Inquiring Minds Want to Know | Letters | Chicago Reader

Inquiring Minds Want to Know 

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To the editors:

I just finished reading the article "Tot Control," by Robert McClory [November 13]. As I have a three-year-old son, I have been attending parenting lectures and seminars to learn and better understand the career I began three years ago with no training and no skills. I picked up this issue of the Reader eager to find out what behavior modification was. Actually this is putting it mildly--my eyes bugged out, and I greedily and voraciously snatched the paper up.

The explanation of behavior modification, and what Tuesday's Child does, was good. It appears that they enable parents to get their child's attention, and then give the parents some good advice, and confidence that they can direct their children.

But I had hoped for a better analysis of whether or not behavior modification can create problems--which was the subtitle of the article.

Child psychotherapist, Ann Kaplan, as quoted in the article says that "behavior modifying approaches may be useful, as when there is a simple failure to communicate or use good judgment . . . but in other situations, they can be dangerous." When is failure to communicate on any level ever simple? What situations? What would Lavigne and Augustyn (of Tuesday's Child) say about these "other situations"? Would they be knowledgeable enough, and are they thorough enough in their screening to recognize severe problems and seriously ill children, and recommend other therapy in those cases?

Laya Frischer, another psychotherapist quoted in the article, says that behavior modification is manipulative and controlling, and that when we manipulate children they learn to manipulate back. How would she suggest positively directing the energies of a three-year-old and maintaining a nonchaotic life for the family, without some (actually, considerable) manipulation of that child? Whether your style is corporal or democratic, there have to be certain rules, and certain results for nonconforming behavior, and I call that package "manipulating"--and not in a negative context. We are talking about life on a day-to-day, everyday basis, not a once-a-week visit to the psychiatrist, where she can reason with the child, and spend several sessions trying to find out what is bothering him (which Lavigne did suggest in the article, to a parent--when the older brother wouldn't share with his younger sister, he was to be asked, "How do you think your sister would feel?").

I want to know the answer to the question of whether or not behavior modification causes problems, with some reasonable and in-depth answers. Please behavior-modify and manipulate your writer to get him to do his homework better.

Desira Plummer

W. Howard

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