Psychiatrist Keith Ablow is a member of the Fox News Medical A-Team and the author of the recently-released book Inside the Mind of Casey Anthony (St. Martin’s Press).
In it, Albow proposes that the makings of Caylee Anthony’s death go back five generations, to great-grandparents who were abandoned by their parents, never trusted men, and had a daughter (Casey’s mother) who was the youngest of five siblings and the only girl. Her brothers resented her, and she became controlling of men, and especially the man she married, Casey’s ineffectual father.
This very controlling mother ignored Casey’s “personhood” and Casey, in turn, ignored Caylee. And whether Casey was directly responsible for Caylee’s death, she was at least somewhat responsible. Or something like that anyway. Ablow’s convoluted explanation began to hurt my head about halfway through the recent summary he posted online at www.foxnews.com.
Why is this relevant to a column on raising children? Because Ablow’s multi-generational Freudian analysis of the Caylee Anthony case is a good example of why today’s parents are having so much difficulty doing something that no generation who raised kids prior to the 1960s thought was difficult at all (albeit presented the occasional bump in the road). But then these foremothers and forefathers of ours never knew how lucky they were to have “parented” before mental health professionals began generating complicated theories concerning child behavior. As psychobabble displaced commonsense, something done naturally from the heart began to take place in the head, the residence of such things as anxiety, confusion and guilt.
Somewhere during their excursion down this long and winding road, parents began asking “why?” their children misbehaved. This was a new question. Our ancestors knew why children misbehaved: they were
fundamentally self-centered and therefore inclined to do self-serving (a.k.a. anti-social) things. Those supposedly unenlightened parents also understood that no matter how “good” a parent was by any standard, the parent’s child was still capable of outrageous behavior.
The question “why?” has been nothing but a stumbling block for parents. After all, the answer is always speculative. It doesn’t matter if the person giving the answer is a psychiatrist who often appears on television talk shows, the answer is still speculative—a guess, however “educated.” Capital letters after one’s name do not mean one knows the answer; they only mean that one is able to construct a more complicated answer than less “educated” people are able to construct. But complicated and correct are not synonymous. Unfortunately, today’s parents don’t know that. So, listening to people like Ablow, they begin to believe in complicated Freudian explanations for their kids’ misbehavior.
These complicated explanations always shift responsibility away from the child and induce what I call “disciplinary paralysis.” The parents don’t know who or what is responsible for the misbehavior—the child or themselves or some complicated psychological mechanism—so they don’t know who to correct.
As a result, they hem and haw and think, think, think and try to understand and talk themselves blue in the face, and wind up doing, well, nothing. The problem, therefore, gets worse, which is one reason why so many parents look to the Dr. Albows of the world for advice.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website at http://www.rosemond.com/.