walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_The Case Against Spanking_, Irwin Hyman

Subtitle: How to Discipline Your Child Without Hitting

Hyman's work on ending corporal punishment by teachers (_Reading, Writing and the Hickory Stick_, which I own but have not yet read) is well-known and referenced by others. He got a lot of play on talk shows 10-20 years ago (Donahue, Sally, Oprah, etc.) and refers to those experiences in this work, which is aimed at parents. I ordered it used after reading Murray Straus' _Beating the Devil out of Them_. Hyman references Greven (_Spare the Child_, which I have read and enjoyed) and Murray Straus.

Hyman spent several decades working with families, not all of whom showed up in his office voluntarily, and when they did, sometimes some members were a lot more motivated to change than others. He stresses the transmission of "aggressive parenting" including corporal punishment across generations: if you hit your kids, you were almost certainly hit yourself (and, odds on, harder, more often, and with nastier equipment). Hyman has a multi-pronged approach to ending corporal punishment. Step 1 was go after non-parents beating kids, because even parents who beat their kids are often appalled to discover that other people are doing so as well, particularly when they leave marks and the parents have minimal recourse. Hyman also lays out the regionalism of corporal punishment in schools.

Step 2 is a larger discussion of what happens when you beat kids, which is more than adequately covered elsewhere. Step 3 is helping parents understand why their kids do what they do (Hyman uses loaded language like "misbehave", which I dislike), so the underlying issues (learning disabilities, ADHD, etc.) can be addressed in a productive manner. Step 4 is replacing corporal punishment with behavioral contracts, negotiation and alternative punishment.

While Hyman recognizes the importance of "rapport" between parents and children, and spends a little time discussing how to develop it, and he also talks about the need for "unconditional positive regard" for the children by the parents, his model for a "good" parent/child relationship is ultimately the therapeutic relationship. While he quotes Thomas Gordon on occasion, he does not refer to P.E.T. (even tho it had been in existence for a while by 1997 when this book was published). He does favorably refer to Myrna Shure's ICPS work. Ultimately, Hyman's work is mitigation, only: quit hitting, call an effective truce, address underlying problems, reopen dialogue. Precious little here about actually finding joy in family life, or even the fact that any relationship that is going to last had better have a lot more positive interactions (Gottman: 4:1) than negative (Hyman's just trying to even things out). There are people who could be helped by this book, and I don't know that this book would precisely harm anyone who read it. But it's a little sad that he spends several pages on "holding" methods (even with a lot of caveats) and so little on how parents can help their kids find joy in life and experience family life as pleasure instead of one kind of shit raining down after another.

Neutral review, but Hyman's a likable guy who has done amazing work. The world needs people like him: brave, persistent, imaginative, willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with him and sensible enough to not try to work with people who won't work with him. It's particularly nice that when schools/teachers treat children badly, he doesn't help parents make their kids tough it out, but instead lays out a long list of options (including hiring a lawyer and going after the school in court and getting the abusive teacher arrested, etc.), with a clear statement that this isn't going to be easy and you have to be prepared to persist. But at least he doesn't just advocate giving up at the outset. Hyman is particularly useful as an example for activists (and not just in this field!): he is up front about describing how he went into this thinking it would change quickly, and how he has adapted to the long struggle.

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