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Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age Paperback – Bargain Price, January 8, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Kindlon (coauthor of Raising Cain), a psychologist, has spent time surveying and speaking to parents and kids in an effort to understand teen-rearing today. In addition to a scientific survey (Parenting Practices at the Millennium), which focuses on issues such as whether today's teens consider themselves spoiled, how many use drugs, how many do household chores, what families have dinner together regularly, whether all or only rich kids have cell phones, etc., Kindlon also draws on anecdotal data. As a psychologist at various schools, he has listened to parents protesting the suspension of a son accused of plagiarism the parents didn't find anything wrong with taking material off the Internet. Students have told Kindlon that their parents are never home or, in some cases, when they expect a punishment, that their parents do nothing. Educators as well as parents and grandparents will effortlessly identify with many of the situations Kindlon describes. After all, particularly among the baby boomer generation with seemingly unlimited funds, as parents indulge themselves, it's fairly apparent that their children will do so as well. Kindlon offers sound, albeit brief, advice; in the chapter on life skills, for example, he urges parents to help their kids acquire interests that will hold their attention. He believes that even spending one hour a day with kids not necessarily at mealtime is helpful. While this book is handy, a better organization with chapter summaries of advice would have made it even stronger. (Aug.)Forecast: Given the author's track record with the bestselling Raising Cain, this book should perform well, especially with a 12-city author tour and national advertising campaign.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Library Journal
Kindlon, coauthor of the well-received Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, here describes his experiences as a clinical therapist as well as the findings from the Parenting Practices at the Millennium study (PPM), which he conducted in spring 2000. The PPM is unusual in that it focuses on middle- and upper-class Americans, specifically those born in the last 20 years of the 20th century. Kindlon calls these kids "millennials" and finds that they "are highly competitive and prone to self-centeredness, depression, anxiety, and anger. Even when they're driven they often seem adrift." Distressing news, especially when these are the privileged few who will "have the inside track on the most influential positions in our society." But the pictures is not all gloomy; Kindlon offers sensible and compassionate advice for the well-to-do parent by effectively blending empirical evidence with anecdotal material. Sometimes, he offers easy, rather than clinical, conclusions (e.g., there is a "direct relationship between a large disposable income and drug use"), but this is a minor quibble. For large public libraries and those academic libraries that need the PPM results. Douglas C. Lord, Connecticut State Lib., Hartford
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Being a parent is a demanding job, but many of us refuse to see it as such. We work enough at work, and at home we often seek some indulgence and fun with our kids. We want to be their friends rather than their guardians. At every moment, we want them to love us, and in any case not hate us. In short, oftentimes we are parenting for ourselves, rather than for our kids, for our convenience and pleasure. All this is not good news for our children. In fact, it betrays our rather passive role in their upbringing.
Some of the findings stand out as less obvious. That eating disorders in most cases can be traced to early childhood. That early learning of self-control, of coping with delayed gratification and boredom lead to higher SAT scores. That most sexually active teens wish they had waited.
The most thriving group of kids participating in the main study shared five characteristics. They had dinner with the family on a regular basis. Their parents were not divorced. Their room was clean. They engaged in community (even household) service. And they did not have a phone in their room.
To summarize, the book's advice seems merely commonsensical: spend more time with your children, set limits, encourage their engagement in an absorbing challenging activity, let them fail so that they have opportunities to learn from their failures. In fact, the book is more than just regurgitation of self-evident truths. Its strength comes from two sources: hard data for its conclusions and practical advice for parents. Truths are often simple (as in dieting: forget the fads, just burn more calories than you take in). But living your daily life according to what you know is right for your children - now there's the rub.
On the personal level, this book will probably help me say "no" to my 4 year-old more easily. And even though parents' "I'm doing it for your own good" argument never made much sense to me, just like ferberizing our child worked, I believe letting my son cope with manageable frustration is ultimately beneficial for him.
I would recommend the book to all parents and, perhaps, to some interested teenagers as well.
The prescription is that parents should set a good example, spend more time with their children (especially at dinner time), set limits so that their children will only take on challenges they are ready for, establish clear and consistent ways of enforcing limits, be caring, and help their kids take on greater, appropriate challenges as time passes.
The seeds of the problem relate to the parents' unresolved conflicts about parenting roles. They want their kids to be happy, but haven't thought through what's needed. Having more and more unearned freedom and choice creates dissatisfaction. Being more and more competent provides engaged, meaningful flow experiences. The parents want to be too much of a pal, and not enough of a parent.
To deal with this, Professor Kindlon encourages readers to think about the best things their parents did for them that are appropriate for their own children . . . and use those as models. Equally, parents should avoid overcompensating for what they disliked most about what their own parents did.
The first part of the book describes the details of overindulgence and spoiling as they are practiced today. The second part looks at seven psychological states that can be perverted into something worse, and examines the way this occurs. The third part focuses on what to do.
The book is built on Professor Kindlon's clinical experience as a psychologist, questionnaires from a convenience sample he examined, 50 in-depth interviews, and a literature review.
The seven foundations of "deadly" syndromes are as follows: Pride leads to self-centeredness; wrath causes anger; envy causes being driven; sloth creates lack of motivation; gluttony leads to eating disorders; lust causes self-control problems; and greed leads to acting spoiled. Over 80 percent of the affluent 634 teens questioned reported problems in one or more of these areas.
I thought there were two serious problems with this book. First, to find out how parenting turned out, don't you have to see how the lives of the youngsters end up? Reporting on this study is premature unless you only care about making the teen years more pleasant. Many people straighten up and fly right in their 20s who were a real mess as teens. Second, this book is so loose that it almost doesn't tell you anything. The average sermon contains more specific guidance than this book has in total. I compared the book to the more specific books I have read on teenaged obesity, learning to handle money, overcoming teenaged depression, and so forth. Each of those books is vastly more detailed and helpful. This book is like the Cliff's Notes version of a classic novel. I suspect that it will be most appealing to those who are most in denial about the idea that overindulgence for children is a bad idea.
After you read this book, ask yourself where you had tough, but helpful, learning experiences that your children have not yet had. How can you help your children to duplicate those lessons today?
Encourage all to climb the highest mountain that appeals to them!
Many of the excerpts from real interviews with teens seem manipulative, with quotes selected to prove the current point the author wants to prove (which changes according to the chapter). What's lacking is any real context or analysis of the quoted teen's situation.
Ultimately the book provides some food for thought, and can be read in a few hours, but it's irritatingly simplistic.