Foreword by Robert Coles
What follows is an important, forthright, engaging, and inviting book, lucidly written by two parents, Alvin Rosenfeld and Nicole Wise. They lend to the rest of us their considerable knowledge and psychological intelligence. They want to encourage us, who are bringing up children, to stop and think about what we want for our sons and daughters, not to mention ourselves, as their mothers and fathers. The authors are earnest and thoughtful, but wary as well; they know how eager some of us are for "advice," the more, the better, from our various "experts" and how much we crave tips, suggestions, recommendations, and authoritative remarks from on high, to the point that there is scarcely an aspect of family life today that has not been turned into an excuse for counsel, if not outright insistence, often offered in the name of science or medicine. Yet thankfully, here are two authors who refrain from glib pronouncements, who even embrace irony in the sure knowledge that each of us, as adults or as children, deserve an overall and sustained acknowledgment of the psychological complexity of things, the puzzles and paradoxes, the surprises and disappointments that surely come our way, even as we try with all our might to get control of our lives, to anticipate the troubles ahead, to figure out how we might do better than we seem to be doing.
In a sense, then, this book is meant to be a companion for those of us who heed its call, attend its messages, which in their sum tell us to stop and think, not only of our children and of course ourselves as parents, but of the world in which we live: the social values and cultural customs, the attitudes of mind and heart that constantly exert their daily presence and that persuade us, tempt us, even turn us into people we may not want to be all done, so often alas, "for the sake of the children," a phrase that haunts so many adults as they regard their youngsters at home or elsewhere. That is why, needless to say, we turn to a volume like this one. We do, indeed, want to do well by our children, to do our best for their sakes. On the other hand, we worry so often that our best, even the best, may well not be enough and so we look toward others -- our friends and neighbors, the religious figures we know, the schoolteachers, and these days, men and women who put their ideas into books, physicians such as Dr. Rosenfeld, who is a child psychiatrist, or writers such as Nicole Wise, who has spent a lot of time trying to set down, in plain but compelling language, what is known about the young and those who try to rear them. These two contemporaries of ours reach out to us in the pages ahead: tell us what they have learned, what has worked for them, what worries them, as they have gone about fulfilling their parental duties, responsibilities, and, too, done their work observing others, similarly preoccupied.
The result is an extraordinary, compelling encounter that awaits the reader: a meeting between them and us, who are trying to bring up our children successfully but who sense, so often and well, the urgency we feel as we try to do all we can but who sense also the hazards that can bedevil us as we forget what it is we really want for our children when all is said and done. And that is what this book aims to help us do: Stop and think, stop and wonder, so that we, as members of a family and citizens of a nation, have some new ideas about where we hope to head and why.
-- Robert Coles