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Recommended Parenting Books

''Too Much of a Good Thing'' by Dan Kindlon, Ph.D.

Also by Dan Kindlon

Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age
by Dan Kindlon, Ph.D.

I spend lots of time talking with tweens and teens from privileged circumstances. Through a mix of good fortune, opportunities, and lots of hard work, their parents have created an extremely comfortable lifestyle for them. Nothing wrong with being comfortable and sharing what you’ve earned with your family. Yet recently there’s been a lot written about how these kids who have so much, are often unmotivated, depressed, and directionless.

Personally, I don’t usually see that side of them. Sure, I get emails from kids who are dramatizing their life situations (broken hearts, unfair parents, insensitive friends) but frankly, most of it seems like pretty normal adolescent stuff. Since I’m not a therapist, I was interested in reading a different perspective. Too Much of a Good Thing is a very solid book with a lot to offer its readers. Kindlon, a Harvard psychology professor, knows his stuff. Kindlon’s earlier and equally excellent book, Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys was one of my prior recommended reads.

By surveying over 600 teens and nearly 1100 parents (all of whom are in the upper-middle to upper socioeconomic status) Kindlon concluded that while the kids have “…full toy boxes” they seem to be lacking in what we call “character.” Sounds harsh, but when the good professor analyzed the kids’ responses to his survey, there were irrefutable correlations between their self-centeredness, inability to defer gratification, non-motivation, eating problems, and lack of self-control, and certain aspects of the parenting they were getting. His conclusion: these kids are not developing positive character traits because they’re over-indulged.

While indulging our kids comes from a loving intention, Kindlon says our motivation has nothing to do with their needs and everything to do with ours. He indicates strongly that we rush in to make everything right because we’re unwilling to see our kids deal with disappointment or frustration. How ironic as each of us knows that making our way through obstacles is often exactly what it often takes to build “character.”

…Girls who say they’re ‘very spoiled’ are three times as likely to have driven drunk and about twice as likely to have smoked marijuana in the past month. Boys who were ‘very spoiled’ were also at higher risk for … lying, cheating, being anxious or depressed… and drunk driving.
—Dan Kindlon

Kindlon counsels parents in specific ways to reverse and prevent the behaviors his survey documented. All his tips focus on what he calls “the holy trinity of child care”, T.L.C.: Time, Limits, and Caring. It’s not just common sense. His research bears out the benefits: “…children in families that eat dinner together at least a few times per week tend to be less depressed, have less permissive attitudes toward sex, are less likely to use drugs, and are more likely to work to their intellectual potential in school.” Sounds pretty clear. So, what’s for dinner tonight?

More Recommended Parenting Books »

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