The important question of why DOLF theory grew out of my experience, empirical study and observation rather than hard, systematic, academic experimentation or research is one that I am constantly asked. One answer is that, having been educated to the limit in psychology, I knew there was nothing more to learn from science, that is, that I knew everything there was to know from research, and was sure it was not working on a practical level. Another part of the answer is that DOLF theory began with my empathy with my children who, when they behaved badly, seemed to have no idea what they had done wrong, and when punished such as in Time Out or deprivation of privileges, seemed to feel as if they themselves had been wronged by the adults around them. I felt their sense of distress, bewilderment and sadness, and my personal sense of duty and morality kicked in. I simply felt it was unfair to treat children in the coercive manner that is advised by behavioral methods. I could not help but feel an acute sense of guilt when I or my husband of the time tried to administer punishment to an entity that obviously had little or no capacity to appreciate the reasons behind her own actions, nor was able to understand the consequences that either of us was insisting on imposing on her. It was obvious, amid the flood of tears and yelling, that she was unable to connect the punishment with the logic or reasoning behind the reactions that we had toward her actions.
Consider that in any common situation, when we tell a child to pick up their toys, clean their room or wash the dishes, we are assuming that the child values cleanliness and neatness as we do, and feels it is a desirable goal to work toward. However, this is obviously not the case. Children are not born with a sense of cleanliness or propriety and have to mature and be gradually trained to appreciate the worth of such activities, for example through toilet training, teaching manners, teaching them to wash their hands, pick up after themselves, etc. If they do not value of the act itself and its desirable results then, the only other conclusion that can be drawn as to why they would be motivated to comply with our requests, is to please us!
In this connection I relate to you an anecdote I saw on television that is a classic model of the behavioral method. On the program was a father who was very determined to teach his oppositional child, about 5 years of age, that he must clean his mess after playing with his toys. After he finished playing with his toy the child, sitting on a chair, had flung it to the ground and refused to pick it up. Now, this was a caring father who was being extremely careful not to harm the child, but was at the same time bound and determined that, by all means humanly and physically possible, this child was going to learn the lesson that he was NOT to throw his toys about. What a dilemma for the father! What should he do? How could he get this unruly child to pick up the toy without harming him, while at the same time teaching him a lesson in proper behaviour? So he picked up the child allowing him to cling to his body, and approaching the toy, bent down and demanded that the child pick it up, at which point the child merely flung it farther in a different direction. Again, with the child still in his arms, this loving father approached the toy, bent down and demanded that the unruly child to pick it up, at which point the child again flung the toy as far away as he possibly could in another direction and waited for the father’s response. This same scenario continued for about 10 repetitions. Now I ask the reader to be the judge: Which of these two is the greater fool?
Other examples concern the harm that has been done to children or teenagers by trying to force them to comply with rules. With the use of Tough Love there are numerous instances where children have been driven to extreme behaviors because they were given ultimatums by their parents who tell them they must either comply, or leave. Such is the case when their children become substance abusers, gang members or display their Anger to siblings, parents and others who are unable to tolerate the disruption they bring, and end up facing them with the choice of either complying with rules or leaving the home.
While some aspects of the DOLF approach may be shocking to readers, they are reminded over and over that the modus operandi it advocates in no way reflects an adult’s sense of propriety. Rather, the recommendations it makes are drawn from the sensitivities and responses of children, who function purely through their compelling drives, emotions and instincts. Even though one might believe we should be aware of children’s thoughts and feelings because were all once children, or that a child is no longer a child because s/he reaches a certain age, or that the author must be grossly mistaken, followers are kindly requested to begin by suspending their conventional thinking. They are asked to trust that the author is intelligent, intuitive and well qualified in the general field of psychology, and that she discovered the facts about child psychology when her educational knowledge and expertise came into conflict with her observations of actual child behavior over four decades, and through four generations. Remember too that she is the witness and conveyor of this new course of information, rather than its creator, and is merely relaying her observations and conclusions through this medium for the benefit of those who are in search of alternate ways to assess, judge, diagnose and treat psychological and behavioral conditions in children, adolescents and adults.
HerE again we remind the reader that the solution proposed by DOLF theory is that the Prime parent, or PLG, turn their LOVE and attention from their Favored child, to their Disfavored child!
In the study of psychology, as with any science, the issue of research is essentially a question that revolves around the historical evolution, or etiology. of the study of the subject itself. In other words, how did the study of modern day psychology come about? Unfortunately in the pursuit of knowledge, once a line of study is undertaken, and even if there is still some doubt about its validity, the commitment is made on the part of researchers and supporters of research, such as grant awarding agencies, to commit money to pursuing that line of belief. In the case of psychology, we should take into account the historical state of this field of study at the point of conception of behaviorism.
First and foremost we should take note that Behaviorism fits in with our natural sense that misbehavior should be punished. Somehow we intuitively feel that if a child does something unwarranted, we must react either with verbal reprimand or with corporal punishment.
Behaviorism was initiated in the 40’s and was give a boost in popularity because of the backlash against Freudianism, which had soaked up so much of society’s time, energy and money with little result. It was after WWII that it actually took hold when more money became available for research, and when there was a demand for post-war related research projects. One such project was the search for a method that could help extract secrets from prisoners without doing visible harm to their bodies that could be detected and incriminate Allied governments. One such researcher was Donald Hebb of McGill University, a psychologist who was my professor for Psychology 101 and was teaching the course based on a book he had written about his techniques that had arisen in defiance of Freudian theory. In fact, the backlash against psychoanalysis was so extreme at the time and the movement to overthrow it so strong that, after Behavioral Theory gained some popularity and Dr. Hebb became the head of the Department of Psychology, there arose an enormous feud between the new Behaviorists and the old Freudian professors such that the Freudians were suddenly, in mid-term, fired from their posts en masse! It was a pitiful scene where dedicated professors who sincerely believed in what they were doing, were suddenly and ungratefully shown the door! Thankfully, when I attended the University of Montreal for my graduate studies, they harboured no such bias, and we were schooled in all psychological theories equally.