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The Epidemic: The Rot of American Culture, Absentee and Permissive Parenting, and the Resultant Plague of Joyless, Selfish Children Hardcover – Oct 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins Trade Sales Dept; 1 edition (October 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060011831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060011833
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,699,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“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.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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By A Customer on Oct. 1 2003
Format: Hardcover
During the past 10 years, I've had countless encounters with completely uncontrolled, screaming, demanding children on a weekly - if not daily - basis. This is particularly strange since I am neither a parent, nanny or daycare provider. I have seen downright frightening tantrums everywhere I venture in public, from the grocery store to expensive restaurants to my office.
These encounters became so common that I began to notice children who were well behaved and polite as the exception; I began to congratulate parents with children who said something as basic as "hello" or "thank you," and felt tempted to gush if a 10-year-old held a door open for me.
All the while, it was the children for whom I felt most sorry - who were often clearly tired, had rarely if ever heard the word "no" in their brief lives, who cursed and swore at their parents. I could not fathom how on earth they were supposed to go about becoming happy, functional, satisfied adults.
Reading this book was such a relief to me, to know that my observations had been shared with others and, finally, a doctor! It was so refreshing to read a book that questions the completely permissive parenting I've witnessed so many times, and that focuses on the effects of this on the children who cannot know, at such young ages, to ask for discipline, for structure, for parents they can respect.
Parents I know - and here I mean those who have disciplined and punished their children as necessary and often been frowned upon for it - have found this book reinforcing. They've known, deep down, that they were doing a good job - the fact that their children are well behaved and polite and friendly is a testament to this.
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Format: Hardcover
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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