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Spoiling Childhood: How Well-Meaning Parents Are Giving Children Too Much - But Not What They Need

Overview

With keen sensitivity to family dilemmas reflecting her years of practice as a clinical psychologist, Dr. Ehrensaft shows how our culture has created a new kind of child - the "kinderdult," half miniature adult, half innocent cherub - whose new set of problems includes pseudomaturity, infantile behavior, a divided sense of self, and chronic anxiety. Martine, mother of three-year-old Laurel, expects her little girl to negotiate her own terms for visitation with her father, but at the same time grants her screaming...
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Overview

With keen sensitivity to family dilemmas reflecting her years of practice as a clinical psychologist, Dr. Ehrensaft shows how our culture has created a new kind of child - the "kinderdult," half miniature adult, half innocent cherub - whose new set of problems includes pseudomaturity, infantile behavior, a divided sense of self, and chronic anxiety. Martine, mother of three-year-old Laurel, expects her little girl to negotiate her own terms for visitation with her father, but at the same time grants her screaming requests for baby bottles throughout the night. Gwendolyn, age eight, is encouraged to interact with her mother as an equal, but dissolves into wild tantrums when they disagree. While Martine and Gwendolyn are extreme examples, their stories and others so memorably introduced in these pages help readers examine their own parenting paradoxes in a spirit of optimism and change. Insightful and compassionate, Spoiling Childhood offers a saner vision of how we can bring up our children. Dr. Ehrensaft helps us move toward a society where we can overcome the treacherous balancing acts of work and family demands: where "good-enough" replaces perfect parenting, harriedness is traded for harmony, and the kinderdult is replaced by a child who grows on a healthy continuum from infancy to adulthood. This book is invaluable reading for parents, prospective parents, concerned professionals - and anyone interested in the perils and possibilities of family life today.

The book contains no figures.

Vividly encapsulating the absurdities, eartbreaks, and possibilities of contemporary child rearing, this book shows how parents today are all too often caught up in a guilt-driven pendulum swinging between parenting too little and parenting too much. Dr. Ehrensaft helps us imagine a society where we can overcome the treacherous balancing acts of work and family demands; where "good-enough" replaces perfect parenting, harriedness is traded for harmony, and children grow on a healthy continuum from infancy to adulthood.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

"[Readers] will be rewarded with informed, workable tactics for overcoming personal, situational, and cultural obstacles that inhibit healthy, happy family life....Ehrensaft's remarkably deft exploration of childhood today encourages parents to make hopeful decisions in adopting more successful ways to raise children."--Booklist
Reviews from Parent Council

"Here's a fresh, no-nonsense approach to both the plight of parents and the needs of the child....[Ehrensaft's] ideas and sensitivity reflect years of practice as a clinical psychologist as well as a parent. Her insight encourages parents to give generously of themselves, but never give themselves over to their children."--Reviews from Parent Council
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ehrensaft, a northern California psychologist, coins the word kinderdulthalf baby, half miniature adultto describe the dual identity that she believes characterizes many of today's children. Overvalued and overindulged, yet granted freedoms far beyond their ability to handle, these children "face many risks and shoulder heavy psychological burdens," including self-centeredness, aggression and chronic anxiety. To integrate this troubling double-exposure and give childhood back to these kids, the author urges parents to offer their children more time and less pressure to be "perfect." Citing numerous cases of conflicted families from her private practice including one with an eight-year-old who chillingly describes herself as "a princess responsible for nothing", as well as sharing her own parenting missteps, Ehrensaft examines the stresses on families in light of the fast-track contemporary American culture in which there are no clear parenting directives. The author's approach, which focuses on psychological analysis, limits her suggestions for concrete behavioral changes but at the same times avoids reductive or formulaic declarations and encourages parents to consider this insightful, well-argued discussion in the context of their own parenting styles. Nov.
Booknews
Demonstrates that today's parents are not bad or selfish parents, just confused, and discusses the pressures on parenting from the workplace, changes in family structure, and the unpredictability of the social and political world. Offers a vision of "good-enough" parenting rather than perfect parenting. For parents and professionals. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
From the Publisher
"In this wonderful and very readable book, Dr. Ehrensaft explores the difficulties and stresses that today's parents are creating for themselves and their children. Her skillful presentation of complex psychological and social issues, illuminated throughout with fascinating case vignettes, will help parents establish a needed balance in their parenting between overindulgence and unrealistic expectation, and create a family with appropriate child-focus without complete surrender of self and marriage."—Joan B. Kelly, PhD, Co-author of Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce; Executive Director, Northern California Mediation Center

"This is an extremely moving book. Diane Ehrensaft locates and describes a profound unease and uncertainty among contemporary middle-class parents as they cope not only with the time crunch of two careers but also with a cultural crisis in conceptions of parenting. Dr. Ehrensaft points us toward psychologically informed principles that will foster parents' competence and well-being and thereby the sense of competence and well-being in their children as well." —Nancy J. Chodorow, PhD, author of Femininities, Masculinities, Sexualities: Freud and Beyond

"One of the most interesting and helpful books on parenting I've read. It brilliantly untangles the dilemmas of modern parenting—showing how we have come to confuse what we want and what our children need. It challenges us to rethink our roles as mothers and fathers, and offers compassionate guidance on how we can do that." —James A. Levine, EdD, Director, The Fatherhood Project

Booklist
"[Readers] will be rewarded with informed, workable tactics for overcoming personal, situational, and cultural obstacles that inhibit healthy, happy family life....Ehrensaft's remarkably deft exploration of childhood today encourages parents to make hopeful decisions in adopting more successful ways to raise children."—Booklist
Reviews from Parent Council
"Here's a fresh, no-nonsense approach to both the plight of parents and the needs of the child....[Ehrensaft's] ideas and sensitivity reflect years of practice as a clinical psychologist as well as a parent. Her insight encourages parents to give generously of themselves, but never give themselves over to their children."—Reviews from Parent Council
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781572302112
  • Publisher: Guilford Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 263
  • Product dimensions: 6.22 (w) x 9.23 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author


Diane Ehrensaft, PhD, is a noted developmental and clinical psychologist in the San Francisco Bay Area. A professor of psychology at The Wright Institute, Berkeley, a practicing psychotherapist working with children and parents, and the mother of two (just grown) children, she has published and lectured internationally.
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Table of Contents

1. Perils of Parenting
2. Your Majesty, the Baby
3. And Baby Makes Three, or Is Baby Me?
4. Parenting by Guilt
5. My Toddler, the Doctor
6. Pampering Our Children toward Success
7. Parents Caught in the Traffic in Love
8. Use the Rod, Lose the Child
9. The Kinderdult
10. Toward Better Odds for Parenting
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