What Great Parents Do: 75 Simple Strategies for Raising Fantastic Kids by Dr Erica Reischer

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We’re starting a new series, reviewing books that we think are worth taking a look at.

First up, “What Great Parents Do” by Erica Reischer. I was actually surprised by how much I liked this book. I first picked it up from the library shelf with a kind of disdainful curiosity based on the title, but I soon discovered that Erica Reischer was not, as I’d thought, contributing to the culture of pressure to be a ‘perfect parent’ (Tip #12 “Great Parents aren’t perfect”) but instead offering a framework for cultivating a respectful and joyful relationship with your children.

The book is designed as a practical manual- it’s very readable, concise and clear. Each of the 75 tips is numbered and briefly described, then followed by a suggestion of how to implement it. Other related strategies are then cross-referenced. It makes it extremely easy to dip in and get some instant support or inspiration without having to wade through long chapters or lots of details.

Overall the guidance is sound, research-based and feels do-able. The heart of the philosophy guiding the book is the importance of cultivating “non-judgemental awareness- of yourself, of others (such as your family), and of the moment”. The key principles are Acceptance, Boundaries and Consistency. The tips outlined are tangible ways of putting all this into practice.

The tips themselves cover things like empathy (“If you don’t know what else to do, try empathy”); paying attention (“if we don’t notice what is happening, we can do little to change it”); avoiding reward economies; and very specific tips like avoiding saying “but”, and pivoting (“the art of saying yes instead of no, and meaning the same thing.”) Much of what she talks about isn’t new but I find reminders helpful, and bringing more awareness to what you’re already doing can help it all happen more smoothly and confidently. Otherwise the book is so succinct that if a section feels like old news you can just move onto another tip for some fresh inspiration.

This book comes recommended for people interested in caring for children with acceptance and awareness, but who don’t necessarily have time to read more than the odd few pages here and there.

Downsides: I’d have liked it if sometimes the cross-referencing had titles instead of just a number as it can get a bit distracting, at the same time it all helps to keep the book more concise. I’d also still lose the judgemental/labelling language from the title! But then I am a HANDLE provider…


Broken eggs and dolphins

Here is an extract from Elias's blog by his mother Janet, about their living and learning together. They have been doing a HANDLE® programme for six months and Son-Rise for two years. We wanted to share it because it's an inspiring story of love, dedication, openness and learning.

We hope you like it.


"I do not always feel comfortable writing and disclosing issues about our family life and my parenting in public. The last time I wrote in E's blog was about two years ago when we had just begun working with the Son-rise approach when I felt a "great sense of faith" that this approach would support E to choose to come out of his autistic world. Below, I want to share a few lessons that I/we have made over the past years by working with the Son-rise programme and a method called HANDLE, as well as with my own development as a parent/human.

My willingness to share came today when I sat with E on the couch and he suddenly suggested that he would read aloud to me from a book about dolphins. E read the whole book, I listened. After having finished the reading, he suggested that he would "draw letters", which we did. I gave him a pen and paper, wrote down some examples and just stayed watching. After finishing the alphabet he happily said he wanted to continue "typing numbers". I felt happy and proud; we had now reached a point in our relationship and in both of our developments when we really had achieved something important. What was it that felt so huge?"

You can read the rest of Janet's post here

One Night Out

A year ago, having put my bassoon aside for 20 years my friend encouraged me to pull it out from under the sofa, dust it down and join our local Concert Orchestra. 

In the first few months I frequently asked myself why I was spending my one night out a week in a state of sweaty anxiety as I fumbled and blasted my way through the pieces. Yet my fellow players were very welcoming and I gradually improved playing amongst them. The notes started to flow more easily and somehow what I played sounded more tuneful. 

So, what's the key to getting started and then to sustaining our learning when it's hard? For me it is learning with others. There are hundreds of free or low cost courses available online but when there is no face to face contact at all completion rates average between 3 and 10%. One history course run by Princeton University had a 99.2% drop out rate.

We need to learn and stretch ourselves, to enrich our world for each other and our children and their children. Perhaps the best way and most successful way to do it is together, face to face, regularly and with humour. I go to orchestra because I know the others will be there, that we need each other and that we will laugh as much when the trumpets fluff it as when I do.


There's sweet and there's sweet

Our son really loves sweet things.  

He loves ice cream and sweets best of all but will guzzle up just about anything which has a high sugar content. We try and minimise his sugar intake but as he grows so does his social circle and there are lots of birthdays and 'treat times', all which involve the delights of sugar.   

Recently our osteopath recommended that he give sugar a break for at least three weeks as it appeared to be stressing his digestive system. "Three weeks!" we thought. It was tough at the start and social situations can be tricky but it has been a journey of discovery. The boy who didn't really like to be touched and could be a bit crabby and uncommunicative in the morning has become so sweet. We have taken the sweetness out of his diet and his sweet, gentle nature has flourished. His moods are more even and he welcomes and initiates touch. Instead of teasing or hitting his little brother he asks him for a cuddle.  He is also more available, communicative and empathetic.  

From a HANDLE® perspective this all makes sense. A less stressed internal environment can lower overall stress levels and have a positive effect on other systems such as the sense of touch. Less stress means we are more able to relate to our environment and those around us with ease and enjoyment.  Of course every child is different and changes are often the interplay of more than one thing but it is wondrous to behold the differences.

My next questions is how do we make this 'three weeks' a permanent thing?