The Complete Secrets of Happy Children

Posted in: Book Reviews

happyby Steve Biddulph and Shaaron Biddulph

Thorsons £12.99

Drawing on his experience as a family psychologist and a father, and with common sense, Steve Biddulph, with the assistance of his wife, has put together a very grounded source of advice and encouragement for all parents.

This book is really two books rolled into one, with a little repetition. However, it comes out with some refreshingly frank messages. The Golden Rule which emerges from the first section of the book is that there is an order of priority which should go on in every family, and not necessarily the one we’ve got used to. First and foremost needs to come YOURSELF, then your partnership, or marriage, and thirdly, your children. He doesn’t mean put your desires first, but your basic human needs, likewise, in terms of your relationship he points out that children who witness a loving and respectful relationship are more likely to grow up to have such relationships themselves.

From this mindset, the happiness of your children should flow naturally. Basically, we’ve become used to putting ourselves at the bottom of the pile, leading to resentment and exhaustion, which in turn causes us to snap at our children, the apparent source of our stressed-out state. But Biddulph points out that fundamentally it was our choice to have children, and now that we have them, it is our choice to either enjoy them or run round in ever-decreasing circles.

In order to enjoy them, we need to be there. In the second half of the book he doesn’t skim over the issue of who raises our children, in fact he points out that apart from the decision to have children in the first place, the decision about ‘who will raise your children is the second biggest.’ In his chapter called (almost chillingly), ‘Who will raise your children?’ he rejects what he calls ‘pseudo-scientific fence sitting’ and voices his strong concerns about the damage we can cause to our children by putting them into childcare too early. He uses strong words: children under three in full time care will have a ‘deprived childhood’, when they grow up ‘they may have difficulty bonding with and caring for their own children’ and that single mothers who have no choice regardless of their desire to bring up their own children ‘is a tragedy of national scale’. By showing no fear and by spelling out that there are real negatives to going back to work Steve is crediting all parents with intelligence and freedom of choice.

He deals with the old arguments: ‘I’m not very good at parenting’. Answer, ‘No one is till they’ve tried it, you become a good parent through practice’.
And, ‘Nursery can provide lots more stimulation than I ever could’. Answer, ‘Children do not need stimulation, but consistency and stability’.
He also gives those parents, who choose to do the unthinkable and stay at home, seven good reasons to justify your choice – the ‘selfish’ desire to enjoy witnessing your child’s firsts, the fact that you are the ‘best’ person to do it, the knowledge that they’ll be safe, the enjoyment of working as a team with your partner, the disregard for material wealth shows how happy you are, by putting in the work now you are making your life easier in the future by raising secure individuals, and that you enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being your own boss.
The final words of the book made me cry, which, being a mother is not very hard, but it simply states: ‘Love adds up to something. Nothing else matters half as much.’ It could sound trite, but having read though the book it sounds as a rallying battle cry to those parents who do that job, day in, day out, and know deep down it’s because there’s absolutely no other job to beat it.

Poppy Pickles

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