Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Book review

Detoxing childhood: What parents need to know to raise successful, happy children.
Sue Palmer

This book was a pleasant surprise. It is a no-nonsense, jargon-free textbook for 21st century parents who need a boost to their confidence in maintaining the balance between warm and authoritative child rearing.

It is of value to us not only as parents (grandparents?) and school leaders approaching the challenge of extended schools but in looking at our own work-life balance, and the way in which 'electric speed' can run away with our lives unless we change to the 'slow speed' she recommends in adjusting from work to family life.

She dismisses terms like 'quality time' in favour of 'family time': just being together; eating, cooking, washing up, gardening, shopping, talking and listening to each other. She asks us if a lifestyle is worth a life.

Advice is given on why we need to make sure that there is no electronic equipment in the bedrooms of young children, how to release children from 'captivity' and get them outside to socialise away from adult interference and how to manage healthy eating.

Palmer warns us not to be fooled: when children say they are 'cool' they often aren't. Many are deeply disturbed by what they see on television and need to be helped to get into proportion the risk of becoming a victim of abduction, assault, fire or flood. The monsters under the bed may have changed from our day but they are still there.

Childhood is not a competition. She reinforces concerns about the over-emphasis on test success at the price of time to be creative, especially in the early years. Play forms a major part in the formulation of concepts and we need to allow space for this or children will by unable to form the deep understanding of how things work that underpins being a physicist, even if they have an A* physics A level.

I'm glad I was asked to review this, it is not my natural genre and I found it an excellent read.

Irene Dalton is a former head and ASCL consultant.

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