I would describe myself as an avid reader. While others choose mysteries, thrillers or perhaps biographies, I am always drawn to books that address raising children. Surprising, huh? Needless to say, I was thrilled to be asked by my friends at Ten Speed Press to review a book by one of their authors. The book, Calm and Compassionate Children - A Handbook by Susan Usha Dermond, is a gem!
The author, who has been in the field of education for thirty years, shares important information with parents and educators on how to foster compassion and calmness in children. Who doesn't want that?! As I read through the book (which is an easy read), I found that the author discusses many things that I go over with parents as a social worker and parent coach. Things such as the benefits of rituals and traditions, using music to calm, the importance of movement, the power of silence, as well as the impact of environment including media.
The book is broken down into three sections (Awakening the Heart's Feeling, Calming Body and Mind, and Surrounding Influences) with a total of twelve chapters. The first ten chapters (the heart and soul of the book) discuss various topics that support the development of calm and compassion in children. The author shares many of her own experiences as an educator which illustrate her points beautifully.
One of my favorite chapters was chapter eight which discussed Concentrating to Calmness. In it, she shares a story about a boy who had difficulty being still or quiet when it was time to pay attention. She asked him to get control of his energy and he responded that he was in control of his energy. She challenged him to walk across the room with a book balanced on his head, something she had all the children in the class do earlier that day. After failing at two attempts, he was puzzled. The author writes "he did not know the difference between the quality of his energy then and a few hours earlier when he could balance the book. I realized that he really had no idea how different it feels inside to be calm and centered rather than out of control. He eventually was able to complete the tasks with some support and encouragement from the class. This simple challenge gave this students some valuable insight as it allowed him to see what the teacher meant when she asked him to control his energy as well as what he needed to do to calm to center.
At the end of each chapter, the author provides "Practical Steps" which give parents and educators ideas and activities to do that address the chapter theme. Some of the activities are as simple as picking a good book to read with your child. The author also provides ample resources in the appendices including recommended read-alouds, cds, etc. There is also a self-inventory for parents and educators that will give them a good idea at how well they are doing to cultivate calmness and compassion in their children and/or students.
This book is a must read for any parent who has been looking for a book that goes beyond discipline techniques to discuss important aspects of character development, particularly heart and soul. Susan Usha Dermond writes in a beautiful and poetic manner that made me feel calm, centered and introspective. It left me feeling motivated to makes some changes and try some new things with my kids. It will definitely be recommended reading materials for many of the families with whom I work. I know I'm going to be keeping my copy on my nightstand so I can refer back to it as needed!
Have you read Calm and Compassionate Children? If so, what did you think about the book? Share your thoughts!