The book, originally published as Teach Yourself Bringing Up Happy Children, first got my attention when I read this rave review from Sue Gerhardt, psychotherapist and author of the brilliant Why Love Matters:
"This is a parenting book which stands out from the crowd: easy to read without being superficial, lots of useable advice on recognisable situations, and gives a sense of being safely guided by very experienced and wise experts. It's a book which can range from practical advice to raise blood sugar with a snack after school to a spiritual dimension. Much of its advice is based on very solid research and understanding too. I liked this book very much."
Raise Happy Children is written by Glenda Weil and Doro Marden, two parenting experts at the UK charity Family Lives (formerly ParentLine), who are also mothers of seven children between them. Their work as experienced listeners, helpers and in Doro's case, a psychotherapist, shines through every page of the book as they offer practical and helpful advice with the focus on the emotional life of both adult and child.
A core principle of the book is to ACT not REACT in stressful family situations. The authors offer a formula based on traffic lights to remind parents to stop and think before jumping in with a gut reaction.
A (adult) - is the red light that tells you to STOP and THINK.
Ask yourself: 'What's going on here for me?' 'How do I feel about this?' 'What do I need to happen?'
C (child) - is the amber light reminding you to WAIT and think of what is going on for your child.
Ask yourself; 'How does she feel about this?' 'What does she need to happen?'
T (tools) - is the green light that indicates you can GO ahead and use your tools.
Ask yourself: 'What skills and ideas can I use here?' 'What can I say or do that will help us get what we need?'
This book is jam packed with creative ideas and practical suggestions such as this one. On every page they offer parents a fantastic array of 'tools' to use in a whole spectrum of parenting situations, from anger, tantrums and fights to listening and talking about feelings. Throughout the book the emphasis is placed on understanding yourself as a parent, your own emotional motivations and the experience of your own childhood. There are practical exercises in each chapter to help you do this, either alone or with a friend or your partner. In many ways, this is a 'self help' book, offering a huge amount of insight into your own identity as a parent and challenging you to consider your personal experience of being valued, heard or even hugged as a child yourself, in order to be better placed to create happiness in your own family home.
This is a real crash course in many of the skills that therapists learn. The book offers guidance in dealing with your child's feelings in a way that makes them feel heard, acknowledged and validated. Other chapters cover topics such as Skilled Listening, Problem Solving, Talking about Difficult Issues, and Boundaries and Freedom. In the final section, the authors explore the meaning of Happiness, looking at ways in which parents can help their children find real joy in life through connectedness, humour, nature, creativity - to name just a few.
A short review simply cannot do justice to the wealth of information, insight and practical help offered by Raise Happy Children. This is not a book to read in one sitting, rather, it will sit on a prominent shelf and be plucked down often, perhaps when you are tearing your hair out, or maybe in those quieter moments when you find yourself thinking: I wonder how I could have handled that better. The real strength of the book is that the authors maintain towards their reader the 'positive unconditional regard' of a warm and understanding therapist, or better still a mother at her best. They remind their readers:
You as the adult can start to make changes in the way you relate to your children which will lay down pathways for happiness in their brain and affect how they feel and behave...Whatever age your children are, it is never too late to make a difference. And don't worry if you sometimes forget to use your new skills. Your children will give you plenty more opportunities to practice them!
The winner has now been picked using a random number generator from random.org:
Comment Number 24: Elaine Johnson
I was not paid to write this post and all views expressed are entirely my own.
If you wish to buy a copy, you can do so in the UK from Waterstones or in the US from Barnes and Noble, or other good retailers.