Top critical review
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some sensible suggestions but often unconvincing
on 29 March 2007
As somebody with extensive experience of Scandinavian childrearing, I was intrigued to see how selectively the author quotes Scandinavian practices in relation to the findings of greater happiness and greater powers of concentration in these children. Scandinavia features prominently in her chapter on education, as a counterpart to the vicious effects of the early British school start and the result-centered education approach, neither of which she approves of. Scandinavian children are happier, they start school later, therefore we have proved the benefits of the late school start. Well, yes, maybe we have, but I notice that in other areas where practices differ between countries, Scandinavia doesn't get a look in. For instance, Scandinavian parents routinely let their children come into bed with them, because they have never been told that this is the sign of bad parenting. How come Palmer doesn't tell us this and relate it to the greater happiness reported by these youngsters? Nor are we informed that virtually all Scandinavian children attend full time day care from an early age (housewives being a virtually extinct species). So how do we know which of these is the decisive factor? Perhaps it's the night time cuddles, Palmer? Or the happy day care centres? Or something totally different that your Scandinavian sources forgot to tell you about. Research your study is not. As every properly qualified researcher knows, to be able to draw accurate conclusions, you have to isolate one factor, everything else being equal. Not tell anecdotes about a child looking grumpy on the steps of the Uffizi and speculate for several paragraphs on her parents' television habits.
There are some good bits here, particularly the chapter on the roaming child, which actually dares to go a little bit further in allowing children independence than most others in the genre. But an awful lot of the book is just platitudes.
And I was not impressed by the constantly reoccurent suggestions that bad child rearing practices, the wrong way of speaking to children etc etc is something you predominantly find in working class families. Now ThAT is an attitude you won't come across in Scandinavia. Perhaps that's why they're happier?