December 21, 2004

The Monstrous James Dobson, Further Explained

In my essay, "When the Demons Come," I quoted a rather remarkable passage from James Dobson in response to a reader's question, and then offered a few comments about it:
"I have spanked my children for their disobedience, and it didn't seem to help. Does this approach fail with some children?

"Children are so tremendously variable that it is sometimes hard to believe that they are all members of the same human family. Some kids can be crushed with nothing more than a stern look; others seem to require strong and even painful disciplinary measures to make a vivid impression. This difference usually results from the degree to which a child needs adult approval and acceptance. The primary parental task is to see things as the child perceives them, thereby tailoring the discipline to his or her unique needs. Accordingly, a boy or girl should never be so likely to be punished as when he or she knows it is deserved.

"In a direct answer to your question, disciplinary measures usually fail because of fundamental errors in their application. It is possible for twice the amount of punishment to yield half the results. I have made a study of situations in which parents have told me that their children disregard the threat of punishment and continue to misbehave. There are four basic reasons for this lack of success. ...

"3. The spanking may be too gentle. If it doesn't hurt, it doesn't motivate a child to avoid the consequence next time. A slap with the hand on the bottom of a multidiapered 30-month-old is not a deterrent to anything. Be sure the child gets the message -- while being careful not to go too far."

This could not possibly be clearer: the explicit goal is to crush the child so that he will always be obedient to the parent. Whatever the parent says must be followed -- whether it is irrational, whether it is completely unjustified, whether it is directly opposed to the child's actual needs, whether it can be defended on any grounds or not. Whatever the parent says or demands, the child must obey. And to ensure this unthinking, unquestioning obedience, pain is required.

The great tragedy, of course, is that in one way or another, most parents believe this as much as Dobson does, and they raise their children accordingly. Usually, they are not so explicit about it, but the principle is identical. Also note, as I have also stressed repeatedly in my many entries concerning this subject, that undoubtedly the most common forms of child abuse do not involve physical mistreatment at all: most of it is psychological -- using, for example, the unstated threat of the withdrawal of the parent's love if the child does not do as he is told, that is if the child does not follow orders.
On the basis of the passage quoted above, one would be entirely justified in concluding that Dobson is nothing more than the worst kind of sadist.

But if you have even the slightest remaining doubt on that score, consider the following. Courtesy of Digby (who has the entirely correct reaction to this stunning confession, in my view), we have the following passage from Dobson's book, The Strong-Willed Child. Siggie, by the way, is a dachshund:
"Please don't misunderstand me. Siggie is a member of our family and we love him dearly. And despite his anarchistic nature, I have finally taught him to obey a few simple commands. However, we had some classic battles before he reluctantly yielded to my authority.

"The greatest confrontation occurred a few years ago when I had been in Miami for a three-day conference. I returned to observe that Siggie had become boss of the house while I was gone. But I didn't realize until later that evening just how strongly he felt about his new position as Captain.

"At eleven o'clock that night, I told Siggie to go get into his bed, which is a permanent enclosure in the family room. For six years I had given him that order at the end of each day, and for six years Siggie had obeyed.

"On this occasion, however, he refused to budge. You see, he was in the bathroom, seated comfortably on the furry lid of the toilet seat. That is his favorite spot in the house, because it allows him to bask in the warmth of a nearby electric heater...

"When I told Sigmund to leave his warm seat and go to bed, he flattened his ears and slowly turned his head toward me. He deliberately braced himself by placing one paw on the edge of the furry lid, then hunched his shoulders, raised his lips to reveal the molars on both sides, and uttered his most threatening growl. That was Siggie's way of saying. 'Get lost!'

"I had seen this defiant mood before, and knew there was only one way to deal with it. The ONLY way to make Siggie obey is to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else works. I turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me 'reason' with Mr. Freud.

"What developed next is impossible to describe. That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt. I am embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene. Inch by inch I moved him toward the family room and his bed. As a final desperate maneuver, Siggie backed into the corner for one last snarling stand. I eventually got him to bed, only because I outweighed him 200 to 12!"
For Dobson, there is no difference at all between dachshunds and children. They are both to be beaten with belts as necessary, they are both to be crushed using whatever means are required no matter how brutal and monstrous, and they are both to be made to obey above all.

Anyone who reads Dobson's book (or any of his other writings, for that matter) and then proceeds to raise his or her children following his prescriptions belongs in the same category with Dobson himself: all such people are the most despicable kind of sadist, the sort of person who enjoys exercising power over living creatures who do not have a chance against them, and who are close to entirely helpless in resisting their brutality.

These are the people who can become torturers under certain circumstances, and who will also offer themselves up as obedient servants to a vicious political ideology -- even an ideology that demands the deaths of millions of innocent people.

To put it very simply, they are monsters. Always keep that in mind, and protect yourselves against all such people the best way you can.