Parent/Educator Resources
Parent/Educator Resources
Parenting Books
Book Reviewed: Bruni, Frank (2015). Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be. New York: Grand Central Publishing.

Why should parents read this book? I think every parent who dreams of their child attending an elite institution should read this book. Here, Bruni demolishes many of the myths and hype which drive certain students and parents into believing that the only way they will be successful in life is if they gain entrance into an elite university or college such as Yale, Stanford, MIT, or the University of Chicago.

According to Bruni, none of this is true. He provides lots of information demonstrating that many successful leaders attended lesser-known institutions and turned out just fine. Their attendance at state universities did not hamper their ability to make a name for themselves or successfully lead both small and large organizations.

For parents determined to get their child into the halls of an elite institution, the game is rigged to shower disappointment upon them. Many elite institutions are flooded by applicants and purposely deny admission to many students. Strangely enough, this increases their ranking in publications like U.S. News and World Report. As Bruni points out, however, much of the information presented in the college rankings game is worthless to any situation or applicable to students, depending upon their career and life goals.

Why should teachers read this book? It has been drilled into the heads of teachers that all students should be college ready—even those who are currently in middle school. Unfortunately, many politicians and educational leaders think college ready means that students should be prepared to enter the hallowed halls of Harvard or Yale University. But what happened to the local state university or even the more immediate community college, as viable options for kids?

For teachers who have long suspected that entrance into Harvard or Yale is mostly an ego boosting activity and that students should more strongly consider better, more local options, the book is written with you in mind. Finally you have a source you can use to refute the claims that elite institutions are everything they are purported to be and that great things are not happening in many so-called lesser institutions.

Overall evaluation of the book: This book will make you think differently about the college admission process. It will also make you wonder if that degree from Harvard is worth the ego trip it took to achieve it. Four Stars ★★★★

Book Reviewed: Bruzzese, Joe (2009). A Parents’ Guide to the Middle School Years. Berkley: Celestial Arts.

Why should parents read this book? This book is relatively short and remarkably free of jargon and you will find his clear and relatively unencumbered writing style to help the pages fly by. I find much of his advice to be useful and on target. If you are searching for a book on how to talk with your child, who is suddenly giving you the cold shoulder, this book will help. You certainly could do worse.

Talk to your child about the topics covered in the book. For example, don’t assume they recognize how to organize their academic materials and know about all the creepy guys (mostly) waiting on the internet to talk to with them. Follow his advice on the family check-ins, so it becomes part of the established structure. (You’ll be glad to have them when things turn sour—as they sometimes inevitably do.) But mostly follow his advice on dropping the lecture format with your child while adopting the question format—without turning things into a game of twenty questions or the drama of a police inquisition.

Why should teachers read this book? Most teachers will agree with the contents of this advice book for parents because they have been saying the same things for years. If you are an educator who has never taught middle school kids before, you need to read this book. It will help give you general ideas about how to talk with kids and help save you from the hassle of learning the hard way of what works with middle school kids and what does not.

Overall evaluation of the book: This is an easy read and especially suitable for parents and educators who don’t know anything about middle schools and the students which inhabit them. The topics tend to be on the social side of the equation, while neglecting academic concerns, but that doesn’t diminish the value of the book. Four Stars ★★★★

Book Reviewed: Chua, Amy. (2011). Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom. London: Penguin Books.

Why should parents read this book? The main thrust of this book is about the difference between “Western parents” and “Chinese parents.” Chua argues that Western parents are not very strict compared with Chinese parents, of which she is one example. While raising her two daughters, she didn’t let them play video games, watch television, have sleepovers, or get anything less than an ‘A’ in school. In return, she made them study hours and hours every day, including the weekend, and didn’t care if they complained or started whining. In the end, she had two very talented daughters, one of which played at Carnegie Hall and the other who tried out for Julliard. The book is a clear shot across the bow at American parents and their obsessive worrying about what the child feels and then wasting time being concerned about how to raise the self-esteem of their child.

If you want to “grow a backbone” and start saying “no” to your child and start helping them lead a disciplined life, this book is for you. However, be warned—it is very clear that the adoption of Amy Chua’s parenting style is both mentally exhausting and takes lots of time—for both parent and child.

Take some of Amy Chua’s parenting principles to heart and stop worrying about harming your child’s self-esteem and don’t mollycoddling them at every turn in the road. Let your child suffer hardships and don’t swoop in and save them or find someone to blame for their difficulties. Work them hard and demand excellence and stop praising them for things they should be doing like picking up their shirt and putting it into the hamper.

Why should teachers read this book: This is a useful book to help educators understand the mindset of the “helicopter parent” who tries to manage and push their child into excellence. It also is a summarization of what we have suspected all along—that high performing middle school kids usually have a parent pushing them hard behind the scenes.

Overall evaluation of the book: This is an interesting counterargument to some of the overly-permissive parenting styles used in America today. If one of your goals is for your child/student to be a superstar, you are going to have to adopt some of Chua’s approaches. Simply telling them they are a superstar and propping up their self-esteem isn’t going to cut it. Your child/student will simply end up being an underperformer with an overinflated false sense of self. Four Stars ★★★★

Book Reviewed: Covey, Sean. (2013). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc.

Why should parents read this book? This is a mirror image of Stephen Covey’s famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, targeting a different audience—teenagers. Sean Covey covers much of the same ground as did his money-making father—7 Habits seminars and workshops were everywhere in America at the height of the Covey craze, but has adapted the book to be attractive to teenagers. Consequently, there are lots of graphics and funky designs geared to keep the attention of kids focused on the content, which revolves around the concepts of being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, putting first things first, thinking win-win, seeking first to understand and then to be understood, synergizing, and sharpening the saw.

The 7 Habits spoken of by Covey are exactly what you want your child to be able to demonstrate. While Covey has been criticized for his paradigm of pro-Western Civilization and pro-business solutions, it doesn’t diminish his packaged program that benefits all kids, no matter where they are born and in which culture they grow up. Who wouldn’t want their child to be proactive rather than reactive? Why shouldn’t kids work on their communication skills so they try to understand what the other is saying before blabbing out their poorly thought out response?

Why should teachers read this book? If teachers had classes of kids in which everyone in the room operated on the 7 Habits, things would be very hunky-dory. This book talks about everything teachers wish their students to be. So here’s a novel thought—what about trying to weave some of the 7 Habits into your classroom and deliberately teaching them to your students? How cool would that be? Pretty cool. Any teacher who had their classrooms humming along and living out the 7 Habits would have few behavior problems and a class of all-star students that would be the envy of every well-adjusted classroom in the world.

Overall evaluation of the book: I wouldn’t hesitate in giving this book to older or more mature middle school kids. Nor would I hesitate in deliberately teaching the 7 Habits to kids. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Druckerman, Pamela. (2013). Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. New York: Penguin.

Why should parents read this book? This is very different from most other books on parenting because it is told in a narrative style and focuses on the difference between French parenting and American parenting. In this sense, it will be easy for parents to compare the French parenting style with the American style of parenting. And the differences, while sometimes subtle, may be significant. For example, French parents focus on educating their child and not on punishing their child. They believe children should be seen and not necessarily heard. They do not rush in to save their children from frustration and failure. (In fact, French parents view learning how to deal with frustration and failure to be an important step in child development activities.) In addition, French parents do not use food at every opportunity to distract or mollify their unfocused child. The differences in child-rearing practices also include French mothers taking care of themselves, the child not as the focal point of attention in the family and parents who ship their kids off to summer camps so mom and dad can have a lengthy break from their children.

Why should teachers read this book? Teachers are going to like the contents of this book because they will see the advice given as an antidote to the helicopter parenting style which seems to be increasing in American education life. Many of the author’s suggestions will be straight out of an educational psychology textbook and teachers will immediately realize that much of Bringing up Bebe is all about Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow test and the importance of delayed gratification. Still, the author’s insights are unique and had the book been about an American child, we would have lost the comparative base of American vs. French childrearing. At its heart, this book really isn’t about French parenting per say, but teaching children how to delay gratification, act politely around adults, and learn how to be independent human beings. Isn’t this really how we want all middle school kids to be, regardless of where they live?

Overall evaluation of the book: Most of what this book recommends is backed by research. It may be painful for some Americans to realize that the French may have a few things figured out but the ideas in the book are pretty good. Not everything applies to middle school kids but much of it does. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Glasser, William, M.D. (1998). Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom. New York: Harper Perennial.

Why should parents read this book? Do you want to take the power struggle out of the relationship you have with your son or daughter? Do you wish they would make better decisions? Would you like to stop arguing with your middle school child? All of those things are possible, if you can manage to implement the philosophy behind this book. Glasser didn’t necessarily write this book as a “parenting book” but it has emerged as one of the most influential and best-selling books used by counselors, psychotherapists, and psychologists as they work with middle school kids. If you send your child to a counselor, there is a good possibility the counselor will use some of Glasser’s ideas and principles in helping your child overcome or deal with whatever the problem happens to be.

The gist of why Glasser has become so popular with counselors across America is because he focuses on the present and says whatever happened in the past is irrelevant to solving the problem right now. Glasser is also famous for his belief that kids make choices all the time and there is no way adults can force or coerce a kid to make any choice. Kids will always make choices which are in their best interest—and much of the time it is in their best interest to follow directions from the adults in their lives. For example, a Glasser approach to a child cleaning their room would be to say to the child, “Would you rather clean your room tonight or lose your video game privileges for the week?” Glasser would never advocate that a parent say to their child, “Clean your room, this minute!” If they do, an immediate power struggle will begin which is likely to last several minutes, if not hours.

Why should teachers read this book? Glasser was right when he said that students won’t work hard for teachers unless they can put the teacher into their quality world. This means that teachers must motivate and persuade students to place the teacher’s class into their quality world. This means the burden is switched to the teacher as needing to prove or show why their subject should be of interest to the student. Glasser would be perfectly fine with this approach, because he says that if the student hasn’t placed the teacher and their class into the important file in their brain and the quality world file existing alongside, then the relationship is doomed. The student may grudgingly comply with what the teacher asks, but they will never put forth much of a significant effort or churn out quality work.

Overall evaluation of the book: If you pay attention, this is one of the best books you will ever read on the parent-child and teacher-student relationship. If you are looking for gimmicks in raising your child or teaching your class, you’ve completely missed the point. Five Stars Plus ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Icard, Michelle (2014). Middle School Makeover. Brockline, MA: Bibliomotion, Inc.

Why should parents read this book? This is a fairly popular parenting book which focuses on the behavioral and social side of the parenting equation. You won’t find any advice on dealing with school-related issues but you will get solid advice on the importance of staying cool when talking with your child and how to keep a neutral expression so you don’t cause your middle school child to erupt into a fountain of anger. To prevent this eruption, the author suggests using a “botox brow,” or trying to keep a neutral, non-scrunched forehead when talking with your child.

Much of what the author talks about is on how to manage the social side of your child’s life. Parents will get useful advice on managing their child’s social media and details on why they should always know their child’s passwords.

There is a section devoted to dating and “going out” and her advice on parents asking their child what “going out” means is one of the more practical questions parents can ask their middle school adolescent.

Why should teachers read this book? The biggest bonus for teachers in reading this book is a reminder to keep anger and hysteria in check when dealing with the kids in their classroom. This reminder alone, is easily worth the price of the book because teachers who are mercurial in their dealings with middle school kids will have more behavioral problems with kids, as compared to teachers who can keep their cool. Additionally, there are some gender related tidbits which will be useful to teachers as they interact with boys and girls in the classroom.

Overall evaluation of the book: This is a solid book about the importance of staying in emotional control when dealing with middle school kids. It is well written and easy to read. It won’t be of significant help to those who have lots of work and experience with middle school kids. However, for those who are encountering middle school kids for the first time, it’s easily one of the first books I’d recommend for reading. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Siegel, Daniel. (2013). Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. New York: Penguin Group.

Why should parents read this book? If you are looking for strategies which revolve around more than simply telling your child what they can and cannot do, this may be the reference you are looking for. Siegel spends lots of time helping parents understand the thinking process of their child and then to use that information in helping their child work through the problem. This is the biggest advantage found within the pages of Brainstorm. Siegel presents a method of parenting which is superior to the behavioral method of parenting, which relies mostly on consequences and reinforcements. While Siegel doesn’t dispute the importance of using consequences and reinforcements, he believes there is more value in talking through the incident with your child so their brain can learn something.

Siegel encourages parents to stop paying attention to popular myths such as common folklore which says adolescence is a time of immaturity and teens just need to grow up. Instead, Siegel believes parents should encourage their child to thrive during adolescence, instead of merely surviving. To this end, Siegel encourages parents to use what he calls mindsight, which is the ability of the kids to understand own mental life, the ability to sense the inner mental life of other people, and the ability to integrate and link different parts of the brain into a connected whole. Siegel spends a fair amount of time discussing the process of integration and how parents can help their child’s brain become integrated.

Why should teachers read this book? This book will help reinforce your belief that talking kids through their problems is more valuable than simply punishing kids without any discussion about what occurred. It also will help explain why simply assigning consequences doesn’t seem to improve the behavior of your students. Why? It’s because their brain has not processed the event and been able to integrate it into a learning experience.

Teachers will learn much about how the brain learns and what causes kids to take risks, to not pay attention to what is going on in classrooms, and what causes middle school kids to become emotionally aroused. Many of Siegel’s recommendations revolve around the teacher staying present with the child and talking their student through the moment of crisis and using it as an ideal learning opportunity.

Overall evaluation of the book: Excellent guide for parents and teachers. One of the better books you’re going to find on this topic. Society would have far fewer problems with kids if everyone read and implemented the ideas and suggestions in this book. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Siegel, Daniel and Tina Bryson. (2011). The Whole-Brained Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. New York: Delacorte Press.

Why should parents read this book? Although many of the examples used in this book involve kids under the age of middle-school, nearly everything presented will be extremely useful to middle school parents. This is because parenting skills cross all age boundaries.

Siegel and Bryson’s approach is a refreshing change from that undertaken by many parenting books, which tend to focus on suggesting that parents remain calm in times of stress and institute consequences when kids break the rules. The authors still make this suggestion, but their ideas are far more developed and nuanced. In particular, they take the reader down the path of the child’s brain, so parents can better engage and help their child’s brain learn. For example, knowing what to do when your child either throws a real temper tantrum or a fake temper tantrum is very important—and yes—middle school kids do have temper tantrums. They just look different than what they did when they were two years old.

The bulk of this book is on the 12 strategies parents should be using in helping their child navigate through life’s adventures. The twelve strategies are: Connect and redirect kids, tell stories to calm their emotions, engage with your child without enraging them, encouraging your child to make decisions, using physical movement to help the brain, telling stories, helping your child remember things which have happened, teaching your child to pay attention to their body, getting kids back to the central focus—or hub—of their core being, increasing the amount of fun you have with your child, and teaching kids to argue with “we” in mind.

Why should teachers read this book? This is almost a must-read for teachers because it goes far beyond recommending the best form of adult-child interaction to be that of teacher and student or wise sage and ignorant child. The authors spend lots of time going over their viewpoint that the key to improving behavior is for the adult to engage with the child on a conversational level and help them learn to develop better skills—or to be a better integrated individual. After reading this book, teachers may better understand why their students aren’t responding to a raft of consequences in the classroom.

Overall evaluation of the book: This is a really good book. Some will find the approach rather intellectual and be turned off but others will find the approach to be refreshing and illuminating. It’s hard to go wrong with this book. Their ideas about returning kids to the hub of their core being and the refrigerator sheet in the back of the book alone are worth the price of this book. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Walsh, David. 2014. Why Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen. New York: Atria Paperback.

Why should parents read this book? There is no way you can go wrong with this book. Walsh is one of the most respected writers and speakers on the parenting advice circuit, so everything he writes about in Why Do They Act That Way? has stood the test of time. (The book is in its second edition—it was originally published in 2004.)

Walsh’s recommendations won’t provide quick and easy answers to the problems you are having with your middle school child, because much of what will need to be done will revolve around you changing your behavior in response to something your child has done. This will be a novel concept for some parents, because we have been trained as a society that problems often have originated from other sources and that, if only someone else would act differently, things would be better. This, of course, is usually not the case because much of what usually needs to change—indeed often the only thing people can control—is their own response to situations. Consequently, it’s important to recognize that many of Walsh’s suggestions will require the adult to change their behavior before the middle school child can and will change their behavior.

Why should teachers read this book? Much of what you read in this book will appear as common sense. The explanations as to why it appears as common sense may be the most interesting part of the book. For example, Walsh delves into brain research to fully explain why, a seventh grader suddenly bursts into tears after you have told them their science project needs more work.

What is striking about Walsh’s book is that much of it revolves around the practice of teaching adolescents how to handle situations and regain control of their emotions. Dialogue, specificity about the details, and having the student repeat back to you what it is they are supposed to do are all parts of the plan. Shouting, anger, threats, and physical violence are not part of Walsh’s suggestions for improving the behavior of your middle school students.

Overall evaluation of the book: A book on parenting from a well-respected author. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Walsh, David, (2011). Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids. New York: Free Press.

Why should parents read this book? Walsh spends most of his time on topics which will be familiar to all parents—what is intelligence, the importance of language and reading, the value of teaching your child how to critically think, how to chunk information so your child doesn’t forget things, the significance of diet and what your child eats, the valuable importance of exercise and sleep, the critical skill of delaying gratification, avoiding power struggles with your child, how the brain develops, differences between boys and girls, avoiding the “helicopter parent syndrome,” the appropriate uses of technology, and the results of alcohol on your child’s brain.

Because the book is a general book about parenting and is sweeping in its scope, you are going to find lots of useful information on a variety of topics. However, because the purpose of this book isn’t to cover every possible situation parents may encounter, if you are looking for specific information on a certain topic, such as helping your child with learning difficulties or the behavioral management of your middle school child, you will need to find additional resources.

Read the book slowly, underlining key parts which seem to apply to the situation in your household. Go back and re-read the parts you underlined and discuss those with your spouse or partner. Decide on several suggestions made by Walsh which seem to be easy to implement and which are important and needed in your household. Get agreement with your spouse or partner before you make any changes and also get agreement not to back down if your child decides not to fully cooperate. Don’t move on and try to make additional changes until you have been successful with the ones you started.

Why should teachers read this book? This is an excellent book to recommend to parents when they are struggling in raising their middle school child and ask you for advice on a resource they can have. Much of what Walsh writes about isn’t new information, but he has just packaged it in a way which is easy to understand and follow.

This is also a useful resource to understand how to handle middle school kids in the classroom. Many of Dr. Walsh’s suggestions, tips, and hints, also apply to how you interact with kids on a daily basis in the classroom.

Overall evaluation of the book: This book is very good and offers practical and useful suggestions to parents without reading like a textbook. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Zodkevitch, Ron, M.D. (2006). The Toughlove Prescription: How to Create and Enforce Boundaries for your Teen. New York: McGraw-Hill Books.

Why should parents read this book? This book is especially useful for parents who have mollycoddled their children for far too long and need to learn how to grow a backbone without completely alienating their child. It’s a good reminder of the simple premise that parents are in charge of the household and, as the saying goes, the “inmates don’t run the asylum.”

Toughlove is about changing the behavior of parents so they can change the behavior of their kids. Toughlove is all about giving parents the tools and support they need to empower themselves to counteract the destructive and stupid things their children are sometimes guilty of. The book talks about the importance of parents stopping the rewarding of mediocrity in their children, the importance of staying engaged, giving up living in the valley of denial—the “my child would never do that” phenomenon—the value of setting clear limits, the necessity of staying calm and in control, the worth of talking with your children instead of lecturing them, the necessity of not intervening and swooping in to “save your child” from every slightly negative situation, and following through on consequences when your kid messes up.

Toughlove is a throwback to what some folks call traditional parenting techniques. It teaches parents, and gives them permission, to be assertive in dealing with their child’s disruptive behavior. If you believe parents are far too permissive with their children, you are going to love this book. If you have been looking for a solid source to help you set boundaries and limits for your child, you will find much wisdom in the pages.

Why should teachers read this book? It’s called application of the concepts and principals suggested by Dr. Zodkevitch. The best way to effectively use this book with your class is to actually use the suggestions again and again, consistently and firmly over time. If you don’t have a backbone when attempting to lay out the rules and rituals needed before disciplining the kids in your class, this book will help you grow one. However, keep in mind that the author primarily focuses on situations in which the relationship between the parent and child has almost completely broken down and in those situations where the parent (or teacher) has not been consistent in enforcing the rules.

Overall evaluation of the book: A reassuring book on parenting which gives mom and dad the right to be a parent, make decisions, and run the household. This would not, however, be the first book I’d recommend to parents. There are better ones available. Three Stars ★★★

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