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Rawn, M. (1988). Dr. Balter's Child Sense. Lawrence Baiter with Anita Shreve. New York: Poseiden Press, 1985, 252 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(3):481-482.
   

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(3):481-482

Books

Dr. Balter's Child Sense. Lawrence Baiter with Anita Shreve. New York: Poseiden Press, 1985, 252 pp.

Review by:
Monica Rawn

Dr. Baiter speaks as child advocate to parents — not to the psychoanalytic community, except to those who might be parents. His is an educative approach, appealing to the conscious, conflict-free cognition of “good enough” parents. And likewise, their children are presumed to be “good enough” — that is, responsive to a sensible, sensitive approach.

He addresses such common child rearing issues as weaning, sleep problems, aggression, toilet training, phobia, sexuality, and discipline. These are demystified and placed in the contexts of developmental phases and phase specificity. Writing without jargon, Dr. Baiter combines the warm, homey, easy wit of an “old hand” with the highly sophisticated psychologist in his discussion of the separation-individuation process, the Oedipus complex and its vicissitudes, psychic structuring, and the compromise formation of symptomotology, to name but a few.

He never loses his “vicarious introspective” stance in relation to the child's Weltanschauung, and it is precisely from this vantage that Dr. Baiter offers remedies to daily dilemmas. He makes a plea to parents to nurture the child's need for respect and support in his struggle for autonomy and separateness, to help the youngster to identify and express his feelings, all this by way of securing his sense of self and worth. Empathy with the parental experience is not overlooked but set on the “back burner” with straightforward encouragement to put the child's needs first.

Dr. Baiter notes the paradox of conflicting short- and long-range goals, the parents' wish for children to be obedient today but autonomous tomorrow. He inspires parents to take the long view of the immediate situation. He is a superego modifier for parents too fearful or too rigid to relax in the face of their children's foibles. Describing typical transgressions and improprieties of little ones (“shticks”), Dr. Baiter normalizes and universalizes these, attenuating the sting with his gentle humor.

A short chapter is devoted to some special family problems — twins, adoption, divorce, custody, and death. These are not good-enough situations, and Dr. Baiter's rather clichéd discussion falls short of the extra depth a more sophisticated or needy parent might look for.

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