Pitfalls of parenting in a modern, toxic world

PUBLISHED: 14:45 22 February 2007 | UPDATED: 14:27 07 September 2010

Toxic Childhood; How the Modern World is Damaging Our Children and What We Can Do About It by Sue Palmer Orion, £7.99 THE very thought of a child rearing manual is enough to bring most right-thinking parents out in hives. But although we are justifiably

Toxic Childhood; How the Modern World is Damaging Our Children and What

We Can Do About It

by Sue Palmer

Orion, £7.99

THE very thought of a child rearing manual is enough to bring most right-thinking parents out in hives.

But although we are justifiably concerned that our instincts are no longer trusted, most of us can reap some benefit from Palmer's

no-nonsense assessment of the pitfalls of parenting in the modern world.

Both "uneducated" neglectful parents and over-worked hot housing middle-class types come in for a ticking off as she sifts through the statistics and respected research from around the developed world and extrapolates common sense best practice tips to "detox" our children's lives.

The writer, broadcaster and education consultant is genuinely concerned at the prevalence of self-obsessed, disengaged, impulsive, depressed anti-social, dysfunctional youngsters she has encountered during 30 years visiting British schools.

She has witnessed at first hand the "alarming escalation" of learning and development problems in children - ADHD, dyslexia cluster and autistic spectrum disorders.

And she fears the knock-on effect of children's "toxic" environment on their behaviour, mental and physical health threatens future social cohesion.

"The world we've created is damaging our children's brains," she says, adding that the syndrome is worst in the four most economically successful nations on earth.

Chapters include many familiar mantras - on healthy eating, the importance of outdoor play and sleep for learning and behaviour.

Any You Are What You Eat devotee already knows that sugar and fat-laden foods affect behaviour and brain function and we should give children a more diverse diet.

But just as Fast Food Nation slung a raft of obvious points into one powerful book, so Palmer sets out her stall to show us the toxic effects of our entire lifestyle.

Palmer's polemic says we should: combat couch potato culture and campaign for safer play spaces; talk, sing and communicate to our children and switch off

the TV.

And she condemns the changes driven by long hours work culture and female equality without adequate alternative childcare

She says the best parenting style is authoritative tempered by warmth to create "self-regulating" children combining firm rules, routines and boundaries, with support and encouragement and praise and attention.

Ultimately, she assures us that happiness lies not in money but in successful personal relationships with family, friends and the local community. "You don't have to be a perfect parent, just...good enough."

Bridget Galton

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