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The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids Hardcover – July 3, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
A practicing psychologist in Marin County, Calif., Levine counsels troubled teens from affluent families, and finds it paradoxical that wealth—which can open the door to travel and other enriching opportunities—can produce such depressed, anxious, angry and bored teenagers. After comparing notes with colleagues, she concluded that consumerism too often substitutes for the sorts of struggles that produce thoughtful, happy people. If objects satisfy people, then they never get around to working on deeper issues. The teen years are supposed to be a time for character building. Avoiding this hard work with the distraction of consumer toys can produce "vacant," "evacuated" or "disconnected" teens, Levine believes. She is particularly useful when explaining common parenting dilemmas, like the difference between being intrusive and being involved, between laying down rules and encouraging autonomy. Alas, while Levine pitches to the educated moms, since they do much of the actual child-rearing, she may be preaching to the choir. Those who need her most may be too busy shopping to pick up such a dire-looking volume. Still, school guidance counselors should be happy to have this clear, sensitive volume on their bookshelves. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Scientific American
Wandering among suburban estates, sports clubs and prep schools are overlooked children of a perplexed generation. Their lives overflow with abundance and praise, yet ironically, the mask of apparent health and success may hide a gloomy world of emptiness, anxiety and anger. Strangely, argues Madeline Levine, a clinical psychologist practicing in Marin County, California, the nations latest group of at-risk kids comes from affluent, well-educated families. Despite advantages, these children experience disproportionately high rates of clinical depression, substance abuse, anxiety, eating disorders and self-destructive (even self-mutilating) behaviors, according to various studies. Based on criteria from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Levine says these children "are exhibiting epidemic rates of emotional problems beginning in junior high school and accelerating throughout adolescence." One may brush off these youngsters as overindulged products of wealthy, narcissistic parents. But Levine says many of these kids are really ill. They suffer from a weak sense of self, often struggling to fill inner emptiness with objects and praise. Too often they know something is wrong and grope desperately for help yet fail to escape a downward spiral. Could it be, Levine wonders, that privilege, high expectations, competitive pressure and parental overinvolvement yield toxic rather than protective effects? Levine explores such issues as social isolation, the fine line between parental underinvolvement and overindulgence, and the perverse role of money and material goods in creating false promises of fulfillment. Yearning for outward approval, adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the delusion that wealth causes happiness. In many cases, a rude awakening occurs only after many years of anxiety and depression. Levines writing is surprisingly reflective and interesting. A constructive therapist, she offers practical guidelines and parenting strategies for those struggling with troubled teens. The advice is useful to any parent of any income level and includes ways to foster healthy autonomy, impulse control and sense of self. Levine emphasizes the importance of discipline, monitoring and limit setting as ways to encourage kids to construct healthy "inner" homes. More important, parents must "stand on their own two feet" before expecting their children to stand on theirsnoting that many parents scold their children for social behaviors that they themselves cannot manage, such as substance abuse and lack of self-discipline or self-assertion. Parents must strive to get their own inner homes in order before they can expect kids to straighten out theirs.
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As I read this book, I realized that I wanted my book club to read it (7 women with children ages toddler to college, and different economic situations) and discuss it. Two of the women just wanted to borrow my copy and read it, however after getting 50 or so pages into it, they both went and bought their own copy. This book needs to be read with a pencil in hand, so you can underline and make notes. Five of the seven women bought the book, we had a great discussion. The advice applies to all ages and we also decided as a group that even though the book is geared towards high income families, the core values taught are universal and it is just an overall good parenting book.
In my own words, here are just a few of the ideas I took from the book--- it takes TIME, interaction, and listening ears to be a good parent, a warm and attentive mother figure is very important, no success (money or prestige) will compensate for failure in your home, helping kids practice and learn self-control is necessary for them to be successful adults, people matter more than objects and we have to teach that to our children, serving others and having your children help you do that is vital, and allowing them to make their own choices (even at the risk of failure sometimes) will help them develop into happier individuals.
As a book club we also decided that aligning yourself with family, friends, a church or organization (Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts) will help to teach the core values you believe in and will be most beneficial for your children.
While the majority of the book is about the psychological challenges kids from affluent homes are experiencing, I would recommend this book to any parent. The book also indirectly points out challenges facing our world and society, which I found refreshing. While we, to a large extent, live in a capitalist world, there are many dangers to becoming a materialistic society. Madeline does a nice job acknowledging the dangers and offering a perspective that is workable within our culture and society.