Book review by Wanda Gibson
This is one of those books that touches a nerve, - not because it is saying anything we don’t already know, but because we know what she says to be fact and yet what have we done about it? The ‘we’ in this instance is all of us. In some ways it reminds me of the book written by Rosalind Miles: The Children We Deserve (1994) Halcyon Publications.
Sue Palmer states logically and with a great deal of explanation, how we are disallowing our children the freedom and adventure to make decisions and form strategies that will help them keep safe, form friendship groups and find a way through their lives towards adulthood.
She has set out her stall to address each aspect of toxicity as she sees it: the lifestyles of children, the diet and sleep patterns of families, the importance of routine and regulation within families, the choice of carers as parent-substitutes, education and success, the importance of fathers, the peer group, behavioural issues and the challenge to bad and intolerant attitudes.
She certainly packs a punch. It is all wrapped up in a style that leaves the reader in no doubt that she once was a teacher. This may appear a little patronising to some readers, but I think she is merely trying to ensure she makes her point and explains in detail. It is worth the read. Each chapter has a list of references and pointers at the back near the index.
The book, as I stated before, comments on everything that most of us would identify as problematic. We probably haven’t said too much aloud for fear of being accused of being grumpy old men or women, or of not being modern in our outlook. The undeniable truth is that Sue Palmer is right and we all must act before it is too late to save this and the previous generation from themselves.
We live in a violent and suspicious world. None of us feel safe any more, whether we are in our own homes or out on the street. In the last few months, there have upwards of seventeen young men killed by knives. None of them would appear to have invited trouble but it visited them nevertheless.
Children who grow up with no significant male role models in their lives must have an imbalanced view of the world. Whether we like it or not, both genders are necessary in the raising of strong, confident honest citizens, because that is what we need.
It doesn’t matter a jot whether parents are heterosexual or gay; we have two genders with very different agendas and approaches. We need children to experience them both to gain a balance. In the same way, this generation of parents have certainly missed out on witnessing the parenting skills of their own parents as we entered the arena of full time working mothers and fathers. Families have drifted away from the familiar. There is a tension between adults and offspring which cannot be resolved through angry outbursts. And so it goes on.
Read the book and see how you feel then.
Palmer, S. (2007) Toxic Childhood - how the modern world is damaging our children and what we can do about it Orion Books