Sunday, October 18, 2009

Children’s books, parents, and discipline : The New Yorker:

So what should you do when a child throws a tantrum? Many parents, determined not to be cruel or counterproductive, latch on to pre-approved language from books. Walk through a Manhattan playground and you’ll hear parents responding to their dirt-throwing, swing-stealing offspring with a studied flatness. A toddler whirling into a rage is quietly instructed, “Use your words.” A preschooler who clocks his classmate is offered the vaguely Zen incantation “Hands are not for hitting.” A kid demanding a Popsicle is given a bland demurral: “I’m sorry, but I don’t respond to whining.” (The preferred vocal inflection is that of a customer-service representative informing an irate caller that the warranty has, indeed, expired.) The brusque imperative “Say ‘please’!” has been supplanted by the mildest of queries: “Is there a nicer way to say that?” The efficacy of this clinical approach has not been confirmed by science, but it certainly feels scientific, in part because the parents conduct themselves as if their child were the subject of a peer-reviewed experiment.