Saturday, March 08, 2008

Nearest book

David Hingsburger was tagged for something awhile back. You take the nearest book, go to page 123, and type up three sentences. I'm not sure, from the instructions, if the sentences are meant to be sentences 5, 6 and 7 or 6, 7 and 8. Anyway, he said people could tag themselves if they wished, rather than him tagging people. So I've tagged myself.
Nearest book is the abc of CHILD CARE, by Allan Fromme, Ph.D. It was first published in 1960, but my copy is the 4th edition, published in 1975. Since I'm not sure which 3 sentences to quote, as described above, I'll quote 4 instead.

"b. If we are fortunate enough to have our own outdoor play area for our child, it is worth equipping it in such a way as to attract other children. Although this may sound extravagant, it is economical in the long run to have a sand box big enough for several children, with enough sand toys for all. One outdoor swing is never as effective as two or three. A place to play, indoors or out, where children are not constantly nagged about the mess or noise they are making is in itself attractive enough for children to want to return to of their own accord." (In a list of suggestions on improving your child's friendships.)

Now, that's not one of the really interesting parts of the book, so I'll quote a few of the more interesting (accurate or not) parts:

"There is no such thing as an aggressive child who also feels loved. Children who are habitually and openly overaggressive are the very ones who baffle their parents the most by their extravagant if infrequent demonstrations of thoughfulness, love, affection, and begging for forgiveness. ... Superficially, of course, we assume that we all love our children and that therefore none of them should be aggressive. No doubt we do love them, but it is equally true that we don't always put it in evidence sufficiently clearly for our children to feel our love. A child, for example, doesn't see our love when we scrub the dirt off from behind his ears. It is equally true, too, that in addition to the love we have for our children, we frequently feel annoyed, irritated, offended, impatient, and even desperate about them. Without realizing it, we sometimes express these feelings very much more dramatically and clearly than we do the more tender sentiments of love."

There are aggressive kids who act that way for reasons other than feeling unloved. Although many of those kids end up feeling unloved, it's simply because many people don't act loving towards an aggressive child, rather than because feeling unloved makes them aggressive. Apart from that, this statement is very true. Many aggressive kids act that way because they feel unloved, and being loved doesn't necessarily equal feeling loved. With autistic kids, especially, they are more frequently corrected and redirected. They also hear parents describing them as having a problem that may have stolen their child, be trapping their child, be an enemy that must be fought, or other forms of nasty imagery about autism. Those statements might be less harmful if the child's perception matched them - for example, if they really did feel trapped - but most autistic children don't naturally feel trapped by their own brain style. (Some feel trapped by movement difficulties, but even that need not be seen that way.) The child often wonders 'if you knew this was who I really am, would you hate me?' and feel your expression of love isn't real.

"The child can be spared considerable confusion, in many instances, if the divorce is as complete for him as it is for his parents. His father's visits almost always lead to additional rejection when they are eventually discontinued. The younger a child is at the time of divorce, the easier it is for the man to divorce himself from his child also. Although this may not be easy, in any case, and is not supported by the law, it is merely a recommendation worth considering. The child should be adequately prepared for his father's departure in either event."

"Most important of all, replace your child's father as quickly as possible by remarriage. Don't try to be a mother and a father to your child. You can't do it. You'll remain a mother, make your child excessively dependent on you, and confuse the masculine and feminine roles in life for him. The longer you put off remarriage, the more difficult it becomes for you and the less easily do children accept the idea. Remarry - it's the best thing you can do for yourself and your children."

"In the case of the death of a child's mother or father, the recommendations above still pertain. However, the most important thing one can do is to supply a substitute as soon as possible. A child's daily physical care is the paramount issue. No woman can be father and mother to a child alone, nor can any man expect to perform the functions of mother and father himself. The greater problem, of course, is the death of the mother. Ideally, some immediate substitution should be made. A maid or grandmother are good temporary solutions. Remarriage is the best permanent one."

All of this advice is precisely the opposite of what is really best for the child. Absentee fathers are a big problem, and this should not be encouraged unless the father is abusive. Regarding remarriage: a) single parenting is not a big problem, provided they have (and use) a good support system, b) you can't be choosy if you're in a hurry to get married, especially since many people don't want to be stepparents, and therefore are more likely to make a poor choice, and c) children need time to adjust and grieve (especially in the case of death rather than divorce) and even after many years may be unable to accept a 'substitute' (in fact stepparents must never be portrayed as a substitute, because they are not the same person as the child's parent). The only children to whom this advice wouldn't necessarily be damaging are children under 2, who will be fine as long as they have good parenting (however, making a poor choice in spouse or having unresolved grief can adversely affect them long term).
The other advice they have for children in case of death is also damaging, because it encourages the parents to minimise it and ignore or suppress the child's grief, in the idea that children grieve not because of their own loss but rather modeling from parents, and that grieving is unhealthy for children.

"Under no circumstances is spanking your child the best technique of discipline. No doubt you have friends who feel differently about this. Certainly you must have heard them say, 'Why, when my child behaved that way, I gave him a good spanking and that was the end of it.' They're telling you the truth, too, in their naive way. Probably it was the end of it - from what they could tell.
But were they in the best possible position to make this diagnosis? They were interested in a specific result and got that result, but do they know what else happened in the thought, feeling or behavior of their child not obviously or immediately related to the very specific misbehavior they were trying to correct?
Spanking a child is effective only if it hurts him - hurts him enough so that he becomes afraid, not only of the thing he might have done, but of you. ... Spanking our child has still another unfortunate effect upon him. Just as he learns to fear us as a result, he will also learn to resent and hate us. Since our child also quite naturally loves us, we place an enormous burden of conflict upon him by infusing his feelings of love with those of fear, resentment and hate as well."

This seems to me to be very accurate, not only about spanking but any kind of aversive. Some aversives don't exactly hurt, but any effective aversive is unpleasant enough that the child will fear getting it. You can fear eating something disgusting, for example, even though the unpleasant taste isn't painful.

[children up to about 10 don't mourn much unless parents overburden them with their own grief]

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Blogger Penny L. Richards said...

Ettina, please email me so we can get you lined up for a disability blog carnival edition--I'm glad to have you host, but I can't find your email address to set it up... ;)

5:50 AM  
Blogger Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

This book sounds like it could have been written in the 1950s (given the gender role attitudes it seems to reflect). Was it?

Andrea S.

6:07 AM  
Blogger Ettina said...

I mention in the post that the first edition was written in 1960, and my copy, the 4th edition, was written in 1975.

6:20 PM  

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