The Other End of the Parenting Spectrum – Book Review of “Parents to the End”

This past summer, after the unthinkable tragedy of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings, I wrote a piece for Parents Magazine titled, Is Bad Parenting to Blame for the Aurora Shootings?” Were the actions of the accused shooter, James Holmes, the result of mistakes in parenting him, either when he was a young child or after he became an adult? I’ll let you read the article yourself to see what I concluded, but, the acts of a deranged adult child are, thankfully, rare. What is not rare, however, are less serious, yet still upsetting and unsettling actions of adult children in their interactions with their parents. These are difficult and often painful issues, and not often written about. How should parents deal with adult children who are spoiled, disrespectful, and demanding? What about those who are substance abusers or physically abusive? And, also on the spectrum of parent-child troubles with adult children, how should parents deal with their kids’ disturbing refusal or inability to develop independence and self-sufficiency? What about an adult child whose spouse isn’t what parents had hoped for?

Linda M. Herman’s book, “Parents to the End – How Baby Boomers Can Parent for Peace of Mind, Foster Responsibility in their Adult Children, and Keep their Hard-Earned Money,” tackles those issues and many of the other most perplexing relationship crises between parents and their adult children. This book is tough love – Ms. Herman rejects the notion that everything will be okay if parents just try harder, give more generously, indulge for the sake of peace, or love more. This is truly an advocacy book for Baby Boomer generation parents whose kids have been given more opportunity and more advantages than any previous generation in history. The result, as Ms. Herman documents from her own longstanding psychotherapy practice, is a generation of entitled adult children with expectations of their parents that previous generations would never have entertained. Irresponsible adult children, alienated from their parents and alienating of their parents – the dark side of parenting. The case histories presented in Parents to the End provide a front-row seat to real people in real crises.

I fear, as Ms. Herman suggests, that the number of families in these situations is far greater than we in the “parenting advice business” want to confront. Yet confrontation is exactly what many parents who find themselves in these circumstances must endure and even elicit. The only way out of some of these most difficult interpersonal conflicts between parents and their adult children may be for parents to deal with those children in a way they dread. Or, as Ms. Herman puts it for parents, “saving yourself.”

This book is a must for parents struggling to maintain their relationships with defiant, disrespectful, or simply unmotivated adult children. The book’s section on “creating drive” is insightful and practical, drawing on the research and writings of giants in the field of psychology, business, and education.  Ms. Herman addresses the heartbreaking challenge of an adult child who is addicted to drugs, the unique challenges of “blended families, and even gives advice for parents learning their child is gay.

Ms. Herman guides parents in forgiveness, and in letting go. Her “Bill of Rights” and “12 Truths” lists are concise and important collections of parenting wisdom for those in this challenging demographic.

While reading this book may make the parents of young children cringe, I recommend that parents of adolescents who sense potential problems like those noted above read this book even though they are not yet in the thick of battle with adult children – I believe Parents to the End can help prevent some of the crises from developing in the first place.

Congratulations to Ms. Herman for writing this important and courageous look into a side of parenting we all hope we’ll never have to see for ourselves.

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