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Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children Paperback – July 30, 2002

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Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children + Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys + It's a Boy!: Your Son's Development from Birth to Age 18
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (July 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034544289X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345442895
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Not since Dr. Spock or Penelope Leach has there been such a sensitive and practical guide to raising healthy children and this one doesn't end at potty training. Child therapists Thompson (coauthor of bestseller Raising Cain) and Cohen (Playful Parenting) have teamed up with Washington Post columnist and children's writer Grace (all three are parents) to describe the social lives of kids and the appropriate roles of parents, teachers and school administrators. They explore the stages of children's development, from parent-bonded to quasi-asocial toddler, the learning-the-rules phase in elementary school and adolescent and romantic bonding. Each phase may bring some negative experiences including some outright cruelty that can be hard on both parents and children, but sometimes necessary for learning about the world. They advise parents to think of themselves as "lifeguards" at the pool, aware of what's going on with their kids, but only intervening in the rare crisis. The book wraps up on a practical note, with chapters on how schools can be proactive and how parents can be most useful. Their advice? Don't worry so much, set a good example, keep perspective and relax most kids turn out okay. Thompson and Grace's breezy "we've all been there" anecdotal style will bring great comfort to any parents who're worried about their kid's social life in other words, any parent. (Sept.)Forecast: The planned 12-city author tour and print advertising in the New York Times and USA Today will yield big sales, supported by the strength of Thompson's name and Grace's media connections.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Bullying has become an area of concern in the media and society. This book discusses that topic but weaves it into a broader study of children's friendships. Thompson, a clinical psychologist and coauthor of Raising Cain; Grace, an author of children's books and a former columnist for the Washington Post; and psychologist Cohen (Playful Parenting) present a developmental perspective as they describe how children's social lives develop from toddlerhood to adolescence. Research and analysis are interspersed with personal anecdotes and vignettes in an engaging style. The book concludes with advice to teachers and parents on how to improve social life in schools and support children's friendships. This is not a formulaic, how-to book. As the authors themselves acknowledge, the best way to learn about friendship is to practice it. However, it does provide useful perspective on a critical aspect of adolescent development, which tends to be overlooked until schoolyard feuds erupt into violent confrontations. The book may also be reassuring to parents since it outlines information on current dating styles, acceptable ranges of friendship patterns, and normal gender differences in interpersonal relationships. Recommended for public library parenting collections to complement Charlene C. Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese's more narrowly focused Cliques: 8 Steps To Help Your Child Survive the Social Jungle (LJ 2/1/01). Antoinette Brinkman, M.L.S., Evansville, IN
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Parents will have a tougher job to follow the advice here.
Donald Mitchell
It's a very interesting book that gives us a new perspective about children and the relationships they establish.
The real-life examples cited in the book are realistic scenarios which allow the reader to relate.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book deserves many more than five stars for its careful, thoughtful, and detailed look at how children develop their social lives. Like all remarkable books, it will extend your understanding beyond your personal life experiences and provide simple, common sense guidelines for achieving outstanding results. If you only read one book this year about improving the social life of your child, make it this one!
Every book I read about the psychological problems of youngsters focuses on the forms of social exclusion and bullying that typically occur in schools and neighborhoods. Best Friends, Worst Enemies takes that as the starting point, explains what causes the social exclusion and bullying, and details what schools and parents can do to eliminate it.
Social connection between children begins at a younger age than most people believe. The book details videotaped studies of infants watching and connecting with each other. Then, step-by-step, the authors show you how social interaction develops from those early months through to dating. I was particularly impressed by the conceptual description of youngsters being assigned a place versus the in group (in or out, and high or low status in that role). Although I could not articulate it, that certainly captures my recollection of those painful teenage years.
The use of animal studies is persuasive for the ways that humans often behave. I found myself chuckling over the descriptions of Alpha male and Queen Bee female behaviors.
The best part of the book is that it points out that exclusion is bad for those who do it, as well as for those who suffer from it. So all parents and all youngsters should be concerned.
The book avoids being too technical about psychological concepts.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Laure Chipman on January 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book has been a help in understanding my five-year-old's peer relationships, and is thought-provoking even for non-parents. I found the book well-organized and well-written. It helps make sense of children's behavior in terms of their needs for "connection, recognition, and power." It points out that children balance these three needs. Soon after reading this book, my son provided a stunningly concrete example of this. He and his friend had drawn chalk "tornado spinners" on the driveway. My son said, "My tornado spinner is more powerful than yours, because it's bigger." The other boy quietly said, "I'm not sure if I want to be friends with you any more." My son said, "OK, OK, they're the same power." The need for connection had won over the need for power and recognition.
There are some helpful hints to be gleaned from the book as well. Here's one I related to. Often, if a child has a problem at school with another child one day, the parent will tend to ask the child on the following day, "So, how did it go with Johnny today?" Your child, meanwhile, had forgotten all about the problem, but your comment provokes a "come to think of it..." reaction, causing the child to continue to dredge up negatives.
The book divides children into "accepted," "rejected," and "neglected" types, to describe how their peers treat them. I fell squarely into the "neglected" category, which I think explains my lack of understanding of the "need to belong" that so many people feel -- I wasn't really "in the game."
The authors mention a fascinating psychological experiment dealing with the need to belong. The subject was put into a group of people, and all were supposed to look at several pairs of lines and tell which was the longer line: A or B.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Seattle reader on June 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book could have used an editor, or a better one. I found it much too wordy: he says in 4 paragraphs what was already clear in the first paragraph. I felt that he was explaining issues to about a 6th grade level person.

I was less interested in the theory in the abstract and would have appreciated more suggestions for parental action (or inaction) in each chapter. Instead, the "What parents can do" chapter was stuck onto the end of the book like an afterthought, and read like an article in O..."10 things you can do". The one part of the book that was brief, and it was the part I had hoped to be in-depth.

Finally, I thought the author put a lot of weight on the parents' impact on a child's personality. Obviously there is a huge influence, but there was little mention of temperament. It was just: "Johnny's quiet, and when you meet his Dad, he's quiet, too." And some examples were more accusatory: the mother is not socially skilled, so no wonder the child isn't. There are lots of kids struggling who are just that way. I don't care if he blames me as a mother, but why I think this misses the boat is that it portrays only the weak side of the child's personality and poses it as a mention that this can be the way the child is wired and that there are associated strengths. I think that knowledge affects a parent's ability to accept a child who is "different" and support him/her in their strengths and help them offset their weaknesses to minimize the negative impact of the weakness on their life.

I was looking forward to reading this book, and found it very disappointing.
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