Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Making Our Children Conform Using Mental Trickery

Here is an absolutely excellent article by Elizabeth Weil in the New Republic in which she analyzes the increasing use of various therapeutic techniques to get kids to conform to expected classroom behavior. It is a more subtle but insidious form of pathologizing children who are being normal children.  Much of it is predicated on the now well known delayed gratification studies of young children.  You've heard it before--the test child is told not to eat the marshmallow in order to get two marshmallows in a few minutes.

Everyone who has a child with childhood impulses is immediately struck by inner fear.  Is my child the one who can't wait?  What does this mean for her/his future career?

Now this is the basis for all kinds of behavior modification schemes used in schools.  The problems Weil outlines include that (1) we are telling our children they are mentally sick or wrong, and (2) the empirical evidence does does not support the actual interventions being used.

It is yet another case of wanting to believe this is the right way to do things because it sounds good.

Please take a look, it is worth the read.