“Hand in Hand” parenting is the latest iteration of progressive (nouveau, unverified) childrearing. I became aware of HIH several weeks ago, courtesy of a grandmother whose daughter and son-in-law are practitioners. She was both amused and appalled. Intrigued, I went to the HIH website (handinhandparenting.org) to see for myself.
The first tab I opened concerned toddler aggression. According to the folks at Hand in Hand, toddlers hit — initially at least — because they are experimenting with behavior just like they experiment on material things like magazines, which they tend to rip to shreds. They’re just trying to discover how the world works. They don’t mean to destroy things. Likewise, according to HIH, they don’t mean to hurt people and punishing them for something they did not mean to do is likely to make matters worse.
Really? A toddler sees another child playing with a certain toy. He wants the toy. He attempts to snatch the toy from the other child. The child hangs on to the toy, so our toddler clamps down on the child’s forearm with his teeth. Are we to believe that said toddler was only engaging in a “what if” experiment? He clearly bit because the toy’s possessor did not immediately surrender it.
It is up to HIH to prove their contention that said toddler did not mean to hurt the child. They cannot because it is impossible to prove a negative. Hand in Hand does not want to admit that human nature includes the potential of deliberately causing harm to others, so they propose that a child who deliberately causes harm to another is only engaging in an innocent experiment. It’s a lovely idea, but it ignores the evidence.
It is by cutting such lovely ideas out of whole cloth that parenting progressives subtly assert their moral superiority. To wit, only morally inferior individuals think young children are capable of malice aforethought. The fact is, young children would commit wholesale parricide if, like most other species, they grew to full size in a year or two. Imagine being attacked by a 200-pound toddler in the throes of a maniacal tantrum.
The problem with the children-are-incapable-of-malevolence fantasy is that it generally comes back to bite the dreamer. When the dreamer’s child does something malevolent (e.g. bites another child), the dreamer becomes confused because his fantasy does not match reality.
His bewilderment incapacitates his ability to seize the moment and act, with calm purpose, such that the child never bites again. A big deal is made, but nothing is done. So, the child bites again.
Hand in Hand maintains that children who are punished for aggressing toward others will aggress even more. Punishment makes them feel like they are bad people, and so they hit even more because they have come to associate hitting with self-loathing. Pure psychobabble, that.
Hand in Hand recommends that when a young child hits, the parent should hold the child tightly, preventing further aggression, and say things like, “No one is mad at you. You’re my special girl, and I will stay right here with you” and “You’re going to have a good morning with your friends. I’ll stay until things are just right with them.”
Which are examples of why the above grandmother was both amused and appalled.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.