Toddlercalm – A Gentle Parenting Read

For ages I’ve been telling people that I’m reading this fantastic book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith called ToddlerCalm: A guide for calmer toddlers and happier parents. She sent me a copy as a thank you for providing a quote at the book’s start. Yet I hadn’t got around to finishing it because I have an unrealistic reading list at the moment. Instead, I read the introductory chapters and would dart in and out of other topics as I hit times of stress with my toddler.

ToddlerCalm quote

Talitha, at two years and eight months has leapt to a new stage in her development where she often automatically tells me “no” when I ask or tell her to do anything. She also often does exactly what I instruct her not to do. It’s frustrating because this new expression of will isn’t one I’ve yet developed the creativity or calm to cope with. So, just as she’s growing and changing, I need to as well.

With the new baby imminent (38 weeks tomorrow!) I devoured ToddlerCalm. It’s such a quick and accessible read. I feel like I’m sitting with Ockwell-Smith, chatting about all things child, one to five.

As I sip my coffee, I don’t feel she’s condescending to me. She doesn’t present herself as the expert. In fact, she affirms that I know my child better than anyone. I moan about selective eating and tantrums I don’t understand. She doesn’t whizz in with one-size-fits-all answers but helps me to think things through, equipping me to reach my own solutions.

She’s pulling from personal experience (her own and others’) which reassures me that I’m not the only one walking this path and making mistakes along the way. Yet she also pulls together an impressive amount of research, drawing from neurology, child psychology and other disciplines. In fact, many of the books she cites are ones that have long been on my parenting reading list.

ToddlerCalm isn’t a religion. I don’t feel I have to agree with everything. Most of it does speak true to me, though. I’ve never been comfortable with using praise, rewards or punishments as disciplinary strategies, even when I couldn’t explain why. This book gets inside why they don’t work for all children in the long term and what our alternatives could be. I’m not, however, too hot on the potty training views. I believe that babies are born ready, we just don’t listen to their cues to help them with their elimination needs.


While ToddlerCalm very much focuses on understanding young children and learning how to parent them with unconditional love, this isn’t to be confused with parenting permissively. This isn’t a framework in which children have no boundaries or discipline. It’s simply thinking about how we can guide them while respecting them, and with long-term effect. Sometimes, they will cry. That’s unavoidable. There is space for both compassion and limits here.

I’ve previously taken a short parenting course with ToddlerCalm, so was already familiar with some of the concepts the book held key. However, this was such a helpful and timely read for me. Even since finishing it last week, it’s helped me to be more patient with both Talitha and myself. Already I’m finding that I’m enjoying our time together more. I’m also beginning to address habits I’ve not felt good about for quite some time. I feel freer to follow my instincts on a lot of things. All in all, I’d lend this book to anyone with a whole-hearted recommendation.

PS: I’ve included an affiliate link to Amazon. That just means that if you click through and buy it, I’ll get a few pence to spend on a cuppa or something.

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  • I tweeted for advice about books a little while ago and you replied with this gem. I’m still reading it, but your sentiments about are spot on. I LOVE that it’s not a how-to and totally supports your own instinctive parenting style. Also your comment about not feeling like you have to agree with everything she say’s – like some books totally suck you in and make you feel it’s all-or-nothing.

    Love it. So thanks for the twitter recommendation! (I’m @annalou1978 in case you were wondering…!)

  • I really need to buy this, when I get paid I will come back and do it through your link 🙂 As you know I’ve recently made some changes in the way I parent Cherry and I still can’t believe the difference. She’s started to tell me when things make her angry or sad now instead of just flipping out. The no phase is a hard one, in fact that’s why I was getting so stressed over the last few months, everything I asked she would do the opposite! I think this would be good for Matt to read too, he totally agrees with not doing things the way we have been but he’s not very patient and I think he isn’t sure how else to do things so gets stressed quickly still x
    Jess @ Along Came Cherry recently posted..Little Man at Nine Months

    • I think this is an ideal read for partners because it really is such a quick and conversational one. It seems like the “No” thing is really the age (2.5-3ish) – the more people I talk to! So glad you’re already seeing the benefits of trying some changes.

  • I really need to get this book, I’ve head you mention it so many times and it sounds right up my street. Adding to my Amazon wish list (but I’ll come back and buy it through your link, every penny matters!) I had a few baby/pregnancy books I really loved but nothing for toddlers and I have a feeling I’m going to need some guidance occasionally! x
    Fritha recently posted..G and Teatime with Living Social

  • When Valentina was younger to help manage Angelo’s behaviour. I thought about getting this book as I’d seen comments by Sara on Twitter and they seemed to make sense to me. I follow my instincts most times but I do give into tiredness and frustration. Thinking of how I was raised I do wonder if I’m spoiling my kids or being too indulgent. I just may get this book Valentina is fast approaching toddlerhood now.

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