It’s easy to help child over­come ‘Af­fec­tive Bas­ket-Case Dis­or­der’

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - Puzzles - BY JOHN ROSEMOND

One of my fa­vorite rock songs of all time is “For What It’s Worth,” writ­ten by Stephen Stills and orig­i­nally recorded by Buf­falo Spring­field. It be­gins, “There’s some­thing hap­pen­ing here; what it is ain’t ex­actly clear….”

That lyric oc­curred to me as I con­tem­plated the ever-in­creas­ing num­ber of sto­ries I am hear­ing of young chil­dren with cloth- ing and food “is­sues.” These kids com­plain that their cloth­ing itches or feels tight or their food tastes or feels “funny.” Re­ports of hys­te­ria and throw­ing up are com­mon.

These com­plaints and over-the-top be­hav­iors of­ten re­sult in a di­ag­no­sis of Sen­sory In­te­gra­tion Dis­or­der, con­cern­ing which there is zero hard ev­i­dence ver­i­fy­ing the pseudo-sci­en­tific claims be­ing made by di­ag­nos­ing pro­fes­sion­als.

When they say things like “your child’s brain has dif­fi­culty re­ceiv­ing and pro­cess­ing sen­sory in­for­ma­tion,” and “your child ex­pe­ri­ences things like taste and tex­ture dif­fer­ently than does a nor- mal child,” they are throw­ing darts blind­folded. These claims are un­prov­able, to say the least.

I don’t par­tic­u­larly rel­ish the taste of some foods but will eat them with­out com­plaint if some­one else pre­pares and serves them to me. Does this mean there’s a prob­lem with the wiring in a cer­tain part of my brain? No, it means I am con­sid­er­ate. When it comes to con­sum­ing cer­tain foods, the set­ting, not my tongue, dic­tates whether I eat them or not.

When mak­ing those de­ci­sions, I take other peo­ple’s feel­ings into con­sid­er­a­tion. (By the way, a cou­ple of my sweaters have itchy col­lars. I pull them on and force my brain to get over it.)

Young chil­dren are by na­ture self-cen­tered, mean­ing they rarely if ever take other peo­ple’s feel­ings into con­sid­er­a­tion. To a young child, nearly ev­ery­thing is all about The One and Only Moi. Fur­ther­more, chil­dren are soap-opera fac­to­ries. It is an act of love for one’s neigh­bors for par­ents to teach chil­dren that their feel­ings do not rule other peo­ple’s be­hav­ior.

But many of to­day’s par­ents are not im­press­ing that un­der­stand­ing on their chil­dren. In­stead, they re­gard their chil­dren’s feel­ings as mean­ing­ful ex­pres­sions of in­ner psy­cho­log­i­cal states that par­ents must strive to af­firm. In their view, fail­ing to do so may bring on a psy­cho­log­i­cal apoca­lypse.

Iron­i­cally, be­cause they try to un­der­stand and af­firm what is es­sen­tially ir­ra­tional – chil­dren’s self-cen­tered and hy­per­ac­tive emo­tional ex­pres­sions – said well-in­ten­tioned par­ents wind up bring­ing on one psy­cho­log­i­cal apoca­lypse after an­other. (For the record, a child’s emo­tional ex­pres­sions are not all ir­ra­tional … only most.)

Be­cause of men­tal­health pro­pa­ganda, to­day’s par­ents take this stuff se­ri­ously. And so, in­stead of say­ing, at the first com­plaint of itchy clothes or “funny-tast­ing” food, “You’re go­ing to wear/eat it any­way, end of dis­cus­sion,” to­day’s par­ents be­gin jump­ing around like manic mar­i­onettes try­ing to make life per­fect for their lit­tle dar­lings.

The fol­low­ing is ax­iomatic: When par­ents as­sign cre­dence to ev­ery emo­tion a child puts out there, he will quickly de­velop what I call Af­fec­tive Bas­ket-Case Dis­or­der. He learns, after all, that if he acts like he is hav­ing an ABCD episode, his par­ents will change their be­hav­ior and re­vise their ex­pec­ta­tions.

Un­der the cir­cum­stances, the child suf­fers be­cause peo­ple who are driven by emo­tion are not happy peo­ple. His par­ents also suf­fer be­cause liv­ing with a per­son with ABCD – no mat­ter the per­son’s age – is highly stress­ful. In­vari­ably, the child’s par­ents be­gin act­ing like emo­tional bas­ket-cases.

Yep, there’s some­thing hap­pen­ing here all right, but I hap­pen to think it’s per­fectly clear. Fifty or so years ago, the men­tal health com­mu­nity per­suaded par­ents chil­dren had a right to ex­press ir­ra­tional feel­ings freely. It’s been an in­creas­ingly down­hill ride ever since.

Visit fam­ily psy­chol­o­gist John Rosemond’s web­site www.john­rose­mond.com. Read­ers may send email to ques­tions@rosemond.com.

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