 2001
Reviewed by Krissi Gayle
Medina OH USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 2, March-April 2004, p.60
Jan Hunt, a psychologist and the founder of The Natural Child Project, has compiled a lovely collection of her essays, previously published in the magazine Natural Life. The compilation, appropriately titled The Natural Child, is a wonderful expression of gentle parenting and a unique demonstration of loving guidance. Each page is designed to put a parent in a loving and positive frame of mind for being in a relationship with a child.
Hunt divides her book into easy-to-read sections that address aspects of empathic parenting. Hunt urges the reader to trust children to do the very best they can at every given moment, and explains that so-called bad behavior is their best effort to communicate an important need. She believes that children should be treated with the same dignity and respect generally given to adults. Hunt frequently asks the reader to imagine how an adult would feel in the child's position, which can be an eye-opening exercise for the parent.
The section titled "Living with a Baby" addresses issues such as immediate responses to a baby's cries, family co-sleeping, and "Ten Ways to Grow a Happy Child." Later in the book, Hunt offers clever tips for shopping with children -- for example, avoid crowded shopping areas, bring a healthy snack from home, and take a break for some fresh air (even if it means leaving a shopping trip unfinished) rather than let anyone get frustrated or angry from exhaustion.
The concept of loving guidance can be misunderstood. The chapter "Living with Children" offers concrete information on the problems with physical punishment, namely that it interferes with the bond between parent and child. It is not human nature to feel loving toward someone who hurts us. Hunt explains that punishments produce only superficial, short-term results, whereas cooperation based on respect is permanent and leads to happier parents and children. Hunt completes this section with a compelling essay on the "Ten Alternatives to Punishment," each of which involves showing children empathy, validating their feelings, and reassuring them that they are loved and appreciated.
Hunt is an advocate of homeschooling and includes an essay on nurturing a child's natural love of learning at home. She views alleged learning disabilities as issues of semantics, believing that changing a child's learning atmosphere will alleviate any such "disability." She suggests alternate avenues for learning including apprenticeships or public service to embrace different learning styles.
The Natural Child is a relatively short book that advocates trusting children and treating them with dignity, respect, and love. A wonderful primer for loving guidance and gentle parenting, The Natural Child will captivate parents wishing to embrace their children with compassion and respect.