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by David Anderegg
Free Press, 2003
Review by David M. Wolf, M.A. on Oct 22nd 2004
This is a good book, an articulate and readable text
to help parents with small families who may be worrying more than is helpful to
their children. In Anderegg's analysis and experience, many parents these days
think too much, worry obsessively, over-protect and over-react to their
children's lives and are inappropriately enmeshed in their schedules. Anderegg
has many insights and some answers. If you think you have these concerns as a
parent, you should read this book.
The causes of worrying too much are
many. The media have played a role, exaggerating and linking ideas of crisis
with children; and recent history, especially the Columbine school massacre,
have caused widespread fear. The simple fact of smaller families--one or two
kids--is also a cause and Anderegg spends some of his time showing why. He
deals with all the pressing issues: drugs, school violence, day care,
over-scheduling of children, fears of sexual abuse, and others.
The solutions he describes touch on
moderation. Worry less. Let go enough to trust the process. Most of all, begin
to understand that the "child crisis of the month" may exist mostly
or wholly in the outlook of the parents, and therefore, don't react until it is
clear who has a problem.
The book's content is thorough and
worthy. What about his approach to the reader?
Anderegg is a Bennington College
professor of psychology and does child and family therapy. He's very well
educated and has experience that supports his authority. So, why does he begin
his sensible, much-needed book with an introduction that asks, "Whose
Zeitgeist is it, anyway?" I mean, how many parents really know what
'zeitgeist' means at all, much less in the particular nuances of psychotherapy?
Okay, spirit of the times somebody says from the back of the room. But
why does the professor tease his readers to think about "zeitgeist"
when his real purposes are not yet established? He asks, do parents worry too
much and "The answer to that question depends on how one reads the
zeitgeist." Then a moment later he writes, "One could argue…that as a
child therapist my view of the zeitgeist is necessarily flawed." He
defends his background and credentials. Then in the next paragraph he writes,
"Where else do I get my data about the zeitgeist?" He's a therapist,
parent, consultant to schools; he reads everything in the media culture.
But the reader finds himself wondering
less about the professor's credentials and abilities and more and more about
that curious word from the German. And why must people suffering from
overparenting wade through that introduction, so oriented to the professor's
unique perspectives, in order to get to their own concerns? I suspect more than one or two parents have returned
this book to the shelf at Border's or Barnes & Noble while trying to
It's more than a problem of
stumbling out the gate in the Introduction. The book is organized logically but
sometimes not in the way readers need to approach it. In particular, the titles
of each chapter are a tease, not strong declarative statements of their
content. No doubt this is intended to invite curiosity. But it only hides
content. Chapter One, "Nervous Wrecks: Scenes from the Front Lines."
What exactly is it about? A frightened parent could mistake it for a chapter
about your teenager going to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of course, it's not.
It's about overparenting in relation to contemporary smaller families. But the
title obscures the main point, as if to get a magazine buzz started. The same
vagueness applies to most of the chapter titles. And this is also a problem for
the reader who has completed the book, gotten value, but later wants to refer
back to something of importance. The chapter titles will confuse rather than
help find the reference.
Yet, in balance with that problem,
there is an Index and it is well-crafted. Endnotes are thorough and usefully
On the whole, Worried All the Time is a thoughtful and thought-enhancing book
that can help parents to put matters right in their own parenting, reduce their
levels of anxiety and anger, and set the stage for a happier life for
themselves and their children.
© 2004 David Wolf
David Wolf is the author of Philosophy That Works, a
book about the practice of philosophy. His book page for orders (hardback &
paperback) is www.xlibris.com/philosophythatworks
; readers can also see the first chapter there.