Dazed and Confused

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 14, 1999

By Lee Dresselhaus / L’Observateur / April 14, 1999

So…..once again I’m a little dazed by another twist in our modern world. Afriend of our family just told us that she can’t control her 11-year-old son. The boy, who shall for the purposes of this article will henceforth beknown as Beelzebub, refuses to obey her in any way. She told us that hewill not do his homework and has been suspended from school twice. Hegot a ‘D’ in gym and when I, in my ignorance, asked how anybody other that Mahatma Gandhi could get a D in phys- ed, she showed me a note from his gym teacher saying that he refuses to dress out for the class, and that he apparently feels that it is beneath him to submit to this indignity. Sheasked me if I would try having a talk to her son, hoping that a male influence might make a difference since his dad is no longer living.

Like the blathering fool I can be, I told her sure, no problem. I figured thekid would listen to a stern, manly figure such as myself if I approached him with the right combination of wisdom, maturity, and patience.

Ever get that feeling way down deep in your fingertips, that tingly, curly feeling that comes with the nearly uncontrollable urge to strangle someone? I did. Because it only took about 10 minutes of trying to reasonwith that sneering, surly, disrespectful, rotten little kid to turn this wise, mature, and patient manly male into a slobbering potential homicidal maniac. In the interest of self preservation, I finally stalkedout of there because visions of headlines screaming “Child Strangled By Family Friend” began dancing through my increasingly blurring vision. Ileft Beelzebub sneering on the couch and made my exit.

Following my failure to communicate with the Underworld I asked my friend the question which is really on a lot of people’s minds these days: Why didn’t she just kick his little butt? That would get his attention and maybe he would straighten out. What she told me alarmed me, although itreally shouldn’t, with today’s prevailing, enlightened atmosphere.

Beelzebub told her that he would call the police on 911 and have her arrested if she ever touched him. Excuse me, but – What?Just where and when did it become an arrestable offense to discipline your own child? No, I’m not talking about abuse. And, yes, there is adifference between abuse and disciplinary punishment, although I’m sure that some of the more enlightened members of our society will dispute that. And then she went on to tell me that she had taken the child toSomebody With A Degree who determined that he has a behavioral disorder, and this learned physician recommended that she put him on the new drug, Ritalyn. And again I must say – What?This is just great. Let’s play ‘what’s wrong with this picture’. We live in asociety where it’s not okay to spank a child, but it is okay to stuff them full of mind-altering drugs if they don’t behave themselves. This kiddoesn’t have a behavioral disorder. Ted Bundy had a behavioral disorder.Charles Manson has a behavioral disorder. This kid, and I suspect most ofthe kids who get these designer drugs poured down their throats because they run over their parents, disrupt their classes and are generally little terrors, has one easily diagnosed condition. He has an Attitude Problem. Before I make the following humble observation I will state again that I am not an advocate of child abuse under any circumstances, but I think a swift boot to the seat of this kid’s pants, applied judiciously and on an as- needed basis, would have a remarkable affect on the adjustment of that attitude of his. When I was a kid (and I think I safely speak for mostof my generation) I didn’t display that sneering, disobedient, disrespectful attitude toward any adult, especially my parents. Know why? Because it hurt, that’s why! You just didn’t act that way and emerge unscathed when I was a kid. Theconversation, short though it would have been, would have gone like this: Parent: Son, go upstairs and do your homework.

Foolish child: (Sneering) I’m going to Billy’s house.

Parent: No, you’re not, you’re going to do your homework.

Foolish child: (continuing to sneer) No, I’m not, I’m YEEOWW, Alright! YEEEEEOOOOWWW! OKAY, OKAY! Poof! No more ‘behavioral disorder.’ It’s amazing what that form ofcommunication can accomplish with a hardheaded child. And off the childwould go to do his homework.

By the way, I was amazed at the threat of Beelzebub to actually call the police and have his mother arrested if she spanked him. I don’t know justwhat I would do if a child of mine (let’s say Beelzebub, in this case) threatened me with the same, but here is one course of action that lends itself well to fantasy.

If I approached Beelzebub with the threat of a red butt for say, torturing the cat to death, and he then told me he would call the police if I did, I would walk over, pick up the phone and dial 911. When they answered, Iwould say, in my very best helpless voice, “Oh, help, help. My 11- year-oldson is attacking me. Please send a policeman.” I would then hang up andstomp his little butt all over the hacienda until the police got there, and then have him charged for attacking me. Self-defense would be my story,and I would stick to it. That continuing threat of his to call police wouldmost likely disappear after that, along with most of his ‘behavioral disorder’.

A little drastic? Maybe.

But, after dealing with that sneering kid, it sure is a satisfying fantasy. Lee Dresselhaus is a regular columnist for L’Observateur

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