More From the Way, Way Back Machine.

Before there were Love and Logic and Positive Discipline, there was Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. These books by Betty MacDonald were some of my favorites in elementary school. I think I had them on permanent check-out from my school library in fifth grade. And you know what? They’re still delightful.

mrs-piggle-wiggle_2487824Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a magic woman who lives in an upside-down house. She not only loves children, but she also understands them better than anybody else. Certainly, she understands them better than their parents do. The parents are often stumped by their children’s behavior issues, and they ask Mrs. P-W for one of her “cures.” So the child who won’t take a bath is allowed to wallow in her filth until her parents can plant radishes on her. The girls who quarrel all the time are shown what they sound like when Mom and Dad mimic them. The boy who won’t clean up his room gets trapped by his own clutter and then misses the fun parade. You get the idea.

At some visceral level, even as a child, I always thought Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s cures made a certain amount of sense. It wasn’t until thirty years later that her methods became all the rage in psychological research. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (and Betty MacDonald) knew what best practice was long before the child development experts!


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