Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Title: Keep Calm and Mommy On
Author: Dr Tanu Shree Singh
Publisher: Duckbill Books
Pages: 200
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Tanu Shree Singh has a PhD. Sound science determines her parenting style. I go by a mixture of instinct, and what I learned from my parents. 

And yet I found myself nodding vigorously in agreement with what she said.

In an age in which parents are pushing their kids into classes and highly evolved programmes to map and enhance their cognitive skills, I, like Tanu, am lagging behind when it comes to being a conventional Tiger Mom.

Sometimes it causes me to question my stance. As she says, Am I an adequate parent? …Have I ensured optimal levels of cognitive functioning? Have I charted their trajectories? I think the answer to all three questions is in the negative. I do not yet have my own trajectory in order!

Parenting a child in this age is like being prepared for battle. The best degrees, and Tanu has a PhD in Positive Psychology, can’t stand against the onslaught of a real child.

Generally, I have my act together but often I don’t. That’s why I hoped this book would help.

Tanu talks about the issues most likely to be felt in families everywhere. Of course, my kids are still in the single digit age. So a few of the issues that she talked about weren’t relevant to me at this stage. But at least, it’s good to know we are all in this together.

Each section begins with speech bubbles. Snippets of conversations that tell us about the topic, and the chapters that are dealt within it.

The topics are We are the World, Keeping Your Child Safe, Dealing with Friends and Family, How to keep your Child Happy, and Reading the World.

There are a range of chapters under each topic. For instance, the topic, We are the world, consists of chapters on the prejudices that children learn from grownups, ways to discipline kids, religious beliefs, how to build resilience, children who are abandoned or orphaned, and exposing children to reality as the newspapers portray it.

I found the chapter titled, Should Kids Read the Newspaper?, particularly helpful since I’d been thinking about the best way to introduce my kids to reading the newspaper.

Keeping your Child Safe talks about the difficult conversations we must inevitably have with our kids, especially once they near their teens, about teenage romances and sexuality, and dealing with peer pressure.

Dealing with Friends and Family discusses sibling rivalry, friendship across genders, death and grief, bullying, body shaming, raising responsible boys, about what happens when girls bully boys, lies and truth and cultivating empathy.

How to keep your child happy includes chapters on the importance of kids doing nothing (something I espouse too), learning respect from scratch, the needs of teenagers, addiction to digital devices, working independently, the education system, the definition of success. This section was where my personal beliefs aligned completely with the author’s.

Some chapters were named in a straightforward manner, others like The Other Side of the Coin were not. I thought there should have been some consistency.

What I liked about this book was that it wasn’t a ready reckoner on how to behave in any given situation, thought it does offer suggestions that parents could consider. Its greatest strength it that it raises the questions that few parents bother thinking about. I also liked the fact that the style was chatty, not written like a PhD thesis. The stories with Ishaan and Vivaan are interesting.

Tanu talks about the importance of keeping conversations going, not shirking from difficult conversations (children can smell parental unease with conversations), and invites us to remember that That little person you have is ideal for you, complete with her faults.

The tone is irreverent, but firm. Realise you are not a god: Even gods have beheaded their children (and fixed an elephant’s head in its place).

I don’t agree with everything she says. For instance, she says, Focus on unprotected sex and its repercussions—physical and emotional, not moral.
I believe the moral repercussions are just as important.

Careful proofreading would have helped. In the chapter on bullying, the examples of the early ’70s and the late ‘80s are described in present tense, while the example from 2013 is in past tense. There were a few cases of awkward sentence constructions. The language could certainly have been improved.

In the chapter on abuse, the author talks about beating by teachers. Children go through worse forms of physical abuse, which aren’t talked about here.

I appreciated her call to recognize the signs that indicate whether a child is being bullied and to remember that your own child could also be a bully. The tips she gives are good.

The chapter on body shaming was a necessary one. Things I appreciated: Resist praising your child for masculine or feminine stereotypes. Or calling your child too fat or too skinny.

I liked it when she saw herself as having a special responsibility to bring up boys who are respectful of women and treat them as true equals.

Like: The mechanism for crying is fairly similar, regardless of gender! Saying that a boy is crying like a girl tops the list of silliest but also most destructive things ever said. You are telling your son that men do not cry, so whatever is bothering him needs to be ignored, not resolved. And you are telling him that crying is an inferior thing to do, that girls cry and are, therefore, inferior.

She writes with a wisdom that knows when to step in and when to let the kids do what they would want to. All imbued with self-deprecating humour that I particularly liked. For instance, to the myth that bullying toughens kids up, she asks, Do you ask your doctor to inject typhoid-causing bacteria into your system so that you can toughen up your digestion?

One area that my kids don’t give me any trouble is what Tanu describes in Outsourcing creativity. When it comes to being arty and crafty, both my kids are way more creative than I am. Thank God for that! I shudder to think what would happen if they were dependent on me for jazzing up their projects.

I believe that every parenting experience is worthwhile, and could offer valuable lessons to others.

And this book, which combines her knowledge with instinct, and how they’ve worked with her boys, is quite helpful.

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