I have a real problem with parenting experts; I dislike people who expound the correct way of doing things, who tell you what you should be doing. I don’t take advice from anyone particularly well. Despite that, I still read a lot of parenting books. I read books that resonate with me, that seem to have a similar point of view to me.
Sarah Ockwell-Smith also wrote a book called BabyCalm which I didn’t read when S was small – but I kind of wish I had. I’ve a feeling it might have helped me to feel more confident about my parenting when S was smaller.
Ockwell-Smith doesn’t tell you what to do. She doesn’t say you should do this or shouldn’t do that. Her approach is all about stopping, listening to your child and connecting with them – making the effort to understand why they’re having a hard time with whatever is causing their tantrum or what have you. She uses examples from her own experience of raising four children, and the approaches she suggests are grounded in science – she quotes studies and researchers to back up what she’s saying.
At the beginning of the book, she starts by asking you what sort of person you want your child to grow into – kind, loving, happy, considerate, etc. She then explains the concept of long term vs short term parenting. Basically, yes, if you yell at your child to just shut up right this minute, he will shut up and you will avoid being driven insane by the whining, but that’s only a short term fix. What you want to do is aim for the long term parenting goal when you’re dealing with short term problems.
This is why I am often to be found on my knees in front of S, explaining that we can’t go into that shop, we need to go over here, we can’t go there. On the occasions that I do have to just pick her up and move her, I always explain very clearly: “okay, Mummy is going to count to three, and then I will pick you up and put you in the buggy.” or, more recently, “okay, Mummy is going to count to three, and then I am going to pick you up, and take you home from nursery!” Nine times out of ten, if I explain, and count loudly and clearly, she knows to expect what happens next. Sometimes, she just has trouble walking away from the exciting, fun things. She’s not being deliberately difficult; she’s not wilfully disobeying me; she’s not being naughty. She’s two years old; she’s just having a bit of trouble knowing what to do.
Another important topic raised in this book is the concept of unconditional love. We all love our children unconditionally; we all know there is nothing our child or children could do to make us stop loving them… they don’t know that though. Sometimes we say things to them that might lead them to believe otherwise. For example, “don’t stamp on my feet; that hurts, I’m not your friend any more” or “I don’t like you when you do that.” We say these things on the spur of the moment, but they are often taken much more seriously by young children, who will take things like this to mean “mummy doesn’t love me when I get over excited and step on her feet.” Over time, this can soon become “mummy only loves me sometimes” or “mummy only loves me if I am good” – good being this ridiculous, arbitrary concept that changes according to the parents’ moods. This idea was something that really struck a chord with me, because I can remember having similar feelings when I was young. Reading this book has made me think more carefully about what I say to S, how I speak, the words and my tone of voice.
I absolutely love this book, and would recommend it to any parent of a toddler. Even if you think it’s mostly rubbish, or you only take one idea from it, it’s still worth it. I find that when I read parenting books, if I read something I disagree with it at least forces me to think of how I would deal with any given situation – and that in itself is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned. This book deals with sleep, food, behaviour issues, communication and much more besides, A particular favourite is a chapter early on in the book, which explains just how and why toddlers are not mini-adults and should not be treated as such.
Have you read this book? I’d love to hear what you think of it.
If you have read another parenting book that you’d like to recommend, do please leave a comment.