Henry David Thoreau first read his essay on "Civil Disobedience" in public during a lecture in 1848 and within fifty years, a young Indian lawyer in Africa had read it and incorporated those ideas into his own life. That lawyer was named Mohandas Gandhi, and Thoreau's work, along with the work of Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, became the foundation of a movement that brought down an empire and changed the course of world history. Someone once said to me, "There is nothing in the world so powerful as an idea whose time has come." Pam Leo's book, "Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion... Through Love Instead of Fear" is a book of ideas whose time has come.
After reading this book, I understood myself better than I ever have from reading any other book. And trust me, I've read a lot of books, on average two or three a week for the last 35 years. In every book, I've found one or two useful bits about the human condition that I could both absorb and put into practice. This is the only body of work I have ever encountered where all the scattered pieces are in one place, all at the same time.
There are at least four layers in "Connection Parenting". The first layer is the most obvious; it's a book about parent/child bonding and attachment. This is a practical framework for optimizing family relationships so that everyone in a family gets their essential needs met and can thrive. This book lays out what we need to do differently so our children don't drive us crazy, so they can grow up to be whole, functional adults able to have healthy relationships, find meaningful work, and have satisfying lives. This alone is worth the price of the book, just for the information we need to become more effective parents.
A second layer is that this book also maps out a process for building a Connection Parenting support community, using these ideas as a foundation for developing our current relationships with other parents into proactive resources. Many of us have lost the strong connections and support from our extended family. We are hungry for real community, and we desperately need the resources and support that community can provide. This is a workshop in a book, and though I'm certain it will be incredibly useful for any parent who reads it and completes the exercises by themselves, its greatest power and effect will be realized by those who put it into practice as a member of a parenting group committed to mutual support.
The third layer speaks to self-reflection, which is where I started this review. It is impossible to read Connection Parenting without some small, quiet, internal aspect of our heart saying, "Wait a minute, if this is what I really needed as a child, and that is what I got instead, well no wonder I have these kinds of challenges in my life as an adult." While the primary focus of "Connection Parenting" is indeed creating and sustaining healthy parent/child bonds, the reality is that this book carries both a theoretical and a practical framework for optimal development in all human relationships.
The fourth layer may not be so obvious. At its core, "Connection Parenting" is about love, about deep, human bonding through trust, compassion and respect. If we raise generations of children in this way, millions of them throughout the world, what kind of society and culture will they create over time? What if everyone knew this, lived it, and practiced it in every family, in every relationship? Perhaps you think it was marketing spin, pure hyperbole, for me to compare "Connection Parenting" with "Civil Disobedience". Ok, that's fine, but I'll make a prediction here: Connection Parenting is going to shake the world in ways we can't even begin to see today. What effect will these ideas have on war, crime, domestic violence, child abuse, drug addiction, poverty and so on? How will positive changes in those persistent and problematic social challenges affect our global economy? This body of work implies downstream impacts that are monumental in scope.
I suspect "Connection Parenting" will be incredibly controversial. I've already seen a direct correlation between the level of my reaction to some of the ideas set forth here and the level of wounding I still carry inside myself from my own childhood. If I've seen that in myself, I can only imagine how people from groups based on coercive ideologies will respond. Let me say that a different way. If you read this book and find yourself reacting with strong resistance, your reaction will likely be in exact proportion to the degree to which your needs were not met as a child, as they are set forth in this book. I personally don't see that as a bad thing, in fact, I see it as helpful when ideas new to me illuminate the darker corners in me that I'm still working out.
Whatever your reaction, my deepest hope is that everyone reads this book and applies Connection Parenting principles within their families and in their relationships with children. I will gladly recommend this book to every client I work with. Gandhi said, "Be the change you wish to see." "Connection Parenting" can change the world one family at a time and that's good enough for me.
Carmine Leo, CEC, PCC
Executive & Corporate Coach
Emotional Intelligence Development
A brief note after the review:
By now you may have noticed that Pam and I share a common surname. You might even have guessed that we are related, and indeed we are: Pam is my former wife and current dearest friend. If you think that makes me biased, you are absolutely correct. I suspect that there is no one in the world, other than Pam herself, who is more intimately familiar with her work than I am. Throughout the decades of our relationship it has been, without exception, an extraordinary privilege to know her, to learn from her, and to be a witness to the evolution of the body of ideas set forth in Connection Parenting. How many divorced men do you know who are willing and able to say that about their former wives? If I have been able to contribute to her success in some small way, that too has been one of her many gifts to me.