Book shelf


Parenting book reviews

What’s your parenting style and its affect on the family? KNOW YOUR PARENTING PERSONALITY, by Janet Levine, John Wiley & Sons, 2003, $14.95.

Do you like to organize or help? Are you a dreamer or a questioner? Author Janet Levine uses straightforward language to describe different personalities and how they affect your parenting and the family dynamics.

Using the Enneagram, or model of personality views, Levine provides a better understanding of how your personality can work for your family and how you can recognize and work with your strengths and weaknesses.

By asking nine multiple-choice questions, Levine quickly identifies a dominant motivating mode for parents to understand and incorporate in their family’s lives. By recognizing:

• How you assess the way you communicate with your family,

• How you teach your children to solve problems,

• What your passion for your parenting vision stems from as well as other pertinent traits, you’ll be able to determine your parenting personality.

As you learn how to build on your positives-creativity, compassion, intensity or intuitive ability-you’ll also learn how to overcome the negatives-inflating emotions, avoiding conflict.

The book provides examples of each of the nine personality definitions, as well as strategies and action programs and the potential for conflicts in each category.

It also cultivates an understanding of how those you love see the world as well as options to improve relationships within your family.

Levine gives clear parenting advice for every category. In addition, parents are offered suggestions to identify their own gifts and help their children develop their personality gifts. Practicing letting go, trusting your intuitions, and learning to recognize the source of your emotions are only a few of the suggested practices.

With a clear understanding of this innerpersonality guide, parents will be able to strengthen communication with their children.

Levine guides those who find themselves to be “helper” parents to state their own needs while balancing the urge to meet their child’s needs.

“Peacekeepers” learn they are often driven by the need to avoid conflict thus procrastinating in speaking about difficult situations.

I highly recommend this book for parents and care-givers. Its information can be implemented with families of all sizes and ages and provides valuable information for gaining self-awareness. Gina Roberts-Grey

Baseball and its few lessons for becoming a better dad COVERING HOME: LESSONS ON THE ART OF FATHERING FROM THE GAME OF BASEBALL, by Jack Petrash, Robins Lane Press, 2000, $8.95.

Who can’t recall a momentous day at the ballpark with dear ol’ Dad, or playing catch in the yard for the first time? It seems someone told Jack Petrash, author of this eloquent but somewhat impractical book on fathering, to toss a few baseball analogies around and watch as males finally take an interest in good parenting. You can’t blame him. The attention span of a man is about as brief as a sacrifice bunt. But the game has done a lot to bring together fathers with their children. Baseball has bridged many gaps, helped many a cause, and induced pleasure and agony-sometimes in the same day. But when it comes to parenting, other than the physical act of enjoying a game together, the sport, unfortunately, is useless.

That’s not to say Covering Home is useless. Nor is it pure baseball blather. The author, teacher, trainer and presenter, who boasts two collegiate-level ballplayers for sons throughout the book, captures a connection between baseball and fathering, albeit in the form of banal but infrequent comparisons: “The late innings of childhood may find us looking to the bullpen for relief and muttering to ourselves, ‘Where’s the closer?’”

The book does have its poignant moments. Petrash draws from his own experiences helping raise two sons and a daughter. He expounds on divorce, discipline, knowing the needs of a child, and development, what the author whimsically culls into three stages, and no, they aren’t balls, strikes and outs, but active (toddler), emotional (middle years) and thoughtful (teenagers). Fathers are warned to beware of the active child who imitates what he sees, to form and encourage an emotional relationship as the child approaches his middle years, and to engage and support critical opinions during the teenage years.

Petrash’s calm and reflective prose, which floats along nearly to the weightless tone of a television golf analyst-yes, it’s that lulling-makes for a soothing and mostly enjoyable read.

His perspective is backed with either self-experience or well-researched material. While the “lessons” aren’t always clear or formidable, the philosophy of good fathering is, and that makes for a four-bagger, a dinger, a roundtripper, or simply, a home run. Brad Spencer

A Dad memoir for those who didn’t have a father FATHER FIGURES: THREE WISE MEN WHO CHANGED A LIFE, by Kevin Sweeney, ReganBooks, 2003, $22.95.

The bookstore shelves are packed tightly these days with memoirs of troubled celebrities who have felt the need to share how it is they overcame whatever it is they needed to overcome, and most of these books are annoying. But occasionally there comes along a public disclosure of closure that serves a purpose.

That is the case with Kevin Sweeney’s book. Sweeney is a political operative and activist, most notably an aide in the Clinton administration who at times appeared on “Nightline” and Larry King, which makes him a celebrity even if you have never heard of him. He gives us here the memoir of a boy in a small California town, informed as a toddler that his father has died.

How best to grow up fatherless? Find some other fathers, of course.

He finds three in the neighborhood and adopts them without ever telling them. The three men know him as a kid they see around a lot. They do not know that he is learning from them, and taking comfort from them, precisely as he would have from the man he remembers as “daddy.”

The book takes us through Sweeney’s coming of age, which, like most comings of age, is filled with minor crises and major yearnings. It is a decent enough read on its own, but is better approached as a how-to book, on several levels. An older boy without a father might read it for consolation and the notion that he might find other fathers in his neighborhood if he seeks them out. A single mother might find guidance here, as well, as she wonders each day what is on her fatherless son’s mind.

Or do some of you grown men out there ever wonder about that kid without a father who is always hanging around? Maybe he is doing more than hanging around.

“Laugh at the bad jokes,” Sweeney writes, “and tell some that you remember from fourth grade; ask about their batting stance and whether it changes with two strikes. ... Look them in the eye when you ask how they’re doing.” Pay attention. It is useful advice for any father in a book that teaches the lesson all fathers should stop each day to remember:

“You don’t need to be perfect. You just need to show up.” Zay N. Smith

Kids Eat Chicago

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