The original version was published in educational Horizons
©2021 Gary K. Clabaugh
See, also, Poisoning Educational Practice
Once upon a time parents said to lack the courage and/or interest to set limits and impose responsibilities were thought to produce ‘spoiled’ children. "Brat" was the common parlance. Happily, it’s now known that a child's upbringing has little or nothing to do with such an unwelcome outcome. Children who behave like "spoiled brats" really are suffering from “oppositional disorder.”
Yes, indeed, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders, oppositional disorder’s symptoms include:
(1) violations of minor rules
(2) temper tantrums
(4) provocative behavior
No wonder kids afflicted with this ailment are often thought of as ‘brats.’ The malady mimics brattiness with uncanny accuracy. That’s precisely how it escaped detection until the late 20th Century. Today, however, there is a growing awareness of the disorder's existence. So enlightened parents who used to "cure" Johnny by sending him to bed without supper, now realize that he needs: clinical diagnosis via psychological testing and assessment, chart notes, a case history, test reports, psychotherapy and/or behavior therapy possibly combined with psychopharmacological treatment using drugs such as: Ritilin, Xanax, Librium, Klonopin, Tranxene, or Valium.
This syndrome is not easily grasped by the unenlightened. I certainly misunderstood my own children's symptoms. I remember the time I asked my adolescent son to take out the trash. He rather snottily retorted, "Why should I?" I emphatically replied, "Because I'll kick your butt if you don’t’ He responded, ”That’s a good reason!" and took out the trash. At the time I thought I was following the Biblical admonition to raise up a child in the way he should go. I now realize he required treatment, not threats.
In adult life the young man in question has been doing very well. Still, I suspect his college major, philosophy, and his minor, art history, were symptomatic of oppositional disorder. Plus I’m certain this infirmity was why, in high school, he cut gym class, refused to join the Young Republicans, disliked Pat Boone, opined that Reverend Oral Roberts was a con man, and refused to wear a pocket protector. Now I worry that this insidious malady might, like the shingles virus, lye dormant within him just waiting to re-erupt and cause more trouble.
Social Neanderthals claim kids ‘diagnosed’ as disordered typically need little more than smart love, consistent limits and a good old-fashioned spanking if their disobedience nearly gets them killed. But the enlightened realize such close calls are really a cry for help.Reactionaries opine that the therapeutic model is popular because it lets weak-willed parents off the hook, enriches clinicians, and pumps up big pharma’s profits. But the enlightened have come to realize "brattiness" is an outdated, even dangerous, coprolite of a by-gone era that must be abandoned in favor of the therapeutic.