Book review: Family Time by Jesper Juul, Monica Øien

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 4:48pm

Family Time

by Jesper Juul,

Monica Øien


You don't need to be a fung shui master to be able to tell a lot about a family the moment you walk into its home. Every household has its own energy, and much can be deduced from the spaces dedicated to playing, eating, sleeping and loving.

Family Time, a book that aims to answer some of the questions that parents face in raising children in a modern world, is structured around a conversation between journalist and mother Monica Øien, and Danish family therapist Jesper Juul as they tour a typical home.

Each chapter explores a different room in the house, and the different stage of life and parenthood it represents. However, if you're looking for a quick reference book full of magic solutions to make your child eat, sleep and behave on demand, you'll be disappointed. Family Time is written more like a self-help book, full of general wisdom and life philosophy.

Juul challenges many preconceptions about being a "good" parent. He explains why frequently placing a child at the centre of attention can in fact be an invasion of its privacy. He warns against becoming "service parents", who constantly try to help their children, and in doing so actually hinder their sense of independence.

As a rule of thumb, he says, we should never do anything for our children that they are capable of doing themselves.

He makes the interesting point that while new parents are often preoccupied about deciphering the cries of their infant, once a child learns to speak we stop wondering. "Just because children develop an oral language doesn't mean we know who they are. Every day they absorb and learn thousands of new things," he says.

Parents of teenagers will find some useful nuggets on how to deal with worries related to sex, drugs, deception or general rebellion. While some of these issues are treated in depth, at times the book lacks focus - perhaps because it tries to cover too much in so few pages.

Øien nudges Juul along, prompting him to talk about issues of relevance to her family situation and putting forward some of her own opinions. Many of the images are of her family and children. This all lends a more intimate, less didactic feel to the book, giving us the impression of sitting in on a family therapy session - only without the hefty fees.