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Scolding: Why It Hurts More Than It Helps.

SCOLDING: Why It Hurts More Than It Helps. Erik Sigsgaard. New York: Teachers College Press, 2005. 212 pp. Paperback, $18.95. Do you rememberbeing scolded as a child? Did it help or did it hurt? No one, including adults, enjoys being scolded by other people; it is both painful and humiliating. Sigsgaard, a Danish researcher and author, has done many studies and projects on scolding and has not found a single child who has never been scolded, either at home or in school. This book focuses on scolding and emphasizes that the word "scold" refers to physical violence, loud noises, bullying, and sudden alterations of a condition by outside forces, as well as to the modern meaning of the word "reprimand."

Through interviews with Danish and American children and adults in preschool programs and schools, Sigsgaard looks at how children are affected by frequent and severe scolding. He includes suggestions so that children and adults can treat each other in everyday life in a way that avoids scolding.

In the Preface, Sigsgaard discusses similarities and differences between the United States and Denmark regarding schools and preschool programs. In both countries, school is a must-culture, while preschool programs are characterized by a can-culture. All children receive an education, they are engaged in activities, and teachers continue to ask for "order in the class." The differences between the United States and Denmark are not insignificant, however. What I found fascinating is that some Danish institutions have their preschool children routinely climb trees, carry stacks of porcelain dishes, cut apples with sharp knives, and use saws and drills for woodworking. They play in "pillow-rooms," which are off-limits to adults. Up to the point of fisticuffs (when adults will typically step in), children are left to resolve their own differences, because paedagogers (the Danish term for early childhood teachers) are confident that children can and usually will do so.

The beginning chapters focused on the "Scolding and Development Project." The purpose of the project was to learn about the extent, subjective impact, and harmful effects of scolding. A kindergarten class decided to take part in a one-year project with the author as a consultant. Teamwork, observations, journals, methods, suggestions, and interviews were conducted with the children in one room and teachers in another. At the conclusion of the project, the interviews with adults revealed that while adults are hardly ever scolded, and never by someone who is twice their size, they do not like being scolded any more than children do. If adults do get scolded, they may feel stupid and find it very demeaning. An important point is that if children have to be scolded, they prefer to be scolded by the person they like the most.

The middle chapters focused on what makes adults scold, the effect of scolding, and which children are scolded the most. For some, scolding often results when the teacher does not recognize or understand a child's actions. For others, scolding is part of their culture and may be considered a habit, something that we simply do, without giving any thought to why or whether it actually works or not. Children who are exposed to repeated scolding (whether it's physical or verbal abuse) and who receive little positive feedback will develop psychological reactance, which means that a person is quick to feel offended, easily feels his or her freedom is threatened, is high-strung, has negative expectations of others, is hotheaded, is prone to "fly off the handle," has "a short fuse," and often gets into fights. Which children are scolded the most? It's the children who receive the least care and love at home. A second answer is that children from socially disadvantaged families are scolded more than other children. Children who get in trouble continuously receive so much punishment that they become hardened to it. They shrug it off with an "I don't care" attitude or laugh off your attempts at correction. This indifference and toughness is a defense mechanism against feeling guilt and feeds into the rationalization of not being at fault.

The final chapters focus on alternatives to scolding. The research shows that offering praise for appropriate behavior, reasoning, giving consequences, withholding privileges, time out and teaching the appropriate social skills do help a frustrated child make better behavioral choices. Many teachers have worked with "punishment and reward," a dichotomy that points to rewards as the opposite to punishment.

As educators, when we walk into a classroom, we should have high expectations for our students. We will have good days and we will have bad days. We need to remember that all children deserve to be nurtured even when they have not been nurturing to others. Our energy should go toward helping children feel good about solving their own problems. After all, children are at the mercy of institutions and schools for a massive 25,000 hours of their childhood. Reviewed by Linda P. Derogene, 7th-Grade Advanced Reading Teacher, Sawgrass Springs Middle School, FL, and Ph.D. student at Barry University, Miami Shores, FL
COPYRIGHT 2007 Association for Childhood Education International
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Derogene, Linda P.
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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