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The Epidemic: The Rot of American Culture, Absentee and Permissive Parenting, and the Resultant Plague of Joyless, Selfish Children [Hardcover]

Robert Shaw , Stephanie Wood
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 11 2003

Take a good look around you: You can't go into stores or restaurants without seeing joyless children screaming, sulking, resisting their parents, or pulling things off shelves. Parents, in turn, nag, complain, and often try desperately to ignore their unruly, surly offspring.

In today's world, both parents and children are suffering all around us. But it takes a catastrophic event like the tragedy at Columbine High School -- or one of any number of other frightening examples that make headlines weekly -- to get us to acknowledge that something terrible is happening to our children. We have lost touch with what they need from us to grow and thrive, and in the process we've created enormous numbers of children who are disaffected, alienated, amoral, emotionally stunted, and even violent. In The Epidemic, esteemed child and family psychiatrist Robert Shaw brings to bear a lifetime of firsthand experience with and knowledge of this plague, which has become so much the norm that we often don't even recognize its warning signs.

This bold and timely book tells you how to save your child and yourself from this epidemic, but its suggestions will not be the ones that today's parents are used to hearing. While the media is far from innocent, the bulk of the blame lies with the faddish, both neglectful and overindulgent, child-rearing practices that experts have promoted for the past three decades. "These children are not an aberration. They are the natural outcome of the way we have been raising them," Shaw notes. But there is hope, and Shaw's commonsenseapproach cuts to the core of the problem and shows us the cure, covering such important and controversial issues as:

  • The myths and realities of bonding and attachment
  • How to recognize when nonparental care is working -- and when it isn't
  • Milestones in your child's moral and ethical development
  • The difference between self-centeredness and self-esteem
  • Why you must stop the media from mugging your child
  • Strategies for bringing children back from the edge

The Epidemic is not just a "how-to" book, it is a "what is necessary" book -- a call for parents to take responsibility for their children and give them what they truly need in order to grow, thrive, and love.

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“I rather hope this book becomes the twenty-first century childcare bible.” (Fay Weldon, The Times (London))

“Provocative.” (Parade)

About the Author

Robert Shaw, M.D., a child and family psychiatrist practicing in Berkeley, California, is the director of the Family Institute of Berkeley. He specialized in child psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City and taught at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he trained residents in community psychiatry as the chief of the Family and Children's Mental Health Services for the entire South Bronx. He then directed the Family and Children's Mental Health Services for the city of Berkeley. The father of four grown children, he lives with his wife, Judith, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Jan. 31 2004
I'll begin with what I like about this book: The chapter called "The Truth and Consequences of Child Care" is a well done illustration of the rock and the hard place parents are driven to today in order to provide for their children while they are very young.
The rest of the book is a suave combination of good advice, observations that should be obvious to anyone, and Chicken Little. Shaw is right that parents who buy their children everything instead of spending time with them are probably going to raise jerks. My guess, though, is that any parent who cares enough to pick up a book about parenting is probably smart enough to figure this out already. Shaw is not right that we are all going to hell in a handbasket. Just look at the title of this book: Epidemic, rot, permissive, plague, joyless, selfish. He's just trying to make money from making people think the world is worse than it actually is.
The biggest problem I have with this book is that Shaw seems to think there is only one acceptable parenting style. No baby should be fed at night beyond six months of age? All two-and-a-half-year-olds should be completely potty trained? Forcing your baby to sleep in a crib when both you and the baby would rather sleep together is necessary? I've got news for Shaw: There's more than one way to raise a kid, and implying that a child is going to be a sociopath just because he's still nursing all night at 18 months (or isn't potty trained at 3, or has a parent who adds "okay?" to the end of sentences, or...) is ridiculous.
There is more than one way to raise a happy, healthy, well-behaved child. I'm sure the methods Shaw suggests work for some folks, but all children are different and all parents are different and all families are different.
Take the good stuff away from this book, and take the rest of it with a can of salt. The sky is not falling.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing ever changes Sept. 30 2003
By A Customer
I still recall reading a translation of a Latin text from Rome (around 100AD) bemoaning the sorry state of youth and how kids just don't listen anymore.
Here is a hint: kids have never listened, and never will. At best (with enough threats) they just might be quiet about it.
Knowing that the author is clueless about the long history of behavior variations in children, I read the book anyway. Actually it is not bad. Yes it lacks context (for example the author bemoans youth violence in large cities even though is nothing compared to the 19th Century). However the author is essentially correct in that if you are not around to raise your kid and if you give them material things to make up for your lack of presence your kid will most likely be a twerp. He is also correct in that if your kid is over 15 right now probably smoking dope (that they buy from other kids in their church youth group). Just go look in his closet to see where they are hiding it.
Just don't freak out and decide kids have suddenly all become monsters, because in all likelihood you were a monster.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Disagree with secularkangaroo May 19 2004
By A Customer
I have read Dr. Shaw's wise, wonderful book and wish everyone I know with kids would read it. I have friends whose lives and households are absolutely dominated by their infants or toddlers - who can't eat, shower, wash dishes, have a quiet evening with their spouses or do anything normal because they are so obsessed with gratifying every want expressed by their small children. We need a return to common sense and Dr. Shaw is just reminding us that we have the power to make childrearing an enjoyable and rewarding experience for everyone involved. Let's stop raising brats!!!
Thank you Dr. Shaw!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Disagree with previous reviewer April 25 2004
By A Customer
he says that Shaw thinks that there is only one acceptable parenting style but this is clearly not what he is saying:
page 50: There is no reason to believe that any adviser knows for sure about the best child rearing practices or has more common sense than you innately have yourself. I include in that statement the advice of pediatricians, psychologists, lactation consultants, nannies, early childhood educators, self-annointed or media appruved gurus, family and friends, and even what I say in this book
Shaw repeately suggests that you use common sense and test approaches with your child- although he has strong opinions about ineffective or conterproductive methods
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Hands-On Guide for Parents April 23 2004
By grapabo
Although the book opens with a discussion of tragedy of the school shooting at Columbine High School, the purpose of The Epidemic is not to pinpoint an immediate or public causes that causes youths like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to do what they did, but to highlight their cases as symptomatic - an extreme one, admittedly - of a broad problem of children who grow up oversaturated with stimuli, incapable of emotional development, and uncontrollable at school and at home. All of these, Shaw says, "are signs that our society has become toxic to children".
On this foundation, Shaw's goal is to give instructions for parents in preventing these problems before they arrive. This begins as early as infancy, where Shaw encourages the parent to begin a dialogue with the child (at this early stage, the "dialogue" being nonverbal expressions of affection, such as kisses on the baby's head). While the message for parents to be involved in the child's life seems to be self-evident, pressures for the parents in the workplace can threaten the development of this bond. Also, Shaw is very thorough in instructing parents on the *right* way to develop this bond, mixing anecdotal evidence from his practice with broad guidelines and checklists of symptoms to watch out for, so that the time and effort spent with the child won't be in vain.
By focusing on the internal family structure rather than the external factors that might threaten it, Shaw's book avoids criticizing many of the outside cultural factors surrounding the Columbine shooting that others have pointed to (whether correctly or not), and thereby makes the book accessible for parents of nearly every political persuasion who are looking for practical childrearing tips.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An important read for parents with "Difficult" children
As a soon to be father I found this book very interesting. The advice is straight forward and direct without presenting a "one size fits all" solution. Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2004 by A. Ricks
5.0 out of 5 stars Just the Right Prescription!!
As a teacher, I daily see the effects of today's permissive parenting, from kids with no concept of working hard to their parents who let them stay home from school for ANYTHING! Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2004 by D. Hawkins
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Book
Finally the truth is told. This book clearly illustrates the serious deficiencies in todays parenting and how to fix it. What more could you want? Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars single this one out
If you read one parenting book your whole life, make it this one. I'll bet eighty percent of those who read it will buy another copy for a friend, and no wonder. Read more
Published on Nov. 24 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars This is well worth the money.
I saw Robert Shaw on CNN a few months ago touting this book. Immediately, I knew I wanted to read it. Read more
Published on Oct. 30 2003 by David M. Buchta
5.0 out of 5 stars This should be required reading for all parents
As a parent I found this 'tough love' approach incredibly helpful. Doctor Shaw has identified an enormous problem, explained the causes and articulated methods and tools and rules... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you for this book!
It's about time that someone finally wrote about how parents aren't "parents" anymore - they are so busy working, dating, buying they don't have time for their kids anymore and so,... Read more
Published on Oct. 27 2003 by Susan
2.0 out of 5 stars What's the problem?
This author would seem to be onto something in their analysis of some of the ways in which our children are being raised to be joyless and selfish. Read more
Published on Oct. 24 2003 by Cladinoro
5.0 out of 5 stars Spoiled Kids become Adult Monsters
I've seen multiple generations in my family, of spoiled, over-indulged, no boundary kids grown up into Adult Monsters. And it was an upper crust family too. Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2003
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