Teach Your Children Well

Madeline Levine, Ph.D. is a California psychologist, a woman who understands child development with refreshing clarity. Her candor may upset parents and children whose focus is abundant personal accomplishment. Her priorities reside elsewhere.

For example, she addresses the vitality of self-esteem as the positive result of a child’s own decisions and accomplishments. In opposition, she expresses grave concern about the distortion of self-esteem as narcissism, self-indulgence and materialism, which results in a higher level of distortion related to entitlement, grade inflation, and sad misconceptions about self-worth.

She takes on present day insanity: “…the kind of overblown panic I am seeing today has its roots in an extraordinary marketing campaign designed to convert normal parental concern into frenzied anxiety about what it will take to be successful in the twenty-first-century global economy.” she continues: “We have been sold a bill of goods and that bill of goods has clouded our common sense and judgement.”

And here’s the core idea of her book:

Here’s the reality: kids who are pressured, sleep-deprived, and overly focused on by parents convinced that without significant oversight and intervention, their children are not likely to be successful, [and] are at high risk for emotional, psychological and academic problems.”

Inexplicable trends tied to seemingly boundless cheating, stress behaviors including substance abuse and cutting, family ties stretched beyond their limits, the overwhelmed, overworked, consistently unhappy patterns now commonplace… They all make sense when explained in context. It’s time to stop this madness.

So begins a refreshing 21st century course in child development that acknowledges, incorporates and often celebrates technology, learning differences, and natural processes that hyperactive parental meddling are not likely to overcome. Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success is a brilliant book, essential in the ways that What to Expect When You’re Expecting has become for the first years of life.

It’s all about helping children to find and nurture friendships; to encourage them to maintain the connection between learning and fun; assisting in the construction of self-identity; and practical specifics about, for example, the healthy benefits of sufficient sleep. Often, Dr. Levine’s sane advice makes sense not only for children and teens, but for adults, too. Her advice regarding good sleep habits:

– Consistent bedtime
– A quiet half-hour ritual prior to bedtime, with dimmed lights
– No caffeinated drinks in the afternoon or evening
– No digital device use before bedtime
– Absolutely no social networking before bed

Dr. Levine insists upon appropriate roles for children and for parents, appropriate relationships that may differ from the daily realities in your home or in the households of relatives, neighbors or friends. She’s clear on the ways in which technology can, should, and ought not be part of the picture. And even though you, me and our kids rely upon our modern tools, she makes it clear that neither these tools nor the social interaction nor the increased productivity are worth much…certainly not nearly as much as the direct, moment-to-moment personal interactions that matter so much more than anything else in the world.

Gee, I really like this book. It’s the kind of book I want all of my friends to read, that I want every parent and student to read. Given that her previous book was reprinted some seventeen times, maybe everyone will.

And on this Rosh Hashanah evening, I can think of no better way to begin a new year than to recommend a book by an caring author who is making a difference. L’shana tovah.

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