September 03, 2015
(++++) PAPERBACK RECONSIDERATIONS
Discipline the Brazelton Way, 2nd Edition. By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., and Joshua Sparrow, M.D. Da Capo. $12.99.
The Time of My Life: A Righteous Brother’s Memoir. By Bill Medley with Mike Marino. Da Capo. $16.99.
It has been a dozen years since the first edition of Discipline the Brazelton Way appeared, and a lot has changed since then – as the introduction to the new second edition points out. But despite all the technological and societal change of the last decade-plus, T. Berry Brazelton and Joshua Sparrow believe that their basic approach to disciplining children remains valid, and if anything is even more important for parents to master today, when kids are exposed to so much more (for good or ill) because of the Internet and the constant barrage of video information. Based on the Brazelton/Sparrow Touchpoints books, but constructed to be easy to read and subject-specific – and thus simple to turn to when a parent needs help in a crisis – Discipline the Brazelton Way shows that even in today’s world, discipline is not too big a subject to be presented usefully in a short (fewer than 200 pages), easy-to-read form. The subject of discipline seems huge and, to many parents, even overwhelming, but Brazelton and Sparrow make it easy to handle by offering topic breakdowns focused not only on a child’s age but also on emotional and moral development, self-esteem, humiliation, consequences, and such problems as biting, bullying, lying, talking back and many more. For example, one especially useful chapter is called “Ways to Discipline” and is subdivided into three sections: “Usually Worth a Try” (warnings, silence, time-outs); “Sometimes Useful” (taking away toys or TV, leaving the scene); and “Not Helpful” (spanking, shame, early bedtime). Brazelton and Sparrow are well aware that parenting itself has changed since the first edition of this book appeared in 2003, and they devote some time to forms of what might be termed competitive parenting: “tiger mothers,” “happiest kid on the block parenting,” and other fads. They discuss these approaches as objectively as possible, for instance by saying about “helicopter parenting” that “the world may be more dangerous in some ways, and the tolerance for risk is far less than it was when children were given more room to roam.” However, they do not let these recent developments distract them – and, by extension, the parents for whom they write – from the basic need for and tremendous importance of discipline, whose aim is eventually to create self-discipline as a child grows toward adulthood. The chapter called “Discipline as Learning: The Five Steps,” for example, is worth reading more than once, explaining as it does that parents must start by understanding a child’s misbehavior, then discover what happened, then confront and contain, then obtain and gauge the child’s reaction, and only in the final step move on to “Consequences, Reparations, and Forgiveness.” The sequence is enormously important, yet far too many overstressed parents are more likely to start at the final step, with consequences, than with the first one. Nonjudgmentally, Brazelton and Sparrow explain why this is a bad idea, not because of moral or ethical reasons but because it does not, in the long run, serve the purpose of discipline – which, again, is to produce children who eventually become self-disciplined. Updated enough to be readily understandable in today’s hyper-busy world, but solidly old-fashioned enough to help parents ground their children in appropriate behavior patterns, Discipline the Brazelton Way, 2nd Edition is as valuable now as the book’s first edition was more than a decade ago.
The paperback version of The Time of My Life, which originally appeared in hardcover in 2014, is neither more nor less useful today than the book was when it first came out. This (+++) book is a typical music-world memoir by a typical looking-back-on-my-life pop musician, Bill Medley, who along with Bobby Hatfield (1940-2003) made up the Righteous Brothers. It is certainly understandable that onetime pop stars would like to write their own autobiographies (often with help, provided here by Mike Marino); the aging baby-boom generation is presumably the audience for Medley’s very straightforward and unsurprising revelations. “Even though I’d not always walked the narrow path, my family had been very involved in the Presbyterian Church, and I knew the basics. John [Wimber] was just exploring Christianity, and once he pulled me aside and asked when I knew about the Christian faith. I told him what I knew. …Until the day he died I always loved and respected John. He was one of the few guys I knew who did more than talk the talk, he lived it.” “I hired Dean Martin’s comedy writer and a band with backup singers and put together a show. Everybody who was anybody in Hollywood was there opening night. It was unbelievable. Sammy Davis, Jr., was supposed to introduce me but at the last minute he had to drop out so they called in Bobby Darin. …Pretty soon the whole crowd was [shouting]. I looked down and saw Bobby Darin jivin’ and clapping, and I knew I was going to be okay. It was a thrill.” This cliché-ridden reminiscence writing is the whole point of Medley’s book, along with the persistent name-dropping – presumably a main attraction for the book’s intended audience. Medley helpfully includes a chapter called “Relationships” in which he talks about Kenny Rogers, Kim Basinger, Waylon Jennings, Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones, Whoopi Goldberg, Sylvester Stallone, Johnny Carson, Glen Campbell and others. And there are the expected 16 pages of black-and-white photos, the last of which shows the much-older Righteous Brothers and is captioned, “From a relationship standpoint, my last years with Bobby were my best years.” The book is not free of heartache (expected) and heartbreak (also expected); it is, after all, about someone in the entertainment industry. And it does contain some offhand remarks about that industry that are rather interesting, as when Medley says that a new recording of Unchained Melody “inspired us to re-record a whole ‘reunion’ album of our hits. Honestly, it was shit. It was a stupid thing to do because you can never really remake those records. It was just that we’d given away all of our rights and this was a way to get them back. Artistically, a stupid idea; financially, a wonderful idea. The album went platinum.” A similar if somewhat milder comment seems accurate about The Time of My Life: artistically, there is not much here, but financially, it may do well for Medley (born 1940) at a time when he, his fans and his music all seem to grow fainter, each in its own way, every day.