Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Review: ToddlerCalm by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me, free of charge, by Sarah Ockwell-Smith, to be reviewed. However, this review is my unbiased and  honest opinion of the book.

Book: ToddlerCalm: A Guide for Calmer Toddlers and Happier Parents
Price: R.R.P. £13.99, but currently available for £9.72 at The Book Depository.
Blurb: Sarah Ockwell-Smith, founder of BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm, is passionate about ‘gentle’ parenting. Her mission is to let parents know that there are other ways to cope with a toddler apart from putting him or her on the naughty step or resorting to controlled crying. This book will fill a gap in the market, helping parents enjoy their toddlers, understand the limitations of current popular toddler parenting methods such as sticker charts and time out, and to have the confidence to ignore the current mainstream ‘experts’ and parent their own child with trust and empathy. Chapters include: Why toddlers are not mini-adults; the importance of night-time parenting; coping with a picky eater; communication – toddler style; avoiding difficult situations; the importance of unconditional love and why you don’t need to be permissive to parent respectfully.
Rating: (5/5 stars)

When I pick up a parenting book (and actually have time to read!), I have to be careful to open my mind. I tend to go into them thinking that I'm either going to disagree with everything, or that I'll just be told what I already know. I read a few books before B was born, but they were mainly theoretical ones or about breastfeeding. I like to think that I have instinctively parented B as a baby, but the toddler years have sort of crept up on me and I have struggled at times. B is strong-willed - which I am pleased about, but this can be hard work too. I have a copy of Sarah Ockwell-Smith's BabyCalm, which I never got around to reading, but I have read a lot of what she puts on her blog and found that I agreed with much of it. So, when I got the opportunity to get a copy of ToddlerCalm to review, I jumped at the chance, figuring that it would either give me lots of tips to try or that it would just confirm that what I'm doing already is fine.

Well, I can tell you that I was pleasantly surprised by ToddlerCalm. I didn't find it patronising or prescriptive. It was an easy read and very supportive of our parenting style. What I liked the most was the scientific slant. There are three chapters that deal specifically with science: Why toddlers are not mini adults; The science of toddler sleep; and The science of picky eating. I tend to parent in a way that feels right to me, trusting my mother's instincts and my gut. If I wouldn't want to be treated in a particular way, then I try not to treat B in that way. So to read a great deal of scientific fact that backs up my instinct and existing knowledge is very encouraging and helpful. It also comes in handy when responding to the questions and criticisms of those who don't understand or approve of our parenting style. To have the words of a psychologist reinforcing my instincts adds weight to my choices. To have the information about brain development to explain why my toddler behaves in a certain way is a brilliant reminder to me to be more patient and understanding, and is useful in explaining to others why we are dealing with her behaviours in a way that they may disagree with. Instincts and nature can be easy to dismiss; science is much harder to argue with.

I found ToddlerCalm to be very supportive of the attachment parenting style, though I am aware that Sarah Ockwell-Smith doesn't approve of the AP label. (Check out this excellent blog post on the topic.) In fact, the reason for this is because Attachment Parenting as a movement grew out of the attachment theory, which Ockwell-Smith advocates, having studied it as part of psychology. The book is also supportive of parental choice. She doesn't like to be referred to as a parenting expert, as she maintains that parents are the experts on their own children, and should be able to trust their own instincts and parent children as individuals. The book encourages parents to think for themselves, and to choose a gentle, positive parenting style. It is very helpful in that it gives the words and explanations that help in clarifying our own ideas and in explaining to others why we've chosen to parent that way.

The book isn't prescriptive. There is none of the strict routine and expectations that most mainstream parenting guides advocate. ToddlerCalm provides lots of real life stories and examples of parenting style, whilst Ockwell-Smith's CRUCIAL™ method allows space for our own parenting to come in. The success of this lies in having individual plans for individual families and individual children. There is no specific way of parenting your toddler, short of being gentle and understanding; rather, the book will empower parents to know that they can parent in the way that is right for their family, instead of feeling that they must do what friends/relatives have done, or failing to keep to a specific schedule or routine.

I love how honest Sarah is throughout the book. She writes frankly of mistakes she made with her own children and of how she could have done better. And that's where this books goes another step above and beyond other parenting books. She's a mum!! She's not some childless, self-proclaimed expert who believes they know the best way for children to be brought up. She's not writing from a hypothetical standpoint. We can learn from her mistakes - real things, not what she thinks children ought to do.

I found ToddlerCalm to be very much about changing and taking charge of our own behaviour as adults, in order to model and guide to our children. We are the grown up, mature ones - they have lots to learn. We can't expect them to be perfect members of society yet.

ToddlerCalm is a parenting book that I would definitely recommend. I need to go and read BabyCalm now!!