Philippa Perry: ‘Most parents are not evil – they’re lovely people with the wrong tools’

The psychotherapist talks to Hadley Freeman about her childhood, parenting in a pandemic, and life with her partner, artist Grayson Perry

When Philippa Perry finished, after several years of writing and a lifetime of research, the first draft of her book about improving relationships between parents and children, she sent it to her editor – and their relationship promptly collapsed.

“She felt really told off by the book. She has teenagers and, of course, sometimes she would tell them: ‘Get out of bed, you lazy sods!’ So what I wrote went straight into her heart,” says Perry, who very much does not advocate calling one’s children “lazy sods”. This must have been painful for you to hear, I say. “Actually, it was amazing feedback,” she replies with the good cheer of a psychotherapist who firmly believes painful moments can beget productive solutions. “I realised that my own anger towards my parents had leaked out into the book. So I rewrote it and it’s a better book.” And how do matters stand with her editor? “Relationships are often about rupture and repair, and we have very much repaired.”

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