Book review: Calm Parents, Happy Kids (Dr Laura Markham)

There are things I love about Calm Parents, Happy Kids by Dr Laura Markham. And things that wind me up enormously. The key messages are mainly sound (with a few exceptions) but the US style of delivery horribly grates on my British nerves. I suspect it’s a bit of a Marmite book – which side you end up on will probably depend on how you feel about self-help books in general.

The things that wind me up? Mainly, it’s the constant repetition. In the style of many self-help books, the text follows the pattern of 1. Tell them what you are going to tell them. 2. Tell them. 3. Tell them what you have just told them. Messages are heralded, summarised and repeated again and again. (Have you got it yet? Yes, I got it the first time!). You are certainly not going to finish this book without understanding what it’s saying!

Then there is the motivational faux chumminess designed to chivvy you along. But which, in me, just brings out my worst schoolgirl stroppiness and tramples over my innate British reserve. No, You Don’t Know Me. (Annoying capitalisation is another of the book’s snags!).

Which is such a shame. Because this is a brilliant parenting book in so many ways. I love the emphasis on parents’ self-regulation. The real task of parenting is controlling ourselves, not controlling our children – that’s a great central message and one I wholeheartedly agree with.

I also love the book’s focus on developing children’s problem-solving skills and emotion coaching – two themes that I return to continually in my own writing and coaching.

I disagree with Dr Markham’s take on ‘Time Out’ and ‘Consequences’. Used wisely, I think these have a useful role in a parent’s toolbox, though not as strategies of first resort. I prefer to see logical consequences as providing children with structured choices which enable them to learn to make good choices. But since Dr Markham doesn’t really illuminate her evidence base, it’s hard to engage in that debate.

Despite my irritations, Calm Parents, Happy Kids is a very well-intentioned book. I have no doubt that, if it strikes a chord, it could catalyse some really meaningful change in a parent’s thinking and behaviour. But maybe try her website for shorter pieces first!

NB This is a personal review and very much my own opinion. I am sure there are lots of readers out there who will disagree, perhaps vehemently. Please do feel free to leave comments with your own thoughts (though anything too vitriolic will not be approved).

This is not a sponsored post. I was given this book by a client and read it because it interested me. However, this post contains affiliate links so if you click through and buy the book from Amazon, I will receive a small fee (see Disclosure Notice for more details).

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