RIGHT VS. WRONG by Barbara M. Stilwell


Raising a Child with a Conscience
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A conscience-raising guide to bringing up children.

Medical doctors Stilwell and Galvin are involved in child psychiatry teaching and practice at Indiana University, while Kopta (Psychology/Univ. of Evansville) is a widely published psychotherapy researcher. All three draw upon their various specializations in the treatment of disabled or abnormal children to develop a coherent sense of ethics (or `oughtness`). Various parents, teachers, and child-care professions get advice according to five different stages of conscience development, so that the adult's expectations are made more gradual and appropriate. The authors see children as half-animal and half-angel, but they believe that too many of the little devils are deeply in touch with their inner Bart Simpson—whom they call `the Imp.` Readers are shown how to find the needy, innocent, and even humorous aspects of the Imp's bad behavior. Instead of losing it with a punishment that exacerbates the problem, the adult should ask the child what he thinks he did wrong and how he plans to make up for it. With patience, we are told, morality can be prompted out of anyone—even a pre-teenager conforming to trendy nonconformities out of insecurity. The child who errs has to save face, and the parents’ job is offering reparation (`restoring moral-emotional equilibrium`). Stilwell, Galvin, and Kopta paint an `optimistic picture of individual conscience development . . . which guides moral wisdom and practice . . . on an interlocking connection between nature and nurture.` There are suggested readings that range from Robert Coles's more speculative work to the texts of hardcore psychologists and behaviorists.

Much of the book's Pollyannaish sensibility and `Golden Rule` condescension is outweighed by sensible ethics and useful coping strategies. (seven b&w photos)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-253-33709-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2000