Author: George S. Glass, MD< and David Tabatsky

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

ISBN: 978-1-62873-730-1

The Overparenting Epidemic, by George S. Glass, MD and David Tabatsky, casts a wide net. The authors want to engage parents in an examination of their own parenting practices. Toward that end, the authors gently guide readers with self-assessment exercises and oblique anecdotes about some of the outlandish things others have done. They want readers to buy into the possibility that, yes, they too might be guilty of overparenting.

Parents of today are the progeny of the boomer generation, a generation that has enjoyed the highest standard of living, even at lower economic levels, than ever before in our history. Their parenting styles have been created in reaction to the manner in which they were raised. An era of technological abundance challenges parents today in a manner none could anticipate twenty years ago. My father helped me fix my electric train. A father today cannot be expected to repair a handheld device that puts television, games, a camera and a telephone into a child’s shirt pocket.

The book has trouble finding traction at first. Example after example of situations indicative of the overparenting syndrome are introduced. The authors’ hope, apparently, is that readers will find themselves in the anecdotes.

The authors give a quick history of child raising theories from Victorian times through the current time. Dr. Spock, the oracle of the mid-twentieth century, is cited by Glass as often misunderstood. They also provide a summary of the parenting styles; i.e. authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Overlooking the phenomenon of self-deception, they offer a multiple choice instrument to help a parent-reader identify his or her parenting style. This is all very helpful material, but the cure only begins with the diagnosis. Commitment to making a change is the next step, and it may involve profound adjustments in how an adult sees the parenting role. Deep personal reflection, no small undertaking in itself, is part of the process. Some parents pour too much of their own well-being into succeeding at raising their child. To compensate for their own unfulfilled aspirations, some raise the bar too high for their youngsters. The consequences are never apparent in the moment. Children are to be delivered into adulthood as stable, productive, secure, happy individuals. With the finish line always in the future, denial comes easy.

To counter the energy driving parents in their mission, Glass admonishes over-protective parents to “let go.” The regrettable truth is the message may not be enough to bring about the changes needed to help both parent and child find every day a happier place to be. Most parents are driven to make up for the perceived failures of their own parents. They establish their own approach out of their own feelings of insufficiency and low self-esteem. Their children will do so much better. The tragedy is, of course, as children attain legal age the unhealthy entanglement goes on and on. Glass, himself, suggest at one point that perhaps parents need their own twelve-step program to disengage from an obsessive and damaging parenting style.

Glass urges parents allow children the freedom to experience life within the manageable dimensions of childhood, even if it means occasional failure. The doctor has a contemporary message that echoes Kahlil Gibran, Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you.

The weaknesses in the book lie not in the message but in the delivery. The book needs to be tighter. Examples of overparenting abound, to the point of numbing redundancy. Rhetorical questions are over used. Readers will consider Dr. Glass’ analysis and recommendations because of his experience and credentials. They don’t need to be goaded into thinking by an unrelenting barrage of rhetorical interrogatives.

Further, the authors seem unsettled about addressing their readers. The straightforward second-person address is efficient, if somewhat confronting, and they use it sparing. Otherwise, third-person address is used to establish clinical distance. To write “a parent . . .” is much less threatening than to write “you.” Finally, especially when the analysis turns to finding cause, the authors use first-person plural. Your child or the parent’s children becomes our child or our children. A consistent aesthetic/psychological distance is never created between author and reader. The failure weakens the presentation.

Most readers will get past these shortcomings because the book is timely and important. Glass avoids jargon and psyche-speak to produce a work that is clear in its message. Dr. Glass is preeminently qualified as the author and his work should prove to be an important guide to parents everywhere.