Posted tagged ‘tiger mum’

Is there a childcare book mums and dads MUST read?

February 25, 2013

At half term both my girls had homework, and one had to go into school for a day’s revision. Now there’s a new book that claims this is very, very wrong – answer the poll to have your say. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children see, or

Are you someone who thinks you learn by taking risks, or by being hot-housed?

Are you someone who thinks you learn by taking risks, or by
being hot-housed?

Nosing around the web I stumbled on a new book that suggests parents need to let go of their children if they don’t want to mess up their character. It’s not the first that has suggested it is high time to give up the after-school, half term and holiday diet of yet more lessons and sessions, but it looks set to cause a big how-to-parent row when it is published in the UK in 2013.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by the amusingly named Paul Tough (he is after all seeing off the Tiger Mums) puts pushy mums on to the naughty step. Apparently – says the blurb:

Studies are increasingly showing that the qualities most likely to ensure a better degree, a better job and, ultimately, a more fulfilling life are perseverancecuriosityconscientiousnessoptimism, and self-control. These are qualities known to economists as ‘non-cognitive’, to psychologists as ‘personality traits’ but to the rest of us as ‘character’.

I reckon I’m going to enjoy the ideas in this book, so I’ve ordered it. But…

What do you think?


Where are you in the TV debate?

May 18, 2011

Let the kids watch more TV and eat more pizza – that’s the new parenting tip from Dr Bryan Caplan. He’s not an American childhood guru, he’s a marketing genius with strong libertarian tendencies – just have a look at The Myth of the Rational Voter: why democracies choose bad policies .

I can imagine generations of dads like him trying to read the paper (or watch the TV) finding ways to ensure a quiet life so they can get on with the important tasks of… well, I’m not quite sure what Caplan thinks Dad tasks are, although calming mums down sounds like a good one. His idea of cutting children a bit of slack (a lot actually) so parents don’t turn into the chauffer-cross slave driver forcing little ones to attend extra lessons like ballet, football, piano etc is a great one.

It’s my life
The exception is swimming – that’s a life saver skill – but the rest of what children do should be much more steered by them. Most kids have to go to school, and really don’t need to be pressure-educated with a host of other after-school activities. Far better to wait until they are a bit older, let’s say seven or eight years and can then choose one fun thing to do, that they love, which brings them confidence and is fun, affordable and they can get to it themselves, which will help them make and meet local friends.

Turn the TV on and find out
Caplan’s book is going to help a lot of mums who feel obliged to keep the kids busy learning. Many kids would enjoy life even more with the option of greater downtime during which they can do much more of what they like.

I’m not a fan of the TV being forever on, but sometimes I love watching it. And if I ever over-kill switching the remote to this, that and the next it soon becomes boring, even reruns of Friends.

In my book Homemade Kids: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children there’s a strong suggestion to get you and the kids children skilled up.

Perhaps the most basic of these is for a child has the skills to entertain themselves – to play, or read, or find something more active to do. When Nell was in hospital last month the nurse said she could tell she didn’t watch TV often, and that you could always tell, as the TV-deprived (sorry rather an emotive word) were the ones glued to the channels. I noticed when she left Addenbrookes it didn’t turn her into a TV junkie, she’d simply enjoyed a glut of TV when she needed it, lying a bit breathless on a hospital bed.

Kids need me time
When they are little me time is going to mean sitting on your lap, being with you, being cared hugely by you. But as they get bigger it should segue into time alone, or in their own imaginary world of clashing Titans, shopping Sylvanians or whatever rocks their Baby Gap socks. If you ignore Caplan’s ideas and do the pushy parenting where Monday’s fencing, Tuesday Kumon maths then swimming, Wednesday is soccer school, Friday is French and the weekend an exhaustive round of child-centred activities your child loses the me time. No wonder they end up un-cooperative, over-tired and possibly unhappy.

If you want to look at Caplan’s book explaining why being a great parent is less work and more fun than you think and nothing like pushy Tiger Mum, then see here or see this version, here, from The Sun.

Good luck whatever you are trying to do!

Nature quiz to try with the kids

January 26, 2011

I was wheeling my bike back from Freightliners City Farm today with a bale of straw on it… This post is by Nicola Baird (actually my bike is smaller, but the pic shows it’s more normal than I thought).

The kids are at school and although they sometimes help me shift loads around this is one task easier without them. Of course I look strange, and there’s always a wit ready to shout out, “Hey” jokes, EVEN though it’s straw.  We’ve all heard the urban myth that most children are a bit muddled about where milk comes from (tetrapak cartons, duh!). While this survey on the fab blog Love Outdoor Play shows how only 1 in 5 children knows the difference between a bee and a wasp. Though come to think of it, does it matter after all both stings hurt ridiculously.

Smell a rat
I bet you’ve hoped your own kids weren’t quite so confused by wildlife. After all even if they don’t go outside much, knowing your rodents has become an important TV-watchers skill as it seems rats regularly appear on the news during camera shots at Number 10 Downing Street.

Because I live in central London I don’t really expect people to have big nature skills – although obviously some have incredible knowledge, far surpassing my own. Every year I try to learn a little more, in the hope that I can share the info with my girls – and they are good too. What are you like? Here’s a little spring quiz to see how well you (and your kids) know the world now that the sap is rising… 10 questions, starting now!

Naturekid QUESTIONS:

1) Does a hen lay eggs sitting down or standing up?

2) What time is it a gourmet’s delight to eat nettles?

3) Why do foxes scream on January and February nights?

4) What do tiger worms dislike enough to go and die of misery if too many are put in their compost bin? Clue: it’s not vegetables.

5) Do slow worms have legs? Do they live in the UK? Have you ever seen one?

6) When you see the first snow drops (and they are up in London already), what is fun to do?

7) Do you know another name for some plants, eg, lambs’ tails, and old man’s beard?

8) Which dies after it’s stung you? A bee or a wasp?

9) Which farm animals can be milked?

10) Which female bird can sing?

Find out how you did with these answers below – it’s more fun to share this with your child, though not sure the Tiger Mum in you will approve…


1) It’s standing up! I’ve had hens in my back urban garden for four years and at last, today, I saw my hen Violet pop out an egg. She bent forward, put her wings in an uncomfy rainbow position, gave a fierce squawk and there it was. This is fast food at its best.

2) Early spring nettle shoots are delicious (and iron-rich) in soups and souffles. I pick them with gloves but some people love the sting…

3) It’s mating season. Cue cringe making from children. Lola politely said “they want to have a girlfriend and as we live near a pub assumes that’s normal behaviour in the search for one!”

4) Compostable nappies and citrus peel, especially loads of oranges.

5) The answer is no, yes, and the truth, see pix of the legless lizard here! A run over one counts.

6) I try to make nature spotting more fun by offering a wish whenever we see a new flower pop up again. This renewal of the world is amazing. It is illegal to dig up wild snowdrops, although you can split your own clumps in the green if you want a better display next year.

7) They’re all around now: lambs’ tails = catkins; old man’s beard = wild clematis

8) A bee – see how sad it is for the bee to be lured into a killer sting situation.

9) This is a standard Pony Club “know your farm animals” question. The answers include cows, goats, sheeps and possibly buffalo (depending on how often you eat mozarella).

10) Mostly female birds are quiet. The exception is the robin, go girl!

Good luck sharing your nature knowledge with your children – there are loads more ideas in my book Homemade Kids: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children.

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