The nature of parenting, the nurturing of children
Posted by metaphorical on 23 December 2006
The nature/nurture controversy is always going to be with us, and it’s never going to get simpler. It would be nothing more than interesting philosophic challenge or academic exercise, except that it has all kinds of implications for right action and moral judgment. Nowhere is this more apparent than the context of behavior-altering drug therapies.
The NY Times reported yesterday that for children with ADHD and similar behavior disorders, a strict behavioristic form of parenting can augment drug therapies and do more for children than just drugs alone; can help kids lower their needed drug intake; and in some cases can even eliminate the need for drugs.
In a comprehensive review, the American Psychological Association urged in August that for childhood mental disorders, “in most cases,” nondrug treatment “be considered first,” including techniques that focus on parents’ skills, as well as enlisting teachers’ help. [….]
“We are at a point where families who bring in a child ought to get a Chinese menu of treatments that are backed by some evidence, including not only medication but psychosocial or family interventions,” said Dr. John March, a child psychiatrist at Duke University. “Not to do so when we know some of these therapies work is, in my opinion, simply unethical. Then let the family choose which one they want.”
If the doctors have an obligation to present nondrug therapies, and if, in fact, they ought to be considered first, then don’t parents have an obligation to learn the necessary skills and use them?
“People are so stressed out, and it’s so much easier to say, ‘Here, take this pill and go to your room; leave me alone,’ ” Lisa Popczynski said on a recent Monday after work. Peter sat on the couch, hunched over his homework, while her husband, Roman, occupied Scott, 8.
“But what I would say is that if you are willing to take on the responsibility of extra parenting, you can make a big difference,” said Ms. Popczynski, an interior designer. “I compare parenting to driving. We all learn pretty quickly how to drive a car. But if you have to drive a Mack truck, you’re going to need some training.”
It’s not exactly surprising that the apparent rise in behavioral disorders among children not only coincides with, but might be caused by, the apparent rise in what might be called the minimalist style of parenting: heavy on the videogames, light on reading; homework, leisure time spent together, and the do’s and don’ts of civil behavior. What’s society’s obligation to kids in the face of bad parenting?