Monday 18 May 2009

Book Review: Sue Palmer – Toxic Childhood

When we imagine how we are going to raise our children, we think of healthy, happy, well-behaved children, which of course do not exhibit any of the bad behaviour and habits every other child seems to be prone to. In reality the endeavour of bringing up our children is a lot more complicated. The pace of modern life, diet, technology, suitable play, safety, education – every single one of these is fraught with potential dangers, highlighted by the reams of research published every year (“mobile phones stunt development” ,“additives cause illnesses and allergies”, “working mothers have delinquent children”, “childhood obesity epidemic” ad infinitum).

To be parents now is a very anxiety-inducing business, which is why books like this can be useful. Sue Palmer found that more and more specialists were focussing on one area and not linking it to other areas, so one thought TV was causing children to become violent, whereas another was suggesting that additives in food were linked to ADHD type behaviours. She spent three years developing an overview of all of the research she could find and presented her conclusions in this book.

This is exactly what I loved about this book, it takes a holistic approach to the problems that parent’s and children face today. Broken down by chapters into food, play, sleeping patterns, family dynamics, education and technology it nevertheless cross-references the various problems and shows where they exacerbate each other. Each chapter presents the issues and research from around the world and then provides practical solutions that parents can take alone and collectively.

As a parent I found this book invaluable, especially in helping to convince family why some things are so detrimental (poor sleep patterns, food with colourings etc). I think if you have children, if you are a teacher, if you work with children or are just interested in the welfare of the next generation this is a must-read.

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