Haim G. Ginott (1922-1973)
Haim Ginott was a clinical psychologist, child therapist, parent educator, and author whose work has had a substantial impact on the way adults relate to children. He began his career as an elementary school teacher in Israel in 1947 before immigrating to the United States. There he attended Columbia University in New York City, earning a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1952.
Ginott's work with troubled children at the Jacksonville, Florida, Guidance Clinic helped him refine his unique combination of compassion and boundary setting. While many of his contemporaries favored one or the other, Ginott wove the two into a seamless whole that showed respect for children's feelings while setting limits on their behavior. Ginott said that he was strict with unacceptable behavior but permissive with feelings. His aim was to help parents socialize their children while simultaneously cultivating their emotional well being. Ginott's books, Between Parent and Child, Between Parent and Teenager, and Teacher and Child, were popular for many years and were translated into thirty languages. Rather than accuse, cajole, or correct parents in his parenting groups, he showed compassion for their struggle even as he encouraged them to listen with understanding and empathy to their children. His method for working with parents is described by Arthur R. Orgel (1980).
At the heart of Ginott's method is the recognition that denying feelings makes them more intense and confused. By contrast, the acknowledgment of feelings allows people to heal and consequently become better problem solvers. For example, Ginott wrote of a twelve-year-old girl who was tense and tearful when her cousin left after spending the summer with her. Ginott recommended that parents acknowledge their children's feelings in situations like this with responses such as "You miss her already" and "The house must seem kind of empty to you without Susie around."
Ginott's continuing impact is underscored in the influential book by John Gottman on raising emotionally intelligent children: "Ginott's theories had never been proven using empirically sound, scientific methods. But …I can provide the first quantifiable evidence to suggest that Ginott's ideas were essentially correct. Empathy not only matters; it is the foundation of effective parenting" (p. 35). Following Ginott's example, Gottman encourages parents to be "emotion coaches" rather than being dismissive, disapproving, or laissez-faire.
While Ginott's influence is evident in works by Gottman and also by his students Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, his greatest contribution and continuing legacy may be teaching the communication skills that help parents relate to their children in a caring and understanding way without diminishing parental authority.
Gottman, John M. Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.
Orgel, Arthur R. "Haim Ginott's Approach to Parent Education."In M. J. Fine ed., Handbook on Parent Education. New York: Academic Press, 1980.
Publications by Ginott
Teacher and Child. New York: Macmillan, 1972.
Between Parent and Teenager. New York: Macmillan, 1969.
Between Parent and Child. New York: Macmillan, 1965.
H. Wallace Goddard