Developmental psychologist Engel (Psychology/Williams Coll.; Real Kids: Creating Meaning in Everyday Life, 2005, etc.) presents strategies for navigating the challenges and pitfalls of parenting.
Many parents have difficulty distinguishing between unusual behavior, which could be “just a quirk with little long-term significance,” and more serious problems. This book is organized to help them identify the clues that will enable them to tell the difference between the “red herrings,” which parents are well-advised to ignore, and “a genuine red flag”—a weakness “that might seem “insignificant on its own …[but] is part of a pattern”—which warrants professional attention. In each of the six chapters (Intelligence, Friendships, Goodness, Success, Romance, Happiness), the author examines behavior which she says represents “an aspect of life that can seem hardest to decipher when children are little and yet is of central importance as they grow up” (e.g., the importance of early warning signs that indicate children who have difficulty relating to their peers). While Engel emphasizes the importance of the example set by parents and their attitudes toward life as well as their direct relationship to their children, she does not believe that these are determining factors because by the time a child is born it already has “a complex assortment of characteristics.” Her aim is to relieve parents of unnecessary anguish over their child’s development, to allow them to feel like they aren’t required to fix every little problem in their child’s life. “Children help create the environment that shapes him,” she writes. “The same environment is experienced differently by different children.” Engel offers many anecdotes and examples from recent research to demonstrate how children with psychological problems have been helped to overcome them, but she cautions that “some things can just be left alone.”
A compassionate guide for parents and educators.