We decided many years ago, as a culture, that hitting children was wrong - but are the reward-and-punishment schemes and the emotional manipulation that we use instead any better? All alike are aimed at manipulating children into doing what we want them to do - and where is the morality in that?
It's a challenging idea, and most of this book is informal, conversational, and persuasive. It recognises that there are fundamental questions at stake: Chapter 6 is entitled "Do right and wrong (and good and bad) exist?". The ideal held up constantly is of adults and children interacting as people by equal and fair negotiation. This is difficult enough with teenagers; here it is the ideal from birth. The case may seem boldly overstated, but it has a serious point to make. Giving (and therefore by implication occasionally withholding) stickers and stars and housepoints and sweets and treats and even gushing praise could well be just as harmful as an occasional clip on the back of the leg used to be, depending on how it is done, and what the purpose of the manipulation might be - because all these rewards and punishments are about manipulation at some level.
The conversational and persuasive style of the book can seem bewildering, emotionally exhausting and even guilt-inducing at times - so it is a great relief when Chapter 11 finally lists the author's positive recommendations for interaction between the generations, and they all sound like achievable goals, from enjoying things together, taking a genuine interest, and giving the child space in the broadest sense, to setting a good example, saying what we're thinking and feeling, and pointing out clearly comprehensible and visible causes and effects - but it has to be said (if we still want to feel guilty) the imbalance of power remains.
This is not an academic thesis, or a complete child-care manual, but it is a worthwhile corrective to many current assumptions, and it will set you thinking about every aspect of your interaction with the younger generations.