This is a book that I actually contacted the author to ask if I could review a copy. Dr. Laura Markham is the owner and writer of the wonderful Aha Parenting website, whose posts have long inspired and helped me both as a parent and as a parenting writer. I have felt incredibly privileged in the past to have some of my posts on here linked to by Dr. Markham herself, so it seems we're on a similar wavelength when it comes to our views on parenting and children.
I was so pleased when I saw she'd written a book at last, and, now I've read it, I am not in the slightest disappointed. I can honestly say I don't think I've got a bad word to say about this book, and that's impressive coming from me, as I'm pretty picky about parenting books ;)
However, just being told `this book is great, buy it!' is not really enough, and as you all know I love to know the `whys' before I make any decision and think all parents, no - all people - should have the chance to know the same, here they are:
Firstly, Dr. Markham does a brilliant job of really meeting parents where they are. She doesn't write in a way that assumes that none of us has ever taken a hand to their child, something that puts me off some otherwise wonderful books, because I think it alienates parents. It's unrealistic and unhelpful as it can make parents feel even worse about the mistakes they've made than they feel already.
Instead, she makes it clear that she admires her readers for wanting to learn other ways of being with their children, all the while acknowledging that they may well have had really awful feelings about their children, and may well have even acted on some of them but without judgement.
She knows that those of us who really screw up are already judging ourselves harshly enough, and do not need to be preached to by a parenting `expert' who sits on her high horse telling us about the one time she lost her temper and lightly smacked her child on the back of the hand in a misguided belief that it will make her appear more human to her readers.
I don't know whether Dr. Markham has ever done this, or has ever done worse, but by not referring to her own screw-ups directly, she neatly avoids alienating many of her readers, and this is a great bonus in any parenting book in my opinion.
Secondly, the structure of the book is very clear and simple, which makes it look much less daunting to read than some overly-wordy books. It is broken down into Three Big Ideas, which then interweave seamlessly into each others' sections so that you can see how peaceful parenting requires all three to be in place at all times.
The first is regulating yourself, which she explains clearly and succinctly and which had me nodding my way through every page. It links up pretty nicely with the conclusions I've been coming to about personal responsibility and acceptance of how our lives have been shaped, and gives not only clear reasons why we need to heal ourselves, but useful resources for how to get started and, most importantly, stop yelling!
The second `big idea' is fostering connection - this had the most impact on how my husband and I parent our children. We thought we were pretty connected with our children, compared to many parents, but suddenly we saw whole patches of our family life where we could do way, way better. Suddenly it was clear why our girls faffed around when they should be getting ready for bed while we called upstairs to them: "come on! get your pyjamas on!", and why they just yelled back at us when we told them why they should not be hitting their sisters while we tried to cook the dinner at the same time.
The third `big idea' is `coaching, not controlling', a concept that my husband and I are already very comfortable with as parents, but which I could see would be pretty mind-blowing for parents still stuck in the punishments and rewards way of raising children. However, as with the other sections, Dr. Markham weaves her way around this topic with compassion and a complete absence of judgement for her readers and it all makes absolute sense.
The whole book really was a whole series of `Aha' moments, even for someone who feels she knows a fair amount about peaceful and effective parenting! I will re-read this book once every couple of years, I think, and remind myself of the places I've slipped, and I already remind myself of the helpful little slogans she's thought up like `connection before correction' and `empathy with limits'.
In conclusion, I really cannot recommend this book enough - buy it, read it, get your partner to read it and see your children change before your eyes!