Book Review  |   February 2009
Parenthood: Laugh and Understand Your Child
Author Affiliations
  • Frederick J. Goldstein, PhD
    Philadelphia (Pa) College of Osteopathic Medicine, Book Review Section Editor, JAOAThe Journal of the American Osteopathic, Association, Chicago, Ill
    Professor of Clinical Pharmacology
Article Information
Book Review   |   February 2009
Parenthood: Laugh and Understand Your Child
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, February 2009, Vol. 109, 108-109. doi:
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, February 2009, Vol. 109, 108-109. doi:
Parenthood: Laugh and Understand Your Child, by Arnold Melnick, DO, covers many common critical areas involved in raising children. These topics include communication between parents and children, toilet training, childhood development, and behavior when in the physician's office. Of particular importance are those issues dealing with hospitalization and death, as well as sexual education. 
Dr Melnick is a professor of pediatrics and public health at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla, and author of four previous books. 
In the preface to Parenthood: Laugh and Understand Your Child, Dr Melnick notes that this book provided him with an opportunity to share stories and jokes told by children encountered in his practice, and that the combination of these anecdotes with his attempts at explaining the children's underlying thinking allowed him to extract childcare hints for parents and teachers. 
The book is divided into 15 chapters; each is brief but written in a straightforward style, allowing the reader to understand significant connections between widely known pediatric information and the author's actual clinical experience as a pediatrician. 
Each chapter begins with a description of a brief but real-life personal interaction that occurred between an adult and child. These vignettes illustrate the issues discussed in that chapter. In addition, bulleted points in some chapters serve to identify especially important areas, such as the ideas in chapter 4, “Discipline,” for making obedience more palatable and more easily en forced. 
Throughout this book, Dr Melnick presents questions in formats commonly used by children. This feature is helpful because the way a question is posed by a child often helps an adult develop an answer. 
For example, in chapter 9, “Death,” a 5-year-old boy asks his mother, “When big people like you die, where do they get all the dirt?” Dr Melnick points out that if the mother knew of some particular situation the child had encountered pertaining to death, she might be able to figure out the real meaning of his question. 
Of course, an adult's response to an issue (eg, death) asked by a 5-year-old is not going to be identical when the issue is raised by a teenager. All of us—parents as well as adults without children—absolutely know this. However, it certainly facilitates the task of formulating an appropriate response when one approaches the issue at hand from the questioner's perspective. I found Dr Melnick's approach to be an excellent process for educating the reader. 
In chapter 3, “Development,” Dr Melnick emphasizes that a child's behavior should never be handled in an “either/or” manner (ie, permissiveness vs punishment). Rather, behavior should be evaluated using a scale. A first level, “The behavior is permitted,” is followed in upward sequence by “The behavior can be tolerated,” “Intelligent intervention is needed,” and, lastly, “The behavior is deeper-rooted.” At this final level, Dr Melnick suggests that prevention and planning are needed, and that intervention by a mental health professional may be required. 
A similarly intelligent and meaningful approach is suggested in chapter 10, “Toilet Training.” Guidelines suggested by Dr Melnick in this chapter include “Never let toilet training become a battle of wills,” “Don't make the training period a struggle for autonomy,” and “At no time should there be any kind of punishment, sermonizing, chastisement or other negative reactions.” 
Children's behavior in the physician's office is covered in an interesting manner in chapter 13. Dr Melnick presents such recommendations as having patience with and understanding of a child's thoughts and feelings in such a controlled environment. He also clearly promotes the need to be truthful with the child regarding what is going to occur in the office visit and how much pain, if any, will result. Naturally, the depth and specificity of details provided by the adult need to be appropriate for the child's age and maturity level. 
As previously mentioned, death and associated factors are covered in chapter 9. For parents and physicians alike, loss of life is perhaps one of the most difficult issues to discuss with children. In addition to describing how the demise of a child's pet can serve as a beginning for exploration of this topic, Dr Melnick offers several other important points for adults to keep in mind under such subtopics as always being truthful, not dwelling on gory details, and remaining under as much emotional control as possible. As with behavior in the physician's office, the child's age and maturity level should serve as guides for how deep and specific details in discussions of death should be. 
I have four wonderful children—equally divided by gender—who gave me ample opportunities to deal with many of the issues described and discussed in detail by Dr Melnick in Parenthood: Laugh and Understand Your Child. While this experience does not necessarily qualify me to promote myself as an expert in parenting (though I think I'm close), it does allow me to note that my personal experiences as a father concur with Dr Melnick's clinical observations and recommendations. In my opinion, Dr Melnick's views as expressed in Parenthood: Laugh and Understand Your Child are realistic and extremely valuable, not only for parents but also for any physician who provides care for young patients. 
 By Arnold Melnick, DO, MSc (Ped), DHL (Hon), FACOP. 121 pp, $16.95. ISBN: 1-4241-5317-4. Baltimore, Md: Publish America LLLP; 2006.
 Editor's Note: Corrections to this article were published in the July 2009 issue of JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (2009;109:388). The corrections have been incorporated in this online version of the article, which was posted December 2009. An explanation of these changes is available at: