About a week ago an article appeared on the ‘net concerning an attempt by parents to ban ice cream vendors from a playground in Brooklyn, New York. The piece was reprinted in the New York Post. Apparently some of the parents are upset because the arrival of the vendors stimulates requests for ice cream from the children, which results in confrontation and bitterness.
Responsible parents everywhere will recognize the dilemma. Ice cream has little or no nutritional value, but children like it. So do we stand our ground or do we give in?
When I was young an ice cream van (Mr. Whippy) would come round our street every afternoon. We would run in and ask our mother if we could have money for ice cream. She would say no. (“I’ll give you ice cream!”) And we would go back to playing tag or handball, or whatever we were doing.
Back then (the old days) it was generally understood that small children are, by nature, willful, self-centered, and bad-tempered, and that eradicating these traits and instilling something more sociable was an intrinsic part of parenting. It was also understood that this socializing process required the routine delivery of unpleasant consequences when children misbehaved. Now in the old days, this usually meant beating the tar out of them, and I’m not advocating a return to that sort of thing. But you can’t raise children properly without confrontation and negative consequences.
So how did we get to this stage, where parents are trying to ban ice cream vendors rather than take charge of their children? And what has this got to do with psychiatry?
For the past fifty or sixty years, the APA has been engaged in turf expansion. Their position is that every human problem is a mental illness, and they have been remarkably successful in promoting this notion to other medical practitioners and to the general public.
According to the APA, there is no such thing as a misbehaved child. If a child is defiant, he has oppositional defiance disorder; if he’s an out and out delinquent, he has conduct disorder; if he won’t pay attention to the teacher, and runs around the classroom, he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; and so on. These are all mental illnesses. So according to the APA, these children don’t need discipline and correction, they need “treatment” – which invariably means pharmaceutical products. Parents can’t take care of these problems – they need to take these children to experts.
The result of all this is that children are consuming more pills each year, and parents are being disempowered. They can’t even say no to their children’s requests for ice cream! And, of course, we’re building more and more prisons.
And all for the sake of psychiatric turf and pharmaceutical dollars!