3 out of 4 stars
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The following quote from this book, Family Pledge by James L. Casale, Ph.D., best summarizes its gist: "It's easy to become a mother or a father, but it is difficult to become an effective parent." It's Dr. Casale's second book of a planned trilogy on parenting strategies; the first being Wise up and Be the Solution. Through the book, he provides his personal and professional expertise as a parent, grandparent, and a school administrator with 50 years' experience in public education.
Based on my own experience as a parent, I agree with him when he says that being effective requires knowledge, commitment, patience, and hard work. In one of the many examples that are based on his own personal experiences and highlighted in the book, Dr. Casale likens the parental responsibility of providing a culturally superior learning environment in the home to the elegant five-star hotel Wynn Encore in Las Vegas, Nevada. Having been there with his wife for a couple of days to celebrate the 50th birthdays of their special friends, he couldn't help seeing beyond the "glitz and glamour, the architecture, the opulent decor, the exceptional food, the thoughtful service, and the extraordinary attention to detail." He related the inspired planning that the hotel aroused in him to parenthood where parents must have a vision and a plan for raising a family (family mission statement), followed by a foundation built on an appropriate family culture and accurate information; and finally, a plan to utilize the mission/ vision statement that each family member is committed to.
The author employs humor to communicate his many years' experience and knowledge in public education, and sometimes, in a self-deprecating way. I found this writing style effective as not many people (parents) will find the apparent truth in his opinions, the first time around, as they may be unpopular. Consider this whimsical opening line to one out of his many commentaries that precede each chapter: "Is it my age? Am I an old fuddy-duddy whose childhood was too long ago and far away?" His theme relative to our present permissive society may tend to come out as uncompromising and fundamentalist. Moreover, he spells out his rules bluntly and even keeps track of them, for example, "Dr. Casale's Rule #17: No toys, games, or electronics are allowed on any table anywhere when food and family conversation are being served." Some of the chapters or essays as he prefers to call them are a reprimand to previous hot topics or memes: "Chapter 14 - Is it the Gorilla's fault the kid fell into the zoo enclosure?" This essay especially struck a nerve with me because I saw right through the folly expressed in the popular public opinion. Like the local police chief quoted in the article featured in the book, I was impressed by Dr. Casale's steer on this controversy. Of special noteworthy, however, are his wide repertoire of proverbs at the opening of each chapter which are informative, memorable, and punchy enough to reinforce the messages being communicated.
For a book so short (kindle version has 139 pages), it's, surprisingly, covering a lot of ground on topics relevant to any parent or aspiring parent. It's divided into 40 essays (chapters) which can be read in any order, and as the author observes, some may seem (and are) repetitive. Some of the more common punchlines expressed in the book are that "parenting is not easy" and the aspect of "life-long learning" that urges parents to establish a culture of learning in their homes while, at the same time, being cognizant of the harmful effects to learning brought about by daily and lengthy use of TV, internet, video games, and cell phones. To support this move, he presents some startling statistics obtained by a research that was done by the Kaiser Family Foundation (2009) which followed the behavioral patterns of children between the ages of 8-18 years as far as consuming media fun was concerned.
The weakness in this book has to do with the many topics covered under the banner of parenthood. While I can appreciate the involvement of parents in school administration in the form of improvement in the quality of parenting, for example, reforming of government schools is a whole different matter altogether. This is because that prerogative is vested in both the state and federal legislators. Therefore, that topic together with teachers' unions' politics which comprise the earlier chapters of this book may be better covered in a book dealing exclusively with school reforms. Secondly, the author's advice to parents to begin planning their families by writing mission statements feels rigid and more in line with corporate planning. As a father, running a family to me is more of an instinct than a conscious thought. I base my actions on selfless love rather than a document which I have to police every member of my family to follow. Lastly, the book could use another round of editing as I came across six errors.
Overall, Dr. Casale has written a helpful reference book that gives guidance in today's liberal world. His advice to parents to "avoid what is easy; do what is difficult" is a constant reminder that what is popular is not necessarily a good thing for our children. In Sweden, for example, children are legally protected from spanking. One Dr. Eberhard, a Swedish psychiatrist, believes that this has caused parents to lose control and contributed to anxiety in children later in life. It is further noted that Swedish school results are falling in comparison to other European nations, such as Finland, where teachers retain an old-school authority model of strict discipline that seems to be absent in Sweden. I, therefore, recommend this book to all parents and aspiring parents. It will also be an insightful read to school administrators and legislators as they learn from a senior and very experienced educationist of many years. Lastly, the author cites and expounds on the building blocks to a successful life that I, especially, recommend to every citizen of the world to know more about. In conclusion, because of the shortcoming in the editing, I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars.
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