January, when New Year's resolves are fresh. January, when the air outside is stale. January is a good time to sit on the sofa, read a parenting book and vow to do better in 1991.
Put your feet up and let your maid vacuum beneath them, while you read CHILDREN OF PARADISE, SUCCESSFUL PARENTING FOR PROSPEROUS FAMILIES; By Lee Hausner; Tarcher; 279 pages. $18.95.Rich kids have problems, too, says Lee Hausner. They are desperately seeking excellence. They get pressure from their private schools, pressure from their athletic coaches, pressure from their goal-driven parents.
The title of the book implies it is written for six-figure families. But middle-class Americans can also see themselves in "Children of Paradise." Hausner tells of a mother who pushes her 4-year-old into ballet lessons, a couple who give their teen too many things and no responsibilities, an overly busy father who asked his son about school and fell asleep as the boy answered.
Hausner has some common-sense suggestions for taking the pressure off kids.
Another common-sense book is:
DON'T STOP LOVING ME; A REASSURING GUIDE FOR MOTHERS OF ADOLESCENT DAUGHTERS; By Ann F. Caron; Henry Holt and Company; 227 pages. $19.95.
The chapters on trust and a father's role in raising daughters are the most thought-provoking. The other chapters may not be new information, but they are as reassuring as the title suggests.
She knows mothers worry and knows some daughters do break a trust, Caron tells mothers to rebuild the trust. "Persistent trusting does pay off," she says.
The most practical of the newly released parenting books are:
PARENTING YOUNG CHILDREN; By Don Dinkmeyer, Gary McKay, James Dinkmeyer; American Guidance Service; 150 pages. In paperback, $10.95 and
PARENTING TEENAGERS," by the same authors.
These are the latest in the Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) books. They offer the same problem-solving charts and sample dialogues we've come to appreciate.
Did you know you could do reflective listening with a baby? Dinkmeyer and McKay suggest saying, "You're very happy to have your bear," or "Your face says you are sad."
Maybe if you start early enough you'll have it all down by the time your children are teenagers. If not, "Parenting Teenagers" has plenty of helpful concepts, cleanly explained - what to say to keep your teen talking to you, how to encourage cooperation, what to say if your teen starts smoking.
For those who prefer their parenting books spiced with quotes from Ronald Reagan, we suggest,
CHILDREN AT RISK, THE BATTLE FOR THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF OUR KIDS; By James Dobson and Gary Bauer; Word Publishing; 290 pages. $17.99.
James Dobson is a well-known authority on children. His "Dare to Discipline" sold a million copies.
In this latest book, Dare-to Dobson takes his traditional theories of family a few steps to the right.
Society is falling apart because so many women are working, Dobson says. "Unfortunately these women were driven into the work force against their wishes - often to earn the money to pay the increasing tax bill from Uncle Sam." Dobson concludes if we stopped taxing middle-income families, women wouldn't have to work and children wouldn't take drugs.
If we could only go back to 1957, Dobson believes, we could all be happy.
Richard Louv agrees with him.
CHILDHOOD'S FUTURE, LISTENING TO THE AMERICAN FAMILY, NEW HOPE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION, By Richard Louv; Houghton Mifflin Company; 420 pages; $21.95.
"In 1957 Americans reported a level of satisfaction with their lives that has yet to be surpassed."
Like Dobson, Louv sees the dangers of life in the '90s, "The amount of time parents spend with children has dropped 40 percent in the last quarter century, according to a report published by the Family Research Council of Washington, D.C."
And children suffer. "Once the web begins to unravel the smallest bodies fall through first," Louv writes.
Unlike Dobson, Louv doesn't believe it's practical to return to life in the 1950s.
Louv is a journalist. The strength of his book is that he interviewed hundreds of parents and children before he wrote it. He lets youngsters speak for themselves, to say how they feel about child care, divorce, spending so much time with machines, being gifted, or having a mother on crack.
The children tell us what they are missing. Then, like Dobson, Louv suggests ways to support parents in giving children what they need.
Louv doesn't think it's practical for all mothers to stay at home. He suggests a number of options that, when woven together, would offer a web of support to families, the kind of support that's been missing for a generation.
He wants to increase family-time through "flex-time and flexible scheduling; part-time work with benefits; job sharing; family leave; career breaks; telecommuting; a four-day work week; and several hours a month (paid leave) for visiting day cares or elder cares or volunteering in schools. These goals may seem out of reach today, but as the baby-bust generation creates a labor-seller's market, families should be asking for more."
From his interviews with parents, Louv concludes they are ready for a change, "Something is wrong, parents said - we are on the fast track to nowhere. Through all this frantic running around some zenith has been reached, a point at which people have begun to say, `This is crazy; we aren't living, we are doing lunch.' . . . So much has been taken from us, or we have given it up. For what? Hitachi stereos? Club Med? Company cars? Racquetball? For 15-hour days and lousy day care?"