Children as Problems

December 9, 2007

by Tammy Drennan

Keith’s parents never viewed him as a problem. He was a funny, fairly cooperative little boy, energetic, loving and helpful. When he was interested in a thing he devoted his full attention to it with a fierce intensity. His parents didn’t realize he was a problem until he went to school.

From his local public school, his parents learned that he was, indeed, not all those things they thought he was. Instead, he was hyper, a class clown, unable to stay on certain tasks and too involved in others, as well as suspiciously extroverted. The school recommended medication, special classes, and a therapist. Keith’s happy days were over.

Kelly’s parents never viewed her as a problem. She was quiet and loving, adored her pets, could already read at the age of four, and was stubbornly independent about learning new things.

From her local public school, her parents learned that she was, after all, a big problem. She was introverted, uncooperative, and academically ill-matched with her age-mates. The school chastised her parents for teaching her to read and recommended a counselor to deal with her unacceptable personality traits. Kelly’s happy days were over.

Millions of children live their first few years blissfully unaware of the huge problems they really are – unaware of their flaws and shortcomings, happy when they have no cause to be, carefree when they ought not to be, unexamined, unevaluated, unmedicated, uncounseled.

Not until children enter school are their deficiencies revealed for all they are. There is a problem category for every child, and many children fit into multiple categories.

What was a normal part of growing up and maturing at home becomes a matter for professional intervention at school. What was not a problem at all at home becomes a grave issue at school.

And it’s not only the children whose problems are revealed by the schools. Parents who thought they were doing a pretty good job discover that they are grossly deficient – overprotective or too permissive, too involved in their children’s lives or not involved enough (or in the proper ways), generally stupid, ridiculously attached to outmoded ideas about how to rear children, insufficiently supportive of their children’s schools, tied to outdated conventions and values, and above all, confused about their authority as parents (they actually think they have more of it than the schools do).

Imagine what it would be like to grow up feeling cherished and special and supported, instead of examined, evaluated, medicated and remediated.

Imagine parents in charge… parents choosing and creating options for educating their children – choosing tutors or teachers, creating classes and schools, parents as the bosses to whom others are accountable, parents as the primary mentors to their children and others in the supportive roles. Imagine today’s situation completely reversed.