Ali Hull believes there’s much to learn from books when it comes to raising kids
You’re a parent, perhaps a new one, perhaps not. You’re baffled by your child’s behaviour, or nervous about the next stage of development. You’re tired, stressed and uncertain. Or maybe just interested in knowing more. What books are out there, to help you be the best parent you can be?
When my children were little, a lot of the books concentrated on children’s behaviour, and how to make it acceptable. There was a lot less about why children do what they do, what it means, what is really going on. And one book I would have loved to have had then, which I would recommend to everyone, is What every parent needs to know, written by Margot Sutherland. It was first published under the title The Science of Parenting, which probably sounded too theoretical to be useful, hence the name change. It really does do what it says on the cover. It looks at the science of the brain and the emotions – both for the child and also for the parent. While not written from a faith point of view, it is intensely practical, helpful and gentle. It recognises that parents are human, and may be scarred by their own childhood experiences, and offers advice. Above all, it demystifies a child’s behaviour. Buy this book, read it every six months or so, until you have internalised what it is saying.
And then read Katharine Hill’s A Mind of Their Own. All parents want to bring up emotionally stable children, especially in today’s pressured world, and she engages with the stresses and strains of today’s world, head-on. As the UK Director of Care for the Family, she has written a lot on parenting, and other books are worth seeking out, but if you only read one, make it this one. Sane, sensible, caring and illuminating. And of course she covers the faith angle – which comes up even more in her book, Raising Faith, written with Andy Frost. This covers both what sort of parenting we favour, amongst other things, and how to pass on our faith to the next generation, and she also looks at parenting in a digital age, in Left to Their Own Devices? Confident Parenting in a World of Screens.
There are, now, books out there written specifically on bringing up boys and bringing up girls, recognising the different pressures society puts onto each gender. Tanith Carey wrote an excellent book called Girl Uninterrupted, which is full of common sense, and she also turned her attention to the phenomenon known as Tiger Parenting – the practice of hothousing children, trying to ensure from birth – even before birth – that a child will achieve in every single area of life, whether it wants to or not. If you are not sure what Tiger Parenting looks like in practice, then a fun introduction would be John O’Farrell’s novel, May Contain Nuts. Taming the Tiger Parent is Tanith Carey’s plea to let children be children, and to allow them more autonomy in choosing their own path.
If money is an issue, many of these books can be found secondhand, and 10ofthose have a series of short books on parenting issues, at £2.99 each. So they needn’t break the bank.