There seems to be a certain delight in a reporter's voice when they declare that Haim Ginott himself was not a father. Take this as an example:
My mother had [Between Parent & Child] when I was little. She recently told me she tried using Ginott’s method of “caring communication”: She said, “I feel upset when I see you hitting your brother, ” and I said, “Well, then you better go in the other room. ” My mom threw out the book.
[Haim Ginott was]. . . A man with no children of his own (“I knew it!” my mom chortled) 1
The short biography of Dr Ginott explains: “Haim G. Ginott (1922-1973) was a clinical psychologist, child therapist, and parent educator. He attended Columbia University in New York City, earning a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1952. His work with troubled children at the Jacksonville, Florida, Guidance Clinic helped him refine his unique combination of compassion and boundary setting. " 2
His idea was basically pretty simple: If adults appreciate being treated this way, why wouldn't children.
- Which adult does not inwardly balk at broad praise?
- Adults prefer criticism that addresses a problem specifically rather than attacking us as people.
- Adults don't appreciate receiving a “dressing down" in front of other people.
- No adult likes to be threatened with “You'd better do this, or else!" We might do it, but inwardly we are scared, or seething, or some other reactive emotion.
- Which adult does not respond to empathy?
Yet, with our children we manage to deliberately avoid these basic humane standards of interaction.
We ignore feelings: “Hate your brother? You don't hate him, you love him. And I don't ever want to hear that word said in this house again!"
We publicly chastise: “Stop picking your nose, you dirty little thing!" We shout, slapping their hand while throwing our eyes heavenward and declaring to everyone within earshot, “What are you supposed to do with them, eh?" 3
And so it goes on. What makes us think that children appreciate being treated that way any more than adults do? Or are we stuck in the they're-too-young-to-understand rut?
Ginott's work went beyond children. He taught principles of communication that could apply to any relationship - business, friends, relatives, and more. Children might not be adults, but they are people - human beings.
And we know what we want them to grow up to be: Fine human beings, worthy of respect, a pleasure to be with, people who's feelings and ideas have value. In short, a mensch, a human being who can conduct his life with strength and dignity.
The time to start nurturing them in that direction is right now.
1 Alice’s Adventures: An Iconoclast Shares Her Story by Marjorie Ingall in the Jewish Daily Forward, December 2003
2 Between Parent & Child
3 A better way might be to discreetly brush their hand away from their nose. If they persist, simply lean in close and while brushing their hand away again, say quietly, “Not in public. " Give them a moment because it might be that they want to stop of their own volition, and not because they were told to.
Rory Sullivan writes Hamelife , a website dedicated to helping parents negotiate the unpredictable waters of parent-child communication. With the 30 Ways at its heart, Hamelife encourages parents to avoid exasperating their children by embracing empathy, respect, and patience.