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on 25 August 2015
As mum to a recently turned 18m old I was looking for advice on 'training' my toddler. I came across this book on Amazon and couldn't be happier: it completely altered my point of view.

The book's main point is to try to see the world through your toddler's eyes. They have so little control and are still struggling to grasp concepts like time. By listening and thinking about how they may be feeling, you can avoid full blown tantrums (although it explains how these are developmentally normal).

The book offers scientific background to support its theories which it needs as this goes against the grain of modern parenting. It is not patronising and is very clear that it is not recommending permissive parenting where your child can do as they please, but equally encourages the reader to let go of their need to control.

I'd recommend this to any parent struggling with their little one. For those who've followed things like 'baby led-weaning' this supports that and helps you to think about your attitude to food if your toddler becomes a fussy eater.

A supportive and eye-opening book. I'm enjoying applying the theories with my strong willed little girl who thrives on choice and being treated with respect. A must-read!
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on 21 February 2015
A lovely book. I'm more to the attachment parenting side, so this confirms beliefs I already held. I read it and wanted so very much to be a "toddler calm" parent. The only slight issue is, having read the book, I'm not much the wiser as to how I can achieve that. It very much leaves it up to the parents as to how they will go about it, which did disappoint me somewhat.
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on 4 May 2017
What every parent of a toddler should read. Makes you realise the things which annoy you, really shouldn't and it's all normal toddler behavior and it's just your perspective that has to change.
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on 30 June 2016
I bought this after someone recommended it on Facebook. I have 26 month old twin boys who are the lights of my life but are just entering the black hole of none-compliance and screaming/throwing frustrated tantrums (the last because we weren't going to the Post Office?!) that seems to characterise toddlerdom. The information about toddler brain development and their lack of comprehension of consequences was really helpful to me, I realise they cannot share nor care about anyone else's feelings. Has it stopped them from hurling toys across the room and bouncing on each other's heads? Nope. Have I stopped pleading with them to share/stop throwing/don't be noisy..Yes. Knowing I can't make them understand and that I am [probably] not raising the next Ronnie and Reggie Kray has made me much less stressed, and when Mum is relaxed she can simply give on-lookers a benign smile whilst her boys lie screaming on the floor outside the Post Office safe in the knowledge that hissing 'Stop It!' isn't the answer.
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on 25 February 2017
This book offers an emphatic guide to parenting toddlers, and an detailed understanding of what is 'normal' toddler behaviour. The overall approach is to model and treat our children with respect and kindness and it gives lots of examples about how to achieve this when dealing with a range of behaviours from tantrums to picky eating. It is not about quick fixes but putting the work in for the long term.

The book is not advocating allowing our children to do as they please, on the contrary it emphasises the importance of having consistent and clear boundaries, just delivering these in a gentler, respectful way. This kind of approach is obviously going to take time and patience, so I think common sense is needed that it is unrealistic that a parent is going to always be able to sit through every tantrum offering understanding etc, but this guide offers a good overall approach for gentle parenting that I myself aim for most of the time.
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on 20 January 2015
I haven't read the whole book yet but so far the first half of the book is too vague and not directive enough. The concept of understanding why a toddler behaves the way they do and trying to put yourself in their shoes is great but sometimes as a parents it's quite nice having a bit of direction with little tips on how to react to your child. Little tips on what to say to them. How to teach them to be safe. It seems to imply that you must just keep everything you don't want your child to do out of reach but that's not always practical outside of the home so sometimes you need to teach them the boundaries of safe and unsafe. Perhaps it is in the second half of the book but it hasn't motivated me enough to read that far yet. I will persevere! Also, being a scientist myself her counterarguments for evidence against her teachings and the example of evidence she uses are inadequate.
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on 17 September 2014
So much better than most of the other advice out there for raising toddlers. One of the key differences is that the author really knows her stuff & isn't just pedalling "quick fixes" that generate positive publicity, it's based on understanding the psychology & neuroscience behind it all & keeping long term goals in mind rather than looking for solutions that might get short term results but can have disastrous long term implications. It encourages you to treat your toddler like a lovable human being who just hasn't learnt some of the skills required for self control etc yet, rather than treating them as an inconvenience, a wild animal, an idiot, a manipulative little psychopath, or any of the other ways toddlers are sometimes talked about!

Too many of the popular parenting authors promise miracles but in order to achieve them they require you to communicate to your child that they are "bad" if they don't comply with your behavioural standards, that your love for them is conditional, that it is only worth working hard if you get a reward at the end of it, that their parents aren't reliable as a source of comfort & security, that emotions are "bad" & should be suppressed, and that being "good" is about avoiding getting into trouble rather than doing what is morally right. Think about what kind of adult results from a child who develops those beliefs about themselves and the world.

I have 3 children, two of whom are now teenagers and one who is a toddler; with my eldest two I largely followed what seemed to be the standard parenting advice at the time (and is still touted by many popular authors) - lots of negative consequences for "bad behaviour" (timeout & other punishments), praise & reward systems for "good behaviour", treating tantrums as "naughty" & "manipulative", using controlled crying to deal with sleep issues, etc. I tried to also show them lots of love, respect & warmth, but when you parent this way it's easy to slip into very negative patterns of behaviour with your children and the "nice stuff" doesn't always cancel out the negatives as much as you might like! Now I understand a lot more about all this I've realised how some of the challenges I still face with my older kids stem directly from the way I handled behaviour when they were little; things like overreliance on rewards & punishments to shape behaviour doesn't really teach kids how to take responsibility for themselves, how to develop their own internal motivation, how to feel a sense of reward at a job well done rather than expecting a tangible reward or praise for it, etc. One of the saddest things is how my experience of parenting my youngest has opened my eyes to the damage that I did to the bond between me & my older kids - the relationship I have with my youngest is far better than the relationships I had with my older kids at her age; there is more mutual trust & respect, I feel much closer to her & understand her better, and a handy benefit of all that is that she is far more cooperative & less prone to horrible tantrums than my older two were! I don't find myself getting into a battle of wills with her as much as I did with my older children - yes she can be stubborn & very challenging at times but I now have the tools to handle those situations with love and empathy rather than just trying to bend her to my will. She's not significantly different in temperament to my older children (in fact she is quite similar to her older brother in many respects), so I'm fairly confident the differences are largely down to my much improved parenting!! It's not just my own family, I know many other parents putting this "gentle parenting" advice into practice who find it works really well and nurtures the kind of warm, loving relationship that we all hope to have with our children, as well as producing kids who are kind, self-confident, secure & successful.

I'm so grateful to authors like Sarah Ockwell-Smith for showing me that there is another way, and only wish this advice had been widely available a decade or so ago! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she decides to write one aimed at teenagers soon.
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on 13 December 2014
Jog on 'Supernanny'...THIS is how to support your little one's feelings with a bit of kindness, common sense and calm. Excellent book and an easy read.
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on 30 October 2013
I have twin toddlers aged 2 & a half (boy/girl) and, like most other toddler parents, we are experiencing the full force of the toddler two's (I don't like to say terrible two's because they aren't!).

I have found this book a joy to read in the sense that it encourages the reader to look at the world from the toddler perspective. It is a big, scary world and most of what they do is trying to cope with this. This book has helped me to see this and how, often, it is my behaviour that needs adjusting and not theirs.

Just giving them a little more choice (within limits) and engaging in more creative and 'free' play where they lead has meant for more peaceful episodes.

I would definitely recommend this if you parent a toddler. Just understanding that they are not mini adults helps you to overcome the daily, hourly (!) battles.
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on 27 October 2013
This book is a synthesis of ideas from various places, the majority (although not all) of which I agree with wholeheartedly. It's done fairly well, but I think how useful it is will probably depend on what you have already come across before as well as what seems blindingly obvious to you - if you've never read a parenting book, it will probably be interesting. I didn't find it contained any earth-shattering practical advice.

It's very readable, but I did find the CRUCIAL acronym annoyingly contrived, and could have done without the constant suggestion that all parents behave in various ways that I have never done! Ultimately I don't think it changed the way I parent at all, but observing other parents, I can see that it will certainly be useful to a lot of people.

The contents are roughly as follows:

- 'Who do I want my toddler to be?' - this is all about the fact that when you are parenting you are playing the long game, discussing the development of empathy, confidence and independence, curiosity and a desire to learn, and commitment and ambition, saying things like e.g. the way to develop empathy is to exhibit compassion your self, the way to develop independence is to allow more dependence when younger etc.
- 'Why toddlers are not mini adults' - this is the 'science' chapter and talks about synaptic pruning, the triune brain theory, Piaget including his three mountains experiment, and Bandura's bobo doll. The basic message is that the early years are important and there is stuff that toddlers' brains just aren't biologically capable of yet.
- 'The science of toddler sleep' - this basically says to accept that toddlers sleep badly. Only practical advice is to get to bed early, get blackout blinds and have a nice bedtime ritual. As you'd expect from the author, there is lots on why you shouldn't sleep train, primarily quoting Middlemiss's work on cortisol levels, which is interesting but has possible issues with it (and certainly doesn't cover 'crying in arms' which the author conflates with controlled crying). Ultimately, the only advice here is to wait, which is fine if your toddler is waking up once a night, but not if there are waking up dozens of times each night. I'd have liked to have seen something about how to deal with the cot-to-bed transition (and ha, how to cosleep with a toddler who wants to play with your face rather than sleep!)
- 'The science of picky eating' - basically says that the underlying reasons are incorrect expectations, a need for control from the toddler's point of view and biological differences in taste between adults and young children. I have the least picky toddler ever, though don't know if that is just luck but agree with just not stressing too much about what your toddler eats. I'm less convinced by the author's encouragement of grazing (which I suspect too easily leads to comfort eating) and short-order cooking. I prefer Ellyn Satter's approach here.
- 'Carrots and sticks and the problem with praise' - this is a good summary of the problems with rewards and praise. If you've read Alfie Kohn and Carol Dweck, there won't be anything new, but it's good stuff.
- 'The battle for CONTROL' - this is about encouraging free play and not overdirecting - I came across this concept by reading Janet Lansbury, but if you haven't, then definitely worthwhile.
- 'The RHYTHM of life' - about the importance of rhythm/routine. My favourite book on this is Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
- 'UNDERSTANDING the real problem' - about not labelling toddlers and understanding their biological limitations
- 'COMMUNICATION - toddler style' - a bit of a mishmash chapter, about treating tantrums as a form of communication, modelling the behaviour you want, and then odd tips like phrasing things you want positively rather than negatively (e.g. 'stay on the pavement' rather than 'don't go in the road').
- 'Treating your toddler as an INDIVIDUAL" - basically a reminder that not all toddlers are the same, talks about mind-mindfulness
- 'AVOIDING difficult situations' - again a reminder to organise your life to avoid things that are likely to cause problems, includes a good section on how to cope when your toddler is having a tantrum, and tips for coping when people criticise your parenting
- 'The importance of unconditional LOVE' - talks about Maslow, oxytocin, Tronick's still face experiment, responding to your toddler with compassion, and nurturing yourself and how you need to be calm to calm your toddler. There's also a section on separation anxiety and how to leave your toddler when you really have to.
- 'Why you don't need to be permissive to parent respectfully' - talks about the fear of making our toddlers cry, authoritative parenting, and how to set and enforce limits (basically offering an alternative)
- 'CRUCIAL in action - ten worked examples' - this covers biting/hitting, throwing, not sharing, refusal to get dressed/have nappy changed, refusal to eat, not sleeping through the night, tantrumming constantly, not using their potty, not settling in childcare, and a new sibling. I felt this was a slightly weak section. E.g. with hitting, it doesn't say how to deal with repeated hitting, throwing etc. what to do if your child isn't interested in the alternative or if there isn't an alternative available e.g. if you are at friend's house, say. In the section on sharing, it doesn't talk about dealing with snatching (as you don't want to model snatching behaviour yourself!). The only practical suggestion with getting dressed is to give them choices and to make it fun, without many ideas for the latter - I certainly know neither of those worked with my son!

Overall, I'm not sure it's a book that I'd recommend to a friend, partly because I feel iffy about the sleep and food chapters and partly because the CRUCIAL acronym makes me cringe, plus there are other books I'd recommend first. However, if the contents is new to you, then you'll probably get a lot out of this book.
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