- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2008

I rarely review books in this column because every time I do, I receive unwanted solicitations from not only book publishers, but also manufacturers of various and sundry products to make parenting even more expensive than it is already. Nonetheless, every policy has its exceptions. In this case, I’m making four exceptions on behalf of four exceptional books.

First on my list is Kevin Leman’s “Have a New Kid by Friday” (Revell, $17.99). Mr. Leman is known for being a veritable fountain of down-to-earth, common-sense parenting wisdom and also for his sometimes mischievous wit, and he does not disappoint on either count in this, his latest tome. The subtitle, “How to Change Your Childs Attitude, Behavior and Character in 5 Days,” might provoke skepticism, but Mr. Leman delivers in spades.

His five-day game plan for restoring your authority and taking back your family is nothing short of a blueprint for effective parenting. Parenting is not rocket science, and Mr. Leman is one of fewer than a handful of experts who succeed in reducing it to the simple exercise in leadership that it is. After laying out his five-day rehab program, which is about rehabbing yourselves more than it is about your children, Mr. Leman spends more than 150 pages addressing every conceivable parenting issue from potty training to tattoos and body piercings. You’ll enjoy reading this, and if you do what he says, it will be transformational. For more information, go to www.lemanbooksand videos.com.

Then there’s “Confident Parenting” (Bethany House, $13.99) by Jim Burns, host of the HomeWord radio show. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Burns and can attest that he walks his talk. The book is faith-based, but I can assure you that Mr. Burns’ practical, been-there-done-that advice will appeal even to the most secular of hearts. Written in a relaxed and conversational style and full of engaging anecdotes, it should take even a slow reader no more than an afternoon to digest.

Mr. Burns begins by talking about breaking generational chains of dysfunction and then moves into the realms of effective parent-child communication (the best misbehavior preventive there is), discipline, boundary-setting and finally, creating a family atmosphere that provides a sense of safe haven for all concerned. If there’s one word I would give to this book, it is “inspirational.”

Next on my list is “Internet Protect Your Kids” (Thomas Nelson, $13.99) by Stephen Arterburn and Roger Marsh. If I were Supreme Commander of American Parenting, I would require that every parent read and pass a test on this book.

As regular readers of this column know, I am more than alarmed at the potential dangers of allowing a child, even one who has a driver’s license, to surf the Internet unsupervised. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard horror stories of good children gone really bad because of involvement with unhealthy aspects of the information highway. Predators, pornography, the lure of instant fame through sites such as YouTube, the debilitating addiction of online gaming — this book covers them all and more. After educating parents on the shocking facts about the Internet’s dark side, Mr. Arterburn and Mr. Marsh provide them with workable strategies for minimizing, if not eliminating, the dangers and maximizing potential benefits of the Internet.

Last but not least, there’s Munro Leaf’s “How to Behave and Why” (Universe, $14.95), a charming and instructive little book on fundamental courtesies for parents to read to their preschoolers. This is one of a series — including “Manners Can Be Fun” and “How to Speak Politely and Why” — that Mr. Leaf wrote in the 1930s and ‘40s. Although written when today’s great-grandparents were children, the lessons are timeless and written in a style that children of any generation will enjoy.

As Supreme Commander of American Parenting in my own mind, I insist that all parents of preschoolers buy this book (preferably all three, actually) and read them, over and over again, to their children. Doing so would do much to improve the general state of civility, which always begins in the home.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).