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Review of "The Epidemic"

By Robert Shaw
Regan Books, 2003
Review by Sundeep Nayak, M.D. on Nov 23rd 2004
The Epidemic

(The) trainer would throw the dolphin a fish whenever she did something the trainer wanted her to. But every once in a while … the trainer would throw a fish into the water for no apparent reason… because dolphins need a free fish once in a while.

The Epidemic is not the morose fatalistic book the title belied. It is charming, sensible and a rather lovely read. It is more anecdotal than scientific. There is nothing statistical, evidence-based or conclusive in what could pass for a memoir of an avuncular soul who is perhaps just a little wiser than most of us. Though written by a child psychiatrist practicing in Berkeley (perhaps an oxymoron), it compiles more of Robert Shaw's observations – they are not case studies - in strip mall restaurants and the beachside than large datasets with worthy conclusions. Throughout the book, Shaw steers clear of coming across as a holier-than-thou televangelist, purveyor of the singular way of child craft, an admirable feat given the mushrooming of this ilk of late. As most of the material is in the first person singular, Wood's contribution is presumed editorial.

A fairly broad spectrum of issues is handled, from nipple confusion and revolving group child care to television addiction and the valueless society we inhabit. This is not a How-To book; it is a DIY book that tells you to intuit what you think is best for your child and run with it, because that nearly always works. This is a reassuring book for first parents who are nearly annihilated by the sheer volume of unsolicited advice hemorrhaging from well meaning friends and, worse, other family.

The tasting menu features early childhood development, bonding and childcare, training and teaching small children, handling upsetting behavior, childhood education and the dangers of the media upon children. Everyone, as I did, will probably disagree with at least a couple of the polemic (non-parental home care, recurrent reference to Columbine which goes nowhere) but we still love the common sense fountainhead Shaw appears to possess, not as common as we should like to think. Permissive parenting is rearing its ugly head all over the landscape and we are actively witnessing the fallout. This is one of those rare books about parenting that is reassuring, calming and hopeful. I felt the need to point-click and post copies to new parents I really care about, just in time for the Holidays.


Read more in:


q       Coles R: The Moral Intelligence of Children: How to Raise a Moral Child.240 pp. Plume Books. January 1998

q       Hymowitz KS: Liberation's Children – Parents and Kids in a Postmodern Age. 224 pp. Ivan R Dee. August 2003

q       Hymowitz KS: Ready or Not: What Happens when We Treat Children as Small Adults. 296 pp. Encounter Books. November 2000

q       Newberger EH: The Men They Will Become: The Nature and Nurture of Male Character. 384pp. Perseus Publishing. September 2000

q       Sells, SP: Parenting your Out-of-Control Teenager: 7 Steps to Reestablish Authority and Reclaim Love. 368 pp. St. Martin's Press. October 2002

q       Stuart T, Bostrom C: Children at Promise – 9 Principles to Help Kids Thrive in an At-Risk World. 192 pp. Jossey-Bass. August 2003

q       Taylor J: Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child. 304 pp. Hyperion April 2003

q       Winn M: The Plug-In Drug: Television, Computers and Family Life. 332 pp. Penguin Books. April 2002


© 2004 Sundeep Nayak


Dr. Nayak is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Radiology in the University of California School of Medicine San Francisco and his interests include mental health, medical ethics, and gender studies. A voracious reader and intrepid epicure, he enjoys his keyboards too much. He believes the children are our future so you should teach them well and let them lead the way.

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