©1999 Gary K. Clabaugh
See, also, Poisoning Educational Practice
Once upon a time parents who lacked the courage and/or interest necessary to set limits and impose responsibilities were thought to produce lamed and defiled children. "Spoiled brats" was the common lexicon. Happily, this benighted notion no longer enjoys currency. We now know that a child's upbringing may really have little to do with "brattiness." Children behaving like "spoiled brats" are often really suffering from an illness known as oppositional disorder.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders, oppositional disorder's symptoms include:
clinical diagnosis via psychological testing and assessment
chart notes, a case history, test reports, and probably
psychotherapy and/or behavior therapy possibly combined with
psychopharmacological treatment using drugs like:
Ritilin, Xanax, Librium, Klonopin, Tranxene, Valium, Dalmane, Paxipam, Ativan, Serax, Centrax, Doral, Restoril, Halcion, Thorazine, Vesprin, Mellaril, Serentil, Tindal, Prolixin, Trilafon, Stelazine, Taractan, Navane, Loxitane or Haldol.
I report the discovery of oppositional syndrome with considerable mortification, recalling any number of times I may have misconceived my own children's symptoms for budding brattiness. I recall with chagrin, for instance, the time I asked my adolescent son to take out the trash. He griped, "Why should I do that?" and I thoughtlessly responded "Because I'll kick your butt if you don't!" He appraised my response, then replied, "That's a good reason!" and took out the trash. At the time I thought I was "raising up a child in the way he should go." Now I recognize that he probably required treatment, not threats.
The young man in question is now a year out of college and making his own way in the world. Still, I wonder. Was his choice of a philosophy major in college symptomatic of untreated oppositional disorder? Was that why he never joined the Young Republican Club, hated Pat Boone and refused to wear a pocket protector? If, as I now suspect, oppositional disorder explains much of this adolescent behavior, does the malady still linger in his psyche -- perhaps even his genes? Is it lying dormant, like tuberculosis, just waiting to erupt and rain ruin on a marriage or career? (After all, many wives and bosses value concurrence.) Sadly, this could happen, and more besides. In fact, if the disorder is genetic in origin, it might even be passed on to his kids.
Reactionaries claim that the therapeutic model of child rearing (and school teaching) has gotten entirely out of hand. This archetype, they contend, has surreptitiously, and largely without reflection, become
doctrine that "informs" contemporary child rearing and schooling. Some of these critics even assert that lots of kids who are now "diagnosed" as disordered, need little more than love and limits; and that the therapeutic approach to child rearing is nose-bleed high in popularity because it:
lets parents off the hook,
increases drug company profits and
garners school districts more state and federal assistance.
Those of us who have come to terms with the modern modus of diagnosis and remediation, know better than this. We realize that "brattiness," like guilt and responsibility, is passé -- a curious, even dangerous, coprolite of a by-gone age.