In writing about American parents, author Brad Sachs (Things Just Haven't Been the Same) rightly points out that we have become a clan of overly anxious mothers and fathers who place far too much pressure on our children as well as ourselves. He laments that we strive for perfection, pushing children to become musical prodigies, athletic superstars, and superior scholars. Then, when our children fall short of our grandiose (and let's face it, often unrealistic) expectations, parents feel like failures.
Part of the reason parents are so obsessed is that we live in a success-oriented culture, notes Sachs. Parents want their children to have a "competitive edge" in life, hoping that great grades, athletic scholarships, fabulous clothes, or the finest violin teacher will steer them toward wealth, popularity, and happiness. But whose success are we really after? "Is your son's ability to read second-grade level books while still in preschool his success or yours?" asks Sachs. "Exuberant cheerleading of our children in response to behaviors and activities that they do not see as representative of who they really are can actually undercut their self-esteem, making them feel as if their true self is not worthy of expression." (Yes, the road to parenting hell is indeed paved with good intentions.)
As a parent of three children and a seasoned family psychologist, Sachs has immense in-the-trenches experience and compassion when it comes to child rearing. Through real-life case studies, we see how parents can take a step back and accept the "good enough child." For example, we meet a mother who won't let her athletically gifted daughter quit soccer because she thinks her daughter "will regret it" (even though the daughter hates playing and is hankering to quit). It turns out the mother has used soccer to bond with her daughter ever since the girl was a toddler. Without soccer the mother wonders if they would have a connection. Ultimately, they find a new common ground through art and fashion.
In many ways, Sachs's book boils down to helping parents accept their child's limitations while truly seeing, appreciating, and nurturing the child they were given. He arranges the chapters according to the stages of acceptance and family healing--starting with uncovering the problems and finishing with changing the hurtful behaviors. Using the exercises at the end of each chapter, Sachs asks probing questions so that parents can begin to see how they might be contributing to their "child's problem." The author then gives advice on how to back off and be a more understanding, forgiving, flexible, and ultimately "good enough" parent. This is an excellent resource book for parents with children of all ages (babies through teens)--one that is contemporary in its insights and ageless in its wisdom. --Gail Hudson
In the 1950s, psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott wrote about the "good enough mother" the mother who makes mistakes but still manages to raise passably healthy children. In The Good Enough Child: How to Have an Imperfect Family and Be Perfectly Satisfied, clinical psychologist Brad E. Sachs goes further, arguing that no one can be the perfect mother or father or have the perfect child. What's more, he boldly posits, that's all right. Although some parents may be alarmed by the book's directness, many will find it reassuring. Sachs is scheduled to appear on NBC's Today Show on June 12. Agent, Sarah Jane Freymann.
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