Sarah Ockwell-Smith ‘ToddlerCalm’

Date: April 11, 2014

We asked GentleParenting Review Panel member Fatima, mother to a 1 year old, to review ‘ToddlerCalm’ by Sarah Ockwell-Smith. Here are her thoughts:



After reading Sarah’s blog on the fourth trimester, I decided to read BabyCalm. I read the book while I was pregnant and I must say as a first time mum what the book taught me was to simply follow my instincts and do what I felt was best for my baby. Having followed her advice- plenty of skin to skin, on demand breastfeeds, baby wearing, bonding through massage I now have what so far seems a very content and happy almost one year old.

I was really looking forward to reading the Toddler Calm book and I must say I’m not disappointed by it. The book emphasises on empathising with toddlers as the main solution to all the toddler problems. The book highlights some of the main problems commonly faced by parents of toddlers and sugesstions on dealing with those problems.

I like the way, how each chapter begins with an example by placing the parent in an uncomfortable situation and explaining what the child must be going through. Through this she places us in their shoes and makes us see through their eyes making us realise what it must feel like to be so helpless. She has captured the biological aspects of why a toddler behaves the way he does which help us understand them even better. Every chapter ends with an experience or story from other parents which is very reassuring. The book does not advocate methods such as CIO for sleeping through the night but explains scientifically why toddlers wake up so many times and talks about unrealistic expectations of parents from toddlers.

The book beautifully portrays the feelings of both the mum and the child going through a difficult time yet makes you realise how vulnerable and helpless children are because of their inability to communicate effectively and that though we may feel anger momentarily the end feeling is always sadness for not having handled situations differently in the first place. And again she can’t stress enough on the most important quality of empathy.

I really loved the suggestions given by her at the end of every chapter. For example having a separate set of toys for play dates so that the child doesn’t have to part from his favourite toy. The book stresses on how important it is for the mother to be happy in the first place. It’s only if she is well and nourished that she can look after her child properly, which is so true. She advises on taking up a hobby or just spending some time by yourself doing something you like. There are very practical alternatives to screaming, punishment, time out or the naughty corner and one thing id like to highlight is that although not very detailed she has touched upon the use of sign language for communicating with toddlers as a very effective means of being able to understand them.

This book is definitely a must read for every parent and especially first timers who will benefit so much from reading it. “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself” as Eleanor Roosevelt said.  I think she has done a brilliant job at putting together this lovely book with so much good advice and sharing her short stories and experiences. There is this one particular story which brought a tear to my eye when I was reading it where she talks about her son throwing a tantrum in the supermarket, because she  has so beautifully captured all the feelings and emotions of a parent going through their mind at the same time: frustration, sadness, helplessness. This short story brings out the essence of parenting a toddler. She talks about avoiding such a situation in the first place, ignoring what others have to say and following your own instincts. I love the fact that she stresses so much on the goodness of oxytocin and has suggested many ways to release this love hormone.

The one thing that I took away the most from reading this book is not stressing about my child’s eating habits. I have a very fussy eating baby who refuses to take solids and will still only breastfeed mostly. There are some lovely tips on how to cope with fussy eaters and the experience shared at the end of the chapter is very reassuring.

However, The chapter which talks about unconditional love suddenly talks about handling separation in toddlers. I think what would have been better would be having a separate chapter dedicated to handling separation anxiety in toddlers and mothers. For working mums like me going back to work means separation anxiety for both me and the baby. So though Sarah talks about pushing going to nursery till when the child is ready, for some mums this is not an option and I would have liked it if she had dedicated a separate chapter to it versus a small topic. I would have loved to have some more advice on how to gently settle in a child into a nursery without causing too much distress to both mother and baby.

All in all this is one book every parent must read because it gives you a whole different perspective of looking at things from the eyes of your child. You should read this book if you have a nearly one year old so that you are more prepared and can benefit from all the lovely advice and experiences of the author as well as others.

ToddlerCalm is available from all good book sellers, RRP £13.99