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Keeping it Simple May 24, 2007

Filed under: parenting articles — paulabrown @ 9:45 pm

nigenj.jpg I could do a PhD on parenting theory (with the emphasis on theory, I’d scrape a GCSE on the practical!). I’ve read every book from Gina Ford to the Continuum Concept, books on brain-gym-games-for-babies-who-can-barely-focus, books on raising boys, taming toddlers, potty training, weaning, discipline, how to be great parents-and-still-be-wildly-in-love…

I studied so hard building up to weaning that by the time I actually got the courage to feed my child solids he didn’t really need it pureed or even really mashed. I once cajouled my husband into a ‘brain gym’ experiment where our baby (6 months at the time) had a small bell on the end of piece of string tied to his toe. He was meant to work out that moving his foot made the bell ring and subsequently become awfully clever. It took us a little while to work out that he was just moving his foot to try to get the darned thing off.

One day I threw all the books away and relied on my instincts. It was a happy day in our house. Years went by, another, more laid-back child arrived. Instinct prevailed. One day I was due to meet Sue Palmer, author of ‘Toxic Childhood’ at a conference. I thought it only polite to read the book. In short the book was written as a response to Sue’s discovery that many teachers and others involved with children had stated that children had changed -their behaviour, health, knowledge etc had deteriorated over recent years.

As a literacy specialist she had blamed TV. As she continued researching she met experts in all sorts of fields blaming family breakdown; lack of early physical mobility and increasingly sedentary lifestyle we all now experience; lack of extended family / increasing numbers of working mothers with often poor childcare options; lack of outdoor & less supervised play nowadays; aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at children; high pressure from schools for children to achieve narrow targets and so and so on. She concluded that the reasons for this change in children was a ‘toxic mix’ of many factors which had resulted from the electric speed at which we all now live.

The book could be described as fairly depressing except that it gives lots of ways of helping your kids and some strict rules (the absolute banning of TV in bedrooms being one) as well as some hope – she says that these sort of crises happened in the Industrial Revolution and at other times and women, being the resourceful creatures that they are, ‘sorted’ it in the end. She also said if you pick something to do that can help children-at-large – offer to run a physical activity inside / outside school or watch a bunch of school-aged children while they play outside as examples then you’d help enormously.

But my old angsts came back and one day, on a trip to our local (and nice but not terribly exciting) playing fields, I was busy wracking my brain for ways of radically changing my children’s lives, of pulling them out of the apparently inevitable hurtle towards delinquency. I thought of all sorts of clever activities, schemes I could start, campaigns I could run but nothing seemed to quite fit. As I dragged my two tired children back from nearly two hours of ball-rolling-down-a-grassy bank, their faces cheerful as well as pink from exposure to wind, winter sun and light rain, the penny dropped! This was it and nothing more. Hanging out; making things out of washing-up bottles; messing about on grassy banks; laughing; singing; running; jumping; crying; falling over; getting up; growing things; baking things; playing with water in the bath; stories; cuddles; grumps; finger painting and growing up (very slowly)! And then I remembered KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children And What We Can Do About It (Paperback) by Sue Palmer is available in paperback on Amazon for £3.99 currently

Paula Brown

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