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Review of "Worried All the Time"

By David Anderegg
Free Press, 2003
Review by David M. Wolf, M.A. on Oct 22nd 2004
Worried All the Time

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 pronounce "zeitgeist"

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 annotated.

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 ; readers can also see the first chapter there.

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