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Bipolar or Just Spoiled?

Posted on December 16, 2007 in Bipolar Disorder Morals & Ethics Psycho-bunk

`Oh, don’t bother me,’ said the Duchess; `I never could abide figures!’ And with that she began nursing her child again, singing a sort of lullaby to it as she did so, and giving it a violent shake at the end of every line:

`Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes:
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows it teases.’
(In which the cook and the baby joined):–
`Wow! wow! wow!’

While the Duchess sang the second verse of the song, she kept tossing the baby violently up and down, and the poor little thing howled so, that Alice could hardly hear the words:–

`I speak severely to my boy,
I beat him when he sneezes;
For he can thoroughly enjoy
The pepper when he pleases!’
`Wow! wow! wow!’

square430 Columnist John Rosemond thinks he knows what is best for toddlers and that is the rod. If his children have not yet escaped him, Rosemond may well be a good candidate for a Social Services intervention because he believes that there is no such thing as “Early Onset Bipolar Disorder”, just spoiled kids.

Especially intriguing is the Papolos’ list of “very common” symptoms for EOBD, including separation anxiety, tantrums, defiance, hyperactivity, inattentiveness and mood swings. Those “symptoms” will be familiar to anyone who has lived with a toddler.

Seemingly, the Papoloses would have us believe that behaviors associated with toddlerhood are actually manifestations of a disease that should be treated with drugs that have pronounced negative side effects (e.g., nausea, diarrhea, severe drowsiness, significant weight gain) as soon in the child’s life as possible….

In nearly every case (I actually know of no exceptions), these kids were cured of their criminal tendencies in short order by parents who did not suffer this abuse, parents who administered not drugs but quite old-fashioned discipline.

Rosemond runs his own little website called “Traditional Parenting” and you know what that is all about. His thought for the day (December 16, 2007) states:

Parental authority must be clearly established before the full potential for affection within the parent-child relationship can be released. Unresolved disciplinary issues create stress in a family. Resolve them, and relationships will be more relaxed.

Rosemond has attracted his critics including Cambridge Center for the Behavioral Sciences writer W. Joseph Wyatt. Wyatt at first admired Rosemond, but then noticed a troubling tendency on Rosemond’s part to romanticize “Grandma’s” use of the wooden spoon and worse implements as well as a decided obstinance when it came to recognizing the value of current research on child-rearing. A choice example:

a parent wrote to Rosemond that her 12-year-old son was generally unmotivated to do schoolwork. Restrictions had not worked. The parents had attempted none of the frequently effective positive strategies such as allowing the boy to earn points toward a desired item or activity by doing good schoolwork. Rosemond, after suggesting that medication might help, seemed out of ideas. He could only suggest to the parents that they stay the course, that they resign themselves to continuing the same efforts that had already been tried and had failed. He advised the parents to “…remember what Grandma said: You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” I’ll take a guess that the boy’s parents were disappointed with that advice.

A real whopper that Wyatt discovers is Rosemond’s theory about what causes ADHD:

What is Rosemond’s theory of its cause? It is the “flicker” of the TV screen which he contends (in the absence of any research evidence) “…compromises the brain’s ability to properly develop the structures necessary to a long attention span.” He deduced this “fact” after recalling the decade of the 1950s, when fewer people had TV and nobody was diagnosed with ADHD. This is absurd.

I agree that TV has had detrimental effects on child behavior. But the “flicker” isn’t the reason. Hasn’t Rosemond heard of the accumulating research on the influences of violent role models as seen by children on TV? And how would he explain away the 95% of children who are neither inattentive nor overly active? They watch TV too.

Rosemond is against positive reinforcement of good behavior. I find it terribly bemusing that he thinks paying children for doing basic chores such as weeding, mowing the lawn, etc. amount to teaching them that something can be had for nothing! Rosemond does not want to consider that the reverse is true: that when, for example, parents expect children to tend gardens that they have set up for their own pleasure — not the child’s — they are expecting something for nothing!

But let’s go back to the original point of the article. Is this kind of behavior just “normal toddlerhood”?

it’s hard to believe that at age 3, life with Leo was a living hell. His behavior was so bad that day care was not an option.

“The shortest time on record at day care was three hours before they called me and asked me to pick him up and said he would not be welcome back,” says his mother Kristen Massman.

Massman couldn’t understand why her son was so miserable.

“He would break furniture, hit his head against the wall continuously,” she recalls. “He would destroy his bedroom.

“I just did not enjoy being a mother.”

Leo was misdiagnosed with ADHD, which was a disaster as you might imagine.

His doctor [Papolos] believes stimulants caused Leo to spiral out of control, culminating in a horrifying crisis point.

“I was bringing him home from school. I opened the back door to help him out and he just took off and threw himself in front of an oncoming car,” says his mother.

“I remember sitting in the grass and holding him and saying “Why are you doing this? I don’t understood what’s wrong with you.'”

Leo is now on lithium, a mood stabilizer.

“I take these two in the afternoon, (and) all three of these in the morning,” says Leo, showing his pills.

“Keeping him happy now is much more important and could potentially prolong, you know, his life rather than losing him,” says Massman.

His life has turned around. His mother says all because of a clear diagnosis – one many doctors are reluctant to make. But for her and her son it was a lifesaver.

“It feels wonderful. I enjoy him now. I love being a mother. I love being his mother,” says Massman.

Just how many beatings would it take to bring this child into line with Rosemond’s program? I think we have here a non-medically trained pop psychologist who sees his turf being threatened by the new revolutions in medicine. Rosemond is not a Scientologist, but the new-fangled medical model of behavior threatens to take him out of the picture. If we can treat the problems with a pill and make the Leos of this world into happy children, what is there for Rosemond to do?

Rosemond is evidence of the terrible legacy of late nineteenth century Bible salesmen. Ignoring Jesus’s generous reaching out to youngsters when he was tired and Paul’s injunction against “scolding your children lest they lose heart”, he’s dug deep into the Book of Proverbs for his parenting counsel. “This is the only book you’ll ever need,” the Bible salesmen inveighed as they went from door to door. “This book has the answer for everything.” If you don’t like the answers from the real world, just open the leaves of the black book. And if you don’t like what Jesus and Paul have to say, just turn the pages until you find something you do like. That’s the root of the Fundamentalist Heresy which took hold of the popular Christian imagination in the course of the Twentieth Century. And in this age of careful research into the nature of the maturing of human beings, it is becoming the only source for the claims of loose cannons with leatherette-bound hearts.

Further Reading

  • Is Spanking OK? — Rosemond makes it so by saying that existing studies are questionable. Apparently, you can ask any question and the mere asking defeats whatever the findings are. What follows is a variation on the “God of the gaps” argument which Fundamentalists love to employ. You claim to defeat the arguments for nonspanking approaches simply by doubting them and then say “the only thing left over is to spank”.
  • Papolos: The Bipolar Child – I cannot say that I possess full confidence about this book having not read it, but seeing who is against it earns a recommendation here.
  • A recent study shows that close relationships with parents — where there is no fear on the part of the child in expressing her/his views, etc. — means a more independent young adult. Can such a child arise in a Rosemond household? Dare he subject his methodology to statistical investigation? Or will he cry that the deck is stacked?

[tags]morals, ethics, childcare, atheism, agnosticism, psychiatry, psychology, mental illness, bipolar, bipolar disorder, morals and ethics, psych-bunk, fundamentalism, biblidolotry[/tags]

In related news, check out how a bipolar man who also happened to be an observant Baptist fobbed himself off as a converted atheist; see how Fundie ministries exploited him.

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