The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom About Children and Parenting
By Alfie Kohn
(Da Capo, 280 pages, $25.99)
Child-raising is something everyone can have an opinion about. We were all children once. We interacted with other children—siblings, classmates. If we are middle-aged, we have probably raised children of our own. Many of us have worked as teachers, struggling to engage with half-formed juvenile minds. Practically everyone has a good base of experience to opine from.
Alfie Kohn’s opinions are of the type that flatters itself as “progressive,” the idea being that we should cast away old, bad ways of doing things and embrace new, good ones. The particular old, bad ways he urges us to reject—what he calls “the traditionalist sensibility”—include punishment, deference to adults, competitive games, rewards for achievement, graded examinations, science fairs, encouragement of “grit,” and, yes, dodge ball.