Emotional Abuse Defined

Ever wonder just what emotional abuse is? Tune in to Dr. Laura's radio talk show. But please don't listen for more than a minute or two. Her completely wrong advise about how to treat your family members is surpassed only by her flagrant abuse of the callers themselves. She is a master of shame and humiliation masquerading as help. The antidote to her poison: respect. People thrive on it.

Dr. Spock goes to heaven

You may have missed it in the news, but a couple of years ago Dr. Spock died. He was the author of the hugely popular text on raising children in the fifties and sixties. Succeeding authors have made great improvements on his work, so I didn't think much about his passing, until an obituary I read in the editorial pages helped me put his message in proper context. Dr. Spock's views were a big leap from the "children are to be seen and not heard" pedagogy that came before him.

Corporeal punishment, isolation, and shame were tactics that had been widely touted prior to his book. Instead, he urged parents to trust their own instincts and not to treat their children in ways that don't feel right, even if advised to by "experts". In his trust of parents he modeled how parents might trust their children. And with his faith in human nature he won the trust of a whole generation. Spock took considerable heat for his views. He was blamed by some for the rebelliousness of the children raised under his standard of "permissiveness". But Spock stood along side the young adults whose values he was held responsible for. In 1968 Spock was arrested for protesting the Vietnam war. When questioned why a pediatrician would involve himself in such politics, Spock asked what the point of raising healthy children is, if we then ship them all off to be killed.

I know my parents read Dr. Spock, though they had been raised without his guidance. And I now feel grateful to the man. My father complained throughout my childhood about how good we kids had it compared to kids in his day. When he joked that children should be seen and not heard, he was telling us what it had been like for him. When his dad said it, it was real. My parents suffered in ways I did not have to. And there are scars on their characters that I have judged them for, without knowing that it was changes they made in their parenting that saved me from being hurt in the same way.

My freedom to think for myself and my ability to understand human nature are things I have been very proud of, as if they were all my doing. In fact, it was the work of Dr. Spock, other child advocates, my parents, and my teachers that brought me to where I am. With Spock's help under our belts I wonder, "Now how can we make it even better for our kids?"

© 2008 Tim Hartnett

Other Father Issues, Books

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Parents are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth. - Peter Ustinov

Tim Hartnett, MFT is father to Molly at their home in Santa Cruz, CA. Tim also works part time as a writer, psychotherapist and men's group leader. If you have any feedback, or would like to receive the monthly column, "Daddyman Speaks" by Tim Hartnett regularly via email, (free and confidential) send your name and email address to E-Mail Tim Hartnett, 911 Center St. Suite "C", Santa Cruz, CA 95060, 831.464.2922 voice & fax.

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