Over Easter, George, my daughter's three-year-old, succeeded in escaping from his mum in the hotel where we were staying. He achieved a complete lap of the restaurant (quiet music, candles, murmured conversation) wearing no trousers or pants. Naughty? Impish? Funny? All of them of course - but do you laugh, scold or ignore? Luckily, I don't have to know. I'm only his grandad.
But I thought of him and my daughter, when I read Reamonn O'Donnchadha's The Confident Child (Newleaf pound;9.99). It explores the route to parenting and teaching that gives children freedom to grow, but not so much licence they end up running the show.
It's a familiar dilemma, for which any help is welcome, and this book has good and practical ideas. It digs a little deeper into emotions and motives than some practical parenting books. Bullying, for example, is seen for what it is - a two-way relationship, the nature of which is often not recognised by participants. "The person who is the active participant ... will rarely accept that what she is doing is bullying, while the 'passive' participant will often know that there is something wrong, but either be unwilling or unable to name the behaviour."
Each generation believes parenting becomes progressively more difficult. Family Business, edited by Helen Wilkinson (Demos pound;9.95) is a collection of papers on the social and economic changes that have brought about what the authors see as an unsustainable imbalance between work and family. P> Governments, they argue, must recognise and reward the changing nature of family life. Particularly interesting is Ellen Galinsky's paper "How do children feel about their working parents?" The quick answer is not that the children want their parents at home, but that they want them less tired and stressed.
That modern family life is becoming too diverse for generalisation is underlined by the rising numbers of children being educated at home. There are at least 10,000 home-educating families now - some say as many as 30,000. It is increasingly seen as a viable and sensible choice and numbers will, presumably, be limited only by the amount of parental time required.
Getting Started in Home Education by Mary Ann Rose and Paul Stanbrook (Education Now, pound;17.50 from 113 Arundel Drive, Bramcote Hills, Nottingham NG9 3FQ) gives basic information and lots of encouragement to parents who want to know how to do it. The opening sentence reads: "It is legal; you are not alone; your child will not lose out; and you can do it, even if you are not a teacher." The rest of the book develops that theme.
More good advice for helping children dealing with their problems is in Sheila and Celia Kitzinger's Talking with Children about Things that Matter, in a new edition (Pandora pound;9.99). There are chapters on all the things parents know are important including Being good, Food, Obedience, Lies and Secrets, Sex, Friends, and Death. A wise and sensible book.