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by T. Berry Brazelton, Joshua D. Sparrow
Da Capo, 2005
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H. on Aug 29th 2006

Mastering Anger and Aggression

Mastering Anger and Aggression: The Brazelton Way is a wonderful contribution to the literature on parenting, focusing, particularly, on angry and aggressive feelings of children.  The book delectably blends the perspective of a renowned pediatrician (coauthor Dr. T. Berry Brazelton is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus, at Harvard Medical School), with that of an accomplished child psychiatrist (coauthor Dr. Joshua D. Sparrow is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, at Harvard Medical School).  The writing, of Brazelton and Sparrow, is beautiful, and very lucid, as well as refreshingly devoid of suffocating academic denseness.  Their brilliant writing powerfully exudes an authoritative forcefulness, which is quite appropriate, given their superb expertise in the realm of child behavior.

The book's keystone view, held  trenchantly, is that children need help from their parents, with regard to mastering anger and aggression; and this splendidly edifying book explains, very clearly, how parents, in practical, real life ways, can provide that help.  Characteristically, Brazelton and Sparrow expound on a particular behavior, that may be exhibited by a child, and then, very importantly, shower readers with a torrent of practical advice, concerning how parents may respond properly to that behavior.  The highly knowledgeable discourse on child behavior, proffered deftly in this book, is strengthened greatly by the coauthors' great skill in artfully molding the textual contents into a form that is, substantively, insightful and informative, and, stylistically, plainly understandable and very lay reader friendly.  Veritably, the book is an invaluable primer for parents, worldwide, struggling to steer the development of their children from going awry.

Structurally, this rather terse, albeit very enlightening, book is compressed into merely three chapters.  A bibliography, adjoining the text, enumerates sundry books for parents, children, and professionals, as well as several web sites and videotapes, tethered, in some fashion, to the mastery of aggression and anger.

The sage counsel, of Brazelton and Sparrow, explicating the nuances of the behavior of children, very helpfully explains to parents what children will (likely) do, why they will do it, and how parents should suitably react.  The first chapter expresses the view that displays of angry feelings by a child provide the child with energy necessary to respond to a perceived danger, and anger is, also, a form of expression of the child, as an independent person.  As envisaged by Brazelton and Sparrow, the vexing challenge for parents is to understand the necessity of their child's anger, while, concomitantly, limiting it appropriately.

Not insignificantly the coauthors, in the first chapter, seek, also, to shed intellectual light on "touchpoints": the stages, in a child's development, during which rapid bursts of learning occur.  For children, the development of self control, over anger and aggression, is a demanding process, beset by numerous challenges.  The firm belief, of Brazelton and Sparrow, is that touchpoints, in early childhood, when a child begins to develop self control, provide parents with golden opportunities to help the child master angry and aggressive feelings.  And, indeed, a cardinal purpose of this fine book is to capably guide parents coveting the successful navigating of the turgid, and turbid, waters of touchpoints.

The crux of the second chapter is to further instructively elaborate on the process of a child developing self control, over anger and aggression, with a focus, especially, on the time frame from birth until early childhood.  As the chapter makes plain, it is difficult for a child to properly balance self control and self assertion.  The coauthors emphasize that the child, and the child's parents, both need to learn:  the growing child needs to learn proper forms of self assertion; and the parents need to learn to effectually circumscribe that assertion.  The coauthors describe numerous practical ways that may enable parents to help their children.

In the concluding chapter common problems, pertinent to self control, anger, and aggression as a child grows, are eyed, perspicaciously, through the keenly discerning lens, of Brazelton and Sparrow.  Consistently practical suggestions, for parents, abound in this last chapter, as well.  Topics falling within the ken of this book envelop:  anger, biting, bullying and teasing, hitting and kicking, self defense, sports and aggression, tantrums, and toy guns.  The subjects, foregoing, are dissected and examined with obvious great skill, and, typically, a plenitude of practical suggestions for parents, of a sagacious nature, are described.

This illumining book provides a fairly detailed blueprint, concerning how parents can, with optimal efficacy and safety, traverse the demanding terrain of angry and aggressive feelings of children.  And the book, in fact, should be greatly appealing to parents, everywhere.  Pediatricians, psychiatrists, and psychologists should, additionally, be quite enthralled by the strength of this powerfully constructed book.


© 2006 Leo Uzych


Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare.