With rare exception, parents with well-behaved kids tend to put no stock in said machine. They believe their children are well behaved because they discipline them properly. Parents with problem children are likely to believe in chance. They believe their children carried baggage of some sort — bad genes, bad biochemistry, bad brains — into the world. When these kids unpack this baggage, demons are let loose. Thus, the parents in question are victims of forces beyond their control.
Naturally, people have asked where I stand concerning said debate. With some hesitance, I throw my lot in with the School of No Such Luck. The hesitance has to do with how I know some children are initially easy and some are initially difficult. Some, as infants, are calm and cheerful. Others come into the world bristling for a fight. Then again, I’ve seen “easy” become “difficult” by early childhood and vice versa.
I’ve also noticed that by the time a child is of school age, if he is well behaved, he has parents who obviously know how to discipline. They give instructions properly, don’t explain themselves and are consistent when it comes to misbehavior.
Conversely, children who are generally ill behaved always have parents who do not seem to grasp the basics of effective discipline. They plead, nag and scream at their children, feel obliged to explain themselves and threaten far more than they punish. This is hardly coincidence; therefore, it is anything but evidence of “luck.”
Researchers have failed to find any behavioral trait that is fixed, permanent or immutable. Children who are initially shy usually learn to be outgoing. Children who lack self-confidence learn to take chances. Defiant children grow up to be good citizens, and compliant, responsible children sometimes grow up to be criminals. And so on.
A fellow recently told me that training children is a lot like training dogs. I had to silently chuckle, for there is no comparison. A dog comes into the world wanting to please, and a child comes into the world wanting to be pleased. A dog comes into the world wanting to obey, and a child comes into the world wanting to be obeyed. Let’s get real!
Then there’s the matter of free will. Nothing compares to the power of choice a child obtains during his second year of life. One choice can free a child from the restraints of his nature or plunge the child headlong into the depravity of it. One choice can make a mockery of genetic theories.
None of this has anything in common with slot machines.
Visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website at johnrosemond.com; readers may send him email at questionsrosemond.com; due to the volume of mail, not every question will be answered.