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by Joseph D. Sclafani
Praeger, 2004
Review by Tony Dickinson, Ph.D. on Feb 5th 2006

The Educated Parent

Unlike most parenting books which present at best a mix of contradictory messages and conflicting advice, Sclafani offers a refreshing view with practical advice for the concerned, engaged adult concerned with parenting their child(ren) from infancy to adolescence. Grounded in an appropriate research literature of the educational and social sciences, Sclafani's 10 chapters negotiate the practical parenting territory by addressing many of the shortcomings of earlier volumes dealing with this topic (often successfully so). Much of the earlier discussion chapters trace the etiology of modern parenting concerns, stemming from what Sclafani calls 'good enough' parenting (an observation akin to what I call the 'outsourcing' of our more traditional parenting responsibilities), but the work continues to address these concerns with scholarly seriousness, avoiding the temptation to write a "Parenting for Dummies"-like text. Although dealing in some detail with specific, separate chapters concerned with fatherhood, motherhood, daycare and special needs children (for examples), Sclafani remains consistent throughout, in his attempt to instruct/educate parents in a considerate manner, taking pains to accommodate a diversity of attitudes, socioeconomic factors and family lifestyle choices. Indeed, this volume has to be one of the best that I have read in this regard, and the author certainly cannot be accused of pushing any particular socio-political agenda in search of proposals for action. In contrast, Sclafani's posture is firmly situated in his reading of some of the most significant (albethey selective) findings of past and present socio-developmental and educational research. Perhaps one of the finest contributions of this text is its timely reminder to the reader of the role of parents as teachers. Whereas many authors try to merely advise parents how to better interact with their child(ren)'s teachers, Sclafani revisits the ways in which parents may themselves 'take back' this role for themselves -- the results of so doing thereafter giving rise to a more sustainable, active family household (of the type most of us claim to prefer, if not only rarely enjoy on a daily basis !). We read in this book not only some very plausible explanations as to how many parents have become so relatively 'disengaged', if not actually dissatisfied, with our parenting skills, but are also guided through some thought-provoking material which can lead the reader to better plan (and hopefully implement) their interactive parenting behaviour throughout their child(ren)'s formative years through to adolescence, with care and consistency. Other special topic sections included in this book will be of interest to some, but not all, readers (e.g., those dealing with relocation, divorce or step-parenting), but each is dealt with in the same erudite, informed way. If I were to raise an issue with the author, nevertheless, I remain somewhat puzzled by the latter chapters dealing with bodily impairments, illness and bereavement. These sections were rather incomplete in my view, and left the reviewer turning to the references for more guidance -- and in this sense, the volume ends rather abruptly, and without returning to the living world of parenting as a fun and exciting adventure as discussed earlier. However, if I were asked right now to recommend only a single, comprehensive volume as a reference for parents setting out to equip and educate themselves with regards their planning for the 'better parenting' of their child(ren), this would be that book.

 

2006 Tony Dickinson

 

Dr. Tony Dickinson, PIC (Asia)