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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
James Garbarino (coauthor of Lost Boys) and Claire Bedard tackle difficult parenting issues that are particularly salient at a time when parents and children are still reeling from the horror of the shootings at Columbine and other schools nationwide.
Parents Under Siege aims to help parents develop the skills necessary to counterbalance the effects of an environment the authors deem toxic to children. Their recommendations -- presented as tools in the metaphorical parenting toolbox -- include viewing your child and your role as a parent within a broader social context; always keeping a child's temperament in mind; and grounding your family life in a sense of spirituality and moral responsibility. Arguing both passionately and compassionately for each point, Garbarino and Bedard present an approach to child rearing that faces up to the realities of modern life but builds a strong foundation for children to fall back on when the pressures become too great to bear.
In addition to outlining the tools for more mindful parenting, the authors also debunk what they call the American Dream of Parenting -- that if you are a good parent who tries hard, you will have good kids. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth, because, as the authors point out, "loving your kids is usually not the issue and often is not enough," and bad things befall the best of parents. Effectively driving this point home is the fact that the authors have come to know the parents of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold, whom they describe as loving and attentive parents. Dylan Klebold is characterized as a "greatly beloved boy." This statement completely alters the way society has come to think of boys like Dylan and his accomplice, Eric Harris, because it opens up the possibility that any child, even the most loved and cared for, could still be capable of such a horrific act. By differentiating between parents' responsibility for the actions of their children and the assignment of blame, the authors alleviate the need for parents to be defensive, thereby encouraging a more open dialogue, which can only be in the best interests of children and society.
While the debate rages on about who should bear the blame for violence perpetrated by children -- parents, the media, and the schools being the usual targets -- this book focuses instead on what can be done to prevent it and how we can heal in the aftermath. It addresses issues that are of concern to every parent (even those who believe they know their child) but pays particular attention to the needs of children who "seem to volunteer for trouble, resisting everyone who tries to help and guide them." Garbarino and Bedard posit the idea that we need to cultivate compassion and empathy rather than assigning blame, and with this absorbing book, the authors themselves take the first step. (Karen Burns)