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Worried All the Time : Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety and How to Stop It Hardcover – May 5, 2003
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Psychologist David Anderegg has written a fascinating book about the worries that wake parents up at night. His confrontational premise is, "Worry reveals very much about the parent and very little about the child." Rather than view a child through the prism of a parent's anxiety, Anderegg focuses parents on their child's unique temperament. He surveys our culture and child-development literature, asking searching, nettlesome questions. For example, why do Americans feel so invaded by their own cultural products? Among his targets are parents who read too much and those who view their children's college acceptance as a parental final exam. Each chapter outlines how parents may be overreacting to issues such as school violence and offers insightful ideas for parents to try at home. Anderegg is at his best in a brilliant chapter about drugs. Here, he explores the unresolved authority issues of boomer parents who are grieving about their current "uncool" state. Although the subject of sexuality is curiously underplayed, Anderegg's prickly ideas and practical suggestions will gain this book a wide, well-deserved readership. --Barbara Mackoff
From Publishers Weekly
According to Anderegg, a child therapist and professor of psychology at Bennington College, parents of today are excessively concerned about their children. A number of factors-including an increase in older parents, smaller families and media hype surrounding topics like school violence-have contributed to this rise in parental anxiety. Drawing on psychoanalytic theory, Anderegg posits that some worrying about children comes from unresolved issues in the parents' own lives. He uses the research of cognitive-behavior therapists to point out that parental vigilance, while appropriate for infants, is difficult to turn off as a child becomes more independent. Focusing on some of the hot topics of parenting, such as daycare, drug use and how to ensure that children attend the right schools, he argues that such worry is misplaced and counterproductive for both parent and child. Instead of obsessively overseeing their children's activities or worrying about their accomplishments, Anderegg recommends parenting children within an atmosphere of moderate firmness, empathy and an understanding of an individual child's temperament. Although the author's advice is sensible, it will be of the most use to parents who have some familiarity with educational and psychological terminology.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
I only wish I had had Dr. Anderegg whispering in my ear -- and felt his hand on my shoulder -- long before this as an antidote to the cultural messages screaming in my face through the media and the constant chattering of my fellow parents in the other ear. About the only downside to reading this book is that I have probably acquired more smile lines around the corners of my mouth (Anderegg does have a great sense of humor) - not a bad price to pay for losing some of the furrows in my brow.
Almost forgot: the Notes section at the end of the book that provides references to the sources of statistics and studies cited in the book is very cleverly done. In addition to the page number from the text a brief tag phrase (typically a few words or a phrase from the book) is also provided. This makes it very easy to find the primary source for the issue you want to pursue further -- a very nice touch. This Notes section is in addition to a more traditional index.
I never really thought I was the only parent who felt this way, and now that I've read WORRIED ALL THE TIME, I know I'm not. In fact, if David Anderegg's reports are to be believed, I'm probably at the low end of the anxiety scale. Anderegg reports that one dad was concerned about his son's self-esteem because the lad told a joke at school and nobody laughed. Dad actually went to the teacher to see how this could be remedied. My advice would have been to encourage sonny boy to find better material, or a better audience, and faghettaboutit. And that basically is what Anderegg's advice was, in addition to gently telling the parent to butt out.
Anderegg has some interesting ideas and raises some interesting points. He looks at over-scheduling activities (what I call "Camp Runamuck"), daycare centers, school shootings, the influence of the media, and the potential for drug and alcohol use among children. His basic message can be condensed to "Lighten up, Mom and Dad." While WORRIED ALL THE TIME isn't a "Don't Worry, Be Happy" book, Anderegg's conclusion is that things aren't quite as bad as they seem to be.
Anderegg is a soothing voice of reason, and I have recommended this book to a couple of sets of parents already, just because of the issues it raises. Anderegg isn't totally convincing, but he does an excellent job of discerning issues of concern and discussing them. He has a balanced take on daycare centers, raising some interesting points pro and con, and makes some obvious but overlooked comments about au pairs. Anderegg's evaluation of the media reveals that he does not know much about how popular entertainment finds its way to the market, but his conclusion as to how much --- or how little --- movies, television and music affect children seems, in the end, on the mark. Similarly, he avoids the hysteria that surrounded the wave of school shootings a couple of years ago, demonstrating fairly conclusively that the safest place for most children continues to be in school. Anderegg even gets into the biological whys and wherefores about why we are more worried and why the world seems to be a more dangerous place for children than it used to be.
Statistics and the like do not help when your child is one of them, obviously, and possibly this point of understanding isn't stressed enough in WORRIED ALL THE TIME. There is also not much that WORRIED ALL THE TIME has to offer to parents of less than modest economic means, who are raising their children in dire situations. There may ultimately be no answers that fit every situation. However, WORRIED ALL THE TIME at least makes the attempt to identify those areas that may be of concern, and those that may be a source of unnecessary aggravation.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub