In brief

17th June 2005 at 01:00
Five Minute First Aid for Children By the British Red Cross Hodder Arnold pound;6.99

Yes, I know you're not supposed to do first aid unless you're trained.

Quick response to any one of a range of problems is a specialist skill. But that doesn't mean you'll stand back looking around for Mrs Jones if a child's life's in danger - through loss of blood, for example, or choking.

So, although this book is for parents, it's a good one for teachers to read. And it really is divided into five-minute chunks. At the front there's a card you can take out and keep in your pocket or bag, with advice on how to deal with a child who's bleeding, or unconscious, or not breathing. It's a frightening thought, but there are people walking around now just because somebody knew what to do.

Winning Parent, Winning Child: parenting so that everybody wins By Jan Fortune-Wood Cinnamon Press pound;11.99

So many parenting books imply that no matter how much emphasis there is on love and understanding, in the end it's them against us. Jan Fortune-Wood is having none of this. She just doesn't believe that love and compulsion belong together at all, so she criticises authoritarian parents who "inflict discipline from spanking to time out to loss of privileges in the name of love".

Liberal parenting, though, isn't the answer either, because there's the same mismatch between force and love. "Liberal parents seem to impose firm but loving limits."

On the other hand, you can't just have no limits at all. "Permissive parents inflict damaging neglect in the name of love."

The answer, for her, is parenting by consent; all limits are self-imposed, and arrived at by mutual consent. What, no compulsion at all? No, none at all, is the answer. You get there, she argues, not by concentrating on dropping the shackles, but by building the structures of consent. It's hard work, and there are selfless decisions to be made, but you get there in the end.

"Consent-based parents are engaged parents. They ensure that their children have what they need to make well-informed decisions about their lives."

Well then, you may look at some of the words in that sentence - "ensure", for example, and "well-informed" - and wish to engage the author in a discussion about exactly what they signify in the context of a "no compulsion" regime.

However, don't be too hung up on that. Read the book, because there's a huge amount to think about in it: lots of challenges to received wisdoms, many stories of family life, all of them recognisable and illuminating.

This author has been there and done it, and anything that makes for happy and fulfilled children is worth our attention.

Bullying: a parent's guide By Jennifer Thomson Need2Know pound;8.99

Bullying is difficult to tackle because it's so often just under the radar.

There's a glance, a whisper, a giggle, a note left on a desk, a text message. For teachers and parents it's like trying to catch hold of a cloud of smoke.

Still, you talk to the gang ("It weren't us, Miss. We didn't do nothing, did we Michelle?") and you make some generally threatening noises ("Well, let's say I'll be keeping an eye on you") which may well make the bullying worse ("Did you grass us up, you little slag?").

Jennifer Thomson knows what this is like because she was bullied herself:

"I've cried myself to sleep at night and prayed that I wouldn't wake up and have to go to school."

Right at the start she homes in on the key to it all, which is "to get your child to confide in you, because when you know something is wrong you can do something about it. The bully loses their power." From there, she says, the next step is to persuade the bullied child that it's not their fault, and then to build up their feelings of self-worth.

This is a book for parents - it gives space to the often difficult task of persuading a school to take the issue seriously - but it's exactly this perspective that makes it so helpful for teachers. I have just one serious doubt, and that's about the author's advice to seek support from the local paper. It's a mistake to think that the media's agenda automatically coincides with yours, and there are schools where teachers, pupils and families struggle for years with the label slapped on them by a blunderbuss press campaign.

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