10 Sep

Book Review: Toxic Childhood, by Sue Palmer

I picked this book up for £1 at Wokingham NCT’s Nearly New Sale, purely out of curiosity. I would say that I have entirely grown out of my organic/green parenting frenzy, partly through poverty and partly from being exposed to science debunking quite a lot of it.

Palmer does state in her preface that the book is largely her own opinion based on largely qualitative research and extensive interviews. This comes across very clearly throughout the text, and may alienate a lot of parents who choose not to follow her highly directive recommendations.

The main message of the book is that childhood ain’t what it used to be, and everyone would be much happier if our kids roamed free in the fields until teatime, then feasted on vegetables from the allotment and played wholesome games until they went to bed. Palmer develops her arguments well, supports them with a wealth of anecdote, and offers suggestions for detoxing childhood both at a family level and at a policy level. This is all very well-meant, but the parents who read this book are quite probably those who already give some thought to things like the effects of TV and junk food on their children. However I feel that the Brave Old World solution is not the right one for my family, and I worry when books dictate parenting styles without leaving room for individual circumstances and inclination. The TV, the internet, junk food and the dangerous streets are realities that our children have to learn to cope with, and it is hard to find a balance between protecting them, and preparing them. I did not feel that Toxic Childhood made many positive suggestions about embracing change.