Discipline Without Shouting or Spanking (by Barbara C Unell and Jerry Wyckoff)

I had not heard of Jerry Wyckoff or Barbara C. Unell, the authors of this book, both American experts in rearing children. Nor am I one of the target readership, as I no longer have children at home. Still, it was available free for the Kindle, and the title is one I certainly agree with. So I downloaded it out of curiosity. It turns out that the free edition is only about a third of the full book, which is available in paperback form as well as electronic.

The assumption of ‘Discipline without shouting or spanking’ seems to be that most parents are inconsistent and harsh in the way they handle their children; if true, this is a sad indictment of Western society in the 21st century. As with other books on a similar theme, the authors advise staying calm, addressing issues directly, and letting the children know that they are unconditionally loved. They explain why corporal punishment is counter-productive and also show that shouting or yelling at children model impatience and disrespect. It lists, too, some of what can be expected of children at different ages, and why it’s wrong to make them accountable for things which are accidents.

I didn’t find anything new in this book; indeed, I found the emphasis on ‘rules’ (albeit flexible) to be a bit coercive, but if parents have been yelling at (or hitting) their children, this kind of clear structure would be a positive step forward. However, I thought it a pity that the book did not define the distinction between punishment (revenge), discipline (teaching) and consequences (the natural or logical result of some action), as some parents seem to confuse these three distinct concepts.

I found it a bit odd that routines such as tooth-brushing and bedtimes were given stronger priorities (with recommended ‘rules’ for each home) than more serious issues such as lying. However, the explanations about the latter were good; many children have fuzzy boundaries between fact and fiction and the suggestions for dealing with lies were, I thought, excellent. There's also a useful chapter on helping shy children relate to other people - something which is less likely to be considered a problem in the more reserved UK!

I only read the shortened free ebook edition of this book, but it’s nicely presented and edited in such a way that it feels complete in itself. I would recommend it in a low-key way to any parents feeling caught up in an angry battle with their children; if useful, it might be worth getting hold of the full edition (which I have linked). This is primarily aimed at parents of under-fives but may be of value to those with older children too.

For my personal favourite on this topic, I would recommend ‘How to talk so kids will listen...’ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish; it’s illustrated with cartoons and many anecdotes, and is more light-hearted and general than this book, as well as dealing more with slightly older children; it could provide a useful complement to this one.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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