Keynes famously said "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist" and in a similar way, many of us are probably unwitting inheritors of a behaviourist view of parenting that suggests we somehow *should* be punishing or rewarding behaviour at its face value.
Lawrence Cohen offers another perspective, based on personal and professional experience, and two simple and reasonably common-sense ideas. The first idea is attachment theory, which he explains with the metaphor of a cup - when a child's "attachment cup" is full (of attachment and connectedness to an attachment figure) then they have the confidence and security to explore their world and the people in it. The second idea is that children use play to model and test whatever's on their mind, especially roles and relationships.
So when a child says "you're a stinker", Cohen's response is to take it playfully not personally. He whispers "Don't tell anyone my secret name - only my closest friends call me Stinker" and the play begins.
The whole book is informed by his life as a father and his work as a play therapist, and I have found it to be immensely practical in reducing the stresses and conflicts caused by misunderstanding situations and communications. I'm currently re-reading the book after a year or so, and it's almost scary to recognise how many recent minor parenting triumphs had their roots in my first reading of the book.
Is there a down-side? Of course - sometimes it's hard to find the energy to play on the floor, or the time just to sit together on the sofa. But how much energy and time does it take to do things the other way, and with how much less laughter and pleasure?