August 8, 2004


The latest way in the US to tame your toddler is self-help bedtime stories. (Viv Groskop, The Guardian, August 8th, 2004)

Next time your four-year-old has a tantrum in the high street do you: a) tell him off, b) bribe him with a packet of sweets or c) nip into Waterstones and buy him a self-help book? Increasingly, the answer might be the third option. The 'mind, body, spirit' market has found a new, lucrative and impressionable audience - the stressed out under tens and their equally anxious parents.

The adult self-help market - or bibliotherapy, as it has been dubbed - is already worth ££84 million. The teen market is also huge. In June publishing figures showed a 100 per cent increase in UK sales of children's self-help titles, with American books such as Teen Esteem and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens finding an eager market on this side of the Atlantic. The British publisher Hodder has launched a Mind, Body, Spirit list for girls aged from 11 to 14, covering such subjects as astrology and numerology. is full of reviews from British parents and teachers discovering the joys of States-side self-help books such as the Dinosaurs series When Dinosaurs Divorce, When Dinosaurs Die, How to Do Homework Without Throwing Up and the anti-aggression guides, Teeth Are Not For Biting, Feet Are Not For Kicking, Hands Are Not For Hitting. A review for Brian Hugged His Mother, aimed at four-to-12-year-olds, reads: 'Works well in circle time: anger management, confidence-building and social interaction.'

A new British book Nightlights: Stories for You to Read to Your Child - To Encourage Calm, Confidence and Creativity (Duncan Baird, ££10.99), is the most typical of the genre in that it overtly uses the language of self-help. Each story ends with a list of 'affirmations, to help draw out the story's deeper meaning, address issues such as shyness, separation, loneliness, gently help to instil qualities such as confidence, love, sharing, courage and patience'. Designed to be read by parents, children are supposed to close their eyes and concentrate on visualisation techniques.

Fighter Boys, the story of the Battle of Britain pilots, recounts how many of them were captivated and inspired as young boys by stories of World War I pilots. Although the stories were written for children, they did not spare details of the gruesome horrors of being shot down and suffering certain fiery death in an age before parachutes. Such stories would be condemned as psychologically warping today and probably censored. It would be fascinating to know how the battle would have turned out if they had all been raised on Brian Hugged His Mother.

Posted by Peter Burnet at August 8, 2004 8:31 AM

Read: "Why the Democrats Use 12 Year Olds" by Dennis Prager"

V.D. Hanson writes on the subject as well in his latest at N.R.O.

Posted by: Genecis at August 8, 2004 11:39 AM

Let's not run that experiment, Peter. Tho' we do know what happens to a generation raised on G.A. Henty.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 8, 2004 2:06 PM

Bribe a tantrum-throwing four-year-old with a packet of sweets ?

I can't think of a better way to get more tantrums.

A psychology experiment at a university in the US exposed subjects to a subliminal message for a semester: "Mother and I are one".
All but one of the subject students found their grades improved that semester.

Perhaps if the Battle of Britain pilots had been exposed to a steady dose of 'Brian Hugged His Mother', they wouldn't have needed American help to wrap things up.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 8, 2004 3:05 PM