A solid place to start for parents who hope to solve the enigma that is the sullen teen.

Raising Children You Can Live With


Raser’s debut is a valuable tool for handling the most difficult job in the world: parenthood.

“[W]hen you are miserable and your children are too, this book may help you understand how things went wrong and how you can make them better,” Raser explains in this guide’s introduction. He asserts that parent-child problem are rooted in an imbalance between what se calls the “Business” (rules, guidance, discipline) and the “Personal” (care, love, fun) sides of the parenting equation. A seesawing pattern tilts things one way or the other, which can create real power struggles, especially when a child sees only the Business side. These can result in power deficits, he says; the negatives can slowly add up so that even one misplaced word can lead to a major screaming match. Raser suggests using “Strategic Interactions,” in which a child is given room to maneuver so that parent directives aren’t interpreted as power struggles. Diving into various real-world situations in short chapters, such as “What Do I Do When My Child Lies?” and “What Do I Do When My Child Won’t Communicate?,” the book gives examples of typical parent-child dialogues and outlines elements of Strategic Interactions to decrease ill will. Phrases in the Strategic Interaction dictionary (such as “I never thought of it that way before” and “I’m not sure I understand. Could you tell me more about it?”) may help kids see that parents understand where they’re coming from, Raser says. This book isn’t a panacea for all parent-child problems, but it’s a sure-footed work that provides plenty of ready examples for beleaguered parents. It doesn’t address teenage behavior in the context of the physiology of growing brains, but that may be well beyond the scope of this slim volume. And although the book uses the generic term “children,” most of the situations described here are really teen issues.

A solid place to start for parents who hope to solve the enigma that is the sullen teen.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-50-537358-5

Page Count: 138

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2015

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A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.


Ruminations and reminiscences of an author—now in his 70s—about fatherhood, writing, and death.

O’Brien (July, July, 2002, etc.), who achieved considerable literary fame with both Going After Cacciato (1978) and The Things They Carried (1990), returns with an eclectic assembly of pieces that grow increasingly valedictory as the idea of mortality creeps in. (The title comes from the author’s uncertainty about his ability to assemble these pieces in a single volume.) He begins and ends with a letter: The initial one is to his first son (from 2003); the terminal one, to his two sons, both of whom are now teens (the present). Throughout the book, there are a number of recurring sections: “Home School” (lessons for his sons to accomplish), “The Magic Show” (about his long interest in magic), and “Pride” (about his feelings for his sons’ accomplishments). O’Brien also writes often about his own father. One literary figure emerges as almost a member of the family: Ernest Hemingway. The author loves Hemingway’s work (except when he doesn’t) and often gives his sons some of Papa’s most celebrated stories to read and think and write about. Near the end is a kind of stand-alone essay about Hemingway’s writings about war and death, which O’Brien realizes is Hemingway’s real subject. Other celebrated literary figures pop up in the text, including Elizabeth Bishop, Andrew Marvell, George Orwell, and Flannery O’Connor. Although O’Brien’s strong anti-war feelings are prominent throughout, his principal interest is fatherhood—specifically, at becoming a father later in his life and realizing that he will miss so much of his sons’ lives. He includes touching and amusing stories about his toddler sons, about the sadness he felt when his older son became a teen and began to distance himself, and about his anguish when his sons failed at something.

A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-618-03970-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after...


Self-help advice and personal reflections on avoiding spousal fights while raising children.

Before her daughter was born, bestselling author Dunn (Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask, 2009, etc.) enjoyed steady work and a happy marriage. However, once she became a mother, there never seemed to be enough time, sleep, and especially help from her husband. Little irritations became monumental obstacles between them, which led to major battles. Consequently, they turned to expensive couples' therapy to help them regain some peace in life. In a combination of memoir and advice that can be found in most couples' therapy self-help books, Dunn provides an inside look at her own vexing issues and the solutions she and her husband used to prevent them from appearing in divorce court. They struggled with age-old battles fought between men and women—e.g., frequency of sex, who does more housework, who should get up with the child in the middle of the night, why women need to have a clean house, why men need more alone time, and many more. What Dunn learned via therapy, talks with other parents, and research was that there is no perfect solution to the many dynamics that surface once couples become parents. But by using time-tested techniques, she and her husband learned to listen, show empathy, and adjust so that their former status as a happy couple could safely and peacefully morph into a happy family. Readers familiar with Dunn's honest and humorous writing will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at her own semi-messy family life, and those who need guidance through the rough spots can glean advice while being entertained—all without spending lots of money on couples’ therapy.

A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after the birth of their child.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-26710-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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