Behaving Badly

ParticipantParenting is such a difficult job that it is amazing that all of our kids – ALL OF THEM – don’t end up being ax murderers or regularly robbing liquor stores.

“The mother begins to destroy the child the moment it’s born,” wrote John B. Watson, who founded the behaviorist movement in the early 20th century. How would you like to have ol’ John be your father with an attitude like that? Among other beliefs, behaviorism theorizes that children should be shown no affection whatsoever in the form of kissing, hugging, or kind words. Watson believed that affection towards children was dangerous, and stated, “Most mothers should be indicted for psychological murder.” Happy Father’s Day. The man even wrote a then-popular parenting book entitled Psychological Care of Infant and Child. Thank goodness by time I was born, Psychological Care of Infant and Child had been replaced by the much kinder Baby and Child Care, by Dr. Benjamin Spock, the child-rearing bible upon which my mother depended.

I’m sure that I studied behaviorism in college in the general psychology classes I kept taking in the hopes that they would be an easy A. As it happens, I don’t think I got a grade above C in any of my psychology classes. I blame it on my mother.

I came across the behaviorist movement while considering reading a novel called Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax. Behave is a novel about Dr. Watson, but even more about his mistress-turned-wife Rosalie Raynor Watson, who apparently supported his child-rearing beliefs and reared their children accordingly. I actually got the book from the library, and just couldn’t read it. It seemed too horrific a plot. I turned the book back to the library for the next poor Dr. Spock-reared Baby Boomer to read.

Child-rearing notions change constantly, of course. I came across an article that purported that our dependence on saying to our children (and grandchildren) good job is going to make them blithering idiots who are (or will be) completely unable to be self-actualized or to come up with any ideas for themselves. They will spend the rest of their lives drooling and looking for positive reinforcement from others.

Not being a psychologist or a sociologist, but just a low-life journalist/writer, I can’t say what child-rearing theories work and which don’t. But I can say that I am witnessing a generation of young adults who have 20 or 30 Participant ribbons on their walls and who are satisfied with that because they all did a good job. I’m frankly in favor of rewarding 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners, but nobody is asking me.

I had the misfortune of having to make a trip to the emergency room last week (though thankfully I avoided a hospital visit). Stomach issues led me to believe that I was once again having one of my oh-too-regular bowel obstructions. As it happens, I was, but it was only a partial obstruction and resolved itself, thereby negating the need for either the dreaded nasal-gastric tube or a hospital admission.

But the reason I’m mentioning this fact is that I was being looked at by a young physician’s assistant, who simply couldn’t have been nicer. Unfortunately, her inability to make a decision led me to believe that she had been told good job a bit too often when, in fact, her job had only been so-so.

Here’s what the oh-so-nice young woman said to me: We will need to determine whether or not you have a bowel obstruction. That means you will have to have a CT scan. Of course, we could also find out by doing an X-ray. Which do you think we should do?

Nope. I can correct your spelling. I can explain dangling participles to you. Ask me the difference between principal and principle.


She finally called my GI doctor at home and he made the decision that the situation warranted a CT Scan, without asking me.

Good job, Doc.