BOOK REVIEW: The real “Good News About Bad Behavior” is that the kids are already alright

Journalist Katherine Reynolds Lewis’s inaugural book, The Good News About Behavior grew out of a 2015 article for Mother Jones called “What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?“. The promotional material claims it was the most read story the magazine had ever published; The Seattle TimesClaudia Rowe relates that it got more than 4 million hits.

That’s a good clue you ought to get to work writing a book for someone to sell.

Which Lewis did. This book, subtitled “Why Kids Are Less Disclipined Than Ever—And What To Do About It” or in some editions, “Am I So Out of Touch? No, It’s The Children Who Are Wrong” might be the most important book ever written considering what we’re up against with Kids These Days.

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And one for the road

When I first started working as a copy editor, I was told it would make an alcoholic out of me. Coming up on a year later, this is largely true, although real hell raisers and big dogs would be insulted to have me lumped into their company.

I any case, copy editing’s relationship to alcoholism is not so directly connected as it’s sometimes made out to be. Many people say after a day of work, “I need a drink,” and go sip longnecks at hotel bars habitually. Most of those people, though, do not get off work at midnight.

Every now and then I mention a bar in a column, and some people don’t like it. I understand their distaste for establishments specializing in alcoholic beverages, but I don’t have much other choice.

If your social life is your family, what this means is you go home to bed at a somewhat decent hour, get up in the late morning and keep to a roughly diurnal existence.

If you’re single and your social life is your peers, the evenings are a wash because you’re at work the whole night, and you get off several hours after the diurnal world has shut itself down, right as beer is no longer sold in convenience stores. In other words, there’s nothing to do (out in the world) except go to bars (or IHOP, or Denny’s, or Whataburger, Pojo’s or Catfish & Company, which most people make it to eventually at about the same time: 2:10 a.m.).

More importantly, once you get to the bar, you’ve only got two hours to drink. Well, less because last call is half an hour before that, depending on how skewed bar-time is to the time used by the rest of the civilized world, and less even than that because you have to drive to get somewhere, order, and get actually your drinks in-hand.

So at best, you’ve got an hour and fifteen of drinking to do, an hour and fifteen minutes to cram in an evening’s worth of consumption and stupidity. This, you see, is why copy editors become or at least act like alcoholics. One cannot drink enough to get drunk and forget the day’s work on beer alone but by every shot that comes from the bartender’s hand.

The point of social drinking is to become inebriated enough not to care about the stupid things you say and do, and to have an excuse the next morning when you remember and do care. For a copy editor of a morning edition getting off work at midnight, this is a goal that requires marked determination if you want any chance of success.

Now the upside is that it’s practically impossible to drink yourself passed the legal limit unless you really, and I mean really, are trying. The downside is that this is a lot more expensive than some other choices you have during the day, and it forms bad habits for alcohol consumption if you get started any earlier than midnight. (“Oh hey, I still have four more hours before the bar closes!”)

It’s tough being nocturnal, is all I’m saying. Enough to drive a man to drink.